Things to Do in Stockholm
Built to house the wreckage of the mightyVasa warship, Stockholm’s Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) is now one of Scandinavia's most-visited attractions, drawing over one million annual visitors. Part of Sweden’s National Maritime Museums system, the Vasa Museum is located on the island of Djurgarden and remains the only place in the world where visitors can see a fully intact 17th-century ship.
With its tangle of cobblestone streets, brightly painted buildings, and bustling squares, Stockholm Old Town (Gamla Stan) is one of the Swedish capital's most photogenic districts. The historic center also boats the city’s oldest quarter—dating back to 1252—and plays host to some remarkably preserved medieval monuments.
Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset) looms over the Kungsholmen waterfront and is one of the capital’s most impressive landmarks, with a redbrick façade and 328-foot (100-meter) tower topped with the Three Crowns of Sweden. Dating back to 1923, the hall contains elaborate ceremonial chambers which are open to visitors via guided tours.
With its baroque facade, lavish Royal Apartments, and impressive treasury, the Stockholm Royal Palace is everything you'd expect from a regal abode. Although the Swedish royal family now resides in Drottningholm Palace, the Royal Palace still holds an important role, both as a historic monument and as the host of banquets and receptions.
The island of Djurgården is one of the Stockholm archipelago’s most visited islands, dominated by scenic parklands and former royal hunting grounds stretching along the picturesque Djurgården Canal. A haven for walkers, cyclists, and picnickers, Djurgården is also home to some of Stockholm’s top museums and cultural attractions.
This up-and-coming island district in central Stockholm was once considered the slum of the city. But today Södermalm, often referred to simply as “Söder” (Swedish for “south”), is the bohemian sector of the area full of hip cafes, cool vintage shops, and fantastic waterfront views.
The Swedish National Museum (also referred to as the National Museum of Fine Arts) is the national gallery of Sweden, located in central Stockholm. The benefactors, King Gustav III and Carl Gustaf Tessin, amassed an impressive art collection for the museum that is available for your viewing today. The gallery is home to about art spanning the Middle Ages to 1900, and the museum features an important 18th century Dutch and Flemmish collection, including Rembrandt, Ruben, and Frans Hals the Elder. In addition you can also admire a lovely collection of porcelain objects, paintings, sculptures, and modern art. The art library for the public and the academic community.
The original museum, called the Royal Museum, was founded in 1792. The current building was then built, inspired by North Italian Renaissance architecture, by architect Friedrich August Stüler in 1866.
Originally the home of Sweden’s Prince Eugen, Waldemarsudde in Stockholm may be the country’s most beautiful art museum. In addition to being one of Sweden’s best known landscape artists, the Prince amassed a massive collection of works by both established and unknown artists over the course of 60 years. Today, more than 3,000 of his own pieces and more than 3,000 other works are housed at Waldemarsudde, with his collection of Swedish art from the turn of the 19th century considered one of the best in Sweden.
Waldemarsudde is set in a 70,000 square meter park surrounded by the Stockholm Harbor on three sides. It consists of a castle-like main building known as the Mansion, the original manor home known as the Old House, a Gallery Building and an old linseed oil mill. The ground floor of the Mansion has been preserved as it was when the Prince was alive, while the upper two floors are now used for temporary exhibitions or for displaying the Prince’s art. The Gallery Building hosts temporary exhibitions as well.
Located on Djurgården island in Stockholm, Tivoli Gröna Lund is Sweden’s oldest amusement park. Most of its structures are old commercial and residential buildings dating from the 19th century, giving it a uniquely historic look and feel. From roller coasters to rock concerts, Gröna Lund entertains visitors of all ages.
Skansen is the world’s oldest open-air museum and zoo. Located in Stockholm, the museum was founded in the late 19th century by Artur Hazelius, originally as a branch of the Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet). Today it illustrates the different ways of life prevalent in old-time, pre-industrialized Sweden.
More Things to Do in Stockholm
Stockholm’s Parliament House (Riksdagshuset) is the seat of parliament in Sweden, better known as the Riksdag. Built between 1897 and 1905, the building was designed in a neoclassical style, with a Baroque Revival style façade. Today, it consists of two wings. The east wing is the original House of Parliament, while the west wing used to be the head office of the national bank. Occupying nearly half of the island of Helgeandsholmen in Stockholm’s Old Town, Parliament House also houses the Riksdag Library, which holds a variety of parliamentary documents and international legislation and is open to the public.
Visitors to Parliament House are welcome to observe everything that takes place in the parliamentary chamber, whether it is listening to debates and votes or attending public hearings or seminars. The public gallery to the Chamber holds 500 visitors, while the public gallery of the former first chamber holds 150 visitors and the gallery of the former second chamber holds 200 visitors. The latter two chambers are open for public hearings. Tours of the building are also available.
Kungsträdgården, affectionately known as Kungsan, is a popular park in central Stockholm. It hosts open air concerts and other events in the summer and is home to an ice rink in the winter months. First of May demonstrations by Sweden’s left-wing parties also take place in the park each year. The park’s space can be divided into four distinct areas: the Square of Charles XII, Molin’s Fountain, the Square of Charles XIII and the Fountain of Wolodarski.
Kungsträdgården's name, roughly translated, means King's Garden, and its origins date back centuries. A royal kitchen garden was gradually transformed into an enclosed pleasure garden in the 17th and 18th centuries. The walls of the garden were demolished in the 19th century and, in 1821, most of the garden was replace by gravel, creating the square now named for Charles XIII. Molin’s Fountain was added in 1866, when it was the centerpiece of a Scandinavian art and industry exposition. The entire park was redesigned in 1990 to its present form and in 2004, nearly 300 new trees were planted and new pavilions and cafes were added.
The park is surrounded by notable landmarks, including the Stockholm Synagogue on the east side of the park and the Royal Swedish Opera, Saint James’ Church, the Matchstick Palace and Sverigehuset (home to the tourist information center) along the west side.
The private residence of Sweden’s royal family, Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms Slott) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s best-preserved 17th-century castles. Over the years successive royal residents have renovated the palace, which is inspired by French and Dutch styles and features lush rococo interiors and multiple baroque gardens.
Located in the heart of Stockholm’s Old Town, the Nobel Prize Museum celebrates more than a century of natural sciences, arts, and culture, and the creative minds that have and continue to dedicate their lives promoting dialogue on their respect fields.
The Royal Swedish Opera (Kungliga Operan) is Sweden’s national theater and houses the Royal Swedish Opera, Ballet, Orchestra, and Choir. It was founded in 1773 by King Gustav III who was an avid supporter of the arts and paid for the opera house’s operations out of his own pocket.
One of the oldest buildings in Stockholm, Riddarholm Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) is the traditional burial church for Swedish royalty. Originally built as a monastery, parts of the church date back to the late 13th century. It was transformed into a Protestant church after the Reformation and the congregation was eventually dissolved at the start of the 19th century. Today, it is used only for burial and commemorative purposes. Nearly every Swedish ruler from Gustavus Adolphus (1632) to Gustav V (1950) has been buried in the Riddarholm Church, as well as Magnus III (1290) and Charles VIII (1470).
The interior of Riddarholm Church, sometimes known as Riddarholmen Church, features dozens of coats of arms of the knights of the Order of Seraphim, a tradition that dates back to the middle of the 18th century. When a knight dies, his coat of arms is hung inside the church.
Stockholm’s ABBA The Museum is an interactive space for ABBA fans to learn about the legendary Swedish band’s history and trivia. Housing plenty of the band’s costumes, gold records, and memorabilia, the museum invites visitors to experience the feeling of being “the fifth member of ABBA.”
Set on Lake Mälaren in Sweden’s scenic Lakeland region, Sigtuna is Sweden’s oldest town and was originally populated by Vikings. While strong remnants of the town’s Viking origins remain, Sigtuna is now full of brightly painted wooden townhouses, narrow streets, restaurants, and hotels.
One of the largest of the Stockholm Archipelago’s 24,000 islets and skerries, Skeppsholmen is close to the channel leading out into the Baltic Sea and historically had great tactical significance to Sweden’s capital city. However, although its 18th-century Bergrummet complex originally played a military role, now it has been transformed into museums and cultural emporiums including the Museum of Modern Art (Moderna Museet), the East-Asian Museum (Ostasiatiska Museet) and the avant-garde Theatre Galeasen. Other sights on this peaceful backwater island include a 19th-century fortress; the elegant Neoclassical church of Skeppsholmskyrkan, which is now a concert venue; an historic shipyard where wooden boats are still made; and open-air installations of unique sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle and her partner Jean Tinguely.
Accessible from mainland Stockholm by road bridge, Skeppsholmen is also connected to the neighboring islets of Blasieholmen and Kastellholmen by foot bridges. The island’s leisure facilities include restaurants and an upmarket hotel as well as a floating youth hostel on the yacht Chapman. The week-long Stockholm Jazz Festival also takes place on the island every July. These days Skeppsholmen is on the itinerary for Segway tours of Stockholm as well as hop-on, hop-off boat tours of the city.
The Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet) is an institution dedicated to Swedish cultural heritage, ethnography, and folk art. Situated on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm, the museum’s collection includes textiles, clothes, dollhouses, and other objects spanning a 500-year period that illustrate Swedish life, culture, and traditions.
The Stockholm Concert Hall opened in 1926 to house the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Built in the neoclassical style of the 1920s, the blue building is reminiscent of a classical Greek temple and is considered a Swedish architectural masterpiece. The interior of the building is softly lit, transitioning from dark to light, and features grand staircases lit by impressive crystal chandeliers. The walls and ceilings of the minor hall known as Grunewald Hall were painted by Isaac Grunewald. The main hall’s interior was reconstructed in the 1980s, adding a new organ, which is now used for organ recitals at lunch on Thursdays. Standing outside of the concert hall is a statue of Orpheus by Swedish artist Carl Milles. In addition to more than 200 orchestra concerts held annually at the Concert Hall, it hosts the annual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, as well as two annual festivals: the Stockholm International Composer Festival in the fall and Composer Weekend in the spring.
Stockholm’s island of Kungsholmen is primarily residential and offers a laid-back escape from the tourist path and a chance to mix with locals. Here you’ll find lots of great restaurants, bars, and cafés, as well as opportunities for long strolls along the waterfront. Kungsholmen is home to Stockholm’s most prominent building: City Hall.
Located on the island of Lidingö in the Stockholm Archipelago, Millesgården is a spectacular sculpture park and art museum created by renowned Swedish sculptor Carl Milles in the terraced gardens of his clifftop house. He built a fanciful mansion at Millesgården in 1907 and spent many years adding to his sculpture collection before donating it to the Swedish nation in 1936. Milles died in 1955 and is buried there along with his artist wife Olga.
The works are beautifully displayed against an ever-changing backdrop of the sea, with statuary featuring in ornamental pools, on columns and in spouting fountains. Containing many stellar examples of sculpture from medieval to modern, the collection is cleverly interspersed Milles’ own sinuous creations in bronze, including his famous sculpture,Hands of God.
Although the Milles garden is the premier attraction there, the Milles’s flamboyant, red-roofed family home is also open to the public, where Olga’s paintings are displayed alongside original castings of Carl’s sculpture. The design of the house is eclectic, with Pompeii-influenced frescoes and mosaics in the Red Room, ancient musical instruments in the Music Room and rooms full of valuable antiques. Temporary exhibitions of contemporary art can be found in the Art Gallery and the smaller Anne’s House in the grounds is packed with furniture designed by Austrian-born architect Josef Frank.
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