There are well over 70 museums in Stockholm, ranging from mini-museums to full sized institutions and covering everything from ethnography to maritime history to music and even toys. There’s a museum for almost every interest in the city, and one of the most popular activities for a visitor is a quick tour around the city’s museums.
Unlike British museums, many of Stockholm’s museums charge an entry fee, which can run up to about 70 kroners. Most of the bigger museums began offering free entry in 2005, but for visitors looking for comprehensive and hassle-free entry to the museums, the easiest way is to get the Stockholm a la Carte card, which offers 24 hours of free access to all museums, as well as bus, steamer and subway transportation. The card usually comes included in a hotel package, but visitors traveling independently may obtain the card from the tourist information offices, the main railway station and in major hotels.
Given the abundance of museums, most people never manage to see everything and have to restrict themselves to a few selected choices. Among all the museums, the most popular museums are the Vasa Museum, the Royal Palace, the Skansen and the Nobel Museum.
Stockholm’s most popular attraction, this museum showcases one of Sweden’s most famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) creations, the huge warship Vasa. An ornately carved warship, it was the largest ship Sweden had ever built and was supposed to support King Gustav Adolphus’ desperate military campaign in the Baltics. Unfortunately, it was also top-heavy and just 20 minutes into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628, high winds capsized the ship and sank it in the Stockholm harbor.
Although most of the crew escaped, including the ship’s cat, 50 men died in the sinking and the ship’s exact location at the bottom of the harbor remained a mystery for over 333 years until it was rediscover, excavated and preserved. The Vasa was so big, the museum had to be constructed around it; its three masts still stick up out of the roof. To get a sense of the Vasa’s importance in the nation’s history, and of what sailing life was like in the 17th century, be sure to watch the excellent film presentation of its building, sinking and excavation.
Located at Galärvägen 14 on the island of Djurgården, the Vasa Museum is generally open from 10 am to 5 pm in June and August. To get there, visitors can walk, take bus 47 or 69 from the central station, bus 44 from Karlaplan or the ferry from Slussen or Nybroplan.
Located in the historic Old Town section of Stockholm, the Royal Palace (pictured above) was built on top of the foundations of a previous medieval castle known as the Tre Kronor (Three Crowns), which dates back to the mid 13th century. Tre Kronor was built on this particular spot to protect it from enemy attacks. Unfortunately, the location didn’t protect it from a kitchen fire, which destroyed it in 1697. The Royal Palace Tre Kronor Museum, situated in the cellars of the Royal Palace, still holds the remnants of the Tre Kronor castle, as well as many artefacts rescued from the flames.
On top of the old site was built the current structure, the biggest palace in the world still used by a reigning king, Carl XVI Gustav, for official functions (the King and his family reside in Drottningholm Palace on the nearby island Lovän). Visitors can wonder through the splendid Royal Apartments, the Hall of State, the Apartments of the Orders of Chivalry, the Treasury, the Armoury and the Museum of Antiquities of Gustav III.
In the Museums are many personal items worn by Swedish royalty throughout history, from huge two-handed swords fit for Conan the Barbarian to bullet-riddled holes worn by assassinated nobility. The treasury houses one of the most celebrated collection of crown jewels on the Continent. The Antiquities Museum has Gustav III’s collection of sculpture from the days of the Roman Empire.
Also popular is the daily changing of the guards during the summer, which takes place in the courtyard and attracts large crowds for the 45 minute display. Some days, the guards will be mounted; other days, it will be a Military Band.
Opening hours: Sept-April — Tue to Sun, 12 noon to 3 pm; May-Aug — daily, 10 am to 4 pm. The Royal Apartments are liable to be closed due to state visits and official receptions. To get there, visitors can walk to the Old Town section of Stockholm; take bus 43, 46, 59, or 76 from the central station.
The Nobel Museum
Also located in the Old Town, this museum is a testimony to some of the most important scientific accomplishments in the twentieth century. The museum is housed in the Old Stock Exchange building. Funded by the generosity of dynamite inventor and multimillionaire Alfred Nobel, the museum mainly uses 2 minute film shorts to give a sense of the human stories behind each achievement, together with special exhibitions which change every few months.
Opening hours: Opening hours: Tue 11am — 8 pm; Wed — Sun 11 am — 5 pm, closed on Mondays. To get there, visitors can walk to the Old Town section of Stockholm; take bus 43, 46, 59, or 76 from the central station.
Another very popular attraction, this huge open air museum showcases how people in Sweden throughout the 18th and 19th century. Many of the buildings seen on the grounds were transported from other parts of the country, where they were at risk of being torn down, and carefully preserved here. The buildings are often peopled by hosts and hostesses in period costume, demonstrating traditional occupations such as weaving or spinning. The park is particularly popular during summer time, when there are plenty of events held on the grounds. For children, there’s the added delights of an aquarium and the world’s oldest zoo, showing off typical Nordic animals such as the moose, lynx, reindeer, etc.
Opening hours: January to April — 10 am to 4 pm; . May 10 am -8 pm; June and August – 10 am to 10 pm; September 10 am -5 pm; October to December 10 am to 4 pm.