STOCKHOLM — Gamla Stan

This is the old town area of Stockholm but it has only been called Gamla Stan since 1980. It is the historic centre of Stockholm and contains many interesting old buildings and museums.There are lots of narrow cobblestone streets that are car free for you to wander around with cafes, shops and restaurants to enjoy. You will also find in this area several beautiful squares to sit in and admire the buildings surrounding them. Three of Stockholm’s fourteen islands are found in this area and these are Riddarholmen; Helgeandsholmen and Stadsholmen which is the largest.

The sights found here are:
Stortorget
Nobel Museum
Stockholm Cathedral
Royal Palace
Royal Armoury
National Museum of Economy
Köpmangatan
German Church
Den Gyldene Freden
Mårten Trotzigs Gränd
Post Museum
Riddarholmen
Riddarholmskyrkan
House of Nobility
Riksdagshuset
Stockholm’s Medeltidsmuseum

Stortorget

Stortorget
This square is found in the centre of Gamla Stan and it is the oldest square in Stockholm. Running off this square is Köpmangatan which is the oldest street in the city dating from around the 14th century. This square has been the central meeting place since the early Middle Ages and until 1732 it was the political centre of the city and contained the city hall which was later moved. Stortorget is also the scene of a massacre where the Danish King, Christian 11 ordered a masacre of Swedish noblemen in 1520. This led to the founding of Sweden as a sovereign state under the rule of King Gustav Vas who ruled from 1523 to 1560. The square is bordered by beautiful buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Schantzka Huset found on the west side of the square has a beautifully ornate facade decorated with figures of Roman soldiers. This building dates back to 1650. There is a well at the centre of the square known as the Stortorgsbrunnen which marked the centre of Stockholm and it was from here that all distances in the city and others were measured.

Traveller's Tip

Legend has the stones in the square running red if it rains heavily enough on the anniversary of the massacre.
Nobel Museum

Nobel Museum
This museum is found on the northern side of Stortorget in an impressive building which housed the former Stock Exchange. It was commissioned by King Gustav 111 and was built between 1767 and 1778 in the Neo Classical design on the site of the former city hall. It ceased trading as the Stock Exchange in 1990. On the ground floor of the building is the Swedish Academy which meets every year to decide the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature and it is here that the winner is announced. The building also houses the Nobel Museum and the Nobel Library. The Nobel Museum displays scientific models, films and explanations of how the Nobel Prize winner is decided. The museum has exhibitions featuring Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill amongst others. Admission to the museum is 60KR and it is open in the summer from 10am to 5pm Mondays, Wednesday to Sunday and from 10am to 8pm on Tuesdays. In the winter months it is open from 11am to 8pm on Tuesday and from 11am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday. There are guided tours available in English during the summer at 11am and 3pm on Mondays, Wednesday to Sunday and on Tuesday at 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 5pm. During the winter tours are available from Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 4pm. There is a gift shop as well a coffee shop.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.nobelmuseum.se

Traveller's Tip

If you visit the coffee shop make sure that you turn the chair you are sitting on upside down to check if it has the name of one of the Nobel Prize laureates. One of the activities of the Nobel Prize laureates is to visit the Nobel Museum where they are invited to lunch in the coffe shop. They are then asked to write their name on the bottom of the chair they are sitting on.
Stockholm Cathedral

Stockholm Cathedral
This Cathedral is known locally as ‘Storkyrkan’ or the ‘The Great Church’ and is found between the Nobel Museum and the Royal Palace. It was built in 1306 on the site of a small chapel dedicated to St Nicholas. In 1942 it became the cathedral of Stockholm. The cathedral is the residence of the bishop of Stockholm and it is where Royal coronations, weddings and burials are held. The interior of the cathedral is Gothic in style and dates back to the 15th century and part of the exterior was rebuilt in the 1740s in the Baroque style to complement the surrounding buildings. There is a clock tower that is 66 metres tall which was built in 1743 and is a prominent feature of Stockholm’s skyline. The interior of the cathedral is magnificent with the highlight being the statue of St George and the Dragon which is 3.5 metres high. It commemmorates the battle of Brukeberg where the Swedish army defeated the Danes in 1471. The sculpture is made of wood, iron and gold leaf and the dragon’s scales are made from elk horn. There is also a painting called Vädersolstavlan or Sun Dog Painting. This painting depicts an unusual occurrence where six ‘sun dogs or mock suns’ were seen in the sky above Stockholm in 1535. The painting found in the church today is a 1636 copy of the original painted in 1535 but was lost. Other items found in the cathedral worthy of note are the silver altar dating from 1650, the pulpit and two royal chairs sculptured by Burchardt Brecht in 1680, a 3.7 metre tall candlestick and two huge paintings by David Klöcker von Ehrenstrahl called The Crucifixion and The Last Judgment.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace
This distinctive building is no longer the official residence of the Royal family but it is still used for official banquets and meetings with foreign dignitaries. The site that the Royal Palace stands on has been occupied by a castle since the 13th century and over time this original castle was added to until a fire in the mid 17th century destroyed it except for the north wing. This wing was restored but the rest of the castle had to be rebuilt and it wasn’t finished until 1754. The first king to live here was Adolf Frederick. The castle was built around a rectangular courtyard and the exterior is in the Baroque style with High Renaissance elements. The palace has more than 600 rooms over seven floors with a state apartment facing the city and smaller living rooms facing the inner courtyard. The western facade belongs to the king, the eastern facade to the queen, the southern facade belongs to the nation and the northern facade represents royalty in general. There are lots of interesting things to see in the castle including the fine furnishings and Gobelin tapestries found in the State Apartments; the crown jewels found in the Treasury and the magnificent collection of weaponry, coaches and other royal regalia found in the Royal Armoury. Entrances to the Royal Treasury and Armoury are found on the Slottsbacken side of the palace. The Changing of the Guard takes place in the outer courtyard at 12.15pm Monday to Saturday and 1.15pm on Sunday and public holidays from June to August. From September to May it is 12.15pm on Wednesday and Saturday and 1.15pm on Sunday.
For information about the palace visit the website at: http://www.kungahuset.se/royalcourt/royalpalaces/theroyalpalace.4.396160511584257f218000138.html

Traveller's Tip

Be aware that the palace closes for royal functions and information about when it is closed is found on the website.
  • The entrance fee includes a guided tour which takes around 45 minutes but if the Royal Apartments are closed then the guided tour takes place in one of the palace museums.
    Royal Armoury

    Royal Armoury
    This museum is found in the basement and ground floor of the Royal Palace and is one of the oldest in Sweden. The entrance is left of the South Gate of the Royal Castle. It was founded by King Gustav 11 Adolf in 1628 after his campaign in Poland. He wanted to preserve the uniforms and other regalia used in this campaign. The collection now consists of items from coronations, royal weddings as well as some magnificent weapons and personal armoury for royalty and military leaders. There are some truly impressive displays in this museum and it is a history buff’s dream. One of the highlights is King Gustav 11 Adolf’s horse from the Battle of Lützen in 1632 and Gustav 111’s bloodstained costume from the fateful masquerade at the Royal Opera in 1792. Make sure that you visit the royal coaches in the basement as they are truly magnificent.
    For information about the Royal Armoury visit the website at: http://livrustkammaren.se/en

    National Museum of Economy
    The Royal Coin Cabinet is found opposite the Royal Palace and it is one of Sweden’s oldest museums. Some of its collections date back to the 1570s. There are displays and information about coins, medals and the financial history of Sweden.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.myntkabinettet.se/web/English.aspx

    Köpmangatan

    Köpmangatan
    This street which translates as ‘Merchant’s Street’ is found between Stortorget and Kopmanbrinken Place. In medieval times it linked the main market and the fish market. At the end of the street is the statue of St George and the dragon.

    German Church

    German Church
    This church was originally a guild hall that was given by the city council to the Finnish community in 1565. It was enlarged and transformed into a church, which was then shared with German merchants. In 1601, the Finns were asked to leave and the building took on the name of the German Church or the Church of Saint Gertrude. The church has some outstanding features such as the Pulpit which was given to the church as a gift in 1660 by Peter Hansen. It is made of marble and alabaster. The Royal Gallery which is used by the King and Queen when they visit the church was created in 1672 and replaced an earlier and less decorated version dating from 1660. The stunning altarpiece dating from 1641 is made of wood and displays oil paintings of the Last Supper and the Basptism and some gilded statues. The German Church is a sponser of the yearly Stockholm Early Music Festival.

    Den Gyldene Freden

    Den Gyldene Freden
    This is supposedly Sweden’s oldest restaurant. It was built in 1722. It is owned by the Swedish Academy and Thursday night is when many of its members visit the restaurant. It is very popular with writers, artists and lawyers. It serves traditional Swedish dishes and has an old-style atmosphere.
    For information about the restaurant visit the website at: http://www.gyldenefreden.se

    Mårten Trotzigs Gränd

    Mårten Trotzigs Gränd
    This alley is the narrowest street in Stockholm being only 90 centimetres at its narrowest part. It is found between Västerlånggatan and Järntorget leading up to Prästgatan and Tyska Stallplan. The alley is named after Mårten Trotzig who was a German merchant who emigrated to Stockholm in 1581 and brought properties in the alley. He owned a shop here that traded in iron and copper and became one of the richest men in Stockholm.

    Post Museum
    Despite the idea that a museum about Swedish postal history would be boring this is not the case. The museum has an exhibition which displays the history of stamps and postcards and includes everything from unique rarities to stamps depicting the Swedish Royal Family. There are also old mail carriages and a train you can climb aboard. Children can pretend to be postal workers in the children’s post office found downstairs.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.postmuseum.posten.se/museng

    Riddarholmen

    Riddarholmen
    This is a small island which forms part of the old town. It houses a number of private palaces from the 17th century. At the western end of the island you can get a magnificent view of the bay, Riddarfjärden. At the northern end of the island, in front of the Bonde Palace is a statue of Birger Jarl who traditionally is regarded as the founder of Stockholm. Buildings found on this island include the church, Riddarholmskyrkan; the Old Parliament Building in the south east corner; the Old National Archive building to the east and the Norsted building housing the old printing house of the publisher Norstedts. The tower on this building forms a well-known silhouette on the city skyline.

    Riddarholmskyrkan

    Riddarholskyrkan
    This is the second oldest building in Stockholm and it dates from 1270 when it was built as a monastery for Franciscian monks. It is a distinctive sight in Stockholm with its black lattice-work spire and is found on the tiny island of Riddarholmen next to Gamla Stan. It has been the burial place for Kings and Queens for centuries and it is used by royalty for ceremonial occasions. The altarpiece is also quite magnificent.
    For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.kungahuset.se/royalcourt/royalpalaces/theriddarholmenchurch.4.396160511584257f2180001466.html

    Traveller's Tip

    Guided tours are provided with the price of the entry ticket. The English tour is at 4pm during the summer months and it takes around 45 minutes.
  • During the summer months concerts are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm in the church. For information about the concerts visit the website.
    House of Nobility

    House of Nobility
    The House of Nobility was built between 1641 and 1672 and the two wings were added in 1870. The Great Hall was used by the aristocracy for parliamentary meetings between 1668 and 1865. Today it is used every three years for the Assembly of Nobles by the Swedish noble families as well as a meeting place for them on other occasions. Concerts are also held here. The walls of the Great Hall are lined with the family crests of the nobility that belong to the House of Nobility. They are sorted into classes such as Counts, Barons and the untitled nobility and then by year of when they were introduced into the House of Nobility. There are also some impressive paintings lining the walls and a magnificent ceiling painting.
    For information about the House of Nobility visit the website at: http://www.riddarhuset.se/jsp/index.jsp?id=2663

    Traveller's Tip

    The House of Nobility is only open to the public from 11.30am to 12.30pm from Monday to Friday.
    Riksdagshuset

    Riksdagshuset
    This massive building is Sweden’s Parliament House and consists of both the old Parliament building and the new one connected by two large arches and a pedestrianised road in between. It is located on Helgeandsholmen which is a small island found between the city centre and the old town. Also housed in the same building is the Riksbank or National Bank. The old Parliament building has an impressive front facade which is neo-Baroque flanked by two neoclassical wings with Corinthian columns. Over the central bronze doorway is a gigantic relief of the Swedish coat of arms. The statue on top of the balustrade depicts Mother Svea which is an allegorical representation of Sweden. Inside the building is a grand staircase leading to the first and second chambers. Large glass domes cover the octagonal halls. The interior is decorated with wall paintings by Otte Sköld, Axel Törneman and Georg Pauli. The new Parliament building which was the old National Bank building has a semicircular shape. Inside this building is the Plenisalen which is the Plenary Hall where visitors can follow public sessions of the Parliament from the modern glass gallery. There are guided tours of the Parliament buildings for those interested.
    For information about Riksdagshuset visit the website at: http://www.riksdagen.se/en

    Stockholm’s Medeltidsmuseum
    This museum is found under one of the bridges connecting Stockholm City to the Old Town opposite Helgeandsholmen. The museum focusses on the history of Stockholm from the mid 13th century, when Stockholm is first mentioned in official documents. There are some displays of battles and the city’s rulers but most of it is focused on the life of the ordinary people of the city. The exhibition allows you to walk through the medieval streets of Stockholm and meet its inhabitants of that time. There are even sections of the original city wall. If you are travelling with children there are activities for them.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.medeltidsmuseet.stockholm.se/index.php?sprak=english

    Traveller's Tip

    The entrance fee to Stockholm’s Medeltidsmuseum includes a year’s membership to the museum as well as entrance to the Stockholm City Museum which is near the Slussen underground station.