The impressive baroque facade houses is Stockholm‘s Gamla Stan (old town) contains the official residence of the Swedish royal family, although the family actually resides in Drottningholm Palace, a countryside palace on the island Lovön in Lake Mälaren on the outskirts of Stockholm. The Swedish Royal Palace has been in the same place on the Gamla Stan since the 13th century, where medieval monarchs built the Tre Kronor Castle, which housed the royal family until May 7th, 1697, when the castle was gutted by fire. War prevented re-construction, and the present castle wasn’t finished until 1754. The exterior of the massive palace has an impressive total of 28 statues, 717 balusters/columns, 242 Ionic volutes topping columns, 972 windows, 31,600 windowpanes and about 7,500 windows, doors and gates. The facade is covered with circa 9,500 m2 of stone and 11,000 m2 of plaster containing an incomprehensible 1,430 rooms – some impressive figures! A castle is bound to have a few skeletons in the closet – two in particular! There is the kindly oracle Grå Gubben (the Old Grey Man) who inhabits the cellars and guards the spirit of the palace. The other is the infamous Vita frun (translating to the imagination-lacking White Lady), who appears just before death. Said to be the Hohehzollern German Duchess Agnes of Merán who killed her family to marry another (predictably, this tactic did not warm the heart of her would-be suitor), and she now haunts the castles connected to the Hohenzollern family.
Pro tip: Stockholm Royal Palace is open to the public, with five museums inside its massive interior (price 160SEK).
In English: the Swedish Church. In Denmark. Located on the moat banks of the Kastellet, a 17th century star fortress adjoined to the city walls tasked with the protection of Copenhagen. What’s a Swedish church doing there? To understand, we must first look to the church’s history. Denmark and Sweden share many things, including a similarly harsh climate, the Øresund and the Baltic Sea, and even almost a common language (they are close enough for speakers of each language to understand the other). They also seem to share a similar attitude on life: live and let live. Despite a troubled past, the two nations, along with the rest of their Scandinavian sisters, all seem to get along and just live – a marvellous notion that we could all take a page from. Well enough preaching – and back to Svenska Gustaf. The story starts with a Swedish pastor called Nils Widner who went to Copenhagen to educate Swedish sailors living there, but was soon swept into the world of Swedish expats. As his circle grew, Nils realised they would need a church to provide for the growing congregation. In an action of solidarity, his loyal followers agreed to donate 10 øre a week (mere pennies, but dedication counts!) until the church was completed, which ended up being in 1911. The Danish, bless them, provided Pastor Nils with a lovely site along the northern side of the Kastellet, a beautiful island fortress (a stone’s throw away from the St Alban’s, a 19th-century English church, erected for similar reasons 25 years before). A Swedish architect designed Svenska Gustaf, and a Danish architect supervised the construction. Danish and Swedish royalty alike attended the opening ceremony. Everyone got along, everyone worked together, everyone was happy. But then again, what more do you expect from Danes and Swedes, eh?
Interlocked islands, rambling streets, sloping hills, Vikings history, lapping waves—welcome to Stockholm. This is a city on the water. A city composed of islands. One of Europe’s cleanest, greenest cities. Bright and colourful, upbeat and happy, lively and hard at work, Sweden is a sparsely-populated yet very advanced nation. It has a long history, yet is one of the most modern and progressive country in Europe. Perhaps it’s the cold—it make you work faster?—perhaps it’s the language—structured and to the point—or the just the culture—they are known for their directness—but it is hard to beat the Swedes for a nicer, greener, more progressive or harder-working nation where every piece of information is given so directly and every person has the right to walk anywhere they want (even on private property). Well—except perhaps for Norway. Or Denmark. But don’t tell that to the Swedes! 😉
The setting sun over the Swedish capital shines off the facades of the buildings on this neighboring island in Stockholm’s massive archipelago. As the largest city in Sweden, it is also the most populous city in the Nordic region with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. As Stockholm also happens to be one of the most expensive European cities, the best way to spend a quiet evening is to sit out on the quay with a beer in hand and watch the sun set over the Swedish skyline before ambling back into the center of the old town (Gamla Stan) in search of a cozy cafe. If, like so many others, you’ve been watching the recent outburst of Nordic noir series and films (such as The Bridge, The Killing, Borgen, or any one of the many films), explore the city after dark to get a new perspective on Stockholm. But don’t worry; despite the dark nature of these series and films, Scandinavia is a relatively safe place. Just don’t forget to bring a jacket and scarf; the combination of its northern location as well as its proximity to the water makes for chilly air !
Stockholm, capital of Sweden. What do you really know about Sweden? A place where you find beautiful blonde women and extremely high prices, right? The Swedes are a unique brand of people–resilient, fun, brilliant, hard-working, multilingual, as well as a little bit crazy and even a tad dangerous. Nordic noir films and TV series paint a bleak picture of Sweden while Pippi Longstocking (or Langstrumpf) paints Sweden as an ideal world. And then there are many people who think of Sweden as a frozen tundra, and still others who think it’s more expensive than life itself. But how about visiting this little country to make your assumptions? Stockholm–Sweden’s metropolis–is as cosmopolitan as other ‘major’ European cities–perhaps more so! The Gamla Stan (or old town) on one of the many islands making up the massive archipelago, is populated by a vast array of tourists from every part of the world–starkly contrasted with the countries on the other side of the Baltics. You will hear a dozen languages in a matter of minutes. Restaurants from every country are easy to find–as well as unique raw ingredients often difficult to find in other European cities. Even the shopping feels international! And besides, as Stockholm is made up of many islands, no matter where you go, you will always have a view of the water!
Sweet ride? Europe is sort of big on bikes. The Tour de France is probably the first thing that comes to mind after hearing the words “bike” and “Europe.” Of course, there are plenty of other bike races here, but to most Europeans, the bike is first and foremost a means of transportation. It’s quick (quicker than walking anyway, and sometimes quicker than driving if there’s traffic), it’s cheap, it’s good for the environment and it’s a good way to get in shape. Baskets attached to the front allow the user to carry groceries, purses and other larger items, and seats attached to the back allow the bike to become the family car. “Old fashioned” or “vintage” bikes (as Americans call them) are actually quite common here, and sure make for some stereotypical photos. This bike was in Stockholm, Sweden–an ironic place to find a bike as the city is an archipelago made up of 14 islands (with more than 30,000 in the Stockholm archipelago!). And yet, the bike remains a popular method of transport. Me, I prefer the trams and the buses (dryer and warmer!) but I have to admit, it’s a great way to get around while staying slim enough to merit eating copious amounts of chocolate!