- Vasabron Bridge connects the Old Town of Stockholm and the Norrmalm district
- It was built between 1872 and 1878
- The length of the bridge is 208 metres and the sail height is less than 2 metres
- It is named after King Gustav Vasa
I have previously introduced you to a couple of the most interesting historical bridges in central Stockholm including the Norrbro, Riksbron, and Djurgårdsbron. In this post, it is time to discover yet another intriguing story of a bridge allowing Stockholmers and visitors alike to move from one island forming the ‘Venice of the North’ to another.
For a long time, the Norrbro bridge was the only permanent connection between the Old Town (Gamla stan) and the Norrmalm district, which now forms the modern part of the city centre. First serious proposals for a bridge located west of the existing ones appeared in the last couple of decades of the first half of the nineteenth century.
Samuel Owen, owner of a mechanical workshop with experience from the shipbuilding industry, came up with a proposal for a pedestrian suspension bridge. The construction of the bridge, that was meant to stand slightly further east than the today’s bridge does, started after Owen had reached an agreement with the city.
However, the construction works were halted fairly quickly as Owen went bankrupt. After that, an architectural contest was announced to pick a new design and an architect responsible for the process. While architect Chiewits was selected as a winner in 1848, the actual works on his proposed structure have never started.
Despite several additional proposals coming to life in the following years, it took two decades until a decision was made to build the modern-day Vasabron bridge. The authorities decided that the bridge should stretch from Riddarhustorget, next to the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset), to Tegelbacken on the edge of Norrmalm near Stockholm Central Station.
Another architectural contest was then announced with a clear set of requirements. The bridge was supposed to be neat and durable, 18 metres wide and made of iron or steel. Two winning designs resulted from the contest and the construction started a few years later, in 1872.
During the construction, the authorities considered widening Riddarhusgränden street passing between the House of Nobility and the Bonde Palace (Bondeska palatset) from 9 to 18 metres. However, that would mean the road would pass through the land on which the Bonde Palace stands, which would consequently need to be demolished.
Fortunately, they decided against this proposal and therefore, it is only possible to drive one way on the road between the two palaces. The 208-metre-long bridge was completed in 1878. It has seven spans, the longest of which is almost 32 metres long. The road was made of wood supported by a construction built using concrete while the sidewalks were covered in asphalt.
Vasabron received its name after King Gustav Vasa whose statue stands near its southern end at the gardens of the House of Nobility. Thanks to the fact that there is no vessel traffic north of the Old Town, the bridges in this area can be relatively low, just like Vasabron bridge with its sail height reaching less than two metres.
As early as in 1906, the structure of the bridge needed to be strengthened because of the introduction of electric trams. Most of the work during this reconstruction could be carried out from under the bridge, though, which meant that the traffic was mostly undisturbed.
Around fifteen years later, the structure was tested thoroughly to ensure it complied with contemporary safety standards. Through a set of test loads, measurements of the deflection of the iron construction and horizontal offset of the pillars, it was revealed that the bridge needed strengthening once again. Although an idea to demolish the bridge completely was on the table, another reconstruction took place shortly afterwards to enhance the bridge’s safety.
Once again in the mid-1970s, the rust damage on the bridge’s construction was so severe that a prompt reparation was required. The Bridge was hence closed for a couple of years following 1977 when this thorough reconstruction began.
Because of all these and other issues that appeared during the construction of the Vasabron and required many renovations, it became colloquially known as the ‘Rage Bridge.’ Among those that I have not mentioned yet is the collapse of a significant part of the Helgeandsholmen island’s quay that was likely caused by the works on the bridge.
Apart from the last-mentioned incident, most of the issues related to the Vasabron were results of the heavy tram traffic passing through the bridge. Even though you will not find any trams on the bridge today, it still has to deal with substantial car traffic and many buses every day. For all of these reasons, yet another reconstruction took place in 2004 which was the most recent one for now.
It is obvious, that the life of the Vasabron bridge is pretty tough but it nevertheless keeps its unique place on Stockholm’s city landscape. In other words, the historical city centre would never be the same without this subtly decorated structure that helps make the everyday lives of many Stockholmers and visitors of the city just a little easier.
Next time when you walk or drive on this bridge, think of all the things it has had to survive until that day to still carry you over the water. You do not have to wait until then to share this story with your friends and colleagues who you think will find it interesting. To never miss a new story from Trevl, simply sign up for our newsletter below.
We also post about all our news on our Facebook page and share beautiful images of our favourite places to visit in Stockholm and other European cities on Instagram, so make sure to stop by and say hello.
Dufwa, Arne, 1985. Trafik, broar, tunnelbanor, gator.
Geijerstam, Bengt af, Unge, Ingemar, 2005. Över Stockholms vatten.