Gamla Stan is the historic heart of Stockholm. It’s made up of three islands - Helgeandsholmen, Riddarholmen and Stadsholmen - but it’s Stadsholmen, the largest, that people usually think of when they talk about Gamla Stan.
Gamla Stan means ‘Old Town’ and there’s everything here that you would expect from an Old Town - narrow streets, historical buildings, museums, bars, restaurants, and much more besides, but it really only became known as the Old Town in relatively recent times, because for centuries Stadsholmen was Stockholm.
Birger Jarl is generally regarded as the city’s founder sometime during the 13th century, probably around 1250.
Its location, surrounded by water, was always going to dictate its future and for many years Stockholm was under the control of the German merchants of the Hanseatic League.
One good thing about all this water everywhere is that you can’t get completely lost on Gamla Stan, because all you have to do is walk down one of the streets to the water’s edge and follow the island around to where you started from, but getting slightly lost amongst the back streets is all part of the fun.
It’s not all about narrow streets and medieval buildings though because there are also Squares and grand buildings built during the 17th and 18th centuries when Sweden was one of Europe’s most powerful nations, as the Royal Palace will testify.
These days Stockholm has expanded much further away from Gamla Stan than Birger Jarl could ever have imagined, but the heart still beats strong here, and it should be the first place to visit when coming to this lovely city for the first time.
The main square of Gamla Stan is line with sidewalks cafes and a public fountain. It's the oldest square in Stockholm and has been around since around 1066. The Swedish Stock market building and the Nobel museum line the square.
Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. All of Gamla Stan and the adjacent island of Riddarholmen are like a living pedestrian-friendly museum full of sights, attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars and places to shop. The cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan are filled with aficionados of handicrafts, curios and souvenirs. The narrow winding cobblestone streets, with their buildings in so many different shades of gold, give Gamla Stan its unique character. Even now cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages can be found behind the visible facades, and on snowy winter days the district feels like something from a story book.
There was a lot to see, beautiful churches and museums in Gamla Stan, including Sweden’s national cathedral Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum. Make sure not to miss Riddarholmen and the Riddarholmen Church. The church is a royal burial church, and was built as a Franciscan monastery for the so-called Grey Brother monks in the thirteenth century. The largest of the attractions in the district is the Royal Palace, one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms. In addition to the reception rooms, there are several interesting museums in the Palace, including the Royal Armory, with royal costumes and armor. Don't miss the parade of soldiers and the daily changing of the guard.
Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan are the district’s main streets. The city wall that once surrounded the city ran inside these streets along what is now which was mentioned as early as the fourteenth century. Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Mårten Trotzigs alley) is hard to find. It’s the narrowest alley in Gamla Stan, only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point.
The old part of Stockholm is known as Gamla Stan.It is a maze of winding streets,with all sorts of different architecture.The best way to experience the area is just to take a wander and see what you can find.
Most historical houses on Gamla Stan display wrought-iron anchor plates on their facades. First of all these fulfill a technical purpose, concerning structural reinforcement: withstanding the tractive forces of the beams and connecting them to the wall or gable.
The visible part on the facade was often designed in a decorative shape. However, even anchor plates are subject to fashion. The trick about them is that you can date the anchor, hence the facade, with the help of these shapes and patterns.
The statue of the little boy looking up to the sky is located in Bollhustäppan, a small square within the lanes of Gamla Stan. It would be a hidden spot if it wasn't on the schedule of any guided tour. It is considered the smallest public statue in Sweden - hard to tell if this is really true, but never mind. It is small, and cute...
The little boy was created by the sculptor Liss Eriksson in 1954. The artist recalls his own childhood, when during sleepless nights he used to sit on his bed and look up at the moon.
The legend tells that if you pat the little boy's head you can be sure that you will return to Stockholm some day. That's why the head is so shiny. I could not figure out, though, why people donate coins to him and where the money goes. However, there are rumours that stealing these coins means bad luck because the boy sees everything and will never forget...
Just as I wrote about the other free tour – the City tour, this is a free experience. You don’t have to pay anything, or book anything. But you are welcome to tip the guide if you liked the tour. Very clever: there is no way anyone can make you declare your income made through tips and pay those huge Swedish taxes.
And these folks are worth it, trust me – I spent quite some time in tourism, and I can tell a good guide from a bad guide.
Old Town (Gamla Stan) tour is quite a challenge, especially in winter. It gets dark already at 4 p.m., and they schedule the tour for 7 p.m. to avoid the usual tourist crowds. Honestly, I did not go for it without hesitation, but eventually the tour turned into a fairytale story: everything dark, and only streetlamps, old churches and us curious travelers around.
The guide to brave minus 5° C was Pradeep, originally from India, a very entertaining chap. He will teach you a number of useful Swedish expressions and a characteristic ‘Nordic’ smile. Pretty well-organised, too – it usually takes quite an effort not to lose half of the group in those narrow medieval streets.
The photos you see here are not mine, I uploaded them from the company’s Facebook page - I felt completely frozen to take pictures. Take good advice and put on layers of warm clothes – with high humidity even a slight frost beats you to the bones.
Another important thing to remember:
as Robert de Niro’s character would say in ‘Ronin’, ‘never walk into a place you don't know how to walk out of’. The tour ends two metro stops from where it had started, and if this is your first time in Stockholm, I rather doubt you will find the station. It’s very sensible to have (1) a map, and (2) some finances to pay the fare.
Free Stockholm tour – City tour
The first thing that catches your eye is that this is a free experience – and indeed it officially is. You don’t have to pay anything, or book anything. But you are welcome to tip the guide if you liked the tour.
Very clever: you don’t have to declare tips and pay those huge Swedish taxes, do you?
And they are worth it, trust me – I spent quite some time in tourism, and I can tell a good guide from a bad guide.
The fellow with the ‘Tre Kronor (three crowns)’ logo here is Kevin. He is Canadian, and his accent is a relief for those terrified by Texan drawl. Pretty hardy, too, walking about in that light jacket in winter. You may want to book him for a private tour – he knows a good deal about the place and delivers it in a very easy-going manner; will tell you about the royal romance, the Stockholm syndrome, the Nobel dinner cutlery and the King’s street skyscrapers. Gudget fans, rejoice: here goes an iPad instead of the more conventional printed visual aids.
The are doing Old Town (Gamla Stan), too.
Gamla Stan is Stockholm's old town. It is located on an island. It used to be known as the town between the bridges. Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century.
Here you can find Stockholm's impressive baroque royal palace, where we watched the changing of the guard. Stockholm's Royal Palace was built in the 18th century to replace the previous palace Tre Kronor which had burned down. Nearby you can also find Stockholm Cathedral which has a statue of St George and the dragon.
I think of Gamla Stan as lots of narrow lanes with towering houses on each side, plus sudden wide open squares with sculptures and fountains and colourful buildings.
Gamla Stan's largest and prettiest square is called Stortorget . It is located in the centre of Gamla Stan. Colourful old merchants' houses surround the square. On our visit street musicians were playing here and some people were dancing. This square has not always been peaceful though. In 1520 it was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath. This refers to the massacre of Swedish noblemen by the Danish King Christian II.
Gamla Stan has lots of narrow streets. Its narrowest alley is Mårten Trotzigs gränd. This alley leads from Västerlånggatan and Järntorget up to Prästgatan and Tyska Stallplan. At its narrowest part it is just 90cm wide.
In summer Gamla Stan has a lively atmosphere with tourists, locals, buskers and street entertainers. It also has lots of places to eat and drink.
The old town of Stockholm, in the neighborhood you can find medieval, narrow streets and seventeenth-century houses
These houses are mainly red, dark yellow and orange tones
The key point in the district is the square Stortorget. Here are all walk to narrow streets literally down
Nearby are several restaurants and cafes. If you just walk around, you'll also hip venues against
Furthermore, there are several hotspots in the district, which the Royal Palace is the most important
The Stortorget is the main square in the Old Town "Gamla Stan". It used to be the centre of the old Stockholm, where in 1520 about 100 political opponents were executed.
Nowadays the historic buildings from the 17th and 18th century house cafes and restaurants. Many benches invite for a rest and for a look at the street perfomers.
Stortorget is situated in the heart of Stockholm's old town "Gamla Stan".
Sjöguden good time's sculpture is located on the wharf next to Räntmästartrappan in Old Town in Stockholm.
A really unusual type of sculpture, not my style, but still interesting!
The Sculptor, Carl Milles, had intended to place ten pieces of massive, sculptural figures at regular intervals along the city quays.
It didn't eventuate, this is the first and last one, a sculpture made out of red granite of some kind of Beast pushing a shy Mermaid.