Historic and progressive Stockholm, known as the Venice of the North, spans fourteen islands. I explored the Swedish capital and discovered it’s a wonderful weekend getaway and now one of my favorite cities in Europe.
Arriving early in Stockholm, I checked into a hotel right next to the city’s railway station which offered sweeping views over the city. While Stockholm seems wide-spread, the main tourist sights are all located within close distance and can be easily accessed through the vast public transport system of the city - on and off the water.
After a quick fika, a popular Swedish breakfast of coffee and cinnamon, I made my way to the Stockholm waterside. From the main station, an underground train brought me in a matter of minutes to the waterfront.
The Stockholm metro itself is a sight to behold, known as the longest art gallery in the world, 110 kilometers long to be precise. Over 90 of the 100 subway stations in Stockholm have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs by over 150 artists. These tastefully done individual themes give it a very artsy feel.
Touring Stockholm under the bridges
I took the train to Kungsträdgården station, which looks like an archaeological excavation, with the remains of the old Stockholm Makalös palace. From there I took a leisurely walk along the waterside, admiring the boats docked on the harbor and the many tourists enjoying the sunny yet chilly weather. Along with the other passengers who had lined up, I then boarded the shallow glass-roofed boat for my sightseeing tour and at 11 am on the dot, we were off.
Over the next two hours the boat traveled under twelve bridges, cruising past the major landmarks of the city. My favorite section of the tour was passing through the lock connecting the Baltic Sea with Lake Mälaren. This classic tour, with the help of a detailed audio guide, offered a slow-paced introduction to the history and the lives of the people. Equipped with all this new information and feeling better oriented in the city, I made my way to the next phase of my trip: Djurgården island.
Museum marvels - from music to maritime fun
The island is home to the ABBA museum where I had the opportunity to learn about the lives of the band members - Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad - , the formation of their legendary group and their road to fame. I was mesmerized by the original outfits which were on display; I gave the multi-colored karaoke stage a try and simply immersed myself in the whole experience.
The museum is very interactive, engaging its visitors with games and quizzes as well singing booths and a stage on which they can record their own music videos. Music fans can spend hours at the Abba museum and I was glad to have been one of them - if I’m honest I pretty much found myself singing and dancing my way through the ABBA museum in Stockholm.
Not far from the ABBA Museum lies the Vasa Museum - named after the 17th century warship that is housed here. I was excited to visit this famous maritime museum but I had no inkling how impressively this ship has been preserved. Although she was underwater for more than 300 years before being salvaged, the Vasa is still 98 percent original with an extraordinary amount of detail, all of which is explained during a free tour of the museum.
I spent a few hours here, climbing all the levels of the museum to gaze at the ship from different angles, looking at the original artifacts found with the ship and watching a short documentary about the Vasa. I was particularly impressed by this film which presents the entire restoration process of the ship from the first day.
An enchanting Old Town
Island hopping in Stockholm brought me to Gamla Stan, one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm.
This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. I walked through its narrow winding cobblestoned streets, making my way to the historic main square of the city. Here, rows of colorful old buildings create a story book effect. This image was very much encouraged by some musicians playing alongside the bubbling fountain while crowds of people enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Souvenir shops, adorable cafés and restaurants line the streets.
Although crowded with scores of tourists, the island is pedestrian friendly. I walked its entire length, along the way passing by the world famous Nobel House and the stunning Royal Palace overlooking an adjacent island. I ended my day in the Old Town at a popular vegan restaurant, which has a new age community dining concept consisting of a buffet with delicious organic food.
Stockholm really impressed me with its harmony between medieval history and architecture mixed with a young and fast moving culture. It has definitely left me wanting to see and explore more of this city, so I guess it won’t be long before my next visit.