The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum in Stockholm, Sweden that features the only nearly completely intact 17th-century ship that has ever been salvaged. Video / NZ Herald
For the foreigner, an evaluation game is not what comes naturally to mind when the subject is the Stockholm of the tourist.
But with something like 90 museets, or museums, available around this city of 14 islands, it’s easy to get caught up in a dash match as you go, and you try to figure out which attraction has the most personal or general appeal.
Museums aren’t all about Stockholm, but they certainly offer a diverse and rewarding range of attractions.
Stockholm also enjoys the benefits of a world-class transport infrastructure – not just limited to high-frequency hop-on hop-off buses and tourist boats – meaning it’s easy to get to these places and many others.
Stockholm likes to be known as the ‘open’ city and our friendly hotel, the Clarion Amaranten, conveniently located in the Kungsholmen district, certainly lived up to it with a page of various recommendations from the manager under ‘Welcome to the capital of Scandinavia.
Technically, there is no Scandinavian capital, of course, but it seems natural that Stockholm should claim the title, positioned as it is at the heart of the region and boasting the largest population (2.4 million in the area metropolitan) of the largest country in Scandinavia.
Abba The Museum on the island of Djurgarden was at the top of our list of top museum picks, although it wasn’t quite at the top of the list. In fact, my spouse may still be discussing this note with me. All I know is that it took several hours after entering the doors of Dancing Queen before my complaints of desperately needing a cinnamon or cardamom bun (famously ubiquitous in Sweden) are finally relieved after a visit a little longer than the museum’s estimate of 1.5 to 2 hours. In fact, three hours had passed.
The Abba Museum absolutely deserves to be on any list – as the line on the admission ticket says: “Enter, dance.” The easiest way to get in is to book through the website (NZ$34.35). This is a Stockholm attraction that is a completely cashless experience.
But as prolific Swedish singers know from their own list of hits, Winner takes all. And the winner in this case is the Vasa Museum.
The warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in Stockholm on August 10, 1628. After 333 years on the seabed she was salvaged and today you can see what is the best preserved 17th century ship in the world. world, an accessible centerpiece in a multi level museum. The ornate stern, for example, can be seen from floors five, six or seven.
Given her dimensions, it’s no surprise that when the Vasa hit a strong wind and took on water, she capsized and sank within 20 minutes.
A very large ship for her time, she was built to mark Sweden’s rise to power after winning wars against Denmark, Poland and Russia and ruling most of the Baltic region under King Gustav II Adolph.
Alas, the gun deck was too heavy and the ship was too large with what appears to be a relatively small beam – the whole design made the Vasa incredibly unstable. An excellent 17 minute film gives a good overview of recovery and restoration and there are guided tours and storyboards in Swedish and English. And viewing at different levels offers an exceptional way to get a glimpse of this maritime madness.
Next in our ranking is the Viking Museum, Vikingaliv, also located on Djurgarden, near the Vasa – not to be confused with the Viking Ship Museum in neighboring Denmark. Housed in a former boathouse, it has only been operating since 2017, but has become popular in a relatively short time.
Enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides bust myths and eagerly go about changing outdated knowledge about the Vikings, providing an entertaining experience. And before you head out, be sure to take the adventure tour that captures the saga of Ragnfrid.
It follows Viking father Harald on a journey through 10th century Europe. Harald, who lives on a farm with Ragnfrid and his daughter Sigrid, has wasted all of the family’s money and must go on a Viking raid to win back their fortune and honor. It’s a good thread, well animated.
We listed Fotografiska on hipster hangout Sodermalm – also dubbed Sofo – as number four. It deserves to be on any list of Stockholm attractions – the only thing that slightly diminishes the appeal of this well-curated exhibit is that it could be a feature of any international venue. While founded in Sweden, Fotografiska now operates satellite galleries in New York, Tallinn and soon Berlin – then Dubai?
Somehow, with so many other sites and museums close at hand, we never saw more of Sodermalm, which was a shame as I had intended to explore the area in which the late Stig Larsson put his trilogy of Girl with dragon tattoo novels, extended by David Lagercrantz with three more stunning sequels. The Stockholm City Museum sells walking guides.
You start the 2-hour island tour at Bellmansgatan 1, the home of the main character, Mikael Blomqvist, and wander around key locations from the books – bars, cafes and of course, Lisbeth Salander’s apartment.
Another great hiking route is around the Royal Palace and the old town of Gamlastan. Watch out for the changing of the guard at the palace and as you stroll through the surrounding lanes and at the Stortorget, the island’s oldest public square, you may come across an English artist named Tim, selling his watercolors and paintings to the oil of the colorful historic buildings, like hot cakes.
Along the city’s waterways, there’s a constant flexing of muscles as runners and cyclists shed their obviously abundant energy along well-shaped trails. Aside from tourists, there aren’t many overweight specimens around Stockholm; instead there are handsome, clean-cut, well-toned inhabitants, pedaling from youth to old age. Not to mention the young mothers and fathers who push their offspring to a trot as they enjoy the social benefits of their social system and all that taxation.
It remains to be seen how long this state of well-being will last following the country’s rightward turn in the recent general election. Visit Stockholm likes to use the term authenticity to describe the attractiveness of the city – to which can be added a sense of civility. Hopefully it will retain all of these values and remain the “open” city.
Emirates offers daily flights from Auckland to Stockholm via Dubai. emirates.com/nz
The most popular sightseeing option is to get a day (or multi-day) pass with Red Sightseeing for its hop-on hop-off bus tours (up to 22 stops) and waterways boat tour city waterways. The cost is from 50 euros. redsightseeing.com/stockholm