When you visit Stockholm, you will whole-heartedly agree with the people at The Ultimate Guide to International Marathons for choosing the course for the Stockholm Marathon as the “world’s most beautiful”.
The modern city with its neat, clean-cut and innovative design, intermingles with a glorious and rich traditional past. The city is architecturally magnificent, the infrastructure is well-planned, it has countless parks and gardens including 54 golf courses, and large water bodies that sets it apart from many other congested capitals.
Bask in the warm sunshine in the summers sitting at a restaurant by the water’s edge. Have fresh seafood and go for a stroll in one of the many parks in the city. When the winter sets in, head for some of the trendiest bars in Europe. And in the severe winter months when many of the water ways freeze up, skate on the ice and have a magical experience you will never forget.
Apart from the Nobel prizes, Sweden is also known to publish more cookbooks than any other country and is the third largest exporter of music in the world. And Stockholm is the only capital in the world that permits hot-air balloons to fly over it. Once you start delving into deeper depths of the city, you will find much to be amazed by.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Spread across 24,000 islets and laced with numerous waterways on the southeastern coast of Sweden, it is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. The city is made up of over 30% waterways and 30% parks and other green spaces giving the city fresh air and a feeling of spaciousness.
Located on the east coast of Sweden where the Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, the Stockholm archipelago is very picturesque. The geographical city centre is virtually situated on the water, in the Riddarfjärden bay.
The name Stockholm is said to be derived from the spot where a log (stock) pushed into the waters, and following its currents, drifted upon an islet (holm), making it an ideal location for a harbor. Stockholm appears in Nordic sagas as Agnafit, especially in connection with the legendary King Agne. The city is said to have been founded by Birger Jarl in the mid-13th century on the site of a fishing village in order to protect Sweden from a sea invasion.
In 1520 when Christian II of Denmark and Norway proclaimed himself also king of Sweden at Stockholm, he ordered the massacre of about 100 of the anti-Danish nobility. The Stockholm massacre, as it was called, led to the successful uprising of Swedes under Gustavus Vasa, who then became king. Stockholm became an important trading centre. Gustavus made Stockholm the center of his kingdom and was made the official capital of Sweden in 1634.
Within just half a decade, between 1850 and 1900, the population of Stockholm tripled. By the 19th century new industries emerged and Stockholm became a key gateway point within Sweden. A number of scientific institutes opened in Stockholm, including the Karolinska Institute. The city also hosted the 1912 Olympic games.
By the next century, Stockholm strove to become more modern and technologically advanced. Many historical buildings were torn down and replaced with modern architecture. Many industries shifted from work-intensive activities to technology and service industries. The city continued to expand throughout the century and new districts like Rinkeby and Tensta were created.
Owing to the city’s high northern latitude, Stockholm has extremely varied climate with distinct seasons. In late December during the winter solstice, the day lasts for just about six hours, whereas during the summer solstice in June, there’s daylight for over 18 hours! The highest temperature ever recorded in Stockholm was +38°C and the lowest was −32°C.
In this region you also get to witness some of Nature’s marvels. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), the Midnight sun during the earlier summer months (May, June, and July), and the Polar nights are some occurrences that you can only find here.
Getting there and around
One city and four airports—that itself speaks volumes of Stockholm’s popularity and importance in the region. The Arlanda airport is a major aviation hub for the Baltic and Scandinavian regions situated 45km north of Stockholm. The airport is used by 60 international airlines. Located 8km west of Stockholm, Bromma Airport is an important hub for domestic flights. The Skavsta airport, 100 km south of the city is a major cargo airport. Lastly, there is the Vasteras airport an hour away from the city.
Stolkholm has an extensive public transportation network consisting of the Stolkholm Metro – Tunnelbanan; three regional and suburban rail systems - commuter rail, Roslagsbanan and Saltsjöbanan; three light rail systems – Nockebybanan, Lidingöbanan and Tyärbanan; and a large network of busses and ferries. The Stockholm archipelago is served by the Waxholmsbolaget boats.
A common ticket system in the entire city allows for easy travel between different modes of transport. The Stockholm subway is also known as the world’s longest art gallery. About 90 of the subway’s 100 stations in the 68 miles long network are adorned with artwork such as paintings, sculptures, and mosaics.
Taxis in the city are on the expensive side especially since there isn’t any pricing regulations in effect. Small operators could charge outrageous prices so it is best to stick with major companies like Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir and Taxi 020.
What to do and see
No matter what your age, interests, or the time of year, you are bound to find something that piques your interest in this city. Visit the past, or look at some great architectural structures, stroll in the park, explore the museums and pick up some mementoes, or get lost in the active and lively night life the city offers.
If history interests you then the old city Gamla Stan is the place for you. The oldest building in the city, the 13th century Riddarholmskyrkan, is a sight to behold. The Stockholm Palace and next to it the Storkyrkan Cathedral which is the Episcopal seat of the Bishop in the country are must visits. The royal palace is the official Swedish royal residence dating as far back as 1754 is one of the most glorious palaces in Europe. Many of its staterooms are open to the public for viewing. The changing of the guard ceremony that takes place every evening in front of the palace competes with the one at Buckingham Palace.
To the east of Gamla Stan is the forested island of Djurgården which literally means deer park. This island has some of the city’s main attractions. It is crammed with museums, restaurants and open green spaces. In olden days this was a hunting ground for the royals. Now visitors can browse for souvenirs in the Handarbetets Vanner (the handicraft center), visit art galleries and Gröna Lund amusement park, explore the country’s past at the Skansen open-air museum where you can churn butter and learn folk dancing, and meet the local wildlife at the zoo. Also on the island is the Junibacken fairy-tale fun centre, the National Museum of Cultural History and the Vasa Museum featuring a fully restored 17th-century galleon raised from Stockholm harbor.
Stockholm is one of the most crowded museum-towns in the world where over nine million people visit its museums every year. Stockholm has over 100 art galleries and 75 museums, which is the greatest concentration of galleries and museums in one place in the world.
The Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts is the most renowned national museum and has Sweden's largest collection of art—16,000 paintings and 30,000 objects of art handicraft. The collection dates as far back as the days of Gustav Vasa in the 16th century, and has since been expanded with works by artists such as Rembrandt, Antoine Watteau, Alexander Roslin, Anders Zorn, Johan Tobias Sergel, Carl Larsson, Carl Fredrik Hill and Ernst Josephson among many others. Moderna Museet or the Museum of Modern Art has works by foremost modern artists such as Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The Nobelmuseet will give you all the information about the Nobel Prizes, and the Tekniska museet or the Museum of Science and Technology are all part of the extensive list of museums offered here.
The Museum of National Antiquities has a vast collection of archeological treasures and presents Sweden’s history from prehistoric times to the present day. The collection includes an impressive collection of gold objects recovered from the tombs and treasure caches of the Vikings. The museum’s most prized possession is a splendid gold reliquary, set with precious stones, which contained the skull of Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia from the Middle Ages
If you love architecture, then again, you are in the right place. Grand buildings such as the Drottningholm Palace and the Riddarholm church are captivating, and so are the urban planning and structures which are among the most advanced in the world. The distinctive City hall, or the Stadshuset, is the city’s main landmark. Built in 1923 and situated on Kungsholmmen, or King’s Island, has become known for being the host to the Nobel Prize Banquet every year. The magnificent Golden Hall’s walls are covered with handmade mosaics and the council chamber has a vaulted ceiling resembling an inverted Viking longboat, reminding the visitor of the country’s Viking tradition of using overturned vessels as shelter in winter.
Whether you love to read or not, the Stockholm Public Library is a place not to be missed. Built in 1928 and designed by the famous Swedish architect Erik Gunnar Asplund, the interior of the cupola-shaped building will leave you spellbound. Three floors of bookshelves covering 360 degrees of a circular wall, capped by a high dome houses a variety of books in many languages.
In 1928, the Vasa, a highly decorated warship sailed from Stockholm on her maiden voyage and sank. It was discovered three centuries later, and is now the world’s only preserved 17th century ship. Paying homage to this ship is the cleverly designed Vasamuseet which allows you to view the ship from six levels.
And finally when the sun goes down, that’s the time to hit one of the many trendy nightclubs and dance the night away, refreshing yourself for another day of exploring the many wonders of the city.
What to eat
When visiting the capital, don’t miss out on the great spread of local fare…from steaks to fresh seafood, try everything.
One of the more well-known restaurants in the city is Sturehof also called ‘Stockholm's living room’. It is renowned for its fish and shellfish, but also serves up some delicious Swedish home cooking from egg and anchovy sandwiches to grilled turbot with browned butter and horseradish or fried salt brisket of beef with roasted red beetroot and goat cheese sauce.
Rated as one of the world’s most beautiful dining rooms with a fantastic view of the Royal Palace, Operakällaren offers an array of international dishes and huge wine list. And don’t miss one of the oldest restaurants in the city, Kaffegillet. Hiding in a 14th century cellar, it makes you feel you have just entered the past. Its pickled herring, plank steak, salmon pudding, reindeer with blackcurrant jelly and waffles with cloudberry jam are some dishes that it swears by.
Although permitted outdoors, smoking is banned in restaurants, pubs and bars.
Where to stay
There are many staying options for backpackers that are very reasonably priced and with their high standards, you will not be disappointed. On the higher side there are hotels such as the Grand Hotel overlooking the royal palace, Hilton Slussen, and Sheraton Stockholm hotel overlooking the City hall, the old city and the Lake Mälaren.
Sweden decided to not adopt the Euro as its currency. The currency unit here is 100 ore to 1 Swedish krona.
Stockholm has a very active cultural life, with art museums, and architectural marvels. Its calendar of events is always full. The Stockholm marathon takes place in June. Then in July the Stockholm Pride, the largest Pride event in the Nordic countries, ends with a parade of about 30,000 people attended by over 350,000 people. The city also hosts one of the country’s oldest festivals, the Stockholm Jazz Festival which takes place every August. And on December 10, the Nobel Banquet takes place at the City Hall.
One Swedish tradition that you must try out is first roasting yourself in a sauna and then directly plunging into a freezing cold water body. It might sound like a maniacal thing to do, but bathers feel much invigorated after this experience.