Throughout the modern history of Sweden, Stockholm has been the country’s capital. It was here that all state offices, government institutions and most prominent individuals resided. Relationships between the citizens were often complicated, their wealth was enviable and their power unmatched. However, circumstances used to change rapidly for one could have been rich and influential one day and nearly broke and forgotten the next.
Many used to play with fire and risk it all to move ahead, to earn more influence and higher status. Opposing a king or choosing the wrong side in a conflict was often costly, though, and not one person lost their life when things went south. Still, the life of the nobles seems intriguing to us, even magical and hopefully many of us imagine what it could have been like to live in one of those opulent palaces surrounded by luxury and intrigues that made it a must for one to constantly look over their shoulder.
The palaces formerly occupied by noble and other high-status individuals are the stars of this guide. In addition to the places themselves, I also try to introduce you to some of the peculiarities connected to the social life in the past and provide some insight into why things look the way they do today.
Below, you get to discover noble palaces in all parts of Stockholm. Obviously, most of them are concentrated around the heart of the city but you might be surprised how many there are in other parts of the Swedish capital as well. And they are not all from the 17th century either.
Since there is no particular order in which you should explore these prominent residences, they are presented in alphabetical order.
Let’s begin at one of the first former private residences located on the Blasieholmen peninsula across the bay from the Royal Palace. The Bååt Palace (Bååtska palatset) was built during the latter half of the 17th century when land on the peninsula was commonly donated to eminent individuals with the idea of them building prominent structures showing off the power of Sweden there. This way, the Crown got a monumental façade for the capital in exchange for little more than land (which, by the way, they sometimes later confiscated).
The palace itself is one of the most notable works of the prominent architect Nicodemus Tessin the Older who designed several of Stockholm’s historic sites from this era.
A very different place can be seen on the southern side of Blasieholmen. The Bolinder Palace (Bolinderska palatset) with its beautifully decorated façade was built during an entirely different period. If you too are a fan of the late-19th-century architecture, you will enjoy this elegant house which is now a part of the Grand Hôtel.
If you are or decide to become somewhat familiar with the history of Stockholm, and Sweden in general, you will certainly come across the name of the original owner of the white residence known as Bonde Palace (Bondeska palatset). Now the seat of the Supreme Court, the palace comes from the era of the Swedish Empire. Unfortunately, Lord High Treasurer Gustav Bonde never got to see the work of a pair of renowned architects fully completed.
Coming back to more modern architecture, the Burman House (Burmanska huset) is yet another part of the monumental complex of buildings on the southern side of Blasieholmen belonging to the Grand Hôtel. It is only slightly more than a century old and you can notice that its façade, while far from undecorated, is clearly simpler compared to the one of its neighbour, the above-mentioned Bolinder Palace.
The inner parts of the Blasieholmen peninsula might be easier to miss and, therefore, I would like to bring extra attention to the Douglas Palace (Douglaska palatset) which is located only a stone’s throw from the Bååt Palace and even closer to one of the exits from the Kungsträdgården metro station. This palace features a unique combination of styles as it was originally designed by Tessin the Older in the 1600s but its modern-day façade is a result of a 19th-century reconstruction.
Not many places in Stockholm have such a prominent position, elevated from all the rest, as the Fersen Palace (Fersenska palatset). This place with a distinct yellow façade has an impressive history with some of its owners having been closely connected to not only Swedish but also the French Royals during some of the most turbulent times in modern history. Even in the modern age, Fersen Palace found its calling and today serves as the headquarters of a large Swedish bank.
The next place on the list is pretty unique thanks to its modern-day purpose which allows literally anyone to enjoy its premises. Fleming Palace (Flemingska palatset) comes from the mid-1600s when it was erected as the home of a member of the Privy Council Erik Fleming. On the outside, it is interesting to notice the contrast between the rusticated bottom floor and the two floors above which have plastered facades with pillars stretching over both of them.
Now to the most interesting part. Today, you would find a co-working space in the premises of the Fleming Palace so if you feel like your current work environment is not cool enough, here is a fancy alternative.
As you shall see throughout this guide, noble palaces constructed a few centuries ago are spread around all city parts surrounding the Royal Palace which has always been the central place in Stockholm. The first of several interesting places we visit on the Riddarholmen Island is the Hessenstein Palace (Hessensteinska palatset).
Much like most of its neighbours, Hessenstein Palace comes from the 17th century. You can notice that its style is rather simple compared to other buildings from those times. However, historical paintings remind us that the facades of this residence have been simplified over time. What is also interesting to know is that Hessenstein Palace has attracted a number of eminent residents who lived there at some point in time, including members of the Royal Family.
Proving that the Royals at some point owned many of the most impressive residences in the Swedish capital is also the next palace on my list. Karlberg Palace (Karlbergs slott) received most of its modern-day appearance in the 17th century when it was the home of Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie. The characteristic lakefront wings were only extended to their contemporary length in a later when the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, residing in the palace since 1796, needed additional space.
When I say palaces were built in all parts around the Royal Palace, it is interesting to recognise the hidden meaning each of these locations had. Just like today, the closer one lived to the centre, the more prominent his residence appeared and while some individuals chose to reside in the countryside in their lavish castles, most of those who had active affairs in Stockholm were building in central locations.
One could not get much closer to the town’s heart than Axel Oxenstierna did with his home. His former palace stands only metres from the walls of the Royal Palace which is somewhat symbolic considering the original owner’s standing in the society was only marginally lower than the head of state’s. Oxenstierna Palace we can admire today is only a part of the masterplan presented by architect Jean de la Vallée who had a much more grandiose vision in mind. The rest of it never saw the light of day, though.
Of course, with the number of monumental residences growing rapidly in the 17th century, both the owners and the architects needed to get creative to make each additional building stand out. The size of a house has always been important, but it later turned out that building bigger was not enough and facades were becoming more and more decorated instead.
A wonderful example of this is the Petersen House (Petersenska huset) whose façade features numerous ornaments and some of the most impressive stone portals I have seen. In other words, do not leave this place before properly exploring every single part of its exterior.
Speaking of beautiful portals, another such can be found surrounding the main entrance to the Ryning Palace (Ryningska palatset) not far from the Petersen House. In this case, though, the portal is one of very few decorative elements visible on the façade other than the wall anchors which, to be fair, also serve a practical purpose.
The first and only palace we visit on Strömgatan near the House of the Swedish Parliament is the unusual Sager House (Sagerska huset). Its modern-day design in French style comes from the turn of the twentieth century and the house really stands out thanks to its elegant, neatly decorated white façade despite the other palaces in the neighbourhood being significantly more massive. As a curiosity, you might like to know that before the last member of the Sager family passed away, Sager House was the last palace in the city centre serving as a private residence.
Pretty far away from the city centre with all its palaces and affairs, on the northern end of Drottninggatan is where the merchant Hans Petter Scheffler decided to build his residence at the turn of the 18th century. Scheffler Palace (Schefflerska palatset) has since become a mysterious place to which many haunting stories are connected. Are they true or not? I guess we will never find out which probably makes them even more intriguing.
Although Riddarholmen is a small islet, its historical street plan makes it easy to miss some of the places. One such place is the Schering Rosenhane Palace (Schering Rosenhanes palats) whose main building from the mid-1600s is now largely covered by the two wings that were added later during the 19th century. The contrast between the orange facades of the wings and the main building painted white is what adds that little bit of extra personality to this historic site.
Staying on Riddarholmen, there sits another private palace which shows that Stockholm architects were a creative bunch. Stenbock Palace (Stenbockska palatset) is easily recognisable for its distinct pink façade. The list of historical figures who resided at Stenbock Palace includes several members of the well-known Stenbock dynasty as well as Eric Brahe who lost his head near the palace too after an unsuccessful state coup.
I have mentioned another successful dynasty several times in this guide and for a good reason. Architects Nicodemus Tessin the Older and his son Nicodemus Tessin the Younger are responsible for many of the most impressive historic sites dating from the 17th and 18th century that you can find in Stockholm.
The latter of the two got to build one splendid residence for himself, too. Tessin Palace (Tessinska palatset) is one of those very few located on Slottsbacken in the imminent neighbourhood of the Royal Palace whose reconstruction the architect also led before his death. The elegant palace not only features a beautiful main portal, it also hides an extraordinary baroque garden behind its walls.
Even the Södermalm Island south of the historical Old Town has its fair share of palaces, several of which belonged to the Dutch community in Stockholm. One of the most notable ones is the van der Noot Palace located near Maria Magdalena Church and not far from Mariatorget.
Though we cannot be entirely certain about this, the design of the palace from the 1670s is commonly attributed to architect Jean de la Vallée. The original owner of the palace was also a member of the club of unfortunate individuals who never got to see their opulent residences fully finished.
Lastly, we come to a palace whose impressive design at the height of its fame could hardly be matched by any other. That was likely why the Royal Family chose it as their temporary residence for the duration of the reconstruction of the Royal Palace which burned down in the late 1600s. At the time, the Wrangel Palace (Wrangelska palatset), the former home of the accomplished general Carl Gustav Wrangel, featured an opulent baroque façade with a rich décor and an absolutely stunning main entrance from the lakeside which we now know only from historical paintings.