Just as important to UNESCO was the Court theatre next to the palace. Built in Lovisa Ulrika's days on the site of an older palace theatre, it was completed in 1766, during the height of Swedish enlightenment, and the stage and its Italian machinery looks exactly the same today as it did then. In the 1770s, it saw its glory days under the "theatre king" Gustaf III and anything from pantomimes to opera was played here. As the king was murdered (incidentally in another theatre), theatre going fell out of fashion in Sweden and it wasn't until the 1920s that the theatre at Drottningholm was renovated again but then it was done gently. There are still performances regularly again but for financial reasons not as many as there used to be a decade ago as the trust running the theatre gets less government funding. Visitors are welcome from May to September (see webpage below).
Next to the theatre in Duke Carl's Pavilion is a museum dedicated to it. I have actually never visited it (funnily enough since I grew up in various theatres) so I have no personal reflections, but it is a part of the general Swedish Theatre Museum. It is open May to September just like the theatre itself and also has a museum shop.
There has been a castle in this village since medieval days (see next tip) but Svartsjö as it looks today was built in 1734-39 as the old castle burnt down in 1687. Such a castle was no longer needed out here, so the new castle was instead built as a hunting lodge for queen Ulrika Eleonora (you will recognise her name from Drottningholm). There was already a moat, which is empty today, and a park landscape for hunting. Famous architect Carl Hårleman was asked to do the job and came up with what is known as Sweden's first Rococo castle, painted light yellow to imitate the French sandstone. That is why it is amazing that it's not more well-known and visited! Such a shame in my opinion, but read on and learn why. In the early days, the castle was frequently used and in the 1770s, architect Adelcrantz (yes, the theatre one) was asked to come up with the wings as there was need for space for royal children too.
After its heydays, the castle fell into a state of neglect and the state took over it which is why between 1891 and 1965, it was used as a prison for alcoholics, unemployed and similar "criminals" who were used for prison labour. Then the prison walls were torn down and today, there is hardly a trace of them. Instead, there is a small prison on the other side of the village, by the famous viking runestone. This sad time had however led to all the interior being torn out and removed, not just lose things. In 1995-2002, extensive repair works have therefore been carried out to restore the castle to its former glory (even though a prison cell has also been reconstructed to remind people of a part of the castle history). This has been a success with new wallpaper and furniture made in the old style. The only issue now is what to do with it. The state still owns it but the tenants plan to open some sort of cafe and during our summer visit, nothing at all was open. Meanwhile, a stroll through the unique and mysterious grounds is very nice. I will update this tip when I know more.
Next to the castle are the overgrown ruins of an older castle in the form of a Vasa fortress. This was a royal mansion already at 1345 and had a 15th century stone fortress but king Gustav Vasa built an impressive Renaissance castle here along with his sons. One of them was Erik XIV whose daughter Sigrid Vasa Eriksdotter was even born here. The castle burnt down in 1687 though, and due to growth of Stockholm its bricks were instead used to build the Tre Kronor Castle in the city instead - which has in turn been replaced by Stockholm's Royal Palace after yet another fire. You cannot see much of the grounds today but it is still interesting as it shows the importance of the site when castle after castle have been built here. One of the nicest viking runestones in County Stockholm can be found east of the castle area too so as you see, it has been inhabited for a long time.
This place needs to be seen as I cannot explain the special atmosphere. Everywhere you turn there are viking burial mounds and memories. You walk around with an archeologist guide and ponder on why the town was abandoned in the 10th century. Then you can visit the exhibition and even go for a swim before returning with your boat. An alternative is a walk around the whole island and take in more but make sure you know when your boat leaves. You will also find memories of St Ansgar who lived here 831 and Christened the heathen Swedes. In fact, this has a bit of a "Swedish Iona" feel to it. Bring a picnic for a great day out and avoid the café crowds and prices. Below you can read what UNESCO wrote...
Not as good as it sounds as there is nothing but the foundation traces left of this once so important place but it is because of its meaning to history that you should see it and because of this that it is included in the Birka World Heritage site. "Hovgården" was where the king sat with a great view across the strait to his subjects at Birka. You will have the same view and understand how he could stay in control. There are also some burial mounds and a very nice runestone nearby and the whole area ooozes with history and is yet so very rural. Late morning in summer, there is also a boat to Birka but be there on the dot or miss it!
Versailles and Schönbrunn are perhaps bigger sights but a Heritage site is a Heritage site and this was the first Swedish one in 1991 together with its theatre in the following tip. It is a very nice palace and has a scenic lakeside setting. You cannot visit all of the inside as the royal family live here (to the right in the picture) since the 1980s when they left Stockholm Royal Palace for the countryside, but the other wing is open for you to walk through or go on guided tours every hour on the hour (less frequent in winter). Just bear in mind that the last tour is shorter as than the rest as they close (you can find opening hours in the link below). You can also stroll around the gardens which is what all these photos are from as you are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle. It was started on in the 17th century by the widowed Queen Hedvig Eleonora who realised the cultural value of a new castle for Sweden and had it built in what was already royal grounds outside Stockholm. It has then been added to for another century, much inspired by Versailles and work was led by the famous Tessins - father and son. My own favourites are the library which is fantastic, as well as one of the old Queen's parade bedroom where she received the really prominent guests. Fantastic interiors, although the entrance hall in mock marble isn't bad either. With my parents only a few bus stops away from Drottningholm, it's perhaps surprising that I'm not here more often but County Stockholm just has so many things to see :)
This is where you get off the bus to see Hovgården so you are likely to see it and try to get in as it is a picturesque little countryside church with good English narration inside and it is nicely decorated. If you are lucky, there is a guard in the church who can then show you the otherwise locked up runestone.
One of the nicest rune stones I have seen in the Stockholm area and they are a few by now with a viking mad husband! You will find it in the field between the church and the Hovgården ruins as you walk along the little road.
Known as the Chinese Pavilion in English, this too is a part of Drottningholm's World heritage. Queen Lovisa Ulrika was given the castle as a birthday gift by king Adolf Fredrik and as Chinese things were in fashion all over Europe, the palace has a wonderful architecture with dragons in the corners and is very colourful (just wait for me to scan my pictures or check the link below). Some decades after its creation the wooden version was replaced by a stone palace as it was such a success. You can go on guided tours here too summertime but then save enough time to do it as it takes around 15 minutes to walk here through the Drottningholm grounds. Once you get here, there is a cosy cafe in the barn next to it as well. The inside is filled with...you guessed it: a china collection :) It also has great rococo furniture.