Sea views, just like beautiful views of lakes, add something extra to the attractiveness of a city. All the water also brings a plenty of practical benefits to everyday lives of the city’s residents. It all comes at a price, though. One is essentially lost without being able to move across the water and using a boat can not only be costly and impractical, sometimes it is straight impossible.
That is why bridges are and always have been so essential for cities built on water, especially when they stretch over multiple islands. Bridges determine which parts of the city grow and develop further and which are left behind. Their quality determines what modes of transportation people living on either side can use, what businesses they can run. When they fail, it not only causes great discomfort, it threatens lives.
In this guide, we discover the most interesting bridges connecting the 14 islands forming the city of Stockholm.
Although the history of bridges in Stockholm is as long as the history of ‘Venice of the North’ itself, we begin with one of the modern bridges. Centralbron Bridge (‘The Central Bridge’) completed in the 1960s was a purely practical addition to Stockholm infrastructure with little regard to aesthetics. It is easy to see why the bridge received a lot of criticism as this structure made of concrete brought the busy car and train traffic to the well-preserved historical city centre.
Perhaps the most beautiful of bridges in Stockholm is Djurgårdsbron Bridge stretching from Strandvägen to the magical island of Djurgården. Over the centuries, there have been many different bridges allowing the citizens to access the island but the current one was completed just in time for the 1897 Stockholm Exhibition (Stockholmsutställningen).
Following the example of contemporary bridges in continental Europe, the Djurgårdsbron Bridge features a number of sculptures on tall pillars on both sides of the road. These depict figures from the Norse mythology. Apart from cars and pedestrians, the bridge is also used by trams on their way to Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde (Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde).
An interesting double bridge will help you get from the nice promenade on the northern side of the Kungsholmen Island to Norrmalm and back. Kungsbron Bridge (‘The King’s Bridge’) stretches over Klara Lake (Klara Sjö) and the current structure dates from the 1940s, though a wooden bridge used to connect the two city parts as early as the 1880s.
Coming to more historical places, we explore another gem among the bridges connecting the islands forming Stockholm. The Norrbro Bridge (‘The North Bridge’) was completed in the early 1800s as a technological masterpiece. Its structure was so advanced at the time that the architects leading the construction had to ask their foreign colleagues for help as no one in Sweden had prior experience with building such a structure made of stone.
This inexperience eventually resulted in the bridge looking slightly different from the plans according to which it was built. Also interesting to know is that the Norrbro Bridge is the place where Stockholm’s first sidewalk strictly meant for pedestrians was built. Today, you would find the entrance to the Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Stockholms medeltidsmuseum) under the only remaining bridge entirely made of stone in the Swedish capital.
The story of the Riksbron Bridge connecting Drottninggatan to the Helgeandsholmen island is much longer than the history of the present-day bridge. It was in 1712 when King Karl XII first proposed the construction of a bridge in the location. Plans created by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger resembled what we can see there today, with one bridge on each side of Helgeandsholmen.
These were, however, never executed as Sweden was at a tough war at the time and the era of economic prosperity of the country was coming to its end. The idea was revisited nearly 200 years later, and the first temporary solution was built in 1907. This was replaced by the present-day bridge in the early 1930s, less than 50 years before all car traffic was banned from the bridge after the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riksdag) took over the western wing of the building complex on Helgeandsholmen in the ‘70s.
Even though the island of Skeppsholmen is not at all far from the Old Town (Gamla stan), there is only one way to get to the island that does not involve a boat. The Skeppsholmsbron Bridge is a single-lane bridge with sidewalks on both sides of the road whose appearance hints on what you can expect to find on its other end.
The bridge is elegant, slightly decorated, and tranquil, especially when speaking about the car traffic passing through it. Moreover, it offers some of the most beautiful views of the Old Town, as well as Strandvägen, from this perspective.
Whereas the Riksbron Bridge connect Riksgatan to Drottninggatan, Stallbron Bridge on the other side of Helgeandsholmen connects the former street to Mynttorget and, consequently, to Västerlånggatan – one of the major streets in the Old Town.
Interesting to notice is the tunnel known as Rännarbanan allowing government employees to move between the islands under the ground of the pedestrian bridge.
Provisional solutions sometimes turn out to last for much longer than they were planned to. This is the case of Strömbron Bridge which connects the Royal Palace of Stockholm to Kungsträndgården (‘The King’s Garden’).
It was opened in 1946 as a temporary solution to help spread the heavy traffic passing through the Old Town at the time while the discussions about a permanent solution were still ongoing. Plans to connect the two city parts by a tunnel fell apart though, and the bridge which has been strengthened during multiple restorations over the decades since its inauguration still stands in its place today.
If I were to pick the most beautiful bridge in Stockholm, the 19th-century Vasabron Bridge connecting the Old Town to Norrmalm would be a very serious contestant. More than 200 metres long, Vasabron was completed in 1878 after an earlier failed attempt.
Although the bridge has undergone numerous reconstructions over the years, it has preserved its elegant, subtly decorated design dominated by low arches and elegant lampposts. As you might be able to guess, the bridge is named after King Gustav Vasa whose statue stands near the southern end of Vasabron in the courtyard of the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset).
When the population of Stockholm grew rapidly around the turn of the 20th century, it became clear that adding more bridges connecting the Old Town to other parts of the city would not cut it. One of the bridges that were meant to unload the congested historical city centre was Västerbron (‘The Western Bridge’).
It connects the islands of Södermalm and Långholmen to Kungsholmen but what might be most interesting is the panoramic views of the Old Town from this 600-metre-long bridge whose highest part sits at 26 metres above the water.