22 Photos That Will Convince You to Visit Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, ASAP
I have a lot of love for Stockholm as a city. When I studied abroad in Rome in college, Stockholm was the first weekend trip I took with a group of friends. On my travels over the years, I’ve ended up in Stockholm two more times making it my most visited city in Europe….and it’s totally worth it. Although Scandinavia is more expensive than much of Europe, Stockholm is a gorgeous place to simply wander the streets. Known as the “Venice of the North”, the city is made of multiple islands, so you know there’s going to be many small alleyways and winding paths all around town. I most recently spent 24 hours in Stockholm after exploring further north in Abisko, Sweden in search of the Northern Lights. As always, Stockholm proved to be the city experience I desperately needed after almost a week in rural Swedish Lapland. Staying in the JumboStay Hotel (a literal hotel in an airplane) near Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, we were able to spend a full day in the city.
By far my favorite part of Stockholm is the Old Town or Gamla Stan, where Stockholm got its start in 1522. Many locals see this as a touristy area but it’s everything I could dream of in a Scandinavian city. The colorful old Swedish buildings around every corner have a charm to them that I can’t deny. This area is perfect for photos, with many buildings sporting various shades of gold and yellow. The Stortorget is the oldest and most popular town square located in Gamla Stan, also known for its colorful buildings. Stockholm almost feels a bit like Italy, except instead of grabbing pasta on every block, you can have Swedish meatballs and local fresh fish. YUM. The whole area is filled with buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, meaning it’s one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in the world. So if you’ve ever felt like taking a walk through history, this place is for you.
Tour a Gorgeous Palace
The heart of Gamla Stan is the Royal Palace of Stockholm. Open for tours year-round, it’s one of the largest palaces in the world and houses multiple museums including ones of armor and royal clothing and costumes. The building also holds the offices of the King of Sweden and the Swedish Royal family. Therefore, all around the building, you’ll find the typical non-flinching armed guards that you would see at other palaces around Europe. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a chance to see the changing of the guard, which is definitely a sight to behold. The inside of the palace is one of luxury and lavish decorations. Gold accents adorn many of the walls, pillars and sconces. Multiple windows give you picturesque views of the perfectly coiffed gardens and landscaping outside on the inner grounds. If you’re traveling in Europe, you’ve gotta check out a palace! And this one won’t disappoint!
Check Out the Grand Hotel
Across the water from Gamla Stan stands the impressive Grand Hotel, a 5-star hotel, and a pride of Stockholm. Built in 1874, it has become the place to stay for celebrities and world leaders traveling through the city, including Frank Sinatra and Martin Luther King. The first Nobel Prize banquet was held at the hotel in 1901 and ever since, the nominees and their families have stay within one of its over 300 rooms.
If you want a view of Gamla Stan, and an excuse to walk through the front doors of this magnificent hotel, swing by the Grand Cafe for the Swedish tradition of Fika. I first learned all about the magic of Fika while in the north of Sweden but it’s definitely something you can enjoy in a big city like Stockholm as well. What is Fika you ask? Essentially it’s a coffee (or tea) break paired with a pastry or sweet. It’s a time that Swedish people enjoy in order to take a moment away from their hectic lives, not just making time for a coffee break, but for a mental break as well. With the hustle and bustle of traveling, there’s no better advice from the locals then Fika to really reflect on your trip (over some caffeine and sugar, of course).
Gamla Stan is definitely my favorite part of Stockholm that I can never get enough of every time I visit. The best way to explain it is a living museum, complete with cobblestone streets, stunning architecture and food options on food options on food options. However, there is still so much more to explore in the city. Notable stops include the Vassa Museum, which is home to an actual Viking ship you can tour, and the museum dedicated to the most popular band from Sweden: Abba. Whether you spend multiple days in town or you’re visiting only briefly during a layover to elsewhere in Europe, Stockholm is filled with so many things to do.