Adventures Ashore: Stockholm Highlights, Including The Vasa Museum

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When I think of Stockholm, I think of a place with a strong Viking heritage, those fierce warriors who ruled the seas. Stockholm is a royal city with the Changing of the Guard and a Royal Palace. Stockholm is an orderly city, and some Swedes say that makes them boring. I find them to be anything but. Come along and let’s explore Sweden’s capital.

One event that people of all ages can appreciate in Stockholm is the Changing of the Guard. The Royal Guards have been charged with protecting Sweden’s Royal Palace since 1523, and you can watch the pageantry every day of the year.

Straddling three of 14 islands that make up Stockholm, the Old Town, or Gamla Stan as it is known, has been a meeting place for more than 800 years.

Stockholm was first mentioned as a town in 1252 and was largely built by the Swedish ruler Birger Jarl. It grew rapidly as a result of a trade agreement made with the German city of Lübeck.

The well-preserved Old Town features the original network of streets, and some of its buildings date from the Middle Ages.

The beautiful Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern, or the Royal Dramatic Theater, is where Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman got their starts in acting. Sweden’s famed producer Ingmar Bergman staged productions here.

Stockholm is built on a network of canals, islands, and green spaces. The city is said to be one-third parks, one-third water, and one-third city. In fact, one writer coined the phrase “Beauty on water” to describe Sweden’s capital.

It’s certainly one of the most peaceful cities and one of the most pedestrian-friendly that I’ve ever visited. The Swedes have a lot of customs and traditions, and one of those is fika. Now if you saw that taking place you’d think that you were seeing a coffee break, but it’s actually taking time out with friends over kanelbolle, which is a cinnamon bun and something like a cafe latte. You’ll also always find a candle on the tables in Sweden. It’s all about quality here in the heart of Stockholm, Gamla Stan.

Stockholm has more than 50 world-class museums. One that you don’t want to miss is the Vasa Museum. A lot of people step into the museum expecting to see a replica or a model of a 17th-century Swedish warship. But what they actually see is a reconstructed vessel that is 98 percent original. How the ship got here is a fascinating story:

In the 17th century, Sweden aspired to become one of the most feared powers in Europe. Four new warships were commissioned. One of them was the Vasa, and it was to be the most powerful warship in the Baltic. The Swedish Warship was outfitted with 64 cannons, 120 tons of ballast, hundreds of sculptures and ten massive sails.

On August 10 1628, the Vasa set off for its maiden voyage. The ship had only gone 1300 meters when it was caught in a strong gust. The Vasa began to list before capsizing and sinking within sight of the shipyard where it was built. The ship remained 100 feet below the water’s surface until salvage operations began more than 300 years later. The Vasa was brought up to the surface from its watery grave in 1961, then restored to create the only museum of its kind in the world. Many artifacts were found in the deep freeze of the harbor, including butter whose expiration date had long passed. The pride of the Swedish military lives once again in Sweden’s most visited museum.

We had a great day in Stockholm. We got to visit gorgeous Gamla Stan with its colorful buildings and narrow streets. We went to the Royal Palace and saw the Changing of the Guard. We walked through the parks of Djurgarden and saw the awe-inspiring warship at the Vasa Museum. I’m Ralph Grizzle, and I’ll see you in the next beautiful destination.

Avid Cruiser features a ton of content about Stockholm. Click here to see a full list of our Stockholm stories.


An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com.

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