The other evening I was speaking with a friend who had recently taken a cruise to the Baltic and Russia. Since I had taken a similar cruise a few years ago we were comparing notes. The ports were essentially the same, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn! With some minor differences we had seen mostly the same things in each city. But we agreed that Stockholm, aside from being beautiful and historic was possibly the cleanest large city we had ever seen. I had been there twice and was amazed at its cleanliness. I told my friend, Bob, that the homeless man I had seen was better dressed than me. His comment was, “that’s not saying much!”
Stockhom (the name means log island)is the capital of Sweden and its largest city with just under 900,000 inhabitants. It was founded around 1250 AD and is built on 14 islands in the Southeast part of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Malaren. Talk about clean! I’ve been told that Lake Malaren is so clean you can drink from it. But the same people also told me that people go swimming in it during their lunch hour so I think I’ll drink bottled water instead. It’s is known for its beauty, its buildings and architecture, its abundant clean and open water, and its many parks. It is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North!
The city rose in prominence due to its part in the Hanseatic league and trade with Hamburg, Gdansk, Lubeck and other league cities. It’s the seat of the national government and is a monarchy. It’s king, Carl Gustav XVI has been its ruler since 1980. Because of its northernly latitude daylight fluctuates greatly from summer to winter. In the summer it get over 18 hours of daylight whereas during the peak of winter only 6 hours. Yet, despite the lack of winter sunlight, it has relatively mild weather compared to other cities at the same latitude. Snow occurs mainly from December through March.
Stockholm has more museums than almost any other city in the world with over 100. The most famous is the National Museum. It dates back to the 16th century and contains over 16,000 paintings and an additional 30,000 works of art. You can find works by Rembrandt, Andre Watteau as well as noted Swedish artists like Roslin and Zorn.
The Museum of Modern art houses works by Picasso and Dali. The Skansen, which opened in 1891, was the first open-air museum. The Nordic Museum is dedicated to everything Swedish. But, one of my favorites, is the Vasa Museum!!! It’s located on the island of Djurgården and displays the 17th century warship, The Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage. It was one of the largest and most heavily armed vessels at the time. It sank less than a nautical mile from where it set forth. It had 64 cannons and was incredibly top-heavy and lacked sufficient ballast. But the king, Gustavus Adolphus, was so anxious for her to join his fleet during the Thirty Years War that he ordered her into service. The rest, as they say, is history. It is fully intact and amazing to see.
As with most European capitals Stockhom has an “old town” called Gamla Stan. The town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. It’s located on the island of Stadsholmen. Among its attractions is the main square, Stortorget, which is surrounded by old merchant’s houses including the Swedish Stock Exchange. It’s also home to the Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, and the Riddarholm church, as well as Kungliga slottet, Sweden’s baroque Royal Palace. I remember eating at a restaurant called Fem Sma Hus (Five Small Houses) back in the early 90’s. I was with a group of travel agents and a Swedish guide who, like me, worked for KLM. Sinia, the guide, ordered for us and I had the best filet mignon I had ever eaten. When I mentioned it to her she told me it was reindeer! My nose glowed for four days afterward. Another great restaurant is Den Gyldene Freden, which according to Guinness, is the oldest restaurant in the world with the same unaltered interior since it started operation in 1722.
Don’t miss the statue of St. George and the Dragon which is near the Stockholm Cathedral. And, of course, the changing of the guard by the Royal Palace. Stockholm is a great city for walking so give it a go. Whether you go by plane or ship stroll around and see the wonders of this beautiful Scandinavian city.
Jim Dwyer has been involved in Travel and Tourism for over 30 years and has traveled extensively to Europe, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the U.S.A. He has also taken over 25 cruises in the past 10 years and is a certified expert on virtually every cruise line! His other passion is Irish music and has had a band for 32 years.