Gamla stan pronounced 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. The district is made up by the main island Stadsholmen, with the smaller islands 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 restaurants of different Swedish styles, art galleries, craft and antiquity shops 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 2025, 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. Bicycles are good for the waterfront roads, but they could be difficult to bring inside the alleyways.
Walking tours in Gamla stan:
- Stockholm Main Street: includes Västerlånggatan, with some reputation as a tourist trap
- Stockholm history tour: a historical showcase from the Vikings to the Nobel Prize
- Stockholm waterfront palace tour: A showcase of the city's finest architecture
- Stockholm environmentalist tour: some points of interests in Stockholm's green movement
- 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: May-Sep 10:00-17:00, Oct-Apr 10:00-16:00. 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 monarch 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.
- The Royal Guards, Högvakten, used to consist of conscripts. Today, all Swedish soldiers are professional. A ceremonial changing of the guard occurs at the Royal Palace every day from 23rd April to 31st August at 12.15PM on weekdays and Saturdays, and 1.15PM on Sundays and public holidays, with the Mounted Guards arriving from Östermalm.
- 5 Christina Gyllenstierna statue. Kristina Nilsdotter (Gyllenstierna) led Sweden's uprising against Denmark in the 1510s, after the death of her husband Sten Sture (Sweden's acting head of state). The statue was erected on the Stockholm Palace courtyard in 1912, as Sweden's first public monument for a woman. Driving force behind the statue were the defense of Stockholm (with the arms race before World War I), and the movement for women's suffrage (granted 1918).
- 6 Slottsbacken. Slottsbacken provides an astounding view of Stockholm's inner harbour. The obelisk was erected by King Gustav III as his gratitude for Stockholm's citizens, for defending the city in the war against Russia from 1788 to 1790. As of 2020, it is absent for renovation. Karl XIV Johan has a statue here. He was born Jean Bernadotte, was a Napoleonic field marshal, who became Crown Prince, and later King of Sweden. The House of Bernadotte has been on the Swedish throne since then.
- 7 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.
- 8 Parliament's democracy exhibition, Mynttorget. The Swedish Parliament celebrates 100 years of universal suffrage through a display window exhibition.
- 9 Stortorget. Stockholm's oldest square, dated back to the 13th century. While the square was used for corporal punishment during most of its history, the most infamous event was the 1520 Stockholm Bloodbath, where Danish king Kristian II (who since then has been known as Kristian the Tyrant in Sweden) had a hundred Swedish noblemen and dignitaries executed for heresy. The massacre caused an uprising against the Danes, in which Gustav Vasa became Sweden's first sovereign king in 1523. A cannonball is stuck in a building wall at Skomakaregatan. It was said to originate from Gustav Vasa's liberation of Stockholm; it was however added when the building was erected in 1795, as a purely symbolic commemoration of the war. The well was built in 1778. As it ran dry (due to the rising land), it was moved to Brunkebergstorg in 1857. Since 1953 the well is back, fed with tapwater. Occasional markets and fairs are held on Stortorget, including a Christmas market.
- 10 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).
- 11 Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Medeltidsmuseet). It displays the dawning age of Stockholm. Small and hard to find, it provides a good historical background to a visit to Stockholm.
- 12 Postmuseum. Sweden's only postal museum.
- 13 Swedish Parliament (Sveriges riksdag). Free-entrance guided tours in Swedish and English.
- 14 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.
- 15 Uppland Runic Inscription 53, Kåkbrinken 1. A runestone from the Viking Age made around AD 1100 and accidentally famous due to ending up in a wall of a 17th century building. The laconic inscription says Thorsteinn and Freygunnr had this stone [raised] in memory of [...] their son. There is no evidence that these people had travelled far; the few runestones that mention overseas travellers (Vikings) are much more famous. The cannon was set up in the 17th century to protect the building from wagons.
- 16 Jewish Museum (Judiska museet), Själagårdsgatan 19. This 17th-century building was an auction chamber until it became Stockholm's first synagogue from 1795 to 1870; the year when Jews got full civil rights, and the Great Synagogue was inaugurated. The building has among other things been used as a police station, until the Jewish Museum (on different premises since 1992) moved into the building in 2019.
- 17 Järnpojke (Iron Boy) (Bollhustäppan). A 1967 statue which is said to bring good luck when offered coins.
- 18 Forum för levande historia. A museum with exhibitions focused on human rights and crimes against humanity. Previous exhibitions have depicted Sweden's role in World War II in Europe and the Holocaust.
- 19 Galleri Cobra, Västerlånggatan 58. Art gallery.
- 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.
- 5 Old Town Walking Tour (Meet outside Gamla Stan station). Daily walking tours of Gamla Stan. Free/donations.
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. A Christmas fair open daily 11:00-18:00 from late November to late December.
- 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 Gamla stans bokhandel, Stora Nygatan 7. A bookstore profiled towards history and arts. Most titles are in Swedish.
- 4 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.
- 5 Castor, Österlånggatan 27 (T Gamla stan). Contemporary arts and crafts.
- 6 Sound Pollution. A record label for independent rock music, with a store for LP records and merchandise.
- 7 Gamla stans polkagriskokeri, Stora Nygatan 44. A candy factory.
- 8 Trafik-nostalgiska förlaget, Österlånggatan 20. A store for books, scale models and merchandise related to transportation, in particular Swedish rail transportation.
Many of Gamla stan's restaurants are high-end, and those around Stortorget can be a bit overpriced. The least costly eating options are the fast food places.
- 1 Coop Järntorget, Järntorget 80. A supermarket, with both groceries and ready-made food.
- 2 Munkbrohallen, Munkbrogatan 8. A high-end supermarket.
- 3 Tasty America, Triewaldsgränd 3. American food and soft drinks for homesick travellers.
- 4 Burger King Gamla Stan, Västerlånggatan 78. American fast food with great view of the square.
- 5 Chokladkoppen & Kaffekoppen, Stortorget 18-20 (T Gamla stan), ☏ . Winter: M–Th 10:00–22:00, F 10:00–23:00, Sa 09:00–23:00, Su 09:00–22:00; Summer: daily 09:00–23:00. 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!
- 6 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 kr for four scoops of ice cream. You can also freely take the handmade chocolates by the cash register, and the owner is very friendly.
- 7 Café Sten Sture, Trångsund 10. A café in a 14th century cellar vault. The building used to be a monastery, until it was dismantled following the Protestant Reformation. It was used as a prison; the most famous inmate was Johan Jacob Anckarström, who assassinated King Gustav III.
- 8 Grillska huset, Stortorget 3, ☏ . The medieval building was owned by the Grill family from 1681 to 1800; one of the first wealthy common families. The building has a café and restaurant run by the Stockholm City Mission, less overpriced than many other venues around Stortorget. The courtyard has a view of the Cepheus block, which had fallen in decay in the early 20th century, but was restored in the mid-20th century as a hallmark of modernization of historic buildings.
- 9 Sundbergs konditori, Järntorget 83. Opened in 1785 and at its current location since 1793, this is Stockholm's oldest café.
- 10 Café Krans, Västerlånggatan 26. An independent Swedish café.
- 11 Aifur, Västerlånggatan 68. A Viking restaurant, branding itself as the only of its kind. Live Viking Age music.
- 12 Hermitage, Stora Nygatan 11. Vegetarian restaurant.
- 13 Shogun, Stora Nygatan 3. Opened in 1985, as Stockholm's first contact with the internationalized Japanese cuisine.
- 14 Järntorgspumpen, Järntorget 83. A classical diner in a 500-year old building.
- 15 Mr French, Tullhus 2 (Skeppsbrokajen). French-style restaurant on the waterfront.
- 16 Lasse i Gatan, Västerlånggatan 60. A restaurant and bar in 18th century pirate style.
- 17 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.
- 18 Djuret, Lilla Nygatan 5. Serves meat from one animal species, changing monthly.
- Tweed. A British-style high-end bar.
- 19 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.
- 20 Brasserie Le Rouge, Brunnsgränd 2. A French-style luxury diner.
- 21 Zum Franziskaner (Zum), Skeppsbron 44. A beer hall which traces its history from the Hanseatic period, the name has allegedly been around since 1471. It has been at its current location since 1906 and most furniture are original. The food is classic Swedish cuisine. Also try also Bakfickan which serves beer and light meals.
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 The Liffey, Stora Nygatan 40. A spacious Irish restaurant and pub with frequent live performances.
- 4 Secret Garden, Kornhamnstorg 59. An inclusive LGBT club with a dance floor.
- 5 Engelen, Kornhamnstorg 59. Restaurant and bar with live music every evening.
- 6 Stampen, Stora Gråmunkegränd 7. Popular Jazz club which has been around since 1965, there's live music almost every night.
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.
- 1 Apoteket Korpen, Västerlånggatan 16. While this pharmacy has been in business since 1674, it moved to its current location in 1948.