Download GPX file for this article

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Stockholm history tour is a walk from Gamla stan, ("the Old Town"), to Norrmalm in Stockholm. The tour is roughly chronological, from the Viking Age through the Middle Ages, the Swedish Empire and the Industrial Revolution to present day, with a few skips back and forward.


See also: Nordic history
 Blue  marks waypoints.  Orange  marks interesting places for eating or drinking along the way.  Green  marks landmarks visible from the distance (zoom out for more).

Due to post-glacial rebound, today's Stockholm has been rising from the sea for the last 5000 years, around 5 millimeters per year. Lake Mälaren used to be part of the brackish (lightly salty) Baltic Sea, and the Stockholm archipelago was a waterway for the first Swedish towns; Birka, Uppsala, and Sigtuna. As Sigtuna was sacked by pirates in AD 1187, the Swedes had a stockade built at an island in the strait, which has been known as Stockholm since 1252. As the rising land separated Mälaren from the sea, cargo had to reload at Stockholm. In the 15th century Stockholm replaced Uppsala as the effective capital and center of commerce, and later the base of the 17th century Swedish Empire.

Since 1901, Stockholm has drawn the world's attention with the Nobel Prize. The city was spared by the World Wars, but around the 1960s, hundreds of old buildings in Norrmalm were torn down to build a new business district, and a metro, known for its art. 21st century Stockholm is one of Europe's fastest growing cities, known for pop music, startup tech companies, and sustainable development.


While Sweden is arguably the world's most cashless country, Swedish banknotes have portraits of some historical figures mentioned in this article, and could be useful as props.

Get around[edit]

The tour is around 4 km (2.5 mi), and can be completed on quick feet within an hour: more for people who move slowly. Two hours would allow for a calm stroll with breaks at the waypoints, excluding visits to museums and other venues. For actually visiting all the museums and buildings rather than just taking a quick glance at them, you may want to budget a full day.

The streets through 1 Gamla Stan are pedestrian, less suitable for bicycles and electric scooters. Wheelchairs and strollers need a few detours.

Some organized walking tours follow similar waypoints.


The Eric Chronicle, from the 1320s

Birger jerl, þen wise man.
Han loot Stockholms stad at byggia
'med digert with oc mykin hyggia,
eþ fagerþ hus ok en goðan stað
alla leð swa gjort som han bað.
Þet er laas fore þen sio,
at karela göra þem enga oroo.

Birger Jarl, the wise man
He had Stockholm City built
with plenty of wit and much thought
a fair house and a good city
everyone did as he asked."
It is lock for the lake
so the Karelians make them no trouble.

Blue for waypoints; green for landmarks visible from a distance, and orange for interesting places for eating and drinking.

If you want a shorter tour, any of the four parts (or the epilogue) can be skipped.

Södermalm heights tour is an optional prologue, with a showcase of pre-industrial buildings, as well as an astounding view of the Old Town and Stockholm's other districts.

Prologue: Mälaren[edit]

Lake Mälaren is the cradle of the Swedish Kingdom. Birka, Sigtuna and Uppsala were the most important settlements until Stockholm (nicknamed "Queen of Mälaren") became the undisputed capital in the 15th century. Visiting all these sites is a long venture.

  • 2 Uppsala. Uppsala had a pagan shrine from the 5th century, until it was destroyed in the 11th century, replaced by the Uppsala Cathedral. With the Archbishop, it was Sweden's most important city through the Middle Ages. Uppsala (Q25286) on Wikidata Uppsala on Wikipedia
  • 3 Sigtuna. The city of Sigtuna was founded by Erik the Victorious (Sweden's first known king) in 980 and marked the unification of Sweden's provinces to a kingdom. His son and successor Olof Skötkonung (Tax King) had the first Swedish coins minted here. Sigtuna (Q3183470) on Wikidata Sigtuna on Wikipedia
  • 4 Adelsö (Ekerö). An island filled by archaeological sites. Swedish kings lived here until the 13th century. Adelsö (Q355577) on Wikidata Adelsö on Wikipedia
  • 5 Birka (Björkö, Ekerö). Birka became the first Swedish city in the 8th century, and received travellers from afar. Today, a replica of the city has been built on the reclaimed land.
  • 6 Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott) (Ekerö). An 18th-century palace which has been the residence of many Swedish monarchs, including reigning king Carl XVI Gustaf. Drottningholm Palace (Q208559) on Wikidata Drottningholm Palace on Wikipedia

An alternative prologue is to arrive to Stockholm on an Baltic Sea cruiseferry from Turku, Helsinki, Tallin or Riga; cities which were once part of the Swedish Empire. Wake up early to see the Stockholm archipelago transform as land rose from the sea: first, only barren rocks break the surface. Then, a few small islands with cottages and boats, later with whole towns. Approaching Stockholm you will see the industrial zones of Nacka, and the mansions of Djurgården.

Part I: Old Town[edit]

View from Slussen: Riddarholmskyrkan, Stockholm Cathedral, and German Church.

The tour begins at the transportation hub Slussen, with a view of Gamla stan (the Old Town), and a journey through the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. As most buildings from those times have been replaced by buildings from the 17th century or later, we need to look for cellars, streets, and other clues which can be difficult to find at first sight.

  • 1 Slussen (Foundation of Stockholm). The time from the 8th to the 12th century was known as the Viking Age. While most Nordic people of the time lived peaceful lives as farmers, overpopulation encouraged some of them to become Vikings; overseas travellers who made a living from commerce, slave raids, raiding, mercenary work, and settling. Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic Sea, where they became known as the Rus, said to be founders of today's Russia. Some of them reached Constantinople, where they formed the Varangian Guard. As the sea level was much higher, Mälaren was a navigable bay of the Baltic Sea. One Viking chief known to have sacked the towns around Mälaren was Olaf, who became king Olaf II of Norway, and later the country's patron saint. Over the centuries, European kingdoms had castles built and armies trained to keep enemies out ending the Viking raids, and heralding the High Middle Ages. After the first Swedish capital Sigtuna was sacked by Karelian pirates in 1187, the Swedes built a stockade on the island which became Stockholm. Birger jarl (jarl is a title corresponding to British earl), is regarded to be the city's founder, and wrote the first record of the name of Stockholm in a letter from 1252. Slussen (Q371929) on Wikidata
  • 7 Södermalmstorg. A town square which has been used at least since the 15th century. In the first half of 2021, it will be an archaeological dig site, revealing ruins and artifacts from centuries of commerce. Södermalmstorg (Q10688590) on Wikidata
  • 8 Slussenrummet (Slussen Showroom), Södermalmstorg 4. A showroom for the redevelopment of Slussen (due to finish in 2025) with a scale model, multimedia, and some archaeological artifacts. Limited opening hours.
  • 9 Stockholm City Museum (Stockholms stadsmuseum), Ryssgården. This building was finished in the 1660s, as Stockholm's Southern City Hall. Over the centuries, it has been used as a courthouse, a jail, an anatomic theatre, and a school. Since 1942 it is a museum; displaying Stockholm's history from 1523 to present day, with special attention to construction and architecture. The museum organizes walking tours. Stockholm City Museum (Q1933896) on Wikidata Stockholm City Museum on Wikipedia
  • 10 Riddarholmskyrkan. The island of Riddarholmen (literally "Knight Island") got its name from its nobility palaces, most of them built in the 17th centuries. The Swedish nobility (adel) was formalized in 1280 law by some families who were exempted from tax but had to serve in the army; the most senior ones got the title riddare (knight). The church, Riddarholmskyrkan, is from the 14th century, and thereby one of Stockholm's oldest surviving buildings. Fifteen Swedish monarchs are buried here, from Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) to Gustav V (1858-1950). One notable absence is Queen Kristina, who abdicated in 1654, converted to Catholicism, and is buried in St Peter's Church in the Vatican. Today, most of the palaces are used by the judiciary. Riddarholm Church (Q657118) on Wikidata Riddarholmen Church on Wikipedia
  • 2 Kornhamn (Medieval Stockholm harbour). As the land kept rising, Mälaren became a lake above sea level in the 13th century. A canal was dug out to the sea; but boats needed to be pulled to reach the lake. Therefore, Stockholm had two harbours: Kornhamn (corn/grain harbor) was for the boats of Mälaren, and Kogghamn for the cogs (merchant ships). Many of the cogs belonged to the Hanseatic League, which dominated trade on the Baltic Sea during the Middle Ages. Slussen ("the sluice") refers to the lock which opened in 1642, to allow seagoing ships into Mälaren. Over the centuries, four different locks have succeeded each other, with new bridges for trains, bicycles and public transport. In 1935, Slussen was rebuilt for the automobile, with Europe's first cloverleaf interchange. As the heavy concrete structure sank down the mud, and the lake has to be regulated, Stockholm builds the fifth lock, with a new set of bridges for sustainable transportation, opening for traffic piece by piece, set to be complete in 2025.
  • 11 Kastellet. A citadel from the 17th century, which flies the naval flag, and is used for gun salutes. The building exploded in 1845 and was rebuilt in 1848. Kastellet (Q4176816) on Wikidata Kastellet, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 1 Zum Franziskaner ("Zum"), Skeppsbron 44. A German-themed restaurant allegedly founded in 1471, in its current location since 1906. (Q10725072) on Wikidata
  • 3 Järntorget. This marketplace was at the waterfront until the 14th century, and has been known as the Iron Square since 1489. Until 1662, it was a trading place for iron, copper and other metals from Bergslagen shipped across lake Mälaren, for toll collection and overseas export. Iron (now from mines in Norrbotten County in Sweden's far north) remains a major Swedish export commodity. Järntorget (Q4566667) on Wikidata Järntorget (Stockholm) on Wikipedia
Västerlånggatan 78: Building at Järntorget with visible subsidence damage.
  • 12 Deucalion block, Västerlånggatan 78. The shoreline retracted year by year, as the land rose, and citizens threw household waste over the shore. The waterfront buildings were erected in the 17th century, on wooden piles through the casual landfill. As the land subsided, and the wooden piles dried up, the buildings were deformed; with visible cracks on this building. Most blocks in Gamla Stan got their names from Graeco-Roman mythology.
  • 13 Södra Bankohuset (Southern Bank House), Järntorget 84. The city's official iron weighing house was located here until 1662. It was replaced by the current building, Riksens Ständers Bank, later Sveriges Riksbank, the world's oldest surviving central bank. Sweden's currency used to be daler (same word root as dollar; as the crown had copper mines, they minted enormous copper coins, which could weigh up to 20 kg (44 lb). Since 2018, the building hosts a video game studio. Though Stockholm's main export commodities have changed from hardware to software, Järntorget still has many restaurants and taverns. Södra Bankohuset (Q7666363) on Wikidata Södra Bankohuset on Wikipedia
  • 14 Evert Taube statue. Swedish troubadour Evert Taube (1890-1976) carried Sweden's ancient tradition of maritime ballads into the 20th century. Just like his role model Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795), he was often seen at the taverns in Gamla stan. Taube played both the guitar and the medieval-style lute, singing his adventures as a sailor on the high seas and as a gaucho in Argentina, and was an activist for preserving Stockholm's historic buildings. He is portrayed on the 50 kronor banknotes.
  • 15 Västerlånggatan. The main street of Gamla stan, just outside the first city wall, which was replaced by buildings in the 15th century. While charming, it is overcrowded at times, and considered a bit of a tourist trap. Västerlånggatan (Q1798115) on Wikidata Västerlånggatan on Wikipedia
  • 4 Mårten Trotzigs gränd. Stockholm's narrowest alley take us through the first city wall's perimeter. The buildings were bought by German merchant Mårten Trotzig (1559–1617), who became one of Stockholm's wealthiest citizens through metal trading. Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Q2575880) on Wikidata Mårten Trotzigs Gränd on Wikipedia
  • 5 Tyska Stallplan. You stand on the southern end of the plateau which made up he oldest part of Stockholm. This square was just within the old city wall, where the horses were kept; thereby the name, the "German Stable Square". The horse statue is from 1956. The wall anchors can be used to periodize buildings. Tyska stallplan (Q10707830) on Wikidata Tyska Stallplan on Wikipedia
Wall anchors typical to different periods.
  • 16 Dominican monastery (Svartbrödraklostret). In 1336, a Dominican (Black Friars) monastery was built here, just within the first city wall. It was an important institution of learning and charity, as in other medieval cities. The street name Svartmansgatan refers to the friars. In the 16th century, king Gustav Vasa (who will be mentioned many times in this tour) carried out the Protestant Reformation, nationalized all church property, and had the monastery dismantled and scavenged to get stones for his castle. As for many lost medieval buildings of Gamla Stan, the underground vaults remain intact, occasionally open for visitors. The monastery church was located on the school's playground; the ruins were rediscovered in 2016.
  • 17 Storkyrkoskolan (Stockholm Cathedral School). While the Church became property of the Crown in the Reformation, it remained in charge of the schools. Stockholm Cathedral's School was founded in the 13th century, and moved here in the 19th century. The main building was commissioned in 1666 for German-born court painter David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl, considered to be the father of Swedish painting. The 1920s annex is an example of Swedish Grace; Sweden's interpretation of Art Deco. The playground is from the same time, as some buildings were torn down to improve quality of life. Since 1973, the Estonian school shares the same building. Storkyrkoskolan (Q10600474) on Wikidata
  • 2 Aifur, Västerlånggatan 68. A Viking-themed restaurant; slightly anachronistic, as the cellar vaults were built centuries after the last Vikings.
  • 3 6e Tunnan (Sjätte tunnan), Stora Nygatan 43. Medieval bar and restaurant with occasional live music.
  • 4 Lasse i Gatan, Västerlånggatan 60. A restaurant and bar in 18th century pirate style.
  • 5 Den Gyldene Freden, Österlånggatan 51. This restaurant is known since 1722, making it one of Sweden's oldest. The Swedish Academy eats here every Thursday.
  • 18 Jewish Museum (Judiska museet), Själagårdsgatan 19. Jews were allowed to settle in Sweden from 1792, as second-class citizens. 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. Sweden recognized Jews as an endemic minority in 1999. 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.
  • 19 German Church (Tyska Kyrkan), Svartmangatan 16A. Officially named Sankta Gertrud, this church is the home of the first German-speaking parish outside Germany, giving some clue to the importance of German merchants (up to a third of Stockholm's population). On the site of the church, a German merchants' guild hall was built in the 14th century. In the aforementioned Protestant reformation King Gustav Vasa seized the guild hall. In the 1570s, it was torn down (though some pieces remain) to build a Protestant church for the growing German population. An expansion with large windows and white vaults was finished in 1642. The church belongs to the Church of Sweden, but holds services in German at 11:00 every Sunday. German Church (Q2164087) on Wikidata German Church, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 6 Skomakareporten (Shoemaker Gate). Here was a gate in the first city wall. In the 15th century the wall was replaced by a second city wall near the current waterfront (visible down the street), dismantled in the 17th century, as fortifications had been built in Stockholm archipelago. No enemy ever breached Stockholm's walls; though the city surrendered to Denmark in a 1520 siege; see more below.
Medieval-style buildings on Prästgatan.
  • 7 Morpheus block, Prästgatan 46-50. This block was built in the 15th century, replacing the first city wall. Only the cellar vaults are original, as a 1625 fire destroyed most of the city southwest from here, making room for the rectangular blocks on the western island. These buildings are built in the 17th and 18th centuries on top of the vaults, but as they are just three floors high and have pulley beams near the roof, they give a clue what Medieval Stockholm looked like. Above the gate of #46 is a fire insurance plaque; firefighters would only rescue buildings with those. #48 is built by rough bricks typical to the Middle Ages.
  • 8 Uppland Runic Inscription 53, Kåkbrinken 1. Old Norse people left few artifacts to the afterworld, before writing and stone masonry became common in the 13th century. However they wrote runestones; one of them was made around AD 1100, and got accidental fame, as it ended 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 were travelled far; the few runestones that mention voyages overseas are much more famous. The cannon was set up in the 17th century to protect the building from wagons. Uppland Runic Inscription 53 (Q7899119) on Wikidata Uppland Runic Inscription 53 on Wikipedia
The Stortorget - on the right is the Nobel Museum
  • 9 Stortorget. Stockholm's oldest square, dated back to the 13th century. Occasional markets and fairs are held on Stortorget, including a Christmas market. Stortorget (Q3048023) on Wikidata Stortorget on Wikipedia
  • 20 Köpmantorget. The street heading east has been named Köpmangatan ("Merchant Street") since 1323 and is thereby Stockholm's oldest known street. At the east end was Köpmantorget, ("Merchant Square") and the eastern city gate, with the fish market in the harbour, just outside the wall. The sculpture of Saint George (Sankt Göran) and the Dragon commemorates the 1471 Battle of Brunkeberg. To simplify a lot, Sweden, Norway and Denmark were joined in the Kalmar Union during the 15th century. The Swedish nobles wanted their own king in Stockholm, and in the 1471 Battle of Brunkeberg (on today's Norrmalm), Swedish separatists led by regent Sten Sture the Elder drove out the unionist army. The event was a prelude to the 1520s liberation war, and has been romanticized as a step towards Swedish independence. The sculpture was commissioned by Sten Sture; the original is in the Stockholm Cathedral, and a 1912 replica stands on Köpmantorget. Köpmantorget (Q3439847) on Wikidata Köpmantorget on Wikipedia
  • 21 Schantzska huset. While Stortorget was used for corporal punishment since it was built (including whipping, public shaming and occasional death sentences), the most infamous event was the 1520 Stockholm Bloodbath (Stockholms blodbad). Stockholm had just surrendered to Danish king Kristian II (who since then has been known as Kristian the Tyrant in Sweden), and he had at least 80 Swedish noblemen and dignitaries beheaded for heresy (as they supported Swedish independence). Beheading by sword was considered painless, and a privilege of the nobles; Stockholm's mayor and a few judges were hanged, totalling at least 92 deaths. The massacre sparked the liberation war against Denmark, in which Gustav Vasa became king in 1523, nominally ending the Middle Ages in Sweden, and keeping Sweden independent since then. For five centuries, the liberation war has been romanticized as a founding moment of Sweden. The white stones in the red building (built for Johan Schantz, secretary of King Charles X Gustav) are said to commemorate the victims. A cannonball in a building wall at Skomakaregatan was said to originate from the liberation war; it was however added when the building was erected in 1795, as one of many symbolic commemorations of the war. Schantzska huset (Q10663147) on Wikidata
  • 6 Café Sten Sture, Trångsund 10. A café in a 14th century cellar vault. The building used to be a monastery, which just like the others was dismantled during the Reformation. The cellar was later used as a prison; the most notorious inmate was Johan Jacob Anckarström, sentenced to death for assassinating King Gustav III.
  • 7 Grillska huset. The medieval building was owned by the Grill family from 1681 to 1800; one of Sweden's first wealthy common families. The bilding has a café and restaurant run by the Stockholm City Mission, less overpriced than many other venues around Stortorget. The courtyard gives a view of the Cepheus block, which used to be an overcrowded slum until the 19th century; after a renovation in the 1930s it became a hallmark of refitting historic buildings for modern times. (Q10508805) on Wikidata
  • 10 Stortorget well (Stortorgsbrunnen). The well was built in 1778. It used to be Stockholm's zero mile marker; the point from which Sweden's roads were measured. As it ran dry (due to the rising land), it was moved to Brunkebergstorg in 1857; in 1861 Stockholm got its first public waterworks, as one of the last European capitals to get tap water. The water in the inner part of Mälaren was polluted by untreated sewage into the 20th century, but is famously clean today (and drinkable without direct danger) due to harsh pollution control. In 1953 the well came back to its original location, now fed with tap water. A remaining concern is to keep lake water from mixing with the brackish water of the Baltic Sea. Stortorgsbrunnen (Q10681422) on Wikidata
  • 22 Nobel Prize Museum (Nobelmuseet), Stortorget. The property north of Stortorget used to be Stockholm's city hall, with a courthouse and jail. In 1776, the Stock Exchange was built here. The building now hosts the Nobel Prize Museum, with lots of material on the Nobel Prize, including videotaped speeches by laureates. Nobel Prize Museum (Q1968711) on Wikidata Nobel Prize Museum on Wikipedia
  • 11 Swedish Academy. Since 1914, the upper floor of the Stock Exchange is used by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy. Founded by Gustav III in 1786, it used to be one of Sweden's most renowned institutions, famous for their Swedish dictionary, and since 1901 as the jury for the Nobel Prize for literature. Swedish Academy (Q207360) on Wikidata Swedish Academy on Wikipedia

Part II: Palace and Parliament[edit]

Around the Royal Palace and Riksdag (Parliament), we see the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the road to democracy, with universal suffrage achieved in 1918.

  • 12 Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan), Trångsund 1 (next to the Royal Palace). Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Gamla stan, with the first elements built in Gothic style in the 13th century. The choir was shrunk down in 1554 on the order of Gustav Vasa, to allow cannon fire from the Tre Kronor Castle. the perimeter of the old wall can be seen in the paving stones. The exterior was remodelled in Baroque style around 1740. The church contains two pieces of famous artwork: the original 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. Storkyrkan (Q1133075) on Wikidata Storkyrkan on Wikipedia
  • 13 Olaus Petri statue. The statue at the choir wall commemorates theologist Olaus Petri, born to the much more Swedish-sounding name Olof Pettersson. He was instrumental in the Protestant Reformation, wrote Sweden's first national judiciary code, and made much of the first Swedish Bible translation. He is buried beneath the cathedral's pulpit.
As northern Sweden was sparsely populated and the seas were the fastest way to travel, Stockholm was in the centre of the empire, and a natural location for the Swedish Empire's capital.
  • 23 Vasa shipyard. The Swedish Empire reached the height of its power in the 17th century, nearly encircling the Baltic Sea, with an obvious need for a strong navy. For the Thirty Years War, many warships were built in Stockholm. The least successful of them, the Vasa, was built at the shipyard of Blasieholmen (across the water, where Nationalmuseum is now) and towed to Skeppsbron to get loaded with ballast, and 48 bronze cannons making it one of Sweden's most heavily armed ship; the Empire's Death Star... though very unstable. On its maiden voyage in 1628, Vasa could only sail a mile before catching wind, capsizing and sinking just outside Södermalm, drowning at least 30 people. While most of the expensive bronze cannons were salvaged in 1664, the ship fell into obscurity, not discovered again until 1956.
  • 14 Slottet Tre Kronor (Castle Three Crowns). The Three Crowns make up Sweden's coat of arms (visible on the palace's main gate) since the 14th century. The exact origin of the symbol is unknown; it has been said to represent Norse gods Odin, Thor and Frey, the Biblical Magi, or the Papal Palace in Avignon. Tre Kronor was a 13th century keep in the city wall, which expanded over the centuries, as it became the King's castle (the Swedish word slott can mean both castle and palace). By the 17th century, it was no longer needed for defense, and the expansion of the Swedish Empire called for a more representative residence. King Charles XI commissioned a Baroque palace inspired by Versailles and Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Most of the northern wing was finished by 1697, as a fire destroyed much of the old castle. Most of the national archives were lost, making historical research difficult. The cobblestones in the ground mark the castle's perimeter. Some of the ruins are on display in the Museum Tre Kronor in the Palace's basement. Tre Kronor Castle (Q147009) on Wikidata Tre Kronor (castle) on Wikipedia
  • 24 Axel Oxenstierna Palace. Axel Oxenstierna was Sweden's head of government from 1614 to his death in 1654, and acting head of state from 1632 to 1644 as the underaged Queen Kristina's guardian. By far the most powerful non-monarch of the Swedish Empire, he founded many government agencies which survive today, such as the counties and the postal service. His palace was not finished before his death. Axel Oxenstierna Palace (Q403404) on Wikidata Axel Oxenstierna palace on Wikipedia
For the greatest, happy, pious and always exalted King,
the northern world's splendorous father of fatherland,
whose undefeated virtue,
through Herculean strife,
has led him to glory's height,
life and victory,
and Sweden's tireless wish,
stands here the fortunate building,
and glows of gold
  • 25 Royal Palace main gate (Kungliga Slottet). Six months after the palace fire, Charles XII became king at age 15. In 1700, Denmark, Poland and Russia attacked Sweden, starting the Great Northern war, which Charles XII fought abroad for his whole adult life. While he commissioned the new palace, and is saluted in the plaque on the main entrance (flanked by war trophies), construction was on hold during the war. Charles XII died in battle in Norway in 1718. From 1719, the Russians pillaged Stockholm archipelago, but failed to invade Stockholm. In the 1721 Nystad treaty, Sweden had to cede the Baltic provinces to Russia, which became the dominant power of the Baltic Sea, and enabled Russia's ruler Peter the Great to style himself the first Emperor of Russia. Stockholm Palace (Q750444) on Wikidata Stockholm Palace on Wikipedia
  • 26 The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren). Branding itself as "Sweden's oldest museum", with uniforms, weapons and other belongings of Swedish royals since 1628, including Gustav II Adolf and Charles XII. Free admission. Royal Armoury (Q1636176) on Wikidata Livrustkammaren on Wikipedia
  • 15 Royal Palace south wing. As parliament gradually limited the monarch's power, the new era came to be known as the Age of Liberty, Frihetstiden, and heralded the rise of art and science in Sweden. The palace was finished in 1754, with the newer section having more of a neo-Renaissance style than the Baroque-styled northern wing. Statues depict great Swedish men of the time. The four to the left are Erik Dahlbergh (who designed most fortresses of the Swedish Empire), Carl Linnaeus (founder of systematic biology), polymath Georg Stiernhielm (founder of Swedish poetry) and Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (the palace's architect, succeeding his namesake father), as well as scenes of Graeco-Roman mythology. The 1766 Freedom of the Press Act is the world's oldest free press law, and remains as one of the four volumes of the Swedish Constitution.
  • 27 Finnish Church. Sweden and Finland were the same country from the 13th century to 1809. Finnish soldiers fought bravely in Swedish wars, and Swedes and Finns are the largest ethnic minority in their respective countries. The building was erected in 1653 as Lilla bollhuset (a tennis court) and hosted Sweden's first theatre company. The Finnish parish inaugurated the church in 1725. Finnish church (Q4357115) on Wikidata Finnish Church, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 28 Gustav III statue. Gustav III ruled Sweden from 1771 to 1792. Inspired by the Enlightenment, he was a patron of the arts, founding the Swedish Academy, the Opera, and other institutions, abolished torture and limited capital punishment. He is considered to have ended the Age of Liberty, as he limited the free press, stripped the nobles of their powers, and lost a war against Russia. Many noblemen turned against him and had him assassinated at a masquerade ball in the Opera House. The statue was erected in 1808. Statue for Gustav III (Q10511146) on Wikidata
  • 16 The Obelisk at Slottsbacken. Commissioned by King Gustav III to reward Stockholm's citizens for defending the city in the war against Russia from 1788 to 1790. The obelisk is the only monument in Stockholm bearing the name of Gustav IV Adolf, son and successor of Gustav III. Like his father, he lost a war against Russia in 1809, was forced to cede Finland, and was deposed in a coup. A persona non grata in Sweden, he spent the rest of his life in exile, travelling around Europe. As the obelisk was near collapse in the 21st century, it was replaced by a replica in 2020.
  • 29 Karl XIV Johan statue. As Sweden's elderly king Karl XIII had no legitimate heirs, he adopted Napoleon's field marshal Jean Bernadotte, who became Crown Prince, and in 1818 King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden and Norway (which had just been forced into a union with Sweden). The House of Bernadotte has been on the Swedish throne since then, though the monarchs' power since then has been gradually limited. The statue was commissioned short after Karl Johan's death in 1844, and erected at Slussen in 1854. In 2018, two centuries after Karl Johan's coronation, the statue got its current location.
  • 30 Storkyrkobrinken. In the mid-19th century, Sweden remained one of few European countries where only the Estates (stånd: nobles, clergy, guilds and land-owning farmers) could vote. As the liberal revolutions of 1848 spread to Sweden, suffrage protests at Storkyrkobrinken turned to looting on March 19th. King Oscar I ordered a cavalry unit to disperse the crowd, who killed at least 18 people. The event was referred to as "Stockholm's second bloodbath", but as status quo was preserved, it is little known in Sweden today. Sweden never had a revolution, but suffrage was gradually expanded; in 1866, the Estates were abolished, and all property-owning men could vote.
  • 17 Royal Guards (Kungliga Högvakten). The outer courtyard is the place for the changing of the Royal Guards (Högvakten). Until the 19th century, they were needed for policing and firefighting; they also had artillery; of which four memorial m/1881 cannons (the first Swedish steel cannon) remain on the courtyard. While the guards are today mostly ceremonial, they are authorized to use force. The Royal Guards are not a permanent organization; the honour is shared between different units of the Armed Forces. Royal Guards in Stockholm (Q2983823) on Wikidata Royal Guards (Sweden) on Wikipedia
  • 18 Christina Gyllenstierna statue. Kristina Nilsdotter (Gyllenstierna) led Sweden's uprising against Denmark in the 1510s, after the death of her husband Sten Sture the Younger (Sweden's acting head of state, not related in blood to his predecessor and namesake Sten Sture the Elder). The statue was erected on the Stockholm Palace courtyard in 1912, as Sweden's first public monument for a woman. Driving forces behind the statue were the defense of Stockholm (with the arms race before World War I), and the movement for women's suffrage. As in many other countries, many young men were drafted, increasing employment of women, who joined trade unions and women's organizations. Universal suffrage was granted in 1921. Kristina Gyllenstierna statue (Q47461668) on Wikidata
King Gustav V speaks at the Palace courtyard in 1914 for higher arms spending.
  • 19 Palace courtyard. In February 1914, the palace courtyard saw the last power grab by a Swedish monarch, borggårdskrisen ("the courtyard crisis"). Due to the threat of war in Europe, King Gustav V demanded higher military spending, refused by liberal Prime Minister Karl Staaff. The King was supported by many celebrities (including explorer Sven Hedin, who had recently charted Central Asia) and 30,000 peasants who had rallied in Stockholm. He made an eloquent courtyard address (borggårdstalet), asserting his power as commander in chief. Four days later, Staaff resigned in protest. While the conservative party supported the king's arms race, they would not govern under an overreaching head of state. A caretaker government kept Sweden out of the Great War, and a 1918 reform demoted the monarch to a figurehead. Gustaf V remained on the throne, known as a patron of sports, and an accomplished tennis player, to his death in 1950, at age 92.
  • 20 Helvetesgränd (Hell Alley). This cul-de-sac was since the Middle Ages known as Helvetesgränd, "Hell Alley", due to its location north of the cathedral. As the land north of the church was seen as condemned, it was the home of people with despised professions, such as the executioner. Sweden had capital punishment for many crimes up to the late 19th century, but over time it was limited. The last execution was carried out in 1910; the only time a guillotine has been used in Sweden. Since 1921, punishment by death was only applicable during war, but never carried out. The 1973 constitution prohibits the death penalty.
  • 31 The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). The building for sessions of the noble estate. Most of the nobility's privileges were abolished in 1866. In 2003, Sweden's nobility became a private organization, with the last token privileges were abolished (such as the King's obligation to resolve kidnapping of noblemen abroad). The building has plenty of statues, enough for a separate tour.
  • 21 Parliament's democracy exhibition, Mynttorget (Mynttorget). Until 2022, the Swedish Parliament celebrates 100 years of universal suffrage through a display window exhibition. Mynttorget is usually busy with political demonstrations.
  • 32 Royal Palace today (Kungliga Slottet). The Royal Palace remains the monarch's official residence, but King Carl XVI Gustaf, reigning since 1973, lives in Drottningholm in Ekerö. His motto is För Sverige i tiden ("For Sweden, with the times"); as an avid environmentalist, he had solar panels installed on the palace roof. A 1980 reform gave gender-neutral succession to the throne, making Princess Victoria, born in 1977, the heir apparent. Most of the palace 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. Since 2011, a restoration of the Palace's exterior is under way, scheduled to finish in the 2030s. Stockholm Palace on Wikipedia
  • 22 Swedish Parliament (Sveriges riksdag). The riksdag, literally "kingdom day", used to be an occasional meeting of the four estates (with tradition from the Old Norse thing). In 1866, the riksdag became a permanent two-chamber parliament. It used to be located in a building on Riddarholmen, which was not fit for the purpose. As the current building was finished in 1905, the Neo-Baroque style was criticized for being outdated. It has a great collection of exterior sculptures, some of them from dismantled government buildings. Parliament House (Q1101073) on Wikidata Parliament House, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 23 Parliament Chamber (Riksdagens plenisal). The west wing of the building, at Lake Mälaren, used to host the Riksbank office. Since the 1971 government reforms, the riksdag has only one large chamber; which did not fit in the building. A renovation finished in 1983 made room for the new chamber in the west wing, with a bleacher for the public. The old building is still used for parliamentary groups and committees. Free guided tours in Swedish and English, and occasional access to sessions and debates.
  • 24 Stallbron. The bridge is named Stallbron, from the stables that occupied the island before the riksdag. Kanslihuset contains offices for members of parliament. For the 1983 renovation, a skybridge between the office and the chamber building was considered. It was built in a more discrete manner, below the bridge, visible from the quays. Before a vote in parliament, the members get a signal 10 minutes in advance, to complete the walk.
  • 25 Riksäpplet. The Globus cruciger is an ancient symbol for the monarch's divine right to rule on Earth; in Sweden it is more casually known as the "kingdom apple", and has been a piece of the Swedish Regalia since the 16th century. 20 apples were made of granite for the Riksdag's roof. For a renovation in the 1930s, 14 of them were relocated, two on the ground near the riksdag. The 1980s renovation added glass fiber replicas of the apples to the roof.
  • 33 Rosenbad (Swedish Government Offices). The 1902 Jugend (art nouveau) building was acquired by the Government of Sweden in 1922. Since the 1980s, most government ministries are located in the neighbouring buildings, connected by underground tunnels. During the 2000s, security has been tightened, with less access by cars. Not open to the public. Rosenbad (Q744615) on Wikidata Rosenbad on Wikipedia
  • 34 Sager House (Sagerska huset). Stockholm used to have many private palaces; this 1900 neo-Renaissance building was the last one, until widow Vera Sager, the last inhabitant, died in 1988. The 1986 assassination of Olof Palme had called for increased security; the goverment bought the property, and since 1995, it is the Prime Minister's official residence. Not open to the public. Sager House (Q1886105) on Wikidata Sager House on Wikipedia
  • 35 Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Medeltidsmuseet). For the 1980s renovation of the Riksdag, a garage was planned here. Archaeologists found medieval ruins, including pieces of the second city wall. These now form the base of a museum. Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Q1632115) on Wikidata Museum of Medieval Stockholm on Wikipedia

Part III: How Sweden was built[edit]

From the 1860s to the 1960s, Sweden rose from a poor agrarian country to a post-industrial welfare state, and evaded the World Wars. Stockholm sprawled outwards with railroads and motorways, while the inner city created a national identity with historical monuments, museums and buildings to commemorate (and in some cases romanticize) the past, in particular the lost Swedish Empire.

View from Riksbron across Riddarfjärden. Twin towers of Högalid Church to the left; Heleneborg is at the waterfront just below them. Stockholm City Hall is to the right.
  • 26 Riksbron. This 1931 bridge gives a panoramic view of Stockholm's government offices, as well as Norrström, the stream where the water of Mälaren drops 70 centimeters to the Baltic Sea. To the west, we can see two important locations in the history of the Nobel Prize: Heleneborg and Stockholm City Hall. Riksbron (Q7334096) on Wikidata Riksbron on Wikipedia
  • 36 Heleneborg. Heleneborg is a mansion on western Södermalm; while the building itself is difficult to see, it is just below the twin towers of the 1920s Högalid Church. The property's waterfront has been used for various industries since the 17th century; the most famous tenant was the Nobel family, in the 1860s. The Industrial Revolution created demand for the newly discovered nitroglycerin: as it was dangerously unstable, the young chemist Alfred Nobel experimented for a more practical formula. On September 3rd 1864, an explosion (which was heard across the city) killed six people, including Alfred's 21-year old brother Emil. The city tightened safety rules, forcing Alfred to relocate the experiments to barges on the lake. He acquired a new factory in Vinterviken, a few kilometers further southwest of Stockholm. Two years later, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and made a fortune, most of which became the foundation for the Nobel Prize, for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Heleneborg (Q10519458) on Wikidata Heleneborg on Wikipedia
  • 37 Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset). The eastern point of the Kungsholmen island was the site of a steam-powered grain mill named Eldkvarn. It burnt down on 31 October 1878, lighting up the city, coining the still used expression "sedan Eldkvarn brann" (since Eldkvarn burnt down) for something that happened long ago. The City Hall, inspired by the palaces of Venice, was finished in 1923. The most famous event is the Nobel Prize Banquet on 10 December every year. Stockholm City Hall (Q648483) on Wikidata Stockholm City Hall on Wikipedia
  • 38 Western Main Line (Sammanbindningsbanan). Stockholm's central station opened in 1871, together with the double-tracked rail bridge through Gamla Stan. With plenty of hydroelectric power and no domestic fossil fuels, Sweden's railways were electrified early; most of them by the 1930s. The bridge serves all connections south and west of Stockholm, and became Sweden's most congested rail line, with serious delays in the 2000s. Traffic flow has improved since 2017, when a deep tunnel was built for commuter trains.
  • 39 Norrbro. Built from 1787 to 1807 (vith the first stone laid by Gustav III), this is Stockholm's oldest surviving bridge. In 1853, the bridge was equipped by Stockholm's first gas lights, and in 1881 the first electric arc lamps. A renovation was completed in 2010 (with the first stone laid by Crown Princess Victoria). The lion statues with the hieroglyphics are copies of statues in the Vatican Museum. Norrbro (Q1568911) on Wikidata Norrbro on Wikipedia
  • 27 Gustav Adolfs torg. Gustavus Adolphus II (reigning 1611–1632), is remembered as a commander in the Thirty Years War, where he died in Lützen. The statue was erected in 1796 as Sweden's first mounted statue. The man depicted at the plinth is Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. Gustav Adolfs torg (Q2854887) on Wikidata Gustav Adolfs torg, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 8 The Royal Swedish Opera (Operan) (T-Centralen). The first opera house was built here in 1782, commissioned by King Gustav III (mentioned above; the statue is also visible left to the Palace) who was assassinated there. The building went obsolete, and was torn down in 1892. The current building was finished in 1898, and stages operas, ballets, concerts, and daily tours in English. The allées in the nearby Kungsträdgården park bear the names of Birgit Nilsson (depicted on the 500 kronor banknote) and Jussi Björling, two of Sweden's most accomplished opera singers. Strömterrassen is a café with an astounding view of the Royal Palace. Within the same building is fine dining restaurant Operakällaren and the beautiful Café Opera nightclub. Royal Swedish Opera (Q254283) on Wikidata Royal Swedish Opera on Wikipedia
  • 28 Kungsträdgården. The name "the King's Garden" bears witness of the original function as a royal park, open to the public only since the late 18th century. Today it is used for festivals and other public events. Kungsträdgården (Q926316) on Wikidata Kungsträdgården on Wikipedia
  • 29 Karl XII:s torg (Charles XII square). King Charles XII (reigning 1697-1718), surrounded by four cannons. As mentioned above he spent his whole adult life at war with Denmark, Poland and Russia. His soldiers, the legendary Caroleans, were usually outnumbered, but won many battles in the early stage of the war. The overconfident king led a disastrous campaign against Russia, lost in Poltava, spent many years exiled in the Ottoman Empire until he returned to Sweden to attack Norway, where he died on the battlefield. As usual for warrior kings, Charles XII's legacy has been changing over the centuries. After his death he was described as a warmongering despot, but the wave of national romanticism of the 19th century made him a national hero, honouring him with this statue in 1868. His legacy today is more complex: he has been an icon of the far right, as well as a profile for Sweden's first exchange with Turkey.
  • 40 Charles XIII statue. The statue further north in Kungsträdgården depicts Charles XIII (reigning 1809-1818) surrounded by four lions. He had to cede Finland to Russia, but in 1814, Sweden forced Norway into a union lasting until 1905. He was succeeded by Karl XIV Johan from the House of Bernadotte (mentioned above). The statue was nicknamed ett lejon mellan fyra krukor ("a lion between four pots"), while Charles XIII was called en kruka mellan fyra lejon ("a coward between four lions"), reflecting the late 19th century's public image of the two kings.
  • 9 Grand Hôtel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8. A Grand Old Hotel opened in 1874 overlooking the Royal Palace, and the usual accommodation for visiting heads of state, Nobel laureates and pop stars, who can usually walk around the neighbourhood without being too disturbed by fans. The first Nobel Prize ceremonies were held here, and room No 702 is the astounding Nobel Room, where the literature prize winners stay overnight. The restaurant gives an excellent Swedish smörgåsbord, one of the very few establishments in Scandinavia that still does so. The piano bar is a delightful end-of-the-evening place to get a sophisticated drink. Grand Hôtel (Q1221513) on Wikidata Grand Hôtel (Stockholm) on Wikipedia
  • 30 Kungsträdgården elm trees. Out of several redevelopments of the park, the most controversial was a metro exit, which was to be built in 1971, requiring the destruction of thirteen elm trees. Public protests forced the government to back down, and relocate the exit to a nearby building. In the late 2010s, another controversial tree-related plan was cancelled; Apple Computers purchased the property used by TGI Fridays in the northern part of the park, and intended to build a flagship store there. Kungsträdgården (Q926316) on Wikidata Kungsträdgården on Wikipedia
  • 41 Kungsträdgården metro station. The Kungsträdgården metro station opened in 1977, and is known for its art, with elements from dismantled buildings in and around Kungsträdgården, such as the Makalös palace which burnt down in 1825. Due to the aforementioned protests, the eastern exit was finished as recently as 1987. Kungsträdgården metro station (Q960098) on Wikidata Kungsträdgården metro station on Wikipedia
  • 42 National Museum of Fine Arts (Nationalmuseum), Södra Blasieholmshamnen. Sweden's national museum for 16th to 19th century European art opened in 1866, exhibiting works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Renoir, Degas and Gauguin, as well as Swedish artists such as Carl Larsson, Ernst Josephson, C F Hill and Anders Zorn, and interior design from the 16th century to present day. Nationalmuseum (Q842858) on Wikidata Nationalmuseum on Wikipedia
  • 43 Skeppsholmen. The island of Skeppsholmen used to be the headquarters of the Swedish Navy until the 19th century. Today, most buildings are used for museums and other government functions. Skeppsholmen (Q849086) on Wikidata Skeppsholmen on Wikipedia
  • 44 HMS af Chapman. A full-rigged ship launched in 1888 under the name Dunboyne, later G.D. Kennedy. She ran freight between Gothenburg and Australia. From 1915 to 1934 she was a training ship, and since 1949 she is used as a hostel. Af Chapman (Q382006) on Wikidata Af Chapman (ship) on Wikipedia
  • 45 Survey Office (Lantmäteristyrelsens hus). Built in 1642 as a leisure palace for Queen Kristina. From 1688 to 1975 it was headquarters to the National Survey Agency. Lantmäteristyrelsens hus (Q10554137) on Wikidata
  • 46 Tändstickspalatset (Matchstick Palace). A Swedish Grace office building commissioned by Swedish "matchstick king" Ivar Kreuger. The prodigious Kreuger earnt a Master of Engineering degree at age 20, and made his first wealth as a skyscraper engineer in New York City. From the 1910s, he acquired matchstick factories around the world, finally controlling 75 per cent of global production. In the Roaring Twenties, he gave low-interest loans to governments such as France and Germany, in exchange for matchstick monopoly. He co-founded the Swedish film industry, mingled with Hollywood stars, and became a world celebrity himself, with the Matchstick Palace finished in 1928. The success story ended with the 1929 Wall Street crash, leading Kreuger to a liquidity crisis which he never resolved. His death (seemingly to his own hand) in 1932 was followed by company bankruptcy, which hit Sweden's economy hard, while already in the middle of the Great Depression. The building had state-of-the-art technology for its time, with electric elevators, central heating, and decorations by Sweden's greatest artists at the time. Limited opportunities for visiting. Matchstick Palace (Q6786312) on Wikidata Matchstick Palace on Wikipedia
  • 47 Systembolaget headquarters. Sweden has traditionally been part of the "vodka belt" with heavy drinking on weekends and holidays. The temperance movement founded in the late 19th century pushed for harsher regulation, and in 1919 rationing of hard liquor was introduced with a personal booklet called motbok. In 1922 Sweden had its first national referendum on the proposal of total prohibition. 51% of the voters voted no (in Stockholm 86%; most teetotalers lived in the countryside). The state-owned Systembolaget is a monopoly retailer; with similar systems in Finland, Norway and Iceland (while Denmark has a more continental system). Since the 1990s, regulation has been harmonized with the European Union, but alcohol tax remains among the world's highest (have a look at the bars across the street, in Kungsträdgården). As Systembolaget is not run for profit, their storefronts are less visible than liquor stores in other countries (a nearby store is in PK-huset, a mall across Hamngatan). The harsh alcohol policy is the reason why Swedish people come to your country to drink alcohol.
  • 31 Berzelii park. Remember that the land rises 1 metre for every 200 years? This park used to be a bay of the Baltic Sea, but by the 19th century it had become a stinking swamp in the middle of the city. The park was built in the 1850s. The statue was the first in Sweden to depict a scientist: Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779–1848), who lived for most of his life on nearby Nybrogatan 9. He discovered silicon, selenium, cerium and thorium, and introduced chemical notation. Swedish chemists have discovered as many as 20 of the 118 elements in the periodic table. The Ytterby mine in Stockholm archipelago (which can be reached with the ferries at the quay) produced ores from which nine elements were first discovered: yttrium, ytterbium, terbium, erbium, holmium, scandium, thulium, gadolinium and tantalum. The sculptures of playing bears were made in 1909 by Carl Milles, known for his revival of Roman sculpture. Berzelii park (Q4356825) on Wikidata Berzelii Park on Wikipedia
  • 10 Hallwyll Museum (Hallwyllska Museet), Hamngatan 4. This urban palace was built in 1898 for Walther och Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, collectors of art and antiques from around the world. Since 1938 it is a museum. While some rooms have a historic or geographic theme, the building is a showcase of upper-class life of the early 20th century. Hallwyl Museum (Q4346239) on Wikidata Hallwyl Museum on Wikipedia
  • 32 John Ericsson statue. A statue commemorates John Ericsson, a Swedish 19th century inventor, who got world fame for designing the world's first tank locomotive (the Novelty) in 1829, which was a favourite to win the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. He settled in New York City in 1839, where he lived until his death in 1889. Among his other inventions were a steam-powered fire hose, a solar-powered engine, and the first modern propeller, used in his design of the USS Monitor, an ironclad which helped the Union win the American Civil War. John Ericsson was one of 1.5 million Swedes who emigrated to North America between the 1830s and the 1910s; more than a quarter of the country's population. From Norway, which was in union with Sweden at the time, 800,000 people crossed the Atlantic. Today, more than 4 million Americans have Swedish ancestry, most of them living in the Midwest.


View from Nybroplan. The Östermalm district with Strandvägen to the left, Blasieholmen where the Vasa was built in the 17th century to the right. In the distance is Djurgården with the Nordic Museum (left), the Vasa Museum (middle) and Gröna Lund (right); Skansen is behind.

Nybroplan is a waterfront square, with a view over some 20th century events which created Sweden's modern identity. We can sit down and see how Stockholm became a global city.

  • 33 Nybrokajen. Nybrokajen, the local quay, is a traffic hub for steamboats to the Stockholm archipelago, trams and buses. With the 20th century the steamboats have been refitted with diesel engines, some of them running on batteries; they still allow archipelago inhabitants to commute to the city. By 2021, 90 per cent of all public-transport ferries will run on fossil-free fuel. Nybroplan (Q716848) on Wikidata Nybroplan on Wikipedia
  • 48 Strandvägen. Strandvägen (The Waterfront Road) got its name in 1885, as farms and slum shacks had been replaced by Östermalm, a district of bourgeois apartment palaces, which is still the most affluent part of Stockholm. Strandvägen got Stockholm's first tram line in 1877; horse-powered during the first decades.
  • 49 Skansen and the Nordic Museum, Djurgårdsvägen 6-16. During Sweden's rapid industrialization in the late 19th century, folklorist Arthur Hazelius saw the need to preserve Swedish folk culture. He founded the open-air museum Skansen (on the hills of Djurgården) in 1891, as well as the Nordic Museum, an impressive cathedral-like building on Djurgården, finished in 1907. These institutions inspired living history museums around the world, to the extent that Skansen is the noun for open-air museum in Polish, Czech and Hungarian. Nordic Museum (Q1142142) on Wikidata Nordic Museum on Wikipedia
  • 50 1912 Olympic rowing course. The first four Olympic games were low-key events stretched across several months. Stockholm hosted the fifth Olympics in 1912, introducing the three-week format still used today, featuring decathlon and pentathlon (both won by Jim Thorpe), women's diving and swimming, electric timing, photo finish, and the first participation of an Asian country (Japan). Most events were held at the Stockholm Stadium; the world's oldest surviving olympic stadium. The rowing contests had the finish line at Strandvägen.
  • 34 Raoul Wallenberg Monument. A monument near the Stockholm Synagogue (finished in 1870) commemorates Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who rescued 10,000 Jews in Budapest from the Holocaust. In World War II, Sweden made many concessions to Germany to keep peace, including iron export and passage of German troops to Norway and Finland. In late 1942, the Axis atrocities became well known (partially through Swedish diplomats and journalists in Germany), Sweden's government had to mend its reputation; while still neutral, they launched rescue missions during the end of the war. Raoul Wallenberg gave diplomatic passports to Hungarian Jews, and purchased buildings for the Swedish Embassy, which could be used as safehouses. The Soviet Army arrived in 1945, and detained Wallenberg for espionage. He was never seen again; while he most probably died in a Moscow prison around 1947, he was long rumoured to be alive, and was declared dead as recently as 2016. He is celebrated as one of few true heroes in a time where Sweden could have done better. The rail tracks from the monument (alluding to the trains to the death camps) lead to the Synagogue.
  • 51 Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet). The Vasa mentioned earlier was found in 1956, as the world's only preserved 17th century warship. The lengthy salvaging process was completed in 1961, and she was towed into a temporary museum. Since 1990, she is on display in the Vasa Museum on Djurgården (with ornamental masts on the roof), Sweden's most visited tourist attraction. The artifacts and body remnants in the ship are a time capsule from nearly 400 years ago. Vasa Museum (Q901371) on Wikidata Vasa Museum on Wikipedia
  • 11 Berns Bar, Berzelii Park 9. A nightclub and music hall built in 1863, which was first in Sweden to show cancan in 1866, and to serve Chinese food in 1944. The stage has hosted world stars such as Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, Miriam Makeba and Rihanna. In the 21th century, Berns remains timeless and trendy. Berns Salonger (Q826740) on Wikidata Berns Salonger on Wikipedia
  • 52 Gröna Lund. An amusement park founded in 1883. Since the 1960s, Gröna Lund has been a stage for concerts by pop stars from the English-speaking world. Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss and Lady Gaga have played here; and of course ABBA, who have a dedicated museum and stage show next door to the park. In the postwar decades, Sweden quickly adopted the English language and Anglo-saxon popular culture. Sweden has the world's second-highest English proficiency in non-Anglophone countries, behind only the Netherlands. Gröna Lund (Q260304) on Wikidata Gröna Lund on Wikipedia
  • 35 Nybroplan tram station. Sweden used to have left-hand traffic since the 18th century. Nybroplan was one of Sweden's busiest intersection, and the country's first traffic light was set up at Nybroplan in 1924. As most cars were fit for right-hand traffic (and all neighbouring countries drove on the right) there was pressure for a switch. A referendum in 1955 rejected the proposal, but Sweden finally organized a transition from left to right to take place on September 3rd, 1967. Stockholm's trams had to be dismantled, and were replaced by metro and buses. Line 7, to Djurgården, was restored in 1991 as a heritage line, regular since 2009.
  • 12 Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten), Nybroplan. Sweden's national theatre, built in Wienerjugend (art nouveau) style in 1908. The building has rich ornaments in gold and marble, and a row of sculptures, with a bust of playwright August Strindberg (1849-1912) whose play Master Olof inaugurated the building. A statue of actress Margaretha Krook (1925-2001) represents the theatre's later history. The building has a restaurant. Royal Dramatic Theatre (Q1140265) on Wikidata Royal Dramatic Theatre on Wikipedia
  • 53 World's highest taxes. In the 1970s, the Social Democrats had governed Sweden for four decades, and expanded the Swedish welfare state (which included arts institutions such as Dramaten, and the aforementioned museums). The principle used to be from each according to his ability, as the marginal tax rate for high income brackets approached 100 per cent. In 1974, 18-year old tennis prodigy Björn Borg caused outrage as he moved to Monaco to escape taxes. April 6 the same year is considered the birthday of Swedish pop music, as Blue Swede's Hooked on a Feeling headed the Billboard list; and on the same day ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest. Those bands can attribute some of their fame from their exotic costumes; in the 1970s, kitschy stage werar was not just a fashion statement, as they were intentionally designed to be useless as private clothing, to be tax deductible. Director Ingmar Bergman, known for The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander worked at Dramaten for decades, until 1976, when police entered the building during a rehearsal, and arrested Bergman for tax fraud; though he was later acquitted, he left the country. The same year, equally world-renowned children's writer Astrid Lindgren (who later had adaptations of her books staged at Dramaten) had to pay a marginal tax rate at 102% and wrote a satirical fairytale on the theme. These celebrity tax protests contributed to the Social Democratic government losing the election the same year to a centre-right coalition; and in a kind of dramatic irony, both Lindgren and Bergman are now portrayed on Swedish banknotes. The Swedish tax code has been reformed over time (and is, as in other countries, under constant debate); as wealth and inheritance tax were abolished in the 2000s, and consumption taxes are high, the low-income classes bear much of the burden for Swedish welfare.
  • 13 Konstnärshuset (The Artists' House), Smålandsgatan 7. The Swedish Artists' Association's building opened in 1899, inspired by Spanish and Italian Renaissance architecture. The bar, Konstnärsbaren, opened in 1931 and has wall paintings by Sweden's most famous artists of the time. Artists' House of Stockholm (Q10547720) on Wikidata Konstnärshuset on Wikipedia

Part IV: The world's most modern city[edit]

Stockholm's central business district was redeveloped for motorized commuting during the 1960s, in a time marked by the Cold War with a nuclear threat, and the consolidation of Sweden's welfare state. The rise of environmentalism, counterculture and street crime shattered the utopia. By year 2000, Stockholm had become a world leader in computing, sustainable technology and pop music. This is the scene for some of Sweden's most dramatic events during the last decades: a hostage crisis, two assassinations, and a terrorist attack.

  • 36 Norrmalmstorg. This square used to be on the waterfront until the 19th century. Today, Norrmalmstorg is surrounded by high-end offices, and is the most expensive property in the Swedish edition of Monopoly. The 1971 sculpture Laura depicts a chicken fleeing from motor traffic. Norrmalmstorg (Q1750652) on Wikidata Norrmalmstorg on Wikipedia
  • 14 Nobis Hotel (Kreditbanken). The 19th-century Kreditbanken building is known for the 1973 Norrmalmstorg robbery. The furloughed prisoner Jan Olsson tried to rob the bank; as the police arrived, he instead took three female bank tellers as hostages. The five-day standoff was broadcast live in Swedish television (with intermissions from King Gustav VI Adolf's deathbed), with notorious criminal Clark Olofsson and Prime Minister Olof Palme called in as negotiators. The police used tranquilizing gas to defeat the robber. The dramatic robbery led to urban legends, and a psychologist who never met the hostages made the false assumption that the hostages sympathized (and implicitly fell in love) with the robber, coining the term Stockholm Syndrome for a situation where a captive supports a perpetrator. Since 2009, the building is a hotel with a restaurant.
  • 37 Frihetens källa (Baltic independence monument). As the Baltic States tried to secede from the Soviet Union in 1990, protests were held on Norrmalmstorg every Monday for more than a year, until their independence. In 1994, their struggle for freedom was commemorated with a fountain, with three stone sculptures representing Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Sweden has, since then, promoted integration of the Baltic States into the European Union.
  • 15 NK (Nordiska Kompaniet), Hamngatan 18-20. An upmarket department store opened in 1915, with classic fashion and Nordic furnishing. Well known for the clock tower, and the elaborate Christmas display window decorations. On September 10th, 2003, a Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh was assassinated here. She had campaigned for the adoption of the euro in the referendum four days later. While the crime shocked the country, the killer was caught and sentenced to life in prison. NK has several cafés; one on the top floor, and NK Art Bakery at Regeringsgatan. Nordiska Kompaniet (Q1998385) on Wikidata Nordiska Kompaniet on Wikipedia
  • 54 Volvo Studio Stockholm. While Volvo is based in Gothenburg, the company was actually founded in Stockholm in 1926, as a subsidiary of ball-bearing maker SKF. Volvo remains Sweden's best-selling car, and one of the most recognized Swedish brands abroad. Volvo has profiled through safety; in 1959 they released the 544 PV, the world's first car with 3-point seatbelts as standard issue.
  • 55 IKEA Showroom, Regeringsgatan 65. IKEA was founded in 1943 by 17-year old travelling salesman Ingvar Kamprad. The first store opened in Älmhult in 1953, and the second one in 1965 in Kungens Kurva south of Stockholm. Today IKEA is the world's largest furniture retailer; and while their Swedishness is the foundation for their brand, their headquarters is today in the Netherlands. They have a showroom in central Stockholm, with various themes (kitchens, as of 2020).
  • 56 Spotify headquarters, Regeringsgatan 19. Spotify, founded in 2008, is the world's largest music streaming service as of 2020. In the early 2000s, Sweden was famous for pop music; and with world-leading telecoms infrastructure also became infamous for music piracy in the 2000s, with services such as Kazaa and The Pirate Bay developed in Sweden. Spotify was one of the first legal platforms for music distribution, and electronic DJs such as Avicii and Swedish House Mafia gave them an international breakthrough.
  • 38 Klara bomb shelter (Klara skyddsrum). Stockholm had several bomb shelters built for World War II, which never came to Sweden. As Sweden was officially non-aligned in the Cold War, with universal draft and a world-class air force, the threat of nuclear weapons required deeper bunkers. Many were built parallel to the Stockholm metro, for peacetime use as garages. The nearby Johannes bunker opened in 1955 as the world's first nuclear-proof shelter. The Klara shelter from the 1960s can hold 8,000 people (among them the government), and has several entrances (through the Riksbank garage and the metro), and a backup power plant with air conditioning; as the occupants would emit nearly 1 MW of body heat. In the 1960s, Sweden was also constructing nuclear weapons, and was a few grams of plutonium short from a live bomb test. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nuclear threat against Sweden is less critical.
  • Malmskillnadsgatan. The elevated street, Malmskillnadsgatan, has been dominated by office buildings. As the street is central, still deserted at evenings, it became infamous as the prostitution street; in 1999 Sweden became the world's first country to criminalize purchase (but not soliciting) of sexual services.
  • 57 Sveriges Riksbank. The earlier mentioned Riksbank resides here since 1976. In 1968 the bank issued a prize in economics in the memory of Alfred Nobel, together with the regular Nobel Prizes. As Sweden rejected the euro in a 2003 referendum, it remains the world's oldest central bank. As of 2020, Sweden is one of the world's most cashless countries. Riksbankshuset (Q2814367) on Wikidata
  • 58 Klara church (Klara kyrka). Built in the 16th century, this is Scandinavia's second tallest church, at 116 metres. One of few buildings to survive the 1960s redevelopment, it is a base for charity to the homeless and others in need. Klara church (Q1540683) on Wikidata Klara Church on Wikipedia
  • 39 Sergels torg. On top of the metro and bomb shelters, a 1960s technocratic utopia was built: a central business district with broad streets for cars (now with right-hand traffic) surrounded by bank headquarters and the Gallerian shopping mall. Socially, the project was a failure; the traffic noise was deafening, cyclists and pedestrians were displaced, and the square became infamous for antisocial behaviour and drug-dealing, avoided by honest people after office closing time. The square was rebuilt in the 2010s to give street space back to pedestrians, and is today busy with protests, flash mobs and meetups. While most Swedish banks survived the 2008 financial crisis (due to strong public finances and a bustling tech sector) they have left the business district. The rush-built 1960s buildings have been re-fitted for sustainable energy use and pro-social design, with hotels, restaurants, rooftop housing and tech offices moving in. Sergels torg (Q844426) on Wikidata Sergels torg on Wikipedia
  • 16 [dead link] The House of Culture (Kulturhuset). Kulturhuset is a 1970s concrete building which was first used as a temporary location for the Swedish parliament. Since the 1980s it hosts the Stockholm City Theatre, libraries, galleries and cafés. The bottom floor has a scale model of Stockholm (Stockholmsrummet), including planned buildings. The top floor has an astounding view of the central business district. Kulturhuset (Q204298) on Wikidata The House of Culture (Stockholm) on Wikipedia
The street corner at the metro exit is a popular meeting point. In 2017, a lorry driven by a terrorist crashed into Åhléns. Since 2020, it is one of several spots with same-sex couple traffic lights.
  • 40 Drottninggatan traffic lights. One of Stockholm's busiest shopping streets is known as "the Queen's Street" since the 17th century, seemingly named for reigning queen Kristina. While the section toward Gamla Stan is filled by generic chain stores and cafés, more alternative shopping and dining can be found further north. The intersection with Mäster Samuelsgatan is one of several where traffic lights depict same-sex couples, commemorating the LGBT movement; homosexuality was decriminalized in 1944, civil unions were allowed in 1995, and marriage became gender-neutral in 2009 (see also LGBT Stockholm).
  • 17 H&M headquarters, Drottninggatan 56. Hennes & Mauritz, H&M for short, is the world's largest fashion retailer as of 2020. Founded in Västerås in 1947, they are seated in Stockholm, with several stores around the city. The 2008 headquarters building has a café with typical Swedish furnishing.
  • 41 Drottninggatan/Bryggargatan. During the Christmas shopping season in 2010, a terrorist supporting the Islamic State detonated a car bomb in this intersection, only killing himself, and lightly injuring two others. In April 2017, another terrorist, also inspired by the Islamic State, drove a lorry along Drottninggatan and killed five people and injuring 14, before crashing into the Åhléns department store. The lion-shaped concrete barriers failed to stop the vehicle, and have been replaced by much heavier lions. Pedestrians soon took the street back.
  • 18 Haymarket by Scandic. The building to the west is a former department store, named PUB for its founder Paul U. Bergström; and together with other buildings nearby an example of Swedish Grace; the local interpretation of Art Deco, with a flair of classicism. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin passed through Stockholm on his way home to St Petersburg for the Russian Revolution, buying a new suit here. In 1920, Greta Garbo (later a Hollywood star, portrayed on the Swedish 100 kr banknote) began work here. Since 2016, the building is a hotel, with 1920s furnishing and a jazz environment restored in the lounge.
  • 42 Stockholm Concert Hall (Stockholms konserthus). A Swedish Grace building opened in 1926, the home stage of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the place of the annual Nobel Prize ceremony (except the peace prize which is awarded in Oslo), as well as the Polar Music Prize since 1989, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children's literature since 2003. Stockholm Concert Hall (Q653773) on Wikidata Stockholm Concert Hall on Wikipedia
  • 43 Hötorget. Hötorget has been known as such ("The Haymarket Square") since the 17th century. Traded commodities have changed over times; today the square is known for its produce stands. Sweden's population was remarkably homogenous until the 1950s, when the country faced a severe labour shortage, and opened for immigration. Sweden has accepted more refugees per capita than any other country in Western Europe; in particular in the wake of World War II, the 1990s Yugoslav Wars, and the 2010s wars in Syria and Afghanistan. While newly arrived immigrants have usually been concentrated to a few suburban neighbourhoods along the metro lines, they came to dominate some businesses, including market retailing. The underground market hall Hötorgshallen sells Swedish and international delicacies (see Nordic cuisine). Hötorget (Q1608760) on Wikidata Hötorget on Wikipedia
Thulehuset is the building at Sveavägen 44, and the end of this tour. In the right street corner, Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986. As of 2020, the building hosts Klarna and King, some of Sweden's most famous tech startups, as well as Urban Deli.
  • 44 Olof Palme assassination scene, Sveavägen 42. On February 28, 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and his wife Lisbeth made a spontaneous plan to go spend the evening at the Grand cinema with their son and his fiancée, without calling in their bodyguards. On their way home, an unknown man came up behind Palme, shot him to immediate death with a revolver, and escaped along Tunnelgatan. The crime shocked the country, and the police led several failed investigations. As Palme was a well known and controversial world leader, the suspects included South African spies, the Kurdish resistance movement, and the police themselves. In 1989, the lone criminal Christer Pettersson was found guilty by the Stockholm City court; though the Svea Court of Appeal later found reasonable doubt and acquitted him. Since then, the murder has inspired novelists and conspiracy theorists. Palme's grave is at the nearby Adolf Fredrik church, and the street nearby was renamed Olof Palmes gata to commemorate the victim. In June 2020, the police presented a new suspect: graphic designer Stig Engström, who worked for in the building at the murder scene, was one of the few witnesses. As he is dead since 2000, the case is closed. assassination of Olof Palme (Q3284177) on Wikidata Assassination of Olof Palme on Wikipedia

Epilogue: Modern landmarks[edit]

We conclude the tour in a rooftop bar, with a view of Stockholm's tallest buildings, representing different periods of Stockholm's modern development.

  • 19 Urban Deli rooftop bar, Sveavägen 44. Thulehuset is a 1942 functionalist office building. Today, it houses two Swedish "unicorns" (tech startups worth billions): payment handler Klarna, and game developer King Digital Entertainment (known for Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga). Urban Deli is a trendy grocery chain with a rooftop bar.

Opening hours of Urban Deli are limited; some alternative rooftop viewpoints are 20 Tak (Brunkebergstorg) and 21 Scandic Continental.

  • 59 Adolf Fredrik's church (Adolf Fredriks kyrka), Holländargatan 16. Adolf Fredrik's church, named by King Adolf Fredrik, was built in 1768-1774. The exterior is quite intact, while the interior was radically changed in the 1890s. In the church, there is a monument to the philosopher René Descartes, who spent his last years in Stockholm tutoring Queen Kristina, until dying of pneumonia. The church is known for the grave of Prime Minister Olof Palme, just south of the church building. Adolf Fredrik Church (Q360572) on Wikidata Adolf Fredrik Church on Wikipedia
  • 60 Sankt Johannes kyrka (S:t John's church). An 1890 brick church in a neo-Gothic style inspired by medieval Swedish cathedrals. It stands on Brunkebergsåsen, the north-south ridge through Stockholm. The free-standing bell tower is the only remaining wooden building of Norrmalm. Saint John's Church (Q164289) on Wikidata St. John's Church, Stockholm on Wikipedia
  • 61 Kungstornen. Neoclassical twin towers from 1924 to 1925, inspired by Manhattan buildings, representing the Roaring Twenties, and the southernmost remains of Brunkebergsåsen. Kungstornen (Q2688028) on Wikidata Kungstornen on Wikipedia
  • 62 Hötorget skyscrapers. The postwar economic expansion brought the 1950s and 60s redevelopment of Norrmalm, visible through the five 19-floor office buildings at Hötorget, in international style. Hötorget buildings (Q892513) on Wikidata Hötorget buildings on Wikipedia
  • 63 Kaknästornet. A brutalist TV tower from 1967, which used to have Stockholm's highest observatory deck until it was closed down in 2018. Kaknästornet (Q1721899) on Wikidata Kaknästornet on Wikipedia
Northward view from Urban Deli. From left: Adolf Fredrik Church, Norra tornen, Stockholm public library, Wenner-Gren Center.
  • 64 Wenner-Gren Center. An office tower for international researchers, which was Europe's tallest steel skyscraper when finished in 1961. Wenner-Gren Center (Q178863) on Wikidata Wenner-Gren Center on Wikipedia
  • 65 Norra tornen. Residential twin skyscrapers finished in 2020. Between Wenner-Gren Center and Norra tornen, a new campus district named Hagastaden is being built during the 2020s, around the Karolinska Institute (famous for handing out the Nobel Prize for medicine), with the intention to develop Stockholm as a science cluster for the future. Norra Tornen (Q7796031) on Wikidata Norra Tornen on Wikipedia

See Stockholm environmentalist tour for Stockholm's role in sustainable technology for coming generations.


  • 8,000 BCE: Icecap above Stockholm melts.
  • 2,500 BCE: First land of today's Stockholm emerges from the sea.
  • AD 900: Stockholm's islands are settled. First Christian missionaries arrive to Sweden.
  • 1007: Viking Chief Olaf (later Olaf II of Norway) sacks Mälaren.
  • 1187: Karelian pirates sack Sigtuna, and a fortress is built shortly afterwards.
  • 1252: Birger jarl mentions Stockholm in a letter.
  • October 10, 1471: Swedish separatists defeat unionists at the battle of Brunkeberg.
  • November 7-9, 1520: Stockholm bloodbath: Kristian II of Denmark has at least 80 Swedish nobles beheaded.
  • June 24, 1523: Gustav Vasa liberates Stockholm, making Sweden independent since then.
  • August 10, 1628: Vasa sinks.
  • May 7, 1697: Tre Kronor Castle burns down, to be replaced by the Stockholm Palace.
  • March 16, 1792: Gustav III is assassinated in the Opera house.
  • 19 March, 1848: Soldiers kill at least 18 suffrage protesters at Storkyrkobrinken.
  • 3 September, 1864: Alfred Nobel's nitroglycerin factory in Heleneborg explodes, killing six people. Two years later he invents dynamite.
  • December 10, 1901: First Nobel Prize ceremony
  • July 6, 1912: Opening of the Fifth Summer Olympics
  • 27 August, 1922: First national poll: 51% of Swedes reject prohibition of alcohol
  • October 1, 1950: First Stockholm Metro line opens, from Slussen to Hökarängen
  • June 11, 1956: Equestrian events of the XVI Summer Olympics held in Stockholm (main event held in Melbourne)
  • August 25, 1956: Vasa is re-discovered, and salvaged five years later.
  • June 29, 1958: Sweden hosts the FIFA World Cup, and the Swedish national team plays the final in Solna north of Stockholm. Brazil wins 5-2.
  • September 3, 1967: Switch to right-hand traffic
  • May 12, 1971: Elm protest in Kungsträdgården
  • August 23-28, 1973: Norrmalmstorg hostage crisis
  • February 28, 1986: Olof Palme is assassinated.
  • 1995: Sweden joins the European Union.
  • September 10, 2003: Anna Lindh is assassinated.
  • 2008: Spotify is founded. The hackers behind The Pirate Bay are prosecuted. The global financial crisis rocks Sweden.
  • April 7, 2017: A terrorist attack on Drottninggatan kills five people.

Go next[edit]

This itinerary to Stockholm history tour has guide status. It has good, detailed information covering the entire route. Please contribute and help us make it a star!