Quick Facts

  • First proposal for a bridge in the location appeared in 1712
  • It took until 1907 for the first, provisional bridge to be built
  • It is made of concrete, is 44 metres long and 13.5 metres wide
  • Car traffic was banned from Riksbron in 1977

In the previous couple of weeks, I have covered the story of the Norrbro bridge (“Northern Bridge”) which connects the Stockholm’s Norrmalm district with the Royal Palace and I have also shown you a few other bridges worth seeing in the Old Town. Riksbron is one of the bridges that I included in my list then, and today it is time to have a closer look at it and discover its background.

Riksbron bridge in Stockholm

Riksbron bridge with the Stockholm Parliament Building in the background.

Even though the bridge is relatively new, that is not the case with the idea of building one in the location. As far as we know, this intention was first mentioned in 1712 in a letter written by King Karl XII, whose statue you can find at Kungsträdgården (King’s Garden), to the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger.

In this letter, the king describes a bridge that should act as an extension of Drottninggatan, pass through the Helgeandsholmen island all the way to the bridge on its other side, approximately where Stallbron stands today. The next year, Tessin completed drawings of his proposed solution to connect Drottninggattan with Mynttorget which is how things are today. However, the plans were then abandoned before any construction works started because Sweden was in the middle of the tough Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) and therefore resources, both human and material, were scarce.

After the war, the idea was forgotten and there was no progress on this matter for almost two centuries. Eventually, the question was brought back to life again when the new Parliament House and the Swedish National Bank House on Helgeandsholmen were completed in 1905 and 1906 respectively.

Following this important and extensive development of the island, a better traffic connection was needed that would serve both the public and the officials working at the two state institutions represented on Helgeandsholmen at the time. First, in 1907 a temporary solution was found. Drottninggatan and Riksgatan were connected by a provisional pedestrian bridge.

However, the 4-metre wide steel bridge not only did not fulfil the requirements for modern infrastructure in the 20th century, it was also ridiculed by the locals and nicknamed the ‘Mouse Trap’ (Råttfällan). This was on the one hand because of its cage-like appearance and on the other, since the streets it connected were wide and busy which forced people to squeeze on the bridge when they wanted to pass to the other side.

The process leading toward a permanent solution was somewhat slow partially because of the ongoing discussions regarding the control of the waters of the Lake Mälaren. Some suggest that this was more of an excuse used by the officials rather than the real reason for inaction but we will probably never know.

For the majority of the time after the provisional bridge was built, it was thought that the new solution would be an arched bridge consisting of a total of three arches. Then, suddenly, in 1924 a proposal with a single arch appeared and was carried out a few years later. The new bridge, built out of concrete, stood ready in 1931. It was 44 metres long, 13.5 metres wide and finally, after 219 years since the first proposal made by King Karl XII, made it possible for vehicles to drive from Drottninggatan straight to Riksgatan. Although Karl XII probably did not have cars in mind in the early 18th century, his wishes eventually came to life.

Not even five decades later, though, a decision was made to ban all traffic from the bridge and only make it possible for pedestrians to cross it once again. This was in 1977 after the Swedish Parliament took over the western wing of the complex, formerly occupied by the National Bank, too. These changes together with archaeological discoveries made during the reconstruction of the Parliament House were the reasons behind closing the bridge for car traffic.

In the present day, Riksbron is an inseparable part of the city scenery popular among tourists and locals alike. It remains to be a place which serves as an entry point to the historical city centre of Stockholm from the more modern Drottninggatan where you can be amazed by the monumentality of the Parliament House, Riksgatan and other sites including the City Hall which is also visible from the bridge.

In the next post, we are going to visit a historic place of worship which is now surrounded by modern constructions in the busy heart of the Swedish capital. Until then, check out our social media accounts for more interesting content and latest updates from Trevl. We are on Facebook and Instagram where we post new images from Stockholm and other major cities every day.

Sources:
Dufwa, Arne, 1985. Trafik, broar, tunnelbanor, gator.
Hedin, Gunnar, 1998. Stockholms broar.