Stockholm, Sweden’s capitol, is also its largest city. Stockholm is also a very cool city to visit. Like many cities in Europe, Stockholm is an eclectic mix of old and new with lots of places to see. While Stockholm is a very large and populous city, it did not feel overwhelming like Amsterdam. In other cities we had to be on high alert at all times for bicycles and scooters. Stockholm seemed more pedestrian friendly and they even had a large street (Drotteninggatan) reserved for foot traffic.
Our hotel, The Haymarket, was at a city square near the Concert Hall. Everyday vendors selling flowers, fresh produce, and other items setup canopies and displays for their wares. We also heard musicians performing in the square at various times of the day. The pedestrian-only, Drotteninggatan street was very close to the hotel and was very nice to walk.
Although we saw many exceptional sights in Stockholm we only scratched the surface of what the city had to offer. We enjoyed just walking around the city and seeing parks, churches, shopping areas, public spaces, monuments, harbor, etc. The people that we encountered projected a very positive vibe. Sweden is very far north so the long summer days also mean dark days in the winter. It seems that Swedes make it point to enjoy the nice days and wear fun and colorful clothes while they can.
We saw this positive vibe while walking past a restaurant on a small side street. This restaurant had outdoor seating with lots of customers talking and having a good time. A large American classic convertible car with some young people was blaring some Swedish music while slowly driving on the main road near the restaurant. The car briefly stopped near the side street. Many of the patrons at the restaurant (it sounded like most of them) started singing along with the music, adding to the enjoyment of their evening. In other places you would expect to hear some people grumbling and complaining about the loud music. In Sweden the response was joy and singing.
While we only had time to see a very small subset of Stockholm, here are places that we enjoyed:
- Stockholm City Hall: This may sound boring, but the City Hall is one of the most beautiful and impressive building that I have ever seen. Be sure to take the tour. Their English tour can book fairly quickly so get there about 45 minutes before it opens to be sure to get a reservation. Also get a reservation to climb the Tower. It takes some effort, but the views are outstanding and all of the stairs and corridors are fascinating to see. The architecture in the City Hall is amazing and there is so much variation in the different rooms and areas within the Hall. The walls of the Gold Room are covered in murals from floor to ceiling. They used over 8 million pieces in the mosaics.
- Old Town (Gamla Stan): The old city center of Gamla Stan contain lots of historic buildings joined by cobblestone streets and alleyways. The area contains lots of shops, eateries, residences, offices, tour boats, etc. Most of the buildings are very tall with narrow alleys between them. The narrowest alley in Sweden is Mårten Trotzigs Gränd which is a nice photo spot. Some of the older buildings throughout Stockholm appear to lean forward. In the past the taxes on buildings were based on their width. To get the most useable space, higher floors often extended past the front wall of the building. This makes some building appear as if they are leaning forward.
- Vasa Museum: When in Stockholm you must see the Vasa Museum. The Vasa, completed in 1628, was a 64-cannon, 226′ warship that was supposed to be a marvel of engineering. This impressive warship was also adorned with first-rate artwork, statuary, and carvings. It sank about 20 minutes into its maiden voyage after traveling about 1,300 meters. The Vasa remained on the bottom of the Stockholm harbor until recovery efforts started in 1961. The mighty ship was raised, preserved, and now showcased in the Vasa Museum.
- The Harbor area has lots of walkways and you can stroll by parks, monuments, historic buildings, and many other sights.
Many of the Swedes that we say on our walks wore colorful, summertime attire. Stockholm is pretty far north so they get many hours of sun in the summer and lots of darkness in the winter. The Swedes seem to make the most of the nice days and enjoy the sunshine. The overwhelming vibe of Stockholm seemed very positive and upbeat.