The Ultimate Guide to the Old Town of Stockholm (Gamla Stan): Part 2

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In the previous part of the Ultimate Guide to the Old Town of Stockholm, I showed you the best places to visit in the oldest core of the city bordered by Västerlånggatan on the west and Österlånggatan on the east.

Obviously, this part of the city centred around the Royal Palace of Stockholm is not particularly large which means that when the population of the city started growing, Stockholm had to expand beyond its original borders.

New buildings started growing in the outer parts of the Stadsholmen Island as well as on the surrounding islands including Riddarholmen and Helgeansholmen which are now officially parts of the historical Old Town (Gamla Stan).

We explore these areas in this detailed guide through 19 wonderful historical attractions. You will shortly see that, with one exception, places in these parts of Stockholm come from the period following the 1600s with many of them having been built in the 17th century by the nobility whose wealth was then greater than ever.

First up is the Strömbron Bridge which is not that old at all. This bridge was built in 1946 as a temporary solution that was meant to accommodate the growing traffic passing through Gamla Stan until the discussions regarding a permanent solution – either a tunnel or a bridge – were finalised. As it turns outs, the ‘provisional’ bridge is still in place more than 70 years later and it does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Strömbron BridgeStrömbron is a bridge in the historical centre of Stockholm connecting the Royal Palace with the King’s Garden (Kungsträdgården). It was built in 1946 as a ‘temporary’ solution to accommodate the growing car traffic in the Old Town.

Stockholm being the ‘Venice of the North,’ Strömbron is not the only bridge in the Old Town with an interesting story to tell. Only a stone’s throw away sits perhaps the most impressive one of them all. Norrbro (‘The North Bridge’), that was erected around the turn of the 19th century, is the oldest stone bridge in Stockholm and at the time of its construction, it was a technological masterpiece whose construction required skills beyond those the contemporary Swedish architects possessed. You can also find the Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Medeltidsmuseet) under the bridge where you can get acquainted with the distant history of Stockholm.

NorrbroNorrbro or the ‘North Bridge‘ is the only remaining stone bridge in Stockholm. The bridge in its entirety was opened in late 1807. At the time, it was considered one of Stockholm‘s most technically advanced constructions.

All these narrow streets and bridges in the Old Town might give you the impression that everything looks somewhat the same. Try looking at the world around you from a different perspective from Strömparterren and you will rediscover its beauty. Strömparterren is a terrace located on the eastern end of the Helgeandsholmen island accessible from the Norrbro Bridge. It sits essentially at the water level below all other streets which creates the unique sensation that you can only feel at this place.

StrömparterrenStrömparterren is a little park located on the western end of the Helgeandsholmen island. It is built just above the water level, which enables you to see the historical city centre and the nearby Parliament House from a different perspective.

If you turn around at Strömparterren, you will get to see a few of the most monumental buildings in Stockholm. One of these is the massive Parliament House (Riksdagshuset) which comes from the early 20th century. While the building complex originally housed two different institutions – the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riksdag) and the National Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank) – today it is solely occupied by the Parliament. Notice the main portal on the eastern side and make sure to stroll across Riksgatan which passes between the two parts of the building complex.

Swedish Parliament HouseThe Swedish Parliament House in Stockholm was built in the early 20th century and currently occupies the Helgeandsholmen island almost in its entirety. It is one of the most notable buildings in the city centre with a plenty of interesting details.

On the northern end of Riksgatan, you will meet the Riksbron Bridge. While the bridge was first proposed by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger in the early 1700s, it only became a reality at the beginning of the 20th century. The current bridge was designed by Ragnar Östberg whose most renowned masterpiece, Stockholm City Hall, is beautifully seen from Riksbron in the distance.

RiksbronRiksbron bridge is a bridge connecting Drottninggatan street with Riksgatan passing between the Eastern and the Western wings of the Parliament House. Views from the bridge on all sides are stunning as you can see many of the city‘s historic sites.

Back on Stadsholmen, the Mynttorget square (‘The Mint Square’) is surrounded by beautiful buildings. One that is particularly worth your attention is the so-called Kanslihuset. This house stands in the location of the former Royal Mint which gave the square its name. The building, also used by the Parliament today, has been rebuilt many times but its main façade with the majestic tall columns facing Mynttorget has survived centuries.

KanslihusetKanslihuset is a building complex at Mynttorget used by the Swedish Government. Originally, there was a Royal Mint built in the 17th century, after which the ‘Mint square‘ is named.

A place that you are almost guaranteed to miss if you do not look for it awaits you only a few dozen metres from Kanslihuset. Brantingtorget (‘The Square of Branting’) is likely the most well-hidden square in the Old Town if not in all of Stockholm. It gives you a chance to rewind in peace and also admire the statue of ‘Morning’ which dominates the square.

Square of BrantingSquare of Branting (Brantingtorget) is a round square hidden in the middle of a building complex used by the Swedish Government. The statue called ‘Morning‘ is the dominant of the square.

As Stockholm was gaining more and more influence on the international scene and its population was getting richer, many of its prominent residents were building their new homes right at the edge of the Old Town starting from the 17th century. One such resident was Lord High Treasurer of Sweden Baron Gustav Bonde. Bonde Palace (Bondeska Palatset), built in the 1660s and 1670s, can be considered a joined work of two of the all-time best Stockholm architects, Jean de la Vallée and Nicodemus Tessin the Younger.

Bonde PalaceThe Bonde Palace (Bondeska palatset) belongs to the most impressive palaces in Stockholm. It was built for the nobleman and statesman Baron Gustav Bonde by some of the greatest architects in the history of Sweden in 1673. Today it houses the Supreme Court.

Once again stressing the importance of bridges for modern life in Stockholm, we are about to explore the Vasabron Bridge which begins right behind the Bonde Palace. Vasabron was completed in 1878 when it also gave a more respected position on the city landscape to the long-overlooked Strömsborg Island standing right next to it.

Vasabron BridgeVasabron is a bridge stretching from the Norrmalm district to the Old Town, where it ends right between two of the most beautiful palaces in Stockholm, Binde Palace and the House of Nobility.

Strömsborg is not only a place that has been overlooked for centuries, it is also the smallest island in Stockholm. Perhaps that is what caused its unpopularity back in the days of Queen Christina in the 1600s. The island is named after the man who turned it from an abandoned place to an impressive residence, Berge Ström. His original intentions were not exactly noble, though. Strömsborg simply disturbed his views from Birger Jarl’s tower he had purchased earlier so he decided to acquire and prettify this place too.

StrömsborgStrömsborg is a small islet between Norrmalm and Gamla Stan. In the past it was so unpopular that it used to be left out from the city maps. It was actually meant to insult the queen‘s half-brother when she gave it to him.

Across the road from the Bonde Palace I introduced you to a while ago, you will find potentially the most splendid of all palaces in Stockholm. The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) was built as the home of the Swedish Nobility in the latter half of the 17th century by the best of architects living in Stockholm at the time. Every detail from the façade through the sculptures on the roof to the inscriptions below it was carefully planned and executed to create this absolute architectural masterpiece.

Apart from the main building, two additional wings, standing north of the palace, belong to the property. Moreover, you will find a couple of interesting statues on both sides. In front of the main entrance, there is the first public statue in Sweden displaying Gustav Vasa and, in the back, a statue of none other than the great Axel Oxenstierna stands.

House of NobilityThe House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) in Stockholm opened in 1668 is the former seat of the Swedish Nobility. Today, the palace, which belongs to the prettiest in the city, is where records of the nobility are stored.

While we are on the topic of extraordinary facades, let’s have a peek at the Petersen House (Petersenska Huset). This 17th-century residence shows off what the masters of their time were capable of. Simply notice the staggering portals and other stone decorations on the façade and you will immediately understand what I mean.

Petersen HouseThe Petersen House, even known as the Piper House, is a historical palace with one of the most gorgeous facades in the Old Town of Stockholm. It was built in the mid-17th century and has been owned by several notable individuals, including royals, since.

Coming to the only island in the Old Town we have not explored yet, you must be impressed by one of the oldest buildings in town, the Riddarholm Church (Riddarholmskyrkan). The red-brick church from the end of the 13th century with its tower visible from every corner of the city is an absolute gem. As if its historical value was not enough, it was long used as the burial church of the Swedish Royal Family, which means it became the last resting place of generations of kings and queens.

Riddarholmen, too, was a popular place among the Swedish noblemen during the era of the Swedish Empire. The island is literally packed with historical noble palaces and the first that you will meet when crossing the Riddarholmsbron Bridge is the Hessenstein House (Hessensteinska Huset). This palace has a fairly simple façade compared to others from the era. However, it has also accommodated a number of influential individuals over the centuries.

Hessenstein PalaceHessenstein Palace is one of the 17th-century noble residences standing on the Riddarholmen Island. The property was originally owned by the Oxenstierna dynasty and, for some time, it was even used as a temporary royal residence.

A place with a particularly distinct style sits right next to the Hessenstein Palace. Stenbock Palace (Stenbockska palatset) is yet another noble residence from the 1600s. It is considered the most well-preserved palace on Riddarholmen and with its pink façade in near-perfect condition it certainly stands its ground firmly among the tough competition.

Stenbock PalaceStenbock Palace (Stenbockska palatset) is likely the best-preserved noble palace on the Riddarholmen Island. It was built in the first half of the 17th century and its bright facade decorated with numerous wall anchors adorns the island to this day.

A significantly more modern building is the Old National Archives of Sweden (Gamla Riksarkivet) facing the Riddarholm Canal (Riddarholmskanalen). Just like Stenbock Palace, though, this building is one of the most prominent representatives of its era in Stockholm. Very little has changed at this place since the late 1800s which gives you a rare opportunity to go back in time.

Old National ArchivesOld Swedish National Archives on Riddarholmen is one of the most well-preserved buildings from the late 1800s in entire Europe. Essentially no modifications have been made to the structure which was born as a technological and architectural masterpiece.

The appearance of perhaps the most massive 17th-century palace in Stockholm, on the other hand, has changed quite a lot since its completion. Wrangel Palace (Wrangelska Palatset) used to stand directly on the coast with stairs from its terrace essentially leading directly to the water. While the façade has been simplified noticeably, this historic site is still more than worthy of your visit.

Wrangel PalaceWrangel Palace standing on the Riddarholmen island is one of Stockholm‘s most massive palaces. Its looks come largely from the 17th century although the palace has been simplified significantly. Today, it houses the Svea Court of Appeal.

Just behind Wrangel Palace, you will find one of the latest additions to the landscape of Riddarholmen. Evert Taube’s Terrace (Evert Taubes terras), named after a Swedish artist, gives you a chance to not only admire the structures on Riddarholmen, it also provides you with some of the best views of Stockholm City Hall across the lake and is a great place for taking pictures of the surrounding islands in tranquillity.

Evert Taube‘s TerraceLocated on the western side of the Riddarholmen Island, Evert Taube’s Terrace gives you some of the best views of the world-famous Stockholm City Hall. The terrace is named after the Swedish artist Evert Taube whose statue is displayed at the location.

Finally, we conclude this tour around the most interesting places in the Old Town of Stockholm by visiting the first seat of the Swedish Parliament and the building that accommodated already its predecessor, the Riksdag of the Estates. The Old Parliament House (Gamla Riksdagshuset) completed in 1833 has a massive yet elegant style and its southern portal featuring the well-known symbol of Sweden, the three crowns, fits the structure nicely.

Old Parliament HouseThe Old Parliament House located on the Riddarholmen island is the former seat of the Swedish Parliament and its predecessor, the Riksdag of the Estates, which resided there since 1833.
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