If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know that I’m pretty much an expert on hiking, the Vancouver area, Iceland and Nepal. So you might be surprised to hear that I’ve put together the ultimate self-guided walking tour of Stockholm. Wait, what? Stockholm? In Sweden? Yup!
Last month I went on a last minute trip to Stockholm. Yes, you heard that right, I booked last minute tickets to Sweden. Since it’s so far from Vancouver, it’s definitely not somewhere I thought I would visit as a quick, spur-of-the-moment trip. But my husband was heading there on business and it worked out for me to tag along. I honestly had no idea what to expect before I went.
And then I got there and it turns out Stockholm as an incredibly gorgeous old town center full of narrow alleyways, beautiful churches and tons of fun history. I spent an entire work week wandering the old town (known as Gamla Stan in Swedish) while my other half was at the office. (Ok, and also drinking coffee in adorable cafes.) And by the weekend, I felt like a local. So much like a local that I could navigate the winding streets like a pro and spout out historical facts about every other building. And now I’m passing that pseudo-local’s knowledge along to you. Read on for instructions for the ultimate self-guided walking tour of Stockholm’s old town. (You don’t have to be visiting Stockholm to enjoy the tour: you can take a virtual tour from the comfort of your home. There’s lots of pretty pictures!) I also made a pretty wicked custom Google Map that you can use to find your way. (I HEART maps, you know!)
START at Gustav Adolfs Torg Square
Begin your self-guided walking tour of Stockholm at Gustav Adolfs torg. This square is considered to be the geographic center of Stockholm. It is named for King Gustav Adolf II who founded the Swedish Empire in 1611. Stand facing south and look down the Norrbro bridge. From here you have a great view of the Royal Palace, which you’ll visit towards the end of your tour.
The building on your left is the Kungliga Operan, the National Swedish Opera House. This is the second opera house to stand on this site. The first was built at the request of King Gustav III in 1782. Unfortunately for the King, he was assassinated in his royal box while watching an opera in 1792. If you want to see the outfit he was wearing at the time (blood stains and all), visit the Royal Armoury Museum (Livrustkammaren) underneath the Royal Palace.
The building on your right is the Arvfurstens Palats. It currently houses the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it was originally built as the private residence of Princess Sophia Albertina, the younger sister of King Gustav III.
Turn RIGHT and walk to the Riksbron Bridge
To begin, turn right and walk next to the water along Stromgatan until you reach the Riksbron pedestrian bridge. The fresh waters of Lake Malaren meet the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea at this bridge. You can often see people fishing on the sea side of the bridge. Yup, the Swedes love fishing so much they do it in downtown Stockholm.
Turn around to look back towards Gustav Adolfs torg. The white building is Sagerskahuset, the official residence of the Swedish Prime Minister. So Sweden has a white house too 😉 Conveniently, the Prime Minister’s office is located a couple doors down to the left in the art nouveau style Rosenbad building.
Walk ACROSS the bridge
Your self-guided walking tour of Stockholm will now enter the old town proper. Walk across the Riksbron Bridge, under the arch and into the courtyard of Riksdagshuset, the Swedish House of Parliament. This imposing building takes up most of the island of Helgeandsholmen.
Walk THROUGH the courtyard and ACROSS the bridge
This short bridge is called Stallbron, which means “stable bridge” in Swedish because historically, the royal stables were located on Helgeandsholmen. Once you cross the bridge you will be on Stadsholmen, the largest of Gamla Stan’s islands. To your left is the Royal Palace. (Don’t worry, we’ll come back here later!)
Turn RIGHT on Myntgatan and go STRAIGHT to the Riddarholm Bridge
From the bridge, turn right on Myntgatan follow it as it turns into Riddarhustorget and then heads towards the Riddarholm Bridge. The two grand buildings you’ll pass on your right are the Bonde Palace and Riddarhuset. The Bonde Palace was originally constructed in the 1600s as a private residence for a member of the Swedish nobility, but today it houses the Swedish Supreme Court. Next to the Bonde Palace is Riaddarhuset, the Swedish House of Nobility which also dates from the 1600s.
CROSS the bridge to Riddarholm Church
Cross the Riddarholm Bridge and arrive on Riddarholmen, the third of Gamla Stan’s islands. The main attraction here is Riddarholmkyrkan Church one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. Parts of it date back to the medieval times of the 13th century. Inside you’ll find the tombs of all the Swedish kings. There is a 60SEK entrance fee (or you can get in with a Stockholm Pass).
Go BACK across the bridge, then turn RIGHT on Storkyrkbrinken
After visiting Riddarholm Church, retrace your steps back across the Riddarholm Bridge and head back down Myntgatan to Storkyrkbrinken. Turn right on Storkyrkbrinken. From here you will be able to see the tower of Storkyrkan Church up the hill.
Turn RIGHT on Prastgatan
Follow Storkyrkbrinken for a few blocks, then turn right on Prastgatan. Prastgatan means “priest street” in Swedish and historically clergy associated with the nearby Storkyrkan Church lived here. Today it’s a picturesque narrow street lined with old homes. It’s my favourite place to walk in Stockholm’s old town since it isn’t crowded with tourists. Oh, and it’s gorgeous.
STOP at the intersection with Kakbrinken
Follow Prastgatan for four blocks to the intersection with Kakbrinken. Here you will find a runestone built into the wall of a shop. The stone dates from the Iron Age but historians don’t know exactly how old it is or why it is in a wall in Stockholm! Runestones were usually made to memorialize the dead, and this one says (in old Norse) “Torsten and Frögunn had the stone erected after their son”.
CONTINUE on Prastgatan to Tyska Stallplan
Follow Prastgatan for a few more blocks to Tyska Stallplan, which means German Stable Square. This area of Gamla Stan is the old German quarter. So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the church you passed along the way is the German Church (Tyska Krykan). And don’t worry, we’ll loop back and visit it later.
Turn RIGHT Into Marten Trotzigs Grand
From Tyska Stallplan take a few more steps down Prastgatan, then turn right into Marten Trotzigs Grand. Marten Trotzigs Grand is the narrowest street in Stockholm – it’s so skinny that you might not even notice that it’s there. It’s only 90cm wide at it’s narrowest point and since the buildings on either side are slowly tilting with age, it’s getting incrementally narrower each year. It’s also the only place in Stockholm’s old town where you will see graffiti. Walk down this “street” (which actually includes a set of stairs) until it ends a block later at Vasterlanggatan.
Turn LEFT on Vasterlanggatan
After emerging from tiny Marten Trotzigs Grand, turn left onto Vasterlanggatan. Vasterlanggatan runs the length of Gamla Stan parallel to Prastgatan and is filled with souvenir shops and touristy restaurants. If you need some postcards or fake Viking helmets, this is the place to go.
Turn LEFT Into Jarntorget
From Vasterlanggatan turn left into Jarntorget, which means Iron Square in Swedish. There has been a square on this spot since the 1300s. Historically it was an important trade center, but today it is surrounded by cute little cafes with outdoor seating, including Sundbergs Konditori, the oldest bakery-cafe in Stockholm, which dates back to 1785. Stop in for a fika (coffee break) to sample the pastries.
Turn LEFT onto Osterlanggatan, then go UP the hill
From Jarntorget turn left onto Osterlanggatan, then head left up the hill on Sodra Benickebrinken. There are public toilets located underneath this sloping street if you need a bathroom break. Historically this area used to be home to many taverns.
Turn LEFT on Svartmangatan and to Tyska Kyrkan
From the top of the slope on Sodra Benickebrinken, turn left onto Svartmangatan. The literal translation is “black man street”, but the name isn’t as offensive as it sounds: it refers to the Blackfriars monastery that used to located in this area. Continue on Svartmangatan for a few blocks until you reach Tyska Kyrkan (the German Church) on your left. This is the only church in Gamla Stan without an entry fee, so be sure to go inside. The Baroque interior and stained glass windows are beautifully ornate.
Turn RIGHT on Kindstugatan to Branda Tomten
After you’ve finished admiring the interior of the German Church, turn left out of the churchyard back on to Svartmangatan, then make your first right onto Kindstugatan. Within a block’s walk you’ll arrive at Branda Tomten, which translates to “the burnt lot”. There was a building in the space occupied by this triangular square until 1728, when it burned down. The lot was left vacant afterwards since it provided a convenient place to turn horse-drawn carriages around. Now it houses a beautiful chestnut tree and climbing vines, making it a great spot for photographs.
Turn LEFT onto Sjalgardsgatan, then RIGHT to the Statue of Saint George and the Dragon
From Branda Tomten, make a left onto Sjalgardsgatan, then immediately turn right onto Kopmangatan. A block later you’ll arrive in Kopmantorget Square, the site of a large bronze statue of Saint George and the Dragon. The statue depicts Saint George slaying a dragon. (Surprise! Ok, not really.) The legend of Saint George dates back to the Crusades. Saint George is said to have saved an entire village in Libya from a dragon… provided they converted to Christianity first, of course. The statue is actually a replica – the original wooden version is inside Storkyrkan Church. You have to pay to get in to the church, but there’s no fee to view this statue 🙂
Walk BACK up Kopmangatan to Stortorget
From the statue of Saint George, turn around and head back up Kopmangatan. Walk 4 blocks until you reach Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan. In fact, the name means “big square” in Swedish. Stortorget is Stockholm’s picture-perfect showpiece and the colourful buildings on the south side of the square have been featured on countless postcards (and Instagram selfies).
However, Stortorget has a not-so-picture-perfect history: it was the scene of the Stockholm Bloodbath that took place over three days in 1520. The King of Denmark invited all the Swedish royalty and nobility to a banquet… and then had them all executed. The only noble to escape the carnage was Gustav Vasa since he was away from Stockholm at the time. He gathered an army outside the capital and eventually defeated the Danish to liberate Sweden. Despite all his friends being killed and having to wage a war, it worked out pretty well for Gustav: He was the last surviving noble, so he got to become the first King of Sweden!
There are also several old and historical buildings around the square. The Swedish Stock Exchange building on the north side of the square dates back to 1776. These days it houses the Nobel Museum. The houses at numbers 3 and 5 date back to 1640s. Today they house a Christian charity for the homeless. The colourful buildings at numbers 14-22 (the postcard ones) are from the 1600 and 1700s. There are cafes on the ground floors of most of them now. Grab a patio seat at Chokladkoppen (in the orange building at number 18), order a hot chocolate and a slice of prinsesstårta cake, and settle in for some people watching.
Go LEFT to Trangsund and Storkyrkan
When you’ve taken enough selfies in front of the picturesque buildings of Stortorget (I won’t judge – I did it too), leave the square on Trangsund, on the left side of the Nobel Museum. Walk a block to reach Storkyrkan, which means “grand church” in Swedish. Dating back to the 13th century, Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Gamla Stan, even older than Riddarholm Church. Since it is right next to the royal palace, it has hosted many royal weddings and coronations.
The interior of the church is worth a visit, even though it costs 60 SEK (or use your Stockholm Pass). The ornate royal pews and silver altar are pretty spectacular. Plus you can see the original wooden version of the statue of Saint George and the Dragon – it’s even bigger than the replica.
Turn RIGHT on Storkyrkobrinken, then LEFT to Parade Square
After visiting Storkyrkan, turn right around the corner of the church on to Storkyrkobrinken, then immediately make a left onto Hogvaktsterrassen to enter the Parade Square of the Royal Palace. This circular plaza marks the tourist entrance to the Royal Apartments, the only area of the Royal Palace that is open to the public. The changing of the guard ceremony also takes place daily in this square. It starts at 12:15 on weekdays and 1:15 on weekends in the summer, and then occurs on a reduced schedule the rest of the year. Get there early if you want a good spot in front to watch as it gets busy.
Turn RIGHT, then go LEFT on Slottsbacken
Walk through Parade Square, then turn right to exit the square. Turn left on Slottsbacken to walk down the south side of the Royal Palace. The palace was originally built in 1754, although there has been a castle on this spot since the 13th century. The present day palace has over 1400 rooms and is home to the royal family as well as several museums. Remember how I told you at the beginning of the tour that you can check out the bloody clothes King Gustav III was assassinated in? You’ll find them in the Royal Armoury Museum on the south side of the building.
Turn LEFT onto Skeppsbron
At the bottom of Slottsbacken, turn left on to Skeppsbron to walk along the east side of the palace. There are two waterfall style fountains coming out of the wings of the building with a private terrace garden in between. Opposite the palace there is a great view of the inner harbour of Stockholm and the island of Skeppsholmen, which houses many museums.
Turn LEFT onto Slottskajen and walk UP the ramp
At the end of the east wall of the Royal Palace, turn left to the north side of the palace on Slottskajen and walk up the ramp. From up here you get a great view of the gardens in front of Riksdaghuset and across to Gustav Adolfs Torg Square. Underneath the ramp you will find the entrance to the Tre Kronor Museum that explores the history of the medieval castle that once stood on this spot.
The exterior of the Royal Palace has been undergoing restoration work since 2011 to repair the aging sandstone facade. As of 2017 the north and east sides of the palace are being worked on, so expect to see scaffolding in this area.
Walk back DOWN the ramp and ACROSS the bridge
Once you cross the stone Norrbro bridge, you will be back on Helgeandsholmen island. On your left is the Riksdaghuset, the Swedish House of Parliament. You can see that the Baroque facade on this side is done in a much different style than the Neoclassical side you walked through at the beginning of the tour. If you head down the stairs to the park on your right, you will find the semi-hidden entrance to the Medieval Museum. In the 1970s workers were excavating this area to build a car park… when they discovered parts of a medieval city wall. So instead of building a car park, they built a museum. Inside this museum, you can visit the old city wall as well as several interactive exhibits about life in medieval Stockholm. Oh also, it’s FREE to visit!
CROSS the bridge back to Gustav Adolfs Torg Square
Once you cross the bridge you’ll be back in Gustav Adolf’s Torg Square, where the tour started. Turn around and take one last look at the Royal Palace. You have visited three islands, seen three churches and walked about 3 kilometers (2 miles). Thanks for sticking with me through this self-guided walking tour of Stockholm! Let me know how you liked it in the comments.
- For more photos of Stockholm (including lots of other neighborhoods, feast your eyes on 30 Photos of Stockholm That Will Inspire You to Visit
- Want to read another of my “Ultimate” guides? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Ice Caves in Iceland
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