Stockholm was the final leg of our one week trip to Europe. Going into the trip, I thought Stockholm might have been the least eventful of places, maybe not have as much to do, but I was definitely wrong about that. We really only had one and a half days in Stockholm, and it wasn’t really enough. We spent the majority of our time learning mostly about historical Stockholm, not leaving much time to experience a supposedly awesome club and fashion scene.
With our one full day in Stockholm we got around to all of the most major sights in Stockholm
Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm, dating back to the 13th century. With narrow and winding cobblestone streets, it will take you back in time. Gamla Stan is positioned as a peninsula/island in the middle of Stockholm, and in fact, used to be all there was of Stockholm.
Gamla Stan’s most famous landmark is probably Stortorget square. The iconic colorful buildings are photographed by people from all over the world. The square is the oldest in Stockholm, and used to be the medieval center of Stockholm life.
Storkyrkan (The Stockholm Cathedral) neighboring Stortorget square is surprisingly extravagant. It houses the famous St George and the Dragon statue, which depicts Saint George slaying a dragon to save a princess. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the Danish. St George is supposed to represent Sten Sture (a Swedish Statesman), The dragon is Danish King Christian the I, and the princess is all of Sweden.
The Royal Palace is situated in Gamla Stan. The immense building is open to tourists looking to wander the exquisite halls, meanwhile, the royal family still lives here today. In fact, the palace is the oldest still operating royal residence used for its original purpose. I was very surpised at just how grand the palace was. It honestly reminded me a lot of Versailles – just without the gardens. They actually even have a hall, Karl XI’s Gallery that was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
If you plan to visit, try to plan your arrival or departure with The Changing of the Guard, at 12:15pm. The Changing of the Guard is a traditional ceremony for doing just what it says – change the guard. It sounds like it would be uneventful, but the simple switch is complete with dozens of men, and even a marching band appearance. There were many people there to watch so arrive early.
Before getting to Stockholm, I had no idea what Skansen was, but it had been recommend as one of the top sights in the city. Turned out to be an “open air” museum, which didn’t sound that exciting to me – I’m not a huge lover of museums. We thought we would swing by for an hour and check it out.
I a so glad we made the trip over to Skansen, it was honestly so fascinating, I wish we had more time to spend at this place. You could easily spend half a day. Visiting Skansen is like traveling back to Sweden hundreds of years ago. This place has old farmsteads – real hundreds of years old farmsteads – churches, mansions, school house, bakerys, and more, creating an almost “mini Sweden.” And the structures are authentic too. The buildings were somehow transported from their original location (most are from southern Sweden) and brought to Skansen. I loved all the little farms, and houses. We actually learned a lot of random interesting information as well. I loved wandering through the old houses and farms, and all the people who work there dress up too, and sometimes act in character. Of course, the onetime someone tried to speak to us “in-character” I got super confused why the woman was asking me if the book binder was mad about his shoes.
The Vasa museum is obviously a classic. Everyone who has been through Stockholm says you have to visit The Vasa Museum, and I can see why. The Vasa has such interesting history, from its building, to its sinking, and then its recovery. The Vasa was built by orders of the Swedish king in the 1620s. One of Sweden’s first war ships, she represented the king’s ambitions for Sweden, and was one of the most well-armed war ships in the world upon her completion. The Vasa was ornately decorated, was very much the pride of joy of the Swedish crown. But then there’s the twist. They built the Vasa so quickly that they glazed over the minor details of how to build a ship correctly, and the Vasa ended up much too top heavy. She set sail on her maiden voyage, and before even clearing the harbor the light breeze caused her to heel over and fill with water. Hundreds of people there to see the Vasa off witnessed the disaster, and despite proximity to land, 30 people died.
The rediscovery is the second half of the fascinating story. After sitting at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years, an archeologist named Anders Franzen theorized that the ship might still be in tact because the brackish water of the Baltic sea would have helped preserve the wood, rather than break it down. By the 1950s, a team was using archives to better understand where the wreckage may be located while sweeping the bottom of the sea. Once the Vasa was located, they spent six years digging tunnels beneath the ship for metal wires to cradle the ship and ultimately lift the ship from the bottom of the sea.
When you walk into the museum, the massiveness of the Vasa is very much just in your much. It is amazing that 99% of the ship you see in front of you, is the original. There is a model of the ship that shows how intricately the ship had been painted back in its prime. Of course, in the museum you can read the history of the building, and the sinking, as well as watch a documentary on the recovery of the ship. I thought one of the most interesting parts of the museum was the Face to Face exhibit. In Face to Face they display remains of clothing bones, and any other trinkets found near the skeletons at the wreck – the brackish water didn’t just preserve the ship. Interestingly, they present each section person by person, give a name to each body found, and based on the analysis of the bones and teeth, try to give some insight into what that persons life was like. There were young men, older men, the captain (believed to be the captain), even women. I was surprised that there were women on the ship, but it is believed that they were probably the sisters or wives of the male sailors. One individual, who they named “Filip” was believed to be a sailor who died at his post. What is interesting is that the was close to a safe exit from the ship, but it seems he chose to in the steering cabin, perhaps trying to turn the ship upwind so she would stand upright.
Den Gyldene Freden
The last dinner of our trip was going to be in Stockholm, so we wanted to do something special, even if it was a little pricey. We decided on Den Gyldene Freden, one of the most famous restaurants in old town Gamla Stan. The restaurant started in 1722, and means “The Golden Peace.” The restaurant is owned by The Swedish Academy, who famously pick the Nobel Peace Prize Winner. The Academy convenes for dinner at Den Gyldene Freden on occasion, and t is rumored that they decide on the yearly winner at these dinners. We of course all ordered the Swedish Meatballs. Being in Stockholm, we had to eat them with lingonberries (similar to cranberry sauce, but more tart), like an official Swede. Lucky for us, Swedish meatballs were one of the least expensive dishes on the menu, so the splurge wasn’t so pricey.