On Monday we decided to take a self guided walking tour of Old Town, Stockholm. Using our seven day travel card, we took the subway from our hotel into Stockholm. We exited the subway near the Stockholm Central Station, the 150 year old train station built in 1871. It is one of the busiest train stations in the Nordic region with about 200,000 visitors every day.
Next was Klara Church, built starting in 1572 with a 380 foot tower built in the 1880s. It is the tallest church in the city. There was a charge to go into the church but the kind lady at the entrance waved us in.
The next stop on our walking tour was Stockholm City Hall which is located on the island of Kungsholmen and was completed in 1923. The building has a bit of a foreboding medieval fortress look. The tower is 350 feet tall and has Tre Kroner, or three golden crowns, at the top. This is the Swedish coat of arms and symbol of the city. The city hall is the location of the Nobel Prize banquet each year.
Before crossing the bridge into Old Town, with the sky threatening rain, we decided to go back to the train station for lunch at a McDonald’s located inside. Yes, McDonald’s. It was close, familiar, easy and inexpensive. With a full day of sightseeing and a rain storm approaching, we didn’t have time to figure out anything else. The rain came down in sheets just as we reached the train station door.
After lunch we decided we better use the train station restroom facilities before heading to Old Town. What we didn’t expect was a charge to use the restroom. 10 Swedish krona which is about 98 cents US money. The problem was most of Stockholm prefers electronic payment (credit card) instead of currency. In fact some restaurants have signs saying no cash. So we had not converted any US money to Swedish currency. We had some euros left over so we each took one euro in. The man asked if we had krona and when we said no he looked rather disgusted and took the euros and gave us each a krona to put in the turnstile to get in. We noticed as we washed our hands at the tall sinks there was a sign saying you could not wash your feet in the sink. I would be impressed if anyone could get their feet that high.
With all that done, fortunately the rain had stopped as we walked across the Norra Jarnvagsbron Bridge into Old Town, also known as Gamla Stan. This island town was founded in the 13th century. The streets are mainly old cobblestone and difficult to walk on.
The first site on our Old Town list was The Norstedts Building, a Swedish publishing house. The building was constructed between 1882 and 1891 with a striking tower and spire roof that casts an impressive silhouette amid the Stockholm cityscape.
The Burger Jarl’s Tower is a former defensive tower built in the 16th century.
Along the waterfront was a cute statue of Evert Taube, a much beloved balladeer in Sweden. He is so popular there are three statues of him in Stockholm. Little did we know when we snapped the picture!
Wrangel Palace was next. We discovered there are lots of palaces in Stockholm! This palace was once part of the Old Town’s defensive fortifications in the 16th century and later the largest private residence in Stockholm. When the Royal Palace burned down in 1697, the Royal Family moved here until 1754. Today it is home to the Court of Appeal.
The pink Stenbock Palace nearby, built in the 1640’s, also houses the Court of Appeal.
Birger Jaris is an important Swedish statesman who played a large role in the formation of Sweden in the 13th century.
Riddarholm Church is one of the oldest churches in Stockholm and is the burial ground for Swedish monarchs for over 600 years. The church suffered a major fire in 1835 and then acquired the lattice work iron church steeple.
The House of Nobility was constructed between 1641 and 1672 as a place for Swedish nobility to host events.
Bonde Palace, built between 1662 and 1673 is another former noble residence. It was in disrepair and almost torn down, but public opinion saved it. It has now been the home of the Supreme Court since 1949.
We walked down Vasterlanggatan, the Old Town’s most popular shopping street. It used to be part of the old defensive walls of the town. Today it was crowded with tourists. In medieval times this area was home to many copper and iron merchants and their workshops.
We came to Marten Trotzigs Grand, Stockholm’s narrowest street. It consists of 36 steps and measures only 35 inches at its slimmest point. Bill and I walked up the steps. At the top were several tourists waiting to walk down. Too narrow for passing.
On the corner of this street is a runestone in the wall. The stone dates back to the Viking Age, possibly 11th century, and is one of the oldest items found in the city. A little souvenir shop nearby sold imitation runestone. Three runestones were found in Stockholm. This one on the wall, as well as a second one on display in the Museum of Medieval Stockholm. The third one was in a church stairway and has been lost over time.
Next up was Stortorget, the main square in Old Town. It is the oldest square in Stockholm with colorful 17th and 18th century buildings. It is a popular meeting place for locals. The most important building in the square is the Nobel Museum. It was built in 1778 and was formerly home to the Stock Exchange for more than 200 years. The Nobel Museum opened in 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awards and to celebrate the winners. The Nobel Award is named for Alfred Nobel, an inventor, entrepreneur, scientist and businessman. He established the foundation in 1895 when he left much of his wealth to the foundation in his will. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite and blasting caps that are still used today.
Stockholm Cathedral was high on our list of places to visit. We don’t usually pay to enter churches but we made an exception with this gem. Built in 1279, it is one of the oldest and most important landmarks in Sweden. It was here that Swedish reformer Olaus Petri spread his Lutheran message around the kingdom. It is the site of royal coronations, weddings and funerals as well as religious services and concerts. It has a 217 foot tall clock tower that is a visible part of the Stockholm skyline. The inside was surprisingly made of exposed brickwork.
The church has a collection of medieval as well as contemporary art, including a metal statue of St George and the Dragon. Wood, iron and gold leaf were used to carve the statue, including elkhorn for the dragon’s scales. The statue was consecrated in 1489 as an altar monument to the shrine of St George.
The altar is made of silver and ebony and was donated to the Cathedral in the 1650s.
There are two Royal Pews from 1684 that are only used by members of the Swedish Royal Family.
Most of church floor includes tombstones.
Sarcophagus of Jesper Kruus (1577-1622) stood out near the altar.
Since 1527, the Cathedral has been a Lutheran church.
Next up: Stockholm Part 2