Hill parks are unique places in the city landscape of the Swedish capital. They offer a plenty of greenery, stunning views and overall pleasant areas for the residents as well as visitors of Stockholm. I have previously introduced you to a few of these parks and the general story of their creation but I left out those located on the Södermalm island, which we discover in this post instead.
First up is the park called Tantolunden named after the extensive property known as Tanto that had been in the location prior to the park. The construction on the hills in the western part of Södermalm began in 1885 when large quantities of soil were brought to the area to make it possible to grow rich vegetation.
Some parts of the park were ready for plantation as soon as the next year but serious problems did not wait too long to show up either. Apart from the soil, garbage was used as filling of the hills to create significant parts of the landscape. However, this caused the soil to dry up quickly in the summer, which caused many plants to fade out.
To tackle these issues, the authorities had an additional, 15 to 20 centimetres thick, layer of soil brought to Tantolunden. While this helped solve the acute problems that arose, others, perhaps even more tricky, appeared.
Some people, including experts, criticised the park for not incorporating the original natural landscape well, for the layout of the walking paths, and even for the choice of plants planted in the area. Among them was the renowned professor Rutger Sernander, botanist, geologist, and archaeologist from Uppsala University.
Either way, Tantolunden was finished in 1899, only the playground in the park’s western part was added later, in 1906. Although some experts were not happy with the park, the public seemed to have a different opinion.
To many Stockholmers, this is the prettiest park in the city despite some tough competition. It offers everything one might wish for. From a hilly landscape covered by rich greenery to majestic bare rocks to stunning lake views with the modern city landscape of Liljeholmen in the background.
Apart from being a park, Tantolunden belongs to the largest cabin areas in Stockholm and to be frank, this element is what adds another dimension to this area. There are approximately a hundred diverse cabins spread over the hill. The vibrant little houses mix with greenery, flowers, and low fences to create an absolutely lovely scenery not only for those that have the chance to spend their time at these pleasant properties but for the mere admirers, too.
The other place that we need to mention while talking about hill parks on Södermalm is Vitabergsparken. This park, which is now a part of the White Mountains’ Cultural Preserve (Vita bergens kulturreservat), surrounds the monumental Sofia Church (Sofia kyrka) standing at the top of the hill.
While this area may seem like a very cosy historical place today, its history is not that bright. During the 19th and early 20th century, the White Mountains (Vita bergen) area was likely the poorest borough in Stockholm where life looked vastly different than it does in current time. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the whole story in my earlier post covering this topic specifically.
What is interesting about the construction of Vitabergsparken is that it had started long before the works on the Sofia Church but was completed only four years after the church had been opened to the public.
In the decade following the completion of the walking paths and playgrounds in the park, the area leading from Skånegatan to the church was renovated. This event is particularly interesting as this part on the northern side of Sofia Church became known as especially appealing and well-trimmed.
Further east in the park, an amphitheatre was opened in 1954, which became the second open-air venue built in Stockholm in the time span of just a few years. The locals welcomed this venue with open arms and thanks to that, it quickly became one of Södermalm’s, and perhaps even the city’s, most popular meeting points as well as venues for performing arts.
While I have mentioned that Professor Sernander quite strongly opposed some of the decision made in the case of Tantolunden, in the later years, he often positively commented on the overall state of the parks in Stockholm. Moreover, he commonly used Vitabergsparken as a bright example of the nice green places in the Swedish capital.
That is all I wanted to tell you about the two largest hill parks on Södermalm. I also recommend you visit other parks on the island which offers a great number and variety of places for relaxing.
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Asker, Bertil, 1986. Stockholms parker. Innerstaden.