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Gamla Stan: Stockholm’s Old Town

Visitors and locals alike enjoy strolling along the cobblestone lanes of the pedestrian-friendly Old Town, Gamla Stan. This well-preserved medieval city center is a living museum where you can shop, stop for lunch or a fika, dine in a Michelin star restaurant, bask in royal splendor at the Royal Palace or simply enjoy the sights. 

The “big square,” Stortorget, is the historic center. It is now the site of the Nobel Museum, cafés and a Christmas market featuring handicrafts and food. But it wasn’t always so alluring.

The 82 white stones on the 15th century red house there are said to have been added in the 1600s to represent the anti-unionist nobles executed in the 1520 Stockholm Bloodbath.

This three day siege after the coronation of the Danish king Christian “the Tyrant” II as King of Sweden outraged supporters of nobleman Gustav Vasa. They drove the Danes out, winning Swedish independence and making Gustav Vasa king.

The busy main streets, Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan, offer an array of both high quality and touristy shopping and dining and the little lanes beyond them are fun to explore.

There are passageways and alleyways, like Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, which narrows to under a yard wide. A little tunnel might lead to a tiny café. 

You might stumble upon little doorways like that of the Draymen’s House, built around 1600 for the guild licensed to distribute wine and spirits. It is now a museum.

There are also enchanting shops, like Tomtar and Troll. This shop is filled with handmade creatures from Swedish folklore that make unique souvenirs.

With over 600 rooms, the Royal Palace it is one of the largest palaces in Europe. is the official home of the King and Queen of Sweden, whose private residence is in Drottningholm. Visit the reception rooms to see treasures like Queen Kristina’s silver throne.

The adjacent Stockholm Cathedral, built in 1279, is where Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel were married in 2010. There’s a magnificent 15th century statue of St. George and the Dragon inside. 

There are also five palace museums — Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Hall of State, Halls of the Orders of Chivalry, and the Treasury. 

The Armory, with its gilded coronation carriages and coaches from the Royal Stable, splendid royal costumes and, of course, royal armor, is in the old vaults of the Royal Palace. It is the the oldest museum in Sweden.

And let’s not forget the military marching band and parade through the city and the daily changing of the guard at the Royal Palace.

Be sure to allow enough time to explore this fascinating area. For more information go to Visit Stockholm.

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