Numerous times I have been in Stockholm, on my own. In combination with an arrival by ship through the archipelago it is probably one of most beautiful cities I know. This time I joined one of the official shore excursions, organised by All Ways, the tour operator I was shooting for during this Baltic cruise. Program of the day: “The very best of Stockholm”.
During our cruise the VOYAGER always berthed at the terminals closest to the city centres because of her modest size. It was not different in Stockholm.
After a bus ride of five minutes we were already at Fjällgatan, a place where we could effortlessly enjoy the panorama of Stockholm’s old town Gamla Stan with our ship just at our feet.
Next stop was Stockholm’s city hall or Stadshuset. Seen from the ship it was as if this tower forms a part of the old town. Not. It’s on the island behind Gamla Stan, the island of Kungsholmen. Although it didn’t look that far away the bus driver had to do a serious detour before getting there. Don’t ask me to explain how he drove. To me it felt as following an endless spaghetti which connects the 14 islands on which Stockholm has been built.
With its sturdy red brick lower part and green bell tower, adorned by a golden mast with the three Swedish crowns, the city hall building is a well-known landmark of the modern capital. Before entering it was difficult to imagine how the building could look inside. And indeed, it was a surprise. The main hall, known for the place where the Nobel Prize banquet is held, offers an enormous amount of space, with only little ornaments. Most striking for me was the roof, which seemed to float over the building because of the absence of massive pillars, and the use of glass that runs as a horizontal stripe of light between ceiling and three of the four walls.
Once we got up to the first floor and entered the Golden Hall, again astonishment was part of our discovery. The millions of mosaics impressed the hundreds of tourists from all over the world. Indeed, I would never have thought that so many people were discovering Stockholm, and certainly not the city hall. Go early when you want to pay a visit.
Afterwards we were driven to the Royal Place, or Kungliga Slottet. To me it felt a bit silly to take a bus for such a short distance. This monumental building from the 18th century is within walking distance of the city hall, which is of course not an option when you have a group of cruise passengers of all ages. One advantage of the drive is that you see a lot in a short time. Perfect for one-day tourists.
What did I think of the Palace? It is always impressive to see how in history power and money have always come together. Outside the architecture looks quite heavy. Inside it is a different world, with a vast amount of rooms and halls with lots of Baroque and Rococo influences.
My preferred room was the Carl XVI Gustaf’s Jubilee Room, which was redecorated for the King’s silver jubilee in 2001. The room is a showcase for Swedish materials and craftsmanship. And no, it is not from Ikea.
Before heading back to the ship for lunch we spent the last part of the morning in Gamla Stan, the picturesque but overcrowded old town.
The highlight of the afternoon was the inevitable Vasa Museet on Djurgården. The story is simple: the overloaded warship Vasa sank on her maidentrip in 1628, and stayed in the mud for three centuries, before being heavy-lifted in 1961.
Together with numerous objects which belonged to the ship she is being exposed in a purpose built, immense hall. You can spend a day in this museum, if you want. I was happy with my 45 minutes. Being impressed by the sheer size of the preserved vessel was enough for me.
Having a coffee with friends in the nearby garden was a good transition to the next phase. I was already longing for the moment we were going to sail back into the archipelago, on the way to Helsinki.
Text & photos: Mike
Meanwhile Véronique discovered the city on her own.
We are travelling on board VOYAGER with Belgian cruise tour operator All Ways, discovering the Baltic Sea and St-Petersburg. Mike often joins the excursion, while I mainly go explore myself. In the evening we gather our stories and share on the blog the things we loved most.