Welcome back to my blog! Today, I'm excited to show you around Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden and one of my favourite Baltic ports!
Above: The cityscape of central Stockholm, taken from a Hop-on, Hop-off bus!
Founded around the turn of the 13th Century, Stockholm's strategic location on the south-east coast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren has been historically important; the city is said to have been founded by Birger Jarl to protect Sweden from a sea invasion by foreign navies and to stop the pillage of towns on Lake Mälaren.
Above: Stockholm is built on islands, and the canals that run through it have lent it the nickname, 'Venice of the North'.
The earliest written mention of the name Stockholm dates from 1252; the first part of the name (stock) means log in Swedish, although it may also be connected to an old German word (Stock) meaning fortification. The second part of the name (holm) means islet, and is thought to refer to the islet Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm.
Above: Stockholm's Old Town, known as Gamla Stan.
Stockholm's Old Town was built on the central island from the mid-13th century onward. The city originally rose to prominence as a result of the Baltic trade of the Hanseatic League. Stockholm developed strong economic and cultural linkages with Lübeck, Hamburg, Gdańsk, Visby, Reval, and Riga during this time.
Above: Stockholm Royal Palace which I visited.
We visited Stockholm twice, and each time was an overnight stay which meant we had two days on each visit to explore the city! During our first stay, I visited Stockholm Royal Palace which is the official residence of the Swedish Monarch. The first building on this site was a fortress built in the 13th Century which was replaced in 1697, by a palace built in the Baroque style. However, that very same year, much of the palace was destroyed in a fire and it took another 63 years to rebuild the damaged palace.
Above: The beautiful organ, inside the palace's chapel.
As well as the chapel, I also visited the treasury which houses crowns and other royal artefacts as well as many of the royal rooms which were very impressive! Just opposite the palace lies the Royal Swedish Opera House which was inaugurated in 1773.
Above: The Royal Swedish Opera House.
On our second visit to Stockholm, I spent the first day in a rather less culturally enriching environment - Tivoli Gröna Lund (meaning The Green Grove), Stockholm's very own theme park! Founded in 1883 by James Schultheis, Gröna Lund is relatively small compared to other amusement parks, mainly due to its central location, which limits expansion.
Above: Tivoli Gröna Lund from across the water.
Gröna Lund is a popular venue for concerts during the summer and the capacity record is held by Bob Marley who attracted 32,000 people in 1980. The park is quite unique in the sense that most of the buildings on the site are old residential and commercial structures dating from the 19th century; the buildings were not built for the park - instead, the park is built around the buildings.
Above: One of the park's newest coasters, simply called Insane. It lived up to its name!
On my final day in Stockholm, I visited the Vasa Museum - a truly incredible experience! The museum houses the warship Vasa which was to be the pride of ancient Sweden’s mighty navy. However, the ship sank in Stockholm’s inner harbour on her maiden voyage in 1628. The reason for its untimely sinking is thought to have been the lack of ballast (i.e. rocks) in the bottom of the ship's hull to balance the (previously unheard of) two decks of canons which the King had demanded.
Above: The Vasa warship. It's a huge ship and you can't quite get a sense of the scale from these photos.
The ship's discovery in 1956, and subsequent salvage in 1961, were among the most important events in maritime archaeology. The Vasa was painstakingly restored to much of its original magnificence and the museum is built around the ship, with special climate control systems in place to preserve the oak wood of the hull.
Above: Detail on the stern of the ship. The figures were originally painted.
I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse of Stockholm. It's a great city to explore with the added bonus that almost everything was free for ship's crew members!