Gamla Stan, literally translated as “Old Town“, is where Stockholm was originally founded. Being one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, we found that it makes for a fascinating visit. The Old Town goes back several hundred years – back to the 13th century to be a little more precise. This historical center has many narrow lanes and alleyways of varying widths, cobblestone streets and old buildings at every turn, churches and museums, and even a Royal Castle! Yes, *Gamla Stan, The Old Town, has it’s charms and all visitors will be enchanted by it. This post will cover 15 Fascinating Things To Do and See In Gamla Stan.
Gamla Stan is situated on an island sandwiched between the Sodermalm district to the south and the Norrmalm district to the north. The subway system also has a station in the south west corner of the island and is conveniently named Gamla Stan T-Bana. This station services the Green and Red lines. If you are coming from a cruise ship docked at one of the berths at Stadsgarden (east of Gamla Stan), then you can easily walk over all the while admiring the beautiful view of Gamla Stan by the water. See my post on how to get to Slussen T-Bana from Stadsgarden Port Area as this will put you at the southern entryway into Gamla Stan. Remember, this is a medieval town and the street layout is medieval in nature. It can be easy to get lost in here and you should – we did! We wandered around and marveled at what we were seeing. As it is surrounded by water for the most part, you will not be too far off in any one direction. My only suggestion would be for you to try to have some sense of your North and South orientations (or use your phone’s compass app) as they are your entry/exit points on/off the district.
Gamla Stan Highlights
If you are more of the visual type, then check out my next post which will be a photo series of Gamla Stan. Without further ado, here the 15 unique and fascinating Gamla Stan highlights. In this list, you’ll find many things about the Old Town which works to create an aura not found anywhere else.
- The oldest house in Stockholm is found here, built in the 1300’s. It’s located at Baggensgatan 27.
- The narrowest street is Marten Trotzigs lane at 90cm wide!
- There are 3 old churches here, with the oldest being at least 745 years old. They are the Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral), Tyska kyrkan (The German Church) and the Riddarholmskyrkan (The Riddarholmen Church where many Swedish Royals are buried).
- There are 11 museums to visit such as The Royal Armoury, The Nobel Museum, The Treasury, and The Royal Apartments.
- The Royal Castle is the official residence of the King of Sweden. The Royal Castle has many tourist options including some of the museums mentioned above and more.
- Watch the popular Royal Changing of the Guard occurring daily at the Royal Castle.
- The oldest street is Prastgatan. At the corner of Prastgatan and Kåkbrinken, you will find a runestone in the wall. This runestone is approximately 200 years older than Stockholm, dating to around the year 1000.
- The restaurant Den Gyldene Freden has history dating back to 1722. Give it a try as it will probably be the oldest restaurant you will have dined at because it has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Den Gyldene Freden holds the title as the oldest restaurant in the world to have the same interior and surroundings.
- The smallest statue in Stockholm, Järnpojken, or as we know it, Iron Boy. Also referred to as the Boy Looking at the Moon, either rub it’s head or offer it a gift for good luck. When it’s cold, it can often be seen sporting a hat or other protective clothing. It’s found in the Bollhustäppan Square.
- Larger statues such as the bronze replica of St. George and the Dragon in the Kopmanbrinken Square, or the statue of Karl XIV, can be easily found and admired.
- The Great Square, Stortorget, is the oldest square in Stockholm. It is here where you see the oft-photographed colorful old buildings. It is also here that you will find a building with a cannonball embedded into the corner of the building. Another interesting find in this square is a building with 92 white stones in it’s facade, marking the 92 killed in the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520.
- In Stortorget you will find the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building, which is where the Literary Nobel Prize announcement is made by the Swedish Academy.
- Shop at well known and unique shops like Tomtar & Troll where all products are hand-crafted and come in various sizes. The Gnomes and Trolls sold here are based on creatures from ancient Scandinavian fairy tales.
- The Västerlånggatan street is the main tourist drag. It can be crowded and touristy, but you should be able to find all your souvenir needs here.
- Take a stroll along Skeppsbrokajen, running most of the way along the eastern edge of the island. From this quay, you’ll be afforded excellent views of the water. Take in the breeze, eat/drink at one of the restaurants/bars here, and people watch.
The list above gives a good sense of what Gamla Stan is about. It’s steeped in history, contains many historical sites, and has a unique ambiance that immerses you into years past. A walk through The Old Town is different, relaxing, fun, and best of all – free!
Need to Know
Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral): http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/
Tyska kyrkan (The German Church): http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/english
Visiting the Royal Palace: http://www.royalpalaces.se/royalcourt/visittheroyalpalaces/theroyalpalace.4.396160511584257f218000138.html
Tomtar & Troll: http://www.tomtar.se/?lang=en
Den Gyldene Freden: http://gyldenefreden.se/eng/start.html
Recommendation for your plan
Combine your Gamla Stan visit with a fun visit to the art in the Stockholm Subway Stations. This will provide your Stockholm tour with a powerful one two punch – back to back home run itinerary items. See my post for 8 Practical Tips For Visiting Stockholm’s Subway Art and the Stockholm Subway Photo Series to learn more about the Stockholm underground.
Got kids tagging along? Well, if you visit during the evenings, Gamla Stan is as close to a ghost town as you’ll get. An evening visit will give them the creeps, but they’ll love it! It turns out that Gamla Stan is steeped in unexplainable happenings and ghost stories. The best thing to do is to book a Ghost Walk with Stockholm Ghost Walk. Running 90 minutes long at a cost of 200 SEK pp (100 SEK for children between 7-14 years old), you’ll be led by a guide who will provide all the frightening details.
More Articles on Stockholm
If you found this helpful, then please share it and read the rest of the Stockholm Mini Guide for more tips and research on Stockholm!