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Photo by Patrice Raplee

Stockholm, Sweden: From Old Town to South Island this city is a traveler's dream

Billowy clouds languidly shift their configurations, as the warm sun filters through scattering golden beams across Stockholm's renaissance, baroque and rococo architecture. The reflected images dance on the city's sparkling quays amidst the measured passage of sailboats and ferries.
Stockholm is considered one of the world's most beautiful cities. Sweden's capitol ascends from the fresh water of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. Comprised of 14 islands and connected by 54 bridges, the city is set against a magnificent landscape of natural splendor.

With old-world architecture set in a cosmopolitan culture and an eminently walkable urban center, Stockholm is among the best cities in Europe to visit. In addition, the city's green spaces and easily accessed archipelago offer a sundry of outdoor adventures and activities.


The core of the city is located on Kungsholmen (King's Island), Norrmalm (North Island) and Sodermalm (South Island), as well as Gamla Stan (Old town, located between north and south islands) and Djurgarden (Game Park). Vehicle and pedestrian bridges, walkways, roads and ferries connect these islands. Public transportation to and from the closely connected islands consists of readily accessible and easy to use bus, metro, great bicycle rentals, tram, light rail, and ferry.

Gamla Stan or Old Town
This is a wonderful and central place to start exploring. The 13th century town is a picture book of cobblestone streets and medieval alleyways; some of these passageways barely allow room for two pedestrians. The surrounding architecture is remarkable with old ornate buildings lining the harbor. And, the Royal Palace with the formal changing of the guard on horseback through the streets providing a grand spectacle.

Photo by Patrice Raplee Adjacent to the palace in the center of town stands the Stockholm Cathedral. Originally, the cathedral was of Gothic design and then became remodeled in a baroque style in the mid-1700s. The brick, plaster and stone interior is lovely with gilded accent carvings, an elegant pipe organ and a dramatic wooden statue of Saint George and the Dragon created by Bernt Notke in 1489.

The most notable and scenic avenue to peruse and shop in Old Town is Västerlånggatan. This street is lined with wonderful small shops and boutiques selling everything from stylish Sweden clothing, such as Gerd Inez, to tasteful souvenirs and quaint restaurants. For a wonderful lunch with a traditional Swedish menu and reasonable prices, try the Restaurant Kaffegillet. The venue provides comfortable outdoor terrace seating and a historic gothic lower level for dining that is well worth a visit.

The island of Djurgarden is located east of Old Town and is just a short ferry ride (about 15 min.) across. The Vasa and Nordic museum, the Tivoli Gröna Lund amusement park and the world's oldest and largest incomparable open-air museum Skansen, are several of the major attractions located on Djurgarden. This island offers a great deal to see and experience and is an essential visit while in Stockholm. Visitors should plan at least a full day to sightsee.

The Vasa Museum was built to house the magnificent Vasa warship. In 1628, the Swedish royal ship launched from Tranbodarna on her maiden voyage only to capsize and sink after sailing only 1300 meters. The impressive warship, with 48 big guns and artfully elaborate carvings adorning the vessel from stem to stern, was lost until the mid- '50s. The Vasa is in almost perfect condition after 100s of years under brackish water and now looms massively over the boardwalks inside the museum. What disaster befell the vessel and how was it found so amazingly intact? The Vasa's story is incredible and the museum a fascinating journey into the 17th century tale of a lost warship that was the pride of the Swedish Navy and a fearsome threat to the country's enemies.

Tivoli Gröna Lund amusement park is great fun for all ages. The park is a bit on the small side but overlooks the sea with fantastic views of Stockholm. With over 30 different attractions such as roller coaster and haunted house rides, Gröna Lund offers the characteristic invigorating amusement atmosphere. In addition to the rides, the park is popular for its pop and rock concerts featuring local and international musicians. Open from April to September, the park is frequented by locals and visitors and is often crowed on weekends. Make sure to arrive early and expect typical prices for park fare.

More Articles by Patrice Raplee

  • Stockholm, Sweden: Skansen
  • Stockholm, Sweden: Sodermalm (South Island)

  • Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice has written several children’s short stories and is currently working on an adult fiction novel for publication.

    Photos courtesy of Patrice Raplee.
    © 2008