At last, I’ve managed to finish my final post from Stockholm. It’s taken a while thanks to an unexpected couple of weeks messing around in the Czech Republic, or Czechia as it’s now known for reasons that seem to escape even Czechs. Rewinding my memory, my last day in Stockholm was spent in the busy city centre streets of Norrmalm, and around the lovely island of Skeppsholmen. I ended the day at an event in the City Hall, the 1920s red brick Stadhus sitting on the waterside with its distinctive tower.
This is the place where the winners of the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Literature come every year to celebrate their achievements at the official banquet (the Peace Prize is held in Norway). The grand sweep of the staircase from the central courtyard leads up to the Golden Hall where the Nobel Prize Ball is held. The Golden Hall is extraordinary. Decorated in gold mosaics depicting events from Swedish history, it looks like it might have been transported from ancient Byzantium.
I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Stadhus in the evening, when the lights of Gamla Stan and Södermalm sparkled in the water. It confirmed for me Stockholm’s status as one of Europe’s most beautiful and elegant cities. This thought had been growing in my mind throughout the day as I strolled through fascinating streets lined with magnificent houses, pleasant parks, and along the ever-present waterfront. The city may be increasingly bike friendly, but discovering Stockholm on foot is highly recommended.
The Norrmalm district gets a bad rap compared to other parts of Stockholm, but that seems a little unfair. In large part this is because insensitive 1960s urban planning saw many old buildings torn down and replaced with charmless modern alternatives. The rotating neon sign of Nordiska Kompaniet, an upmarket 1902 department store, is the unofficial emblem of the district. In the surrounding streets, squares and parks, life is being lived, and there’s a wealth of things to explore, from historic churches to some of the city’s best museums. Norrmalm also has a remarkable number of good restaurants.
Wherever you go in Stockholm, you never seem to be far from water, stunning scenery and magnificent views. The small island of Skeppsholmen is no exception. In the early morning the views across the tranquil surrounding water were magnificent. The island also hosts the Moderna Museet, a wonderful modern indoor and outdoor art gallery. When I visited it was quiet and seemed untroubled by the tour groups that can make other museums and galleries a trial by tourism.
Crossing the bridge that connects Skeppsholmen with the rest of the city, I walked around the island past the 19th century sailing ship, the af Chapman. The ship was built in 1888 in Whitehaven, a small town in the present-day English county of Cumbria, near to where I was born. Proof, perhaps, that our connected histories are rarely far away. It’s first voyage was to Portland, Oregon, in the USA. It later sailed to Australia and was bought by the Swedish navy in 1923. Decommissioned in 1934, it was saved from being scrapped in 1947. It’s now a youth hostel.
On a warm, sunny autumnal day, it’s hard not to envy Swedes their wonderful capital. At least until you buy something and it costs twice what you might expect. Just a few days exploring Stockholm had revealed a cosmopolitan, stylish and fun city, as diverse as its increasingly diverse population, but a few days don’t do this city justice. I might have to wait until Spring and warmer weather before going back, but this is a place that demands repeat visits.