In the summertime things change around the Royal Palace and the square comes alive with a major attraction: the changing of the guards. In June, July and August the guard, complete with a military band, changes at the Royal Palace in Stockholm every day. In the wintertime there is only a small ceremony of the changing of the guards. Off-season the changing of the Royal Guards takes place with a smaller part of a Military band and a march from Mynttorget around the Stockholm Palace. This small winter ceremony takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12 o'clock and on Sundays at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. So far I've only been able to see this small ceremony (see picture). You can check out this website to see what is happening at what day.: Weekly schedule of the changing of the guards
Here is a global schedule of what happens at what time of year with the changing of the guards. It can be busy during the summertime, so I would advice to be here some time in advance. Off season it isn't busy at all, so you only need to be here just in time for the ceremony.
From June until August the changing of the Royal Guards with a Military Band in the Outer Courtyard of the Palace in Stockholm takes place every day at 1215 hours (on Sundays and holidays at 1315 hours). There are about 20 days with mounted Guards in that period.
During April, September and October it is mainly only on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1215 and on Sundays at 1315 hours. There are some days with mounted Guards in the end of April.
From November until March 31 it is mainly only (with a smaller part of a Military Band) on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1200 and on Sundays at 1300 hours. A whole Military Band participates some days during Christmas and New Year. No Mounted Guards.
During May the changing of the Royal Guards with a Military Band in the Outer Courtyard of the Palace in Stockholm takes place every day at 1215 hours (on Sundays and holidays at 1315 hours). About 12 days with mounted Guards also in May.
The most dominating building on the island is the Riddarholmen Church. This church has served as the royal burial church since the 16th century and a number of Swedish monarchs lie consecrated here. You can visit the church if you like, but in my opinion it is not a must see. I've been inside and I am still not sure if I liked it or not. It doesn't feel like a 'real' church and it isn't so spectacular on the inside to see. I guess it is more like a sort museum. Maybe that is not so surprising as the congregation was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is only used for burial and commemorative purposes.
The walls of the church are covered with flags and Coats of Armour of Royal Families and important persons from all around the world. You can read history through all these coats of armour and signs; I came across some really interesting names..... but I have to say: the church didn't really capture me.
The church is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm with parts of it dating to the late 13th century. It was built as a greyfriars monastery but after the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was closed and the building turned into a Protestant church.
There is no photography allowed inside the church.
Between the Gamla Stan and the island of Riddarholmen you can admire the beautiful and historic "Riddarhuset". The Riddarhuset, translated as "The House of Nobility" or sometimes as the "House of Knights", was build from 1641 to 1674 in a Dutch classicism style. In 1870 two wings were added to the building. Responsible for the architecture is not just one, but no less then four architects: Simon de la Vallée (1641-1642), Heinrich Wilhelm (1645-1652), Joost Vingboons (1653-1656) and Jean de la Vallée (1656-1672). The palace was a center for parliamentary assemblies and administration by the superior state. Some call the Riddarhuset the "most exquisite works of architecture in northern Europe". I am not sure if I agree with that, but I have to agree that it is a nice building to look at, especially the details on the roof.
The palace still belongs to the Swedish nobility and can be visited. Due to the limited opening hours, weekdays 10.30 - 12.30, I've unfortunately haven't been able to take a look inside. So plan carefully so you won't miss out on a visit here! It might be worth while; the walls of the Session Hall for example, are decorated with 2325 escutcheons of the Swedish aristocracy.
In front of the Riddarhuset you can see the statue of Gustav II Adolph (photo 3) and in the the facade you can see the Latin inscription "Claris Maiorum Exemplis" which means "After the clear example of the forefathers"
From the Storkyrkan you are only a few steps away from the the Royal Palace. When you get out of the Cathedral, take a right from the entrance and take a right again at Storkyrkobrinken.
If you would walk to the north side of the palace you would see the lions that decorate the outside of the Palace. There are two huge lion statues and they are located at the north side of the Palace, towards the Riksdagshuset / Parliament building. The little hill is called Lejonbacken or translated "The Lions Hill". The lions were placed here in 1704.
Riddarholmen is a small island close to the Gamla Stan and forms (together with the Gamla Stan) the historical core of the city. It is quite a tranquil place, with many beautiful palaces and mansions and gorgeous views over the bay Riddarfjärden. But the island didn't look like this in the old days; the major changes to the current Riddarholmen were made during the 17th century. In the old days the island was often referred to as "Kidaskär" / "Kid Skerry", indicating that the island was mostly used for grazing goats. The first sign of change was made when King Magnus Ladulås (1240-1290) built a Greyfriars monastery here in 1270 and the name of the island slowly changed into Gråbrödraholm ("Grey Brothers Island"), Munckholmen ("Monk Island") to Gråmunkeholm ("Grey Monks Island").
But the major changes were during the 17th century when Gustav II Adolf and Queen Christina allowed noble-men to build their palaces on this small island. The island was appropriate given the name of Riddarholmen which means 'Island of the Knights'. One of the first parliament houses was built on the island as well. The church Riddarholmen, which you can see in the photo, was selected to for ceremonial royal funerals.
You can find more detailed information about Riddarholmen area on my Strömsborg page
Outside the church Riddarholmen you can see the High Court and the statue of Birger Jarl. The square in front of the High Court used to be called the Riddarholmtorget (Riddarholm Square) but is now named Birger Jarl Torg (Birger Jarl Square) after the statue you see here. The sculpture was made by B.E. Fogelberg and is from 1854.
Birger Jarl (Earl Birger) is considered to be the founder of Stockholm. You can see a monument for him also outside the City Hall. His full name is Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo and he lived from 1210 - 1266.
The High Court is quite striking with its almost pink coloured facade. It hasn't always been in use as a High Court, but started of as a private mansion. It was build around 1640 by Frerik Stenbock and his wife Katarina De la Gardie, and the mansion is also known as the "Stenbockska palatset". The palace is the best preserved, as well as the exterior as the interior, of all the Riddarholmens palaces / mansions. The architect is the famous Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, who amongst others build Skokloster Castle Strömsholm Castle, and his most important work: Drottningholm Palace, which is a world heritage site.
Before I move on and show you a bit about "Riddarholmen" (a part of town located beside the Gamla Stan), I want to tell you about a street in the Gamla Stan where you undoubtedly will end up in: the Västerlånggatan.
The Västerlånggatan is the main street through the Gamla Stan and now taken over by shops and tourism. This street is often crowded with people and a street to avoid when looking for the picturesque Old Town, hahaha, but at the same time it is unavoidable. I am guilty of it too, I somwhow always end up here, even if I don't want to. It is just the natural route to take when wanting to get around in the Gamla Stan. The street leads from one end of the Gamla Stan at the Mynttorget to the other (Järntorget). The Västerlånggatan is a good place to do some souvenir shopping or just do some windowshopping instead. If you are looking for the 'real' Old Town, don't forget to explore one of the side streets, which are much more quiet and to me much more picturesque.
The palace is still in use by the Royal family (but more like an office than living quarters; the Royal "home" is at Drottningholm). I've only visited parts of the Royal Palace so far, I took a guided tour of the Royal apartments, which includes the State Apartments, The Guest Apartments, The Bernadotte Apartments, The Hall of State and The Apartments of the Orders of Chivalry. I had a really great time here. The Palace was a 'palace' as you might expect it. I really loved the way the guide showed us around. We heard some 'important' facts about the palace, told with a smile in a joking way, hahaha, making the tour a great thing to do. Did you know for example that the palace has ONE more room than Buckingham Palace, lol ;-) But my best memories of the visit to the palace is of the room "Festvåningen", it is really beautiful! It is the largest room in the palace and it has exquisite furniture and wall decorations.
There are several of opportunities each day, during opening hours, to take part in the regular guided tours of the palace (included in the admission price). These tours cannot be booked in advance. It is best to check the website of the Royal Palace to find out about the times of the tours. There are tours held in Swedish and in English.
Opening hours of the Royal Apartments in 2004: 7 Jan - 30 Jan: Closed 31 Jan - 14 May: Tuesday - Sunday 12:00 - 15:00 15 May - 27 June: Daily 10:00 - 16:00 28 June - 15 Aug: Daily 10:00 - 17:00 16 Aug - 31 Aug: Daily 10:00 - 16:00 1 Sep - 31 Dec: Tuesday - Sunday 12:00 - 15:00
NB : The Royal Apartments are liable to be closed due to state visits and official receptions.
The Royal Palace is located in a part of the city called The Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan means 'old city' and that shows. I love this part of Stockholm, it is so picturesque. You really should take some time to explore this part of Stockholm. The square you can see on the picture is the Stortorget (meaning big square), Stockholm's oldest centre and site of the 1520 Stockholm bloodbath. This photo gives a good idea what the Gamla Stan is all about. The square is one of the most famous areas of the old town, but there is so much more to discover. On my "off the beaten path" tips I'll give you a more extended impression of the place and show some of the little gems and hidden details.
Let me start this virtual tour with the Gamla Stan and the Storkyrkan, which is the Cathedral of Stockholm. When I walked into the Cathedral it overwhelmed me right away. All I could say was ooooh and oooooh again, so taken I was the first sight of the interior of this Cathedral. Nothing really sensible came out of my mouth, I didn't know what to say, but oooooh.... beautiful.... and oooh again. It is not that the Cathedral is huge, like some Cathedrals, but it is just stunningly beautiful. The cathedral was first constructed in 1250, but has been rebuilt many times since then. Because of that the exterior appears to be Baroque but the interior exhibits basic Gothic elements. The cathedral is open from 9am until 6pm on Monday to Sunday. Morning services are held every Sunday at 11am.
I have so much to show you about the Storkyrkan, but I don't want to do it here in the "Thing to do Tips", so instead I put the more detailed information about this cathedral under the "General tips" section of this page.
So far I have only seen the 'off-season' changing of the guards. These pictures were taking on a beautiful sunny day in March. The changing of the guards at this time of year doesn't take that much time, but it is still fun to see.
In the summertime the ceremony at the Royal Palace takes about 40 minutes. It starts with the arrival of the coming guard (with the military band in front). Normally, the coming guard brings its own colours in the front. Then a parade for the colours starts, the new sentries march away, the coming and leaving guards change places. After that, the military band performs a concert (about 15 minutes). When the relieved sentinels are back, both guards draw up for the final part of the ceremony (the leaving guard marches away, the new guard troops the colours and the military band leaves the Outer Courtyard.
In the wintertime there is not that much to see and do outside the Royal Palace, except for a few guards. Hahaha, so of course they were the obvious target for my camera :-)))
In the second picture you can see another winter scene at the Royal Palace. But in the wintertime you shouldn't be outside the Palace, it is inside where you need to be. There is a lot to see there! You can take a tour through the Royal Apartments, visit the Tre Kronor Museum, The Treasury and the Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities.
In the third picture you have a view on the Storkyrkan from the Royal Palace
A combination ticket to visit the castle, Skattkammaren and the Museum Tre Kronor will cost you 120 SEK (Children and students 65 SEK) The entrance fee for the separate parts will cost you 80 SEK each and 35 SEK for children and students. Children aged under 7 admission free. The combination ticket is valid for 30 days.
Pages about other parts of Stockholm:
An overview of Stockholm
Gamla Stan & Riddarholmen
Medeltidsmuseum and Riksdagshuset
Stockholm City and Östermalm
Stadshuset (City Hall) and its surrounding area...