Stockholm has a long history, which dates back to 700 years. Throughout the centuries, the capital of Sweden has become one of the most elegant and fashionable metropolises in northern Europe.
This Scandinavian city is nestled on 14 small islands joined by more than 50 bridges, on the site where the waters of Lake Mälaren join the Baltic Sea. One-third of the city borders the sea, and the rest of its territory is surrounded by beautiful parks and pine forests.
Considered one of the best well-kept, safe and clean cities in Europe, Stockholm maintains the essence of Sweden, one of the countries with the highest per capita income in the continent.
Its dimensions make it accessible and easy to tour by foot; the beautiful squares and medieval alleyways, attractive museums, palaces, broad avenues with modern buildings, and the friendliness of its inhabitants; plus remarkable hotel accommodations, wide gastronomic variety and renowned boutiques, make Stockholm an ideal place for a superb holiday.
There are abundant history and sightseeing options for discerning travelers. Visitors should not miss the charm and beauty of the following neighborhoods.
The oldest part of the city was created in the 13th century as a checkpoint for vessels in transit through the channels and to protect the lake from pirate attacks. This small island preserves its medieval layout with narrow cobbled streets. It is lively with handicraft shops and modern stores that offer the best of Swedish design.
The main monument on the island is the Royal Palace, a magnificent baroque building with 608 rooms, one more than London’s Buckingham Palace, which makes it the world’s largest royal residence. Next to the Palace is the 13th century Stockholm Cathedral, created in late Gothic style.
Nearby, visitors will find Stortorget, the Main Square, with colorful houses from the 17th century, a unique place to relax and take a break before the fika, a local tradition similar to tea time in England, which consists of coffee or tea with cinnamon rolls and delicate sandwiches.
Also in this area is the Stockholm Concert Palace, where every year, on the 10th of December, the Nobel Prizes are presented in a solemn ceremony with the attendance of the entire Royal family.
Stockholm’s City Hall, a symbol of the city, is located on this island. Architect Ragnar Östberg built it with marked influences from the Italian Renaissance. Its Blue Room and Golden Hall are world famous for hosting the Nobel Prize banquet, as well as the event’s yearly Ball.
Södermalm, Stockholm’s largest island was founded by craftsmen and traders during the Middle Ages. Now, it has become a charming enclave, which boasts the best views of the city, a multitude of excellent restaurants and a series of attractive shops and art galleries.
It is known as the “fun island.” In the past, it served as the hunting ground for the Swedish kings. It is also the greenest island in a city full of parks and gardens. Skansen, the first and most famous ethnographic open-air museum of the world, is its main attraction. Here, visitors will be able to explore the traditional Swedish lifestyle of yore in faithfully reproduced dwellings that recall the founding of the nation.
Another recommended attraction is the Vasa Museum, which houses the warship Vasa, built in 1628 and considered, at the time, the most powerful ship ever built, a 200-foot long battleship with 64 bronze cannons. The magnificent vessel sank on its maiden voyage and was rescued in 1956; its restoration took more than 20 years. The Museum makes a wonderful excursion for history buffs.
The outskirts of Stockholm
The Palace is the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family and bears the mark of many of the country’s monarchs. Travelers can visit the elegant parlors of Queens Hedvig Eleonora and Lovisa Ulrika, as well as King Gustav III’s private apartments, in addition to other rooms decorated by the monarch in 1700, including the spectacular China dinning room, with exquisite wall coverings designed by the 18th century tapestry painter Lars Bolander. The Palace Chapel was designed by architect Carl Harleman in 1746 and Mass is still celebrated today on the last Sunday of every month.
The Palace also boasts an impressive and luxurious garden inspired by Versailles, with fountains, waterfalls, artificial lakes, bridges, bronze and marble statues, and a canal system that runs through the entire park.
Carl Milles Museum
Carl Milles, one of the most famous Swedish sculptors, lived in Millesgården (Lindigö Island) with his wife, Olga, also an artist. His studio/residence was turned into the Carl Milles Museum. The Millesgården sculpture park houses the artist’s masterpieces and has beautiful vistas of the city’s harbor. It also features an open-air cafe and a celebrated bistro, where the chefs prepare delightful Scandinavian cuisine.
Exotic products like moose and reindeer meat, delicious herring, mullet roe and the ubiquitous salmon, served fresh or cured, alongside exceptional seafood and pastries, permeate Swedish cuisine.
Two of Stockholm’s best options for authentic Swedish dining are Solliden restaurant at the Skansen Museum and Den Gyldene Freden, located in the city center. We strongly recommend the traditional smörgasbord, a typical Swedish buffet with a little bit of everything. On the other hand, you can find cuisine from around the world as it could not be otherwise in such a cosmopolitan city. The best restaurants are concentrated in Gamla Stan and Södermalm. ■