Stockholm is well known as the city on the water, some even call it the ‘Venice of the North.’ It is only logical then, that the individual islands forming the Swedish capital are connected by many interesting and unique bridges. In this issue of our weekly series Places of Interest, I help you explore the stories behind the bridges that connect the Old Town (Gamla Stan) of Stockholm.
For a long time, the present-day Old Town was essentially all there was to the Swedish capital. When it became too small to accommodate the needs of the growing city, new bridges, to a large extent, affected which parts of the city would be developed quicker and which would be left nearly uninhabited for decades and centuries to come. I have talked about this matter in the post on Stockholm City Hall, too, where you can read about the effects the completion of a new bridge on the Kungsholmen island.
Today, there are four bridges on the northern side of the Old Town, two on the western side and another two on the south connecting Gamla Stan to the island of Södermalm. We begin our tour at the north-western edge of Gamla Stan near the Royal Palace where the Strömbron bridge begins.
The Strömbron bridge has been connecting the Royal Palace with Kungsträdgården (‘The King’s Garden’) since 1946 when it was built as a temporary solution. The main reason for the construction of the bridge was the growing car traffic passing through the Old Town.
However, the bridge was not the only proposed solution. Many supported the construction of a tunnel instead which was why a provisional solution was provided in the first place. Strömbron bridge was only meant to serve Stockholmers until a definitive choice between a bridge and a tunnel has been made. The lifetime of the bridge was meant to be around 10 years but as you can see for yourself, the ‘provisional’ bridge still remains in its place today.
The Norrbro bridge connects the Royal Palace with Gustav Adolf’s square (Gustav Adolfs torg) through the Helgeandsholmen island and is the only remaining bridge in Stockholm built completely out of stone. At the time of its construction, it was a technologically advanced structure which required foreign help as Swedish architects and workers lacked necessary skills. Many proposals for the design of the bridge had been submitted but eventually, it was architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz who got to execute his design between 1787 and 1807.
3. Stallbron Bridge
Stallbron is a bridge which stands on the location of likely the oldest bridge in Stockholm. There have been many bridges helping citizens get across the narrow canal during the centuries, though. From what we know, there were three different bridges built at this place during the 19th century alone. One of them was also the first cast iron bridge in Stockholm; completed in 1843. The current bridge dates back to 1904 and was reconstructed in 1982, three years after cars and buses had been forbidden from the passing across the bridge.
On the other end of Riksgatan, you will find the Riksbron bridge. This bridge, first proposed by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, is a popular place to observe the Parliament House (Riksdagshuset) and other nearby attractions. First, in 1907, there stood a provisional iron bridge with a wooden walkway connecting Riksgatan and Drottninggatan. The contemporary bridge was designed by the architect responsible for Stockholm City Hall, Ragnar Östberg, and built between 1929 and 1931.
Vasabron is a bridge that was certainly named after the famous King Gustav Vasa. However, it is not so clear whether there is a connection between the name of the bridge and the statue of the king in front of the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) which sits approximately where the bridge ends. After an earlier failed attempt, the bridge was completed in 1878. Thanks to Vasabron and Strömsborgsbron bridges, the Strömsborg island also got its prominent location and after centuries of having been overlooked, it became a valued part of the city centre.
6. Centralbron Bridge
Centralbron is a bridge that is hard to miss. For better or for worse. The bridge is one of the main traffic routes in central Stockholm with a total of seven rail tracks and six road lanes. It has been criticised ever since it was built for disturbing the historical landscape in the Old Town. Plans to replace it with a tunnel have been proposed but because of the costs of such a solution, these plans are not going to be implemented anytime soon.
7. Riddarholmsbron Bridge
The last bridge on my list is the Riddarholmsbron Bridge which used to be Stockholm’s first ever stone bridge, built in 1789. However, the original bridge was demolished in the 1860s and later replaced with a new one. The current bridge from 1958 passes over Centralbron and its design is, unfortunately, not nearly as beautiful as the one of the 18th-century stone bridge was.
These are the bridges in Stockholm’s Old Town that I think are worth knowing about. As you can see, many of them have a rich history and several predecessors, which highlights how important bridges have been for the city’s infrastructure throughout its existence.
I mentioned that there are two bridges on the southern side of the island earlier in the post and you might have noticed that they are not included in the list. This is because there are ongoing construction works in the area and therefore the possibilities for admiring places are limited there.
If you would like to find out more about some of the bridges on the list, make sure to check out some of my earlier posts where I covered their stories extensively.
Also, make sure to try our fun quiz if you have not done so already!