Exploring Stockholm’s Gamla Stan

Looking at the northwestern edge of Gamla Stan

The city of Stockholm is one of Europes treasures.  The stunning architecture is surpassed only but its picturesque setting.  Of the 14 islands that make up the city, 3 of them are part of the old town or Gamla Stan and will be one of the places where you will want to spend a lot of time exploring.

Like in much of Europe, Stockholm’s old town is one of the cities most desirable tourist attractions.  Gamla Stan once represented the entire city of Stockholm.  It has grown well beyond the waters edge, but the historic core remains the heart of the city. 

The Storkyrkan Church tower can be seen from all over Gamla Stan

Old towns have a charm to them that is rarely duplicated as a city matures.  Gamla Stan hugs you as you wander through uneven Medieval era cobblestone streets.  Narrow lanes open into inviting plazas.  Pedestrian tunnels add an allure of adventure as they lead into another pocket of town. 

One of the pedestrian tunnels
It can easily get lost roaming the streets of Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan is packed with things to see, do, and eat.  The Royal Palace was built during the 17th and 18th centuries and sits at the northern edge of the island.  It is still the official royal residence even though the family only visits for official events.  The lavish royal apartments and changing of the guard are a main draw for tourists.

A guard stands ready at the Royal Palace

Next door is the Stockholm Cathedral and dates back to the 13th century.  The nearby Riddarholmen is an equally impressive church and is the final resting place to many Swedish monarchs.  Another church is the Sankta Gertrud or German Church and is one of the first German speaking parishes outside of Germany. 

The Medieval era Riddarholmen Church

Located in the old stock exchange, the Nobel Museum is a highlight of Gamla Stan.  Founded by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel who gave the world dynamite among other things, the Nobel Museum provides a look at the winners of the prizes various categories.  The annual ceremony for all winners except the peace prize is held in the nearby Stockholm City Hall.  Another worthwhile museum to visit is the Museum of Medieval Stockholm, which takes a look at life in old Stockholm. 

Stortorget Square the oldest in the city now is home of the Nobel Museum

The best thing to do in Gamla Stan is to explore every nook and cranny while doing some window shopping and eating.  The characteristic shops are certainly marked at tourist trap prices, but it is still fun to take a look around.  Eating is also not budget friendly, but if you are up for a splurge you have plenty of fine eateries to choose from.  Menus are usually outside so you can compare and pick something that looks desirable without being surprised when you get the bill. In addition to the fine dining, the neighborhood is littered with waffle and gelato shops for those interested in quick bites as they stroll. 

Cafe’s in Stortorget Square

The central location and island setting also allows for great views of some other top Stockholm sites.  The shores of Gamla Stan provide one of the best views of the glorious Stockholm City Hall.  You can also view Skeppsholmen Island, home of the Moderna Museet or Modern Art Museum, as well as glimpses of the popular Kungsträdgården district and Grona Land Amusement park.

Off in the distance is Stockholm City Hall

Visiting Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan is located right in the center of the city and easily accessible.  From Stockholm Central Station it is a 15 minute walk or by T-Bana Metro lines.  The Gamla Stan Station is serviced by lines  13,14 (red), 17,18, and 19 (green) by bus or by the Djurgården ferry.  It is best to tour the old town by foot.

Courtesy Google Maps

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