Parks are places where we relax, places where we meet our friends and our families. Parks are where we, the city people, get in touch with what at the very least seems like real, untouched nature. Sometimes they are places dominated by large meadows, sometimes they are homes of beautiful flower beds and even statues and fountains that connect these little pieces of nature with the urban environment.
They are always green, though, and they are a must for every modern city for its residents to feel good in their hometown. Perhaps paradoxically, parks are at the top of my list of favourite places in cities around the world and in this guide, I hope to help you discover your most favourite park in the wonderful Swedish capital, Stockholm.
We begin at a place which appears beautifully curated and almost perfectly natural at the same time. As Bergius Botanic Garden (Bergianska trädgården) is located in a somewhat remote area known as Frescati, you are unlikely to run into it by accident, so I recommend you include it in your itinerary and save some time for your visit which will be well worth it. While the outside areas of the botanic garden are free to access, you have the option to visit a number of greenhouses there, too, for a small fee.
The island of Djurgården, which is essentially one big park, is located right in the centre of Stockholm. Strictly speaking, there are several individual parks on the island but in this guide, I would like to include this green oasis as a single place.
On Djurgården, you get to enjoy the wonderful scenery with sea views from all sides of the island, a number of world-class museums, and even some extraordinary historic sites. All in all, I would not want to miss this place if I were you.
Although historical sources say that the glory days of the next park are long gone, do not despair. Haga Park (Hagaparken) is still an amazing park to visit and an extraordinarily well-preserved memory of the glorious plans King Gustav III once designed for this place. The park was built in the English style which makes it ideal for a nice day with you dear ones, perhaps having a little barbeque of your own.
You do not need to bring sausages to enjoy Haga Park, though, as the historic sites such as Gustav III’s Pavilion (Gustav III:s paviljongen), the Copper Tents (Koppartälten), and the Echo Temple (Ekotemplet) are at least equally exciting.
Now to a different kind of park. While until now we have discovered parks that are essentially detached from the modern urban development, this is not the case of the Högalid Park (Högalidsparken) located in the western part of the Södermalm Island. The park is dominated by the monumental Högalid Church (Högalidskyrkan) which is one of the foremost representatives of the National Romantic architecture in Stockholm.
If you would rather visit a park that has been around for a little longer, you might be interested in getting to know Humlegården. Humlegården (‘The Hop Garden’) was established in the 17th century by the king himself to support hop production which was insufficient at the time to keep up with the demand for beer.
A lot has changed since the 1600s, though, and these days Humlegården is a very pleasant public park, the home to the National Library of Sweden (Kungliga Biblioteket), as well as a popular playground for the younger visitor.
Among green places, probably the most characteristic of Stockholm are the so-called ‘hill parks.’ These are parks that were introduced in a city plan from the 1860s when a committee of experts was tasked with making Stockholm ready for the future. The parks were meant to be places where the quickly expanding population of the capital could rewind after a tough day at work and stay in touch with their rural roots.
One of the best and prettiest examples of hill parks in Stockholm is Kronobergsparken located near the Court House on Kungsholmen. From the top of this cosy park, you can get nice views of the surrounding neighbourhood while at the same time admiring the beautiful sunsets in summer months. Here, too, there is a playground if that is something for you.
Perhaps the noblest of them all is the park whose face has changed many times over the centuries. Once a place accessible solely to the Royals and their guests, later a prominent place where you would discover the latest fashion trends, Kungsträdgården (‘The King’s Garden’) is a beautiful park just across the bridge from the Royal Palace.
Apart from cherry trees blossoming during spring months, Kungsträdgården offers statues of two former kings, a historical fountain and is a perfect starting point for your explorations of the city centre.
Not far from the northern end of Kungsträdgården, you would find the beginning of the most prominent promenade in Stockholm. Walking to its other side while admiring stunning views of the bay and monumental architecture on the other side, you would eventually end up in Nobelparken named after the world-famous inventor, Alfred Nobel. Although the plan to build the Nobel Palace there never came to fruition, there is no shortage of staggering houses to admire from the waterfront promenade stretching along the park.
Alfred Nobel was not the only prominent scientist coming from Sweden. In fact, Sweden had become the leading scientific powerhouse already during the century prior to Nobel’s important discoveries. The Royal Swedish Academy was established in the mid-1700s and the first institution owned by the organisation was what is now known as Stockholm Old Observatory (Gamla observatoriet).
At the time of completion a ground-breaking structure, the observatory building now dominates Observatorielunden, a fairly large hill park in the colourful Vasastan district. Apart from the observatory, the park is the home to Stockholm Public Library (Stockholm stadsbiblioteket) and many nice benches surrounding a pond near which you can enjoy a snack or just a little break in this beautiful part of Stockholm.
Very close to Observatorielunden, there is a much smaller yet very interesting park. Spökparken (‘Ghost Park’), named after the palace surrounded by mystery standing on its edge, is not only the place where many of the spooky stories supposedly originated, it is also a nice historical park hidden among the many impressive buildings surrounding Drottninggatan.
To show you that even the hill parks are not all the same, we now continue to Tantolunden located on the western side of the Södermalm Island. Parts of this beautiful park are formed by cosy allotment areas while down below the hills, you will find a nice long promenade, as well as beaches with enjoyable views. Numerous paths crossing the park are lined with benches but you are, of course, also welcome to sit on the grass and enjoy Tantolunden from a different perspective.
In contrast with Tantolunden, which is one of the biggest parks in Stockholm, Tegnérlunden in Norrmalm was built as the smallest park in town. While many things have changed since the 1890s and other small parks have popped up across the city, Tegnérlunden has preserved its cosy atmosphere enchanted by the elegant facades in its neighbourhood.
By now, it should be clear that hill parks play an important role in the landscape of Stockholm’s inner city. Proving this point is Vanadislunden which can be said to be located in the corner of the Vasastan district and separating the colourful residential area from big roads leading to and from the city. Not only can you get beautiful views from the top of the park, there is also a couple of unique historic sites for you to discover.
First, the stone St. Stephen’s Church (Stefanskyrkan) is awaiting you near the southern entrance to the park and then, up on the hill, you will meet a massive red-brick structure which originally featured a façade similar to that of the church. This is the Vanadislunden Water Reservoir (Vanadislundens vattenreservoar).
Passing by Stockholm Public Library and Odenplan, the home to Gustav Vasa Church (Gustav Vasa kyrka), you can quickly get from Vanadislunden to Vasaparken. Vasaparken is a park particularly welcoming to children but you can also enjoy it on your own or with a bunch of friends. Apart from the big and unique playground, the park offers wonderful landscape views of Sankt Eriksplan from the hills on the western side and beautiful architecture in its imminent neighbourhood, both historical and modern.
Right when you thought nothing could surprise you, we arrive at Vitabergsparken. What makes this place in eastern Södermalm truly stand out is the historical houses preserved from the era when this part of the city housed the poorest of the poor. Thanks to establishing a cultural preserve in the area in 1956, history is still alive at this place dominated by Sofia Church (Sofia kyrka) standing up on the hill as a symbol of hope for the neighbourhood.
The park, which is also in a way an open-air museum, features a plenty to see including the Music Pavilion and an amphitheatre where you might be able to enjoy a performance during warmer months of the year when the sunbeams light up the park.