Stockholm: Sweden’s Eccentric and Cultured Capital

Sweden may have a reputation as one of the most modern and progressive nations on Earth, but its capital, Stockholm—spread across 14 islands—still manages to preserve its past in resplendent style.

At the heart of the city stands the Royal Palace, the magnificent residence of Sweden’s much-loved monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf. This glorious, baroque-style building, open to the public, houses King Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, with over 200 stone sculptures from across Europe.

The daily spectacle of the royal changing of the guards—the guards dazzling in bright blue uniforms, silver-pointed helmets, and swords at the ready—is also something to behold.

Another must-see within the palace confines is the Royal Armory Museum. You’ll find an opulent array of state ceremonial coaches, which in centuries past carried princes and princesses on their wedding days. Fearsome suits of armor, weaponry, and funeral garments are also exhibited, if you prefer more gruesome fare.

King Gustav II Adolph, known as the “Lion of the North,” is represented by his bloody shirt, ripped from his corpse at the Battle of Lützen in 1632. The hide of his dead horse, Streiff, was stretched over a carved wooden steed of Streiff’s proportions. This grim tribute to an equine hero can also be seen at the museum. If you’re interested in seeing more, check out their website.

Stockholm has a well-developed café culture, and there’s no shortage of great eateries to choose from. After checking out the museums, I stopped off at Ersta Terrass on Fjällgatan, a cliff-top street from which you get great views of the city. Seated at my balcony table as the sun set on the shimmering waterfront, I marveled at one of the finest views of Stockholm. I had my fill of homemade bread, herrings, and capers, washed down with a generous glass or two (well, let’s call it three) of excellent wine.

ABBA is undoubtedly Sweden’s most famous musical export, so no visit to Stockholm would be complete without a fun (if cheesy) visit to the ABBA Museum. Here you can fulfill your popstar dreams (of sorts) and experience showbiz as the fifth ABBA band member. Visitors can buy holograms of themselves warbling with the band, which are recorded for re-run enjoyment (or, in my case, embarrassment) in the comfort of their home.

Image ©iStock/adisa

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