Gamla Stan - The Oldtown of Stockholm
The historical city centre and geographical centre of Stockholm
During the booking of our accommodation we attached great importance to be accommodated as central as possible in order not to have to take too long ways. Thus, Gamla Stan was exactly the right decision as here is concentrated what actually makes Stockholm; Nice arquitecture, a lot of water and some diversified panorama views are the essence of the flair of Stockholm and, as we soon noticed, we were not far from it.
In fact, after we took the right direction, two towers came out that should inevitably mark our destination. One of it belonged to Storkyrkan, the St.-Nikolai-Church, the oldest church of Stockholm. And at barely 50 m distance of it, right in front of the Swedish Academy, it finally was, the Best Hostel Old Town. Meanwhile, it was half past three in the afternoon and pitch-dark, but it stopped raining. From the entrance of the hostel, the eyes fell to a small cristmas market that was arranged in the forecourt of the Swedish Academy in front of an historical coulisse. This was supposed to be our first station. But before, we made acquaintance of the sociable gatekeeper, that from then always joined us during each smoking break in the morning at the front of the entrance, took our luggage in the functionally furnished rooms, in which each single piece of furniture, each detail was from IKEA, and put some warmer clothes on. Then we started our first exploration tour.
In the light of the lanterns, the stands of the Christmas market and the illuminated, pompous fronts, we decided to warm up with a cup of Glögg, the Swedish hot wine punch, but we were amazed that a cup only cost the equivalent of two euro. This is unimaginable considering the Scandinavian prices of alcohol. After the first sip it was clear: the staff indeed tasted very well, but there was not a single drop of alcohol in it, because in Sweden, it is not allowed to sell any alcohol on the streets.
The Swedish Christmas markets are absolutely comparable with the ones in germany, at least concerning the offer of craftwork, sweets and other food. But the arrangement of the huts are not as varied as in Germany, as in Sweden, they are often closed-packed and made of the same design. This looks then like strung shacks of some North Sea beaches but in red; We moved alongside small shops, galleries and restaurants through the narrow and steep alleyways Gamla Stans that at some parts were not wider than a metre, in order to absorb the effect of the oldtown.
In the course of the centuries, the oldtown barely lost its medieval appearance and makes the visitor aware of the life of the past. Specially in the darkness, the alleyways radiate a very special charm that unavoidably reminds on Jack The Ripper. There are repeatedely smaller plazas with monuments or fountains that loosen up the picture and open up a wider perspective to the colourfully arranged and house fronts arranged wioth gazebos, as in many places, the field of vision primary extends to the front and upwards, but due to the narrowness not to the sides.
Being on the island Gamla Stan, the field of vision number one is, beside the Royal Palace, the Storkyrkan. The over-worked church in baroque style that was originally built in the Gothic style and that was mentioned for the first time towards the end of the 13th century, rises 66 m high into the sky of Stockholm and was until the year 1907 the coronation church of the Swedish Kings. It is the oldest church of Stockholm and at the same time the geographical centre of the city. It accommodates a whole range of significant artworks, from which the most successful should be the St.-Georgs-Monument of Bernt Notke of the year 1489.
It is only a few metres distant to the Royal Palace, that with its 609 rooms and a base area of 120 x 116 m belongs to the biggest palaces in the world that are still used by a Royal family. Its construction was initiated by the King Karl XII of that time and practically on the still fluorescent remains of the old castle Tre Kronor (Three crowns), that the city founder Birger Jarl ordered to build. In the year 1697, it burned down. Due to some financial problems, the palace could not be finished until 60 years later.
The building is a quite no-frills construction that from the outside already imposes merely by its size. It appears a little like an UFO, as the surrounding buildings are filigree and arranged in a more varied way and also are considerably smaller; As the Royal Family choosed the more stylish castle Drottningholm as residence since some years, also the interior of the Royal Palace can be accessed for sightseeing. Apart from the Reichssaal, the castle church and a museum, specially the cellar catacombs and the treasure chambers and the armories with old hunting weapons are well worth seeing. What should also not be missed is the ceremonial changing of the guard that takes place in the early afternoon in the bailey.
From the castle, one has a great view to the surrounding sightseeings of Stockholm, and there are not few of them. On the small island named Helgeandsholmen that is located between Gamla Stan and the city centre Norrmalm, there is the Parliament that was finished in the year 1905. Later on, during the construction works of a subterranean garage, people came across to fundaments and wall remainings of the 13th and 14th century, human skelettons and all kinds of artifacts, so that on the spot, a museum of medieval times was built. The subterranean garage was then build a little smaller. The City Hall of the city is also at the visibility range, that at the same time is the emblem of Stockholm. The art-noveau building that was built between 1911 and 1923, has a tower of 106 metres that opens up an excelent view to the city.
Also the opera, the St. Jacob's Church, the National Museum and further historical buildings as the Riddarhuset, that served the nobility in the 17th century as a meeting place and specially outstands due to its laborious and artful roof structure, are very good visible from the castle.
In total, Gamla Stan reflects the typical image of a medieval city. Specially at nights, when the alleyways are deserted and at many spots, most of the artificial illumination is ceased, one can put oneself easily in the medieval times. Many restaurants call attention with some small flambeaus and pot-au-feus at the entrances so that concerning the authenticity, nothing is left to be desired. Thus, a night walk through the oldtown should be in any case on the schedule.
Bsck to the index Stockholm
Author: Ingo Schmidt; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz