Gamla stan [gamlaˈstɑːn], the Old Town, also known as Staden mellan broarna ("the town between the bridges") is the Old Town in Stockholm, containing genuine cultural heritage, as well as tourist traps. Adjacent islands are Helgeandsholmen, with the Swedish Parliament, and Riddarholmen, with several nobility palaces, today occupied by various government functions.
Since the Ice Age, the land has been rising from the sea, at about half a metre per century (see Nordic countries#Understand). What is today Lake Mälaren, was part of the brackish Baltic Sea until AD 1000; in these times, Birka, Sigtuna and Uppsala were the most important settlements in Svealand; all being located at the Mälaren shore.
As Sigtuna was sacked in 1187, a fortress was built on the island to protect Mälaren from pirates. While most of the first houses were built of wood, and destroyed by fire through the years, some masonry basements remain from the Middle Ages. The first Royal Palace, Tre Kronor, burnt down in 1697.
In the mid-19th century, most buildings in central island had fallen into decay, and total redevelopment was considered. However, most buildings were restored instead, transforming the island from a slum to a high-class neighbourhood. Today, Gamla stan has 7,000 inhabitants and is full of trendy cafés and souvenir shops.
Gamla stan is connected to Norrmalm by four walkable bridges, all of which provide picturesque views and nice photo opportunities. From east to west those are Strömbron, Norrbro, Riksbron and Vasabron.
Södermalm is only connected to the Gamla stan via the Slussen, a transit node built over the water lock between the Baltic Sea and the Lake Mälaren. It is under renovation until 2023, with detours and blocked views. While pedestrians, bicycles, cars and buses can pass through, it gets congested around rush hours.
The Tunnelbana station Gamla stan is the only one within the district, and is located at the southeast edge of it. All trains of the red (13, 14) and green (17, 18, 19) lines stop at Gamla stan.
Alternatively, you can alight at the Central Station or at Slussen on the Södermalm side and take a bus or simply walk to the Gamla stan over one of the bridges.
These are the following bus stops in Gamla stan:
- On Munkbroleden at the western waterfront (buses 3 and 53 stop there):
- Riddarhustorget at the bridge to Riddarholmen
- Mälartorget at the Gamla stan T-bana station
- Kornhamnstorg at the namesake square in the south of Gamla stan
- On Skeppsbron along the eastern waterfront (all other buses going to Gamla stan stop there):
- Slottsbacken by the Royal Palace
- Räntmästartrappan at the Slussen quays
Nota bene: It appears on the network plans provided by the SL that bus 59 goes through Gamla stan along with 3 and 53. In reality, the 59 passes by Gamla stan using Centralbron (a highway bridge) and does not stop in Gamla stan at all.
Cars are banned in inner Gamla stan. As in most historical districts, people with motion disabilities might have difficulties getting around, though many basement establishments have wheelchair lifts. Community bicycles are good for the waterfront roads, but they could be difficult to bring inside the alleyways.
- 1 Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan), Trångsund 1 (next to the Royal Palace), ☏ . Open daily 09:00-18:00 21 May-29 Sep, 09:00-16:00 rest of year. Guided tours every Thursday at 11. Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Gamla stan. Built in the 13th century in the Gothic style, the exterior was remodelled in Baroque style around 1740. The church is the seat of the Church of Sweden bishop of Stockholm. It contains two pieces of famous artwork: the 15th-century wooden statue of Saint George and a copy of the oldest known image of Stockholm, Vädersolstavlan ("The Sun Dog Painting"), a 1636 copy of a lost original from 1535. Entrance 40 kr except for visitors to services 21 May-29 Sep, free entry rest of year.
- 2 Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan), ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Riddarholm is the ancient core of Stockholm and this is the city's oldest building - though no longer the oldest church, as it's nowadays simply a museum. Built as an abbey in the late 14th century. Many Swedish monarchs are buried here, including Gustavus Adolphus (Gustav II Adolf) and Charles XII (Karl XII). But what about Nelson Mandela, Lord Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek and other notables? - no, their plaques are here as "Knights of the Order of Seraphim", a Swedish heraldic society. Adults 50 kr, students and children 25 kr.
- 3 German Church (Tyska Kyrkan), Svartmangatan 16A, ☏ . Tu-F 09:30-23:30, Sa-Su noon-16:00. Officially named Sankta Gertrud, this Gamla stan church is the home of the first German-speaking parish outside Germany, giving some clue to the importance of German merchants in the history of Stockholm. On the site of the church, a German merchants' guild was founded in the 14th century. In the 16th century, the headquarters was converted into a church, which was later expanded. The interior is baroque in style, with large windows and white vaults. The church belongs to the Church of Sweden but holds services in German at 11:00 every Sunday. Entrance 40 kr except for visitors to services 21 May-29 Sep, free entry rest of year..
- 4 Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet). Daily 10:00-17:00 (May-September), Tu-Su 10:00-16:00 (October–April). At times referred to by Swedes at the "Royal Castle". Built between 1697 and 1754, dominating the north-eastern part of the Old Town, the Royal Palace is the official residence of the king of Sweden. However, the Royal family lives at Drottningholm in Ekerö, using the Royal Palace only for official ceremonies. It is open to the public unless being used for a state ceremony. Entrance ticket includes The Royal Apartments, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Treasury, and Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities. Adults 160 kr, students and children 80 kr.
- 5 The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren), Slottsbacken 3, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00 – 17:00, Th open until 20:00. Located in the Royal Palace, still an independent museum. In 1628, King Gustavus II Adolphus declared that his uniform from the Thirty Years War campaign in Poland should be put on display for eternity. Since then, the Royal Armoury keeps these objects, and other Royal memorabilia, branding itself "Sweden's oldest museum". Free admission.
- The Royal Guards, Högvakten, used to consist of conscripts. Today, all Swedish soldiers are professional. A ceremonial changing of the guard occurs during June-August, as well as during major holidays, with the Mounted Guards arriving from Östermalm.
- 6 Nobel Museum (Nobelmuseet), Stortorget (T Gamla stan). Open Tu 11:00-20:00, W-Su 11:00-17:00 17 Sep-20 May, and 10:00-17:00 (Tu 10:00-20:00) 21 May-16 Sep.. Located in the old Stock Exchange house in the middle of Gamla stan, this museum has lots of material on the Nobel Prize, including videotaped speeches by laureates. Gift shop sells "Nobel medals" that are big chocolate coins in stamped gold foil, great souvenir/gift. Admission 60 kr (students 40 kr, children 7-18 20 kr)..
- 7 Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Medeltidsmuseum). The displays the dawning age of Stockholm. Small and hard to find, it provides a good historical background to a visit to Stockholm.
- 8 Postmuseum. Sweden's only postal museum.
- 9 Swedish Parliament (Sveriges riksdag). Free-entrance guided tours in Swedish and English.
- 10 The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). Presents Swedish history from the perspective of the noble estate. Though most land in Sweden has been held by peasants, the nobility dominated the Swedish military.
- 11 Uppland Runic Inscription 53, Kåkbrinken 1. A runestone from the Viking Age, older than Stockholm itself, built into a wall. The laconic inscription says Thorsteinn and Freygunnr had this stone [raised] in memory of [...] their son. The stone has been part of the building since at least the 17th century.
- 1 Rooftop Tour. 1 hour 30 min tour, April–September only. Look at Stockholm from the roofs of Riddarholmen island. An exciting experience if you're not afraid of heights. 595 kr.
- 2 Storkyrkobadet, Svartmangatan 20-22, ☏ . Open for men Tu F Su 05:00-20:30; for women M Th 05:00-20:30; closed during summer. A small secret hidden in what once was a wine cellar in the old town, where you can take a bath beneath 18th century vaults. Men and women cannot visit the bath together. Adults 40 kr, includes entrance to pool and sauna. Students and seniors 30 kr.
- 3 Musikvalvet Baggen, Svartmangatan 27. A cellar for intimate cross-genre concerts. The bar serves alcoholic beverages.
- 4 Musikvalvet Brinken, Kåkbrinken 5. A second stage with the same concept as Musikvalvet Baggen.
Gamla stan has plenty of small stores selling souvenirs, art, handicraft and other items mainly geared towards tourists. Although there are a number of tourist traps with tacky, grossly overpriced merchandise, especially on Västerlånggatan, you can also find nice and interesting stuff. If you want a calmer experience, try Österlånggatan or any of the other streets.
- 1 Christmas fair (Stortorgets julmarknad), Stortorget. open daily 11:00-18:00 from late November to late December. A Christmas fair,
- 2 Sweden Bookshop, ☏ . Open M-F 10:00-18:00, Sa (Jul-Aug) 11:00-16:00. Whether you’re looking for a Swedish cookbook, a glossy coffee-table book on Swedish design or Swedish fiction in English translation, this is the place to go. Part of the Swedish Institute, Sweden Bookshop is a specialized bookstore that supplies a broad selection of information about Sweden and Swedish literature in English and other languages.
- 3 The Science Fiction Bookstore (Science Fiction Bokhandeln), Västerlånggatan 48 (T Gamla stan). A bookshop selling science fiction, fantasy, horror, manga/anime, role-playing games, boardgames and popular science; a lot of it is in English.
- 4 Castor, Österlånggatan 27 (T Gamla stan). Contemporary arts and crafts.
- Duka, Västerlånggatan 78, ☏ . Duka is a Swedish chain selling both cheaper household items and a limited selection of glassware in several stores in central Stockholm.
- Nordiska Kristall, Österlånggatan 1, ☏ . Nordiska Kristall is a high-end shop for crystal design glass.
In the evening, Gamla stan has few cheap dining options; expect to pay around 120 kr for a starter and 250 kr for a main course. Check the evening menu price rather than the boards outside - the prices displayed outside are often lunch offers only. In winter months restaurant kitchens close at around 21:30, so dine early!
While cafés are plentiful in Gamla stan, many of them are overpriced.
- 1 Chokladkoppen & Kaffekoppen, Stortorget 18-20 (T Gamla stan). Kaffekoppen and Chokladkoppen (literally, the Coffee Cup and the Chocolate Cup) are two LGBT-friendly sister cafes situated on the Stortorget in Gamla stan, just off the touristy Västerlånggatan. If one is full you can just walk over to the other one. The interior in both of them is small but cosy, probably not for the claustrophobic! Gigantic sandwiches if you're hungry, and if you're looking for something sweet try their chocolate cake!
- 2 Chocolates Caffe House, Österlånggatan 31. An amazing little chocolate shop where milkshakes (with 3 scoops of ice cream, a chunk of chocolate) go for 70 kr, and 50ish SEK for four scoops of ice cream. You can also freely take the handmade chocolates by the cash register, and the owner is very friendly.
Some nearby low-budget supermarkets are in the basement of Galleria Slussen at Katarinavägen 1 about 700 metres away. If you can manage a longer walk there is a much nicer supermarket, Hemköp at Mäster Samuelsgatan 59 (bottom floor of Åhléns department store), around 2 km away.
- 3 Burger King Gamla Stan, Västerlånggatan 78. American fast food with great view of the square.
- 4 Aifur, Västerlånggatan 68. A Viking restaurant, branding itself as the only of its kind. Live Viking Age music.
- 5 Hermitage, Stora Nygatan 11. Vegetarian restaurant.
- 6 Shogun, Stora Nygatan 3. Opened in 1985, as Stockholm's first contact with the internationalized Japanese cuisine.
- 7 Järntorgspumpen, Järntorget 83. A classical diner in a 500-year old building.
- 8 Mr French, Tullhus 2 (Skeppsbrokajen). French-style restaurant on the waterfront.
- 9 Lasse i Gatan, Västerlånggatan 60. A restaurant and bar in 18th century pirate style.
- 10 Leijontornet, Lilla Nygatan 5 (T Gamla stan), ☏ . M-F 11:30-14:00, 18:00-22:00, Sa 18:00-22:00. Leijontornet is a classical fine diner, and the main restaurant in this local chain. With the foundations of a city wall tower behind glass in the cellar dining room, Leijontornet is about exclusive food with a traditionalist slant in an exclusive historical environment. The street-level bar next door is a surprisingly vivid place with cheaper dishes from the kitchen. Three-course dinner 745 kr. Mains in Leijonbaren 115-210 kr.
- 11 Pubologi, Stora Nygatan 20. A gastro-pub recognized by Guide Michelin, with mid-range prices.
- Djuret. Serves meat from one animal species, changing monthly.
- Svinet. A pork barbecue, open during summer.
- Tweed. A British-style high-end bar.
- 12 Den Gyldene Freden, Österlånggatan 51 (T Gamla stan), ☏ . Open M-F 17:00-23:00, Sa 13:00-23:00 (closed M in July and early August). The members of the Swedish Academy (famous as the jury for the Nobel Prize in Literature) eat here every Thursday. Old traditions (traced back to 1722) in the old town. The reputation allows "The Golden Peace" to charge high prices. Mains 165-335 kr, three-course menus 565-675 kr.
- 13 Frantzén/Lindeberg, Lilla Nygatan 21. Two Guide Michelin stars.
- 14 Brasserie Le Rouge, Brunnsgränd 2. A French-style luxury diner.
- 15 Zum Franziskaner ("Zum"), Skeppsbron 44. A German-themed restaurant tracing its history from the Hanseatic period, founded in 1471, in its current location since 1906.
Drinks in Gamla stan are quite expensive - expect to pay around 60 kr for a 500 ml lager in a cheap pub, rising to 95 kr for a microbrew beer in a nice pub. If you like to drink a lot, it's worth heading further afield, and avoiding the tourist bars.
- 1 6e Tunnan (Sjätte tunnan), Stora Nygatan 43. Open until 03:00. Medieval bar and restaurant, with medieval food and mead, and a small heavy-metal bar at street level. Live performances most evenings, usually Medieval-style or rock music.
- 2 O'Connell's Irish Pub, Stora Nygatan 21 (T Gamla stan). Open every day 12:00-01:00. This comfortable and cosy Irish pub serves excellent pub food and has live music most nights of the week. Be sure to check out the 400-year old cellar bar.
- 3 Secret Garden, Kornhamnstorg 59. An inclusive LGBT club with a dance floor.
The Old Town contains several low-cost hostels. As the beds are in high demand, especially during summer, advance booking is strongly recommended.
- 1 Archipelago Hostel Old Town, Stora Nygatan 38, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Central location, clean & comfy. Dorm bed from 175 kr.
- 2 Castanea Hostel, Kindstugatan 1, ☏ . A hostel in a quiet central area. Dorm bed from 175 kr, rooms from 500 kr.
- 3 Old Town Lodge, Baggensgatan 25, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay in a vault of a 17th-century building in the centre of the island. Rate includes breakfast, tea and coffee all day and Wi-Fi, clean and modern. From 572 kr, plus 65 kr for bed linen.
The Collector's Hotels (+46 8 506 400 50) are a chain of three hotels themed for Lord Nelson. (That's forgiving of them, since he blockaded the Baltic and bombarded Copenhagen.) They're close together in Gamla stan and all booked through the central website.
- 4 Victory Hotel, Lilla Nygatan 5. This is the flagship 4-star hotel, with 45 rooms. From 1791 kr.
- 6 Lord Nelson Hotel, Västerlånggatan 22. 3-star with 29 cabin-sized rooms. From 1850 kr.
- 7 Scandic Gamla Stan, Lilla Nygatan 25, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A four-star hotel in a 17th-century building. Rates from 1695 kr.
- 8 First Hotel Reisen, Skeppsbron 12, ☏ . Large 4-star hotel on east waterfront. Rates from 2284 kr.
- 9 Mälardrottningen, Riddarholmen 11, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A private yacht launched in 1924 and retired in 1982. Upper cabins with window, lower just have porthole. Singles from 700 kr, doubles 1700 kr.
- 10 Sven Vintappare, Sven Vintappares gränd 3, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. In a 1607 building, very central in Gamla Stan. Rates from 1595 kr.
Beware of pickpocketing and illegal street gambling, especially around Västerlånggatan.