Guest series by Hans Couwenbergh.
Nostalgia strikes these days but after Copenhagen I just had to think about my city break in Stockholm, Sweden and how long ago it has been since I have been to that wonderful city. Being built on an archipelago (with close to 30,000 islands and islets) this is the true Venice of the north (this is a Belgian saying so!).
With so much water, going by boat is sometimes easier to get to certain places than taking the car or any other kind of land transport. Many people own a boat and when walking along the water in Stockholm you can admire some marvelous and meticulously maintained old wooden vessels.
A cottage on one of the many islands is a wonderful escape from the city without going too far; most have a dock and the only way to go is by boat.
City break to Stockholm
The last time I was in Stockholm on a city break already dates from 2006. (I’ve still been there afterwards but only for work.) We were landing late in the evening on little Bromma airport in the middle of a thunderstorm. Next morning it was dry, but the sky did not look very promising. Still, we decided to continue with our plan to visit Drottningholm Palace, just outside of Stockholm.
The trip started at Stadhuset, the city hall, and of course we went by boat. As we sailed away leaving Stadhuset and Gamla Stan behind us, the sky got darker and darker. We had rain on our journey, but luckily skies quickly cleared as we arrived at this wonderful castle, still the permanent home residence of the Swedish royals. They live in the most Southern wing of the palace, the rest of the palace and grounds are open to the public all year round. The site is magnificent and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Beside the castle there are the gardens, an exotic Chinese pavilion and the palace theater.
Back from our little trip, we decided to go for a pleasant stroll along Strandvägen, where we were staying in Hotel Diplomat. One can wander around for hours here and admire the old boats, some looking as if they were brand new.
Skeppholmen and Durjgarden
Most of the trip we adjusted to the weather: being out and about when it was dry, or visiting a museum when it was raining. One day we took the boat to the island of Djurgarden, home to several museums as well as an amusement park. On the way we passed the island of Skeppholmen with its little citadel.
We wanted to visit the Vasa museum. Vasa was a fearsome warship that sunk on its maiden trip in 1628, after going barely 1300 meters. The ship was salvaged in August 1959 and after years of treatment of the wood the Vasa Museum opened in 1990. Inside, you will find the restored ship. The museum is dark, to protect the wood from decaying.
If you’re travelling with kids, chances are they’re more interested in the nearby Junibacken, a museum and children’s theater dedicated to the work of Astrid Lindgren. You can meet here with all the famous characters she created, including Pippi Longstocking.
If you have enough of visiting museums, maybe the old town is a good place to go next. But before venturing in there you can have a look at “official Stockholm”. Start by the entry gate of the “Sveriges Riksdag” which is the Swedish Parliament.
Crossing another bridge brings you to the Royal Castle, the official residence of the King and his daily place of work. There you can witness the changing of the guards, but be sure to check the timetables as not to miss it. The Palace is on Gamla Stan, which is the old city center and a small central island in Stockholm.
It is a pleasant place for a stroll through the mostly pedestrian area, to buy some souvenirs or find a nice restaurant.
Slussen and Södermalm
At the south end of Gamla Stan you’ll find Slussen, an important hub for all kinds of public transport, and the main lock separating the harbor of Stockholm from the inner waterways. Crossing Slussen brings you in another part of town called Södermalm. Close by all the large ferries and cruise ships are docked. Also nearby is Erik’s Gondolen, a restaurant with great food but especially amazing views from its 33 meters high location.
There are so many things to do in Stockholm that we absolutely need to go back soon. If you go, do not forget that a boat trip in the Archipelago is a must. We boarded an old motor ship from 1906, which took us on a 3-hour trip with a stop on the island of Fjäderholmarna. It is an ideal place to visit the craftsmen, have a look at old ships in the museum or just chill by the small beach.
Just make sure not to get attacked by breeding seagulls!
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