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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Stockholm: Let's see you!

One of my favorite things is to play tourist in my hometown. The home town is not always truly “home,” more often “home away from home” or “second” (maybe third or fourth at this point).

Right now that means Stockholm, Sweden. Join me in quickly checking outsome of my fave places and running targets!

medieval Stockholm map
My medieval commute, yellow for Riddarholm, blue for Gamla Stan

Let’s start with the commute! We are lucky enough to live right in the middle of the city, and each day I walk through the heart of this ancient burg. How ancient? Burial sites date back to the late Roman period of the 200s. Records of the city’s founding go back to 1252, by Birger Jarl. Personally, I like the fanciful tale of how the various statesmen of the day put their fortunes, both figuratively (i.e. their hopes and dreams) and literally (i.e. the gold, silver and jewels) into a hollow log and let it float down the waterways. Where it landed because Stockholm. Meaning, in Swedish, “log island.” If there is such a particular island, it is likely Helgeandsholmen, where the legislature is today. It’s also where the medieval museum is, which is there thanks to the building of a parking lot in 1978, which uncovered lots of ruins. So, voila! A museum was founded and the legislators had to park elsewhere. (And speaking of thanks, quite a few of the pictures here are displays in the museum - so, many thanks indeed!)

What’s fun about this for me, is that my commute takes my through this heart of the city and highlights how vibrant the whole place is. Sure, I stroll across Helgeandsholmen, through the very open Riksdagshuset (people’s house, or parliament - the legislature buildings), and across Gamla Stan (old town). It doesn’t stop there, though. The Riddarholmen (riders or knights island) route is an alternative path, past the church which was originally founded as the Gråbrödra monastery in the 1200s. Across the way? The city hall, built in the 1920s. Then, up to the minute, happening right now: new bridges and pedestrian crossings to Södermalm.

If you’re following along at @GoProFun, you know that these are all favorite subjects!

Let's focus on Riddarholm for a moment. I have to admit, it gives me a Middle Earth happy twinge just to say it's name. I feel like I might bump into Theodwyn or Eomer. But it's just a twinge, because it's soon overwhelmed by the actual depth of the real history. An obvious heart of the small islet is the Gråbrödra (a.k.a. Gråmunkeklostret or Gray robes or Gray Friar's) monastery, now royal resting place. Founded by the Franciscan's it was in operation from 1270 until 1527 (when The Reformation swept Sweden and the monks were forced out). the site was then a hospital until 1551, followed by several religious colleges until around the 1670s. It was then a Lutheran church until modern times, with many Swedish royals finding their final resting place there. Today it is mostly a museum, yet continues to provide rest to those notables of ages gone by.

Around the island there are more signs of the 1800s, with a few cornerstones reaching even further back, including the birger Jarl towers (seen above in miniature, from the medieval museum and as they are today), stretching back to the ancient fortifications of the city. The buildings were used by the government of Stockholm and Sweden since that time, and yes, even today!

Across the way is the Stockholm City Hall. It appears older to me, but was completed in 1923. I guess it's because of the bricks used, which match the much older construction around the city. Reportedly, this was on purpose - and I love it! The location was also chosen for it's position between water, land and architecture. Additionally, there are touchstones to bygone eras. For example, the cenotaph (an empty grave) of Birger Jarl, forever looking over the city. Well, except he's not really in there of course. Or the statue of St. Goran (George) conquering the dragon. Or the seemingly mystical astrological symbols in glittering gold around the roof.

In any case, it's no wonder why my commute is so fun, and the places such a fave subject for my photos.

How about a few running targets?

The walk back and forth to work is constantly engaging, but the weekends are made for long treks! So, where do I head out to?

A super popular route, with me and many in the city, is the loop around Kungliga Djurgården (the Royal Garden). Starting from the well-known Blue Gate, it’s a good 10 kilometers around, with varied and beautiful water and park views the entire way. From there, if you prefer more forest and single track, you can also run through the parks just to the north, either looping back to the Blue Gate, or stretch across town through the pedestrian way of Valhallavagan. (and who doesn’t want to see Valhalla?!)

Another popular place is Hagaparken (another royal park, where princess Victoria lives today). The loop around Brunnsviken lake also sports beautiful water and varied wide, gravel trails, plus single track fun. If you do the loop, you’ll also have a chance to take in Stockholm University (founded 1878).

What’s that you say? Too close? Well! How about hoofing it out to Ekensburg for a little industrial archeology to take in Nobel’s blasting bunkers, the place where he invented dynamite? Still too close? Drottningholm Slott (queen’s palace) is within easy half-marathon range. Or perhaps you prefer wooded tracks the whole way? Then head to Solsidan across Gröna spåret (the Green Track), stretching from Hellasgården to Solsidan. Or perhaps you want to mix it all up? History, city, trail and track? Head for Vaxholm and it’s marvelous castle!

Too tired to lay shoe leather back? Not to worry! Public transport has you covered, whether you prefer bus, rail or water! Picking up an SL card is easy, at any train or subway station. And can be used on Stockholm county buses, subways, commuter rails and ferries.

This’ll be the first of a few travel pieces about Stockholm, and Sweden.

Let us know if there’s specifics you’d like to hear more about. Routes? Locations? Restaurants? Lodging? Happy to help!

We’ll see you out there!

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