Sightseeing in Stockholm
Stockholm, with its 750,000 inhabitants, is by far the biggest city in Sweden. But, on an international scale, it’s not overwhelming in size for a visitor. Finding your way around the city is quite easy, but have a map handy at all times. Stockholm is one of the few cities in Sweden big enough to get lost in if you don’t know your way around. The good news is that many of the city’s districts are also islands. If you know which island you are on, you should be able to orient yourself. Only three of the districts, Norrmalm, Vasastan and Östermalm, all adjacent to each other, are not on an island.
The biggest island is Södermalm, connected in the north with Gamla Stan (Old Town). Södermalm used to be a district for the working class, but today it is one of the most popular places to live and visit. When you cross the bridge from Gamla Stan you have the famous Slussen lock directly underneath.
One of the best views in town is from Katarinahissen by the Slussen. This elevator became a huge attraction when it was inaugurated in 1883. In those days, before Kaknästornet and the City Hall were built, it was the best view anyone could get in the city and may actually still be today. If it suits your schedule, try to combine the view here with a meal at the restaurant Gondolen.
North of Gamla Stan is the city center. The black and white square called Sergels Torg is considered the center of the city and is just a short walk from the Central Train Station and Bus Terminal. Kulturhuset, with its glass exterior, and the tall glass pillar in the adjacent roundabout are two famous landmarks in Stockholm, both next to Sergels Torg, and easily recognized.
Norrmalm and Östermalm
Just north of here is Norrmalm, which in the early 17th century was a separate city, named Norra Förstaden (the Northern Suburb). Today it is a vibrant part of downtown. Vasastan, connected to Norrmalm in the west, is a little quieter and mainly residential.
Östermalm to the east is the upper-class area, with expensive apartments, shops and restaurants. Some of the most expensive apartments in the city are located on Strandvägen at the south end. At the end of the 19th century, this street was one of the worst slum areas in town, where homeless people and prostitutes hung out. So times have changed a bit since then.
Kungsholmen and the Stockholm City Hall
Kungsholmen, with the Stockholm City Hall as the big landmark, is the island to the west of the city center. It’s a popular place to live, especially with younger people. Kungsholmen is a quiet area and not the first place to recommend for shopping, dining or nightlife. It’s still worth spending a few hours sightseeing here while you’re in the neighborhood visiting the city hall – which is an absolute must when you’re in Stockholm.
Yes, visiting city hall is a touristy thing and is probably avoided as much by Stockholm natives as the Statue of Liberty is by New Yorkers for that reason. But they don’t know what they’re missing. The city hall is worth every bit of your time and effort.
Many might think that the best view in the city is from Kaknästornet, the tower on Djurgården, since it’s the tallest building. But the city hall is one of the prime spots to see this great city from above, with the possible exception of a hot air balloon. The building is 106 m (300 feet) high, which is one meter higher than the Copenhagen City Hall. Originally, it was designed to be the same height; when the architect of the Stockholm City Hall discovered this, he added an extra meter.
But the city hall is more than just a great view; it is also the home to the Nobel Prize ceremonies every year in December. This event takes place in Blå Hallen, one of the many impressive rooms you can see when you take the guided tour. Guided tours are offered every hour on the hour between 10 am and 3 pm in the summer and at 10 am and noon in the winter. Keep in mind that you must take a guided tour to enter; it is not possible to walk around on your own.
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