Turn-of-the-century architecture is well-known as for its elegant shapes, rich and detailed décor, as well as exclusive materials. Often combined with wide boulevards or impressive squares, these places enchant large European cities like few others. While in the previous episode of Places of Interest I introduced you to the most beautiful residential buildings from the period, this time, we explore Stockholm’s public architecture from the late 19th and early 20th century.

1. The Royal Dramatic Theatre (Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern)

The Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm

We begin our tour in the heart of the city, on the western end of the monumental Strandvägen boulevard. Here you will meet The Royal Dramatic Theatre which is considered one of Sweden’s most adorned buildings. Despite the rich gold décor, the building completed in 1908 gives an elegant impression.

It is no coincidence that the style of the theatre building is similar to what you can see in the city centre of Vienna, Austria, for instance, as that is where the architect found inspiration for his masterpiece. You might also quickly notice the unusual material used for the façade of Dramaten, as the place is commonly known among the locals. It is known as ‘Ekenberg marble’ (Ekenbergsmarmor) and it was first used in Stockholm in the construction of von Rosen Palace (von Rosenska palatset) standing a few hundred metres east on Strandvägen.
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2. Royal Swedish Opera (Kungliga Operan)

Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm

We continue exploring historical cultural institutions by visiting the home of the Royal Swedish Opera. The first opera house was built in the location in the late 1700s during the era of Gustav III. This was, however, later demolished and replaced by the modern building which opened in 1898.

Its style fits nicely with other important buildings in the neighbourhood such as the Royal Palace (Kungliga slottet) or the Swedish Parliament House (Riksdagshuset). As you would expect, the interior of the Opera House is rather impressive, too, and you can get to see it even if you do not plan to attend one of the opera or ballet performances taking place there.
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3. Swedish Parliament House (Riksdagshuet)

Parliament House in Stockholm

I have mentioned that the façade of the House of the Swedish Parliament has a similar style to that of the Opera House standing just across the northern part of the Norrbro Bridge. The two buildings were erected around the same time and I must say, they were not designed to everyone’s taste. Many locals, including experts from the field, criticised the Parliament House for being too extravagant.

The rich décor and massive facades were considered to be in contrast with Swedish design traditions of simplicity and focus on shapes and materials instead of lavish décor.
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4. Rosenbad

Rosenbad in Stockholm

Speaking of parliament buildings, Rosenbad quarter – the well-known symbol of the Swedish government – stands just a stone’s throw from the above-mentioned Parliament House. The structure with its distinct orange façade was erected as a bank headquarters in 1902 and only later became used by the government.

The history of the quarter is much longer though, as already in the late 1600s, Stockholm’s most popular bathhouse, which gave the quarter its name, used to stand in the location. Later, the area became the home of several distinguished individuals before being turned into the first modern hotel in Stockholm, Hôtel Garni.
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5. Old National Archives (Gamla riksarkivet)

Old Swedish National Archives in Stockholm

Right on the edge of Riddarholmen facing the Old Town (Gamla stan) stands the building of the Old National Archives of Sweden. Back in the late 19th century, this used to be the place where the most important historical documents were stored.

The design of the distinct façade was in many ways guided by practical use. For instance, the large windows were a consequence of the decision not to install electricity in the building at the time of the original construction which was completed in 1890. The lack of electricity is only one of many examples highlighting the level to which the architects were trying to protect it from fire.
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6. The Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet)

Nordic Museum in Stockholm

The monumental building of the Nordic Museum visible from many parts of the city centre is the masterwork of architect Isak Gustaf Clason who is also responsible for a number of impressive buildings on the nearby Strandvägen.

When you see the massive structure, imagine that according to the architect’s initial plan it was meant to be three times bigger. Even the design that was actually turned into reality took a whopping 19 years to execute.
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7. Stockholm Police House (Polishuset)

Polishusparken in Stockholm

Leaving the oldest parts of the town, we come to one of the more modern districts of Stockholm. The island of Kungsholmen was scarcely inhabited for a long time but in the early 20th century, the situation started changing rapidly. Among the first important public buildings erected on the island was the Police House completed in 1910.

Just like in the earlier case of the Parliament House, this structure received a lot of criticism for its bold style. While, personally, I like the looks of the Police House, it is true that its facades hardly fit the character of the neighbourhood.
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These are seven of my favourite pieces of turn-of-the-20th-century architecture in Stockholm. Most of these buildings grab the attention of visitors from afar but that does not mean you should not get a close look at them.

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