Itineraries > Europe itineraries > Stockholm environmentalist tour

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, has been a forerunner in the environmentalist movement and sustainable development.

Walking tours in Stockholm
History tourStockholm Main StreetQuay palace tourSödermalm heights tour
Environmentalist tourMillennium TourSwedish Grace tourLidingö history tour

Understand Edit

See also: Nordic history

Sweden has had a prominent role in the natural sciences since the 18th century, with Carl Linnaeus founding systematic biology, and Anders Celsius inventing the 100-degree temperature scale. In 1896, physicist Svante Arrhenius described the greenhouse effect. Since 1901, Stockholm hosts the Nobel Prize ceremony. The rise of Nordic nationalism in the 19th century included appreciation of nature and outdoor life as a pastime; and the sparse population allowed the right to roam. Naturvårdsverket (the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency) was founded in 1967, as the first of its kind.

With vast distances, Sweden has had a love story with the automobile (see driving in Sweden), famous for Volvo, Saab and Scania. While Swedish cars and trucks have traditionally been heavier and thirstier than other European brands, the makers are now pioneering fuel efficiency and electric engines. Stockholm was redeveloped during the 1960s with an extensive system of highways and sprawling suburbs, brought to a halt in the early 1970s with a rising environmentalist movement, as well as the 1973 oil crisis. Since the 2010s, car lanes and parking lots have been reduced to make room for cyclists and pedestrians.

Sweden has close to zero domestic fossil fuel deposits (except peat) and has been phasing out coal and oil for strategic reasons already since the 1970s oil crisis. As the climate agenda has become important, Sweden has a realistic aim for a carbon-free economy. Still, motorways are expanded around the outskirts of Stockholm, many of them underground, with some controversy over continued pollution, fossil dependency and suburban sprawl.

Stockholm, just as other large cities, used to be troubled by sewage well into the mid-20th century, and later by industrial pollution and vehicle emissions. Today the air is famously clean, and the water in lake Mälaren is good enough to drink.

Get in Edit

While Stockholm has several airports nearby, a greener approach would be a train from Oslo or Copenhagen; see Rail and bus travel in Sweden. Trains from west and south make a glorious entry to Stockholm, across bridges with an astounding view of Lake Mälaren.

Stockholm can also be reached by sailing boat through Stockholm archipelago; see boating in the Baltic Sea.

Get around Edit

Public transport in Stockholm is run by SL. Since 2018, all buses are fossil-free.

Urban cycling is a good method to get around Stockholm, at least when weather is decently warm; see Cycling in Sweden. The bicycle lane system has been expanded during the 2010s. The city has had a bike rental system as well as electric scooter operators; as of 2020 their outlook is uncertain.

Cars are subject to congestion tax, and some parts of the inner city require Euro 5 or higher emission standard (see Driving in Sweden). Taxis are rather expensive, and do not follow a fixed price. Driving in Stockholm is rarely necessary, in any case.

Destinations Edit

Places in Stockholm related to the environmental movement and sustainable technology. Green dots are visible in the distance.

Central Stockholm Edit

  • 1 Mynttorget (Gamla stan). The square next to the parliament building is the location of public protests, including Greta Thunberg's climate strike.    
  • 2 Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet). Built between 1697 and 1754, the Royal Palace is the official residence of the king of Sweden. The reigning king Carl XVI Gustaf (who lives in Drottningholm in Ekerö) has För Sverige i tiden ("For Sweden, with the times") as his motto; as an avid environmentalist, he has had solar panels installed on the palace roof.    
  • 3 Kungsträdgården elm trees. The name "the King's Garden" bears witness of the original function as a closed-off royal park, open to the public only since the 18th century. Today it is used for festivals and other public events. Out of several redevelopments of the park, the most controversial was a metro exit, which was to be built in 1971, requiring the destruction of thirteen elm trees. Public protests forced the government to back down, and relocate the exit to a nearby building.    
Elm tree scarred by a chainsaw in 1971.
  • 4 Strömkajen. The ferries to the Stockholm archipelago used to run on coal-powered steam engines, which were over time converted for diesel propulsion. By 2030, all public transportation ferries will be fossil-free.  
  • 5 Environmental obelisks (Miljöobelisker). Since 1994, these obelisks provide a live bar chart of pollution and other parameters for air and water in Stockholm.
  • 6 Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum), Djurgårdsvägen 6-16 (On Djurgården, next to Djurgården bridge. Bus 44, 69 and 76. Tram from Sergels Torg.). A museum of cultural history from 1520 to our days, in an impressive 1907 cathedral-like building on Djurgården. Exhibitions focus on Swedish handicraft, customs and traditions. The museum also displays the effect of global warming on the Arctic and the indigenous peoples, including the Sami culture.    
  • 1 Skansen. Founded in 1891, Skansen is the world's oldest open-air museum, containing a zoological garden specializing in Nordic fauna, such as moose, reindeer, boar, bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine, with information about their conservation status. It features over 150 historic buildings from previous centuries, relocated from all parts of Sweden. Skansen has been paramount in species conservation, especially for the European bison. An addition from 2018 is an aquarium which displays the environmental threats to the Baltic Sea.    
  • 2 Henriksdal sewage treatment plant. A sewage treatment plant was built here in 1941. Expanded over the decades, it is today a state-of-the-art facility, which extracts biogas for vehicles, replacing fossil fuel gas. The chimney is visible around most of Stockholm. On the hill is an apartment complex nicknamed dasslocket ("the toilet lid") where Miljöpartiet (the Green Party) was founded on 30 September 1980, by five people at the kitchen table of sociologist and politician Per Gahrton.  
  • 3 Hammarby Sjöstad (Södermalm). A former industrial slum which was torn down in 2002 to make place for a new district, intended to be a hallmark of energy efficiency and recycling.    

Norra Djurgården Edit

Djurgården literally means "animal yard" and was Royal hunting grounds, partially enclosed. Hjorthagen is a neighborhood named by the deer enclosure.

  • 1 Värtahamnen. Stockholm's main harbour during the 20th century. The environmental impact of ship transport has been under scrutiny, and in the 2010s, much of the freight was relocated to Nynäshamn to reduce traffic through the Stockholm archipelago. The Baltic Sea ferries still dock here. Much of the freight harbour area will be redeveloped for housing.    
  • 7 Värtaverket (Östermalm). A power plant opened in 1903. It used coal for much of its history, until the coal boilers were finally shut down in 2020. Today, all fuels are renewable.  
  • 8 Ropsten heat pumps. A heat pump is a machine which uses electricity to increase a temperature gradient; making a hot place hotter, and a cold place colder, similar to a refrigerator or an air conditioner. The heat pumps in Ropsten use seawater for district heating and district cooling.
  • 4 Lidingöbron. The first urban motorway in Stockholm was Essingeleden, opened in 1966. Stockholm had plans for an extensive motorway system including a circular beltway, which were cancelled in the 1970s due to the growing environmentalist movement, as well as the 1973 oil crisis. The bridge to Lidingö was planned to be the extension of a motorway through the inner city, Rådmansleden. It was never completed.    
  • 9 Toll booth. Since 2007, Stockholm levies a congestion tax from cars passing in or out of the inner city, depending on time of the day. The model was controversial when introduced, but has now been adapted by many other cities around the world, including London.
  • 2 Stockholm Gas Works (Östermalm). The Stockholm Gas Works was an industrial facility which produced hydrocarbon fuel gas since its opening on 23 November 1893. The raw material has been imported coal and oil. The emissions polluted both air and ground, and the whole facility was dismantled in 2011. During the 2010s, the contaminated ground was sanitized, making place for a new urban district. Some of the industrial brick buildings remain, including two gas holders, for more contemporary use. Most buildings will be open to the public by the mid-2020s.  
  • 10 Petroleum gasworks. Four processing units which made gas from liquid petroleum. All except one will be dismantled.
  • 11 Coal house. A wooden warehouse for coal, which will be dismantled and rebuilt as a market hall.
  • 1 Building 20: Mechanical building. Hosts Systembolaget, the national liquor store. Organic farming has seen a rise in Sweden, and an increasing number of beers and liquors are organic.
  • 12 Building 8: Purification building. Finished in 1893 for purification of coal gas. Hosts the Berghs School of Communication.
  • 13 Stockholm Transport Museum (Stockholms spårvägsmuseum). The regeneration building of the gas works is used as a museum of Stockholm's public transportation system, with an emphasis on trams.    
  • 14 Building 10: Purification building. Built in 1905 and used for water gas. Office for Sandvik AB.
  • 15 Gasometer building. A building used as a gasometer building and a laboratory. Finished in 1893 as one of the most spectacular buildings in the cluster. Used as a climbing arena today.
  • 1 Building 27: Steam boiler building. Hosts a café.
  • 16 Office building. The gas works office building is the site office during the redevelopment phase. As the historic interiors have been dismantled, it will convert to rental apartments.
  • 17 Gasklocka 1. A brick gas holder designed by Ferdinand Boberg, used from 1893. Will be transformed to a hotel set to open in 2026.
  • 18 Gasklocka 2. A larger gas holder which was in use from 1899. Will become a performance stage set to open in 2026.
  • 19 Gasklocka 3. The metallic frame of a dismantled gas holder. An art gallery is planned within the frame.
  • 20 Gasklocka 4. A metal gas holder, the tallest one, was dismantled in 2018, with nothing remaining except bare ground. A residential skyscraper is planned on this spot.
  • 21 Gasklocka 5. A spherical gas holder built in 1972. It will be transformed to an office building.
  • 22 Norra länken (Northern link). Only in the 2010s, motorway tunnels north and south of the cities were finished. The eastern part of the beltway is still considered as of the 2020s, either as a bridge or a tunnel, but remains controversial.    
  • 23 R1 Reactor Hall. Sweden's first experimental nuclear reactor. As in other countries, nuclear technology has been controversial in Sweden. Sweden's Cold War non-alignment policy led to a nuclear weapons program, which was just a few grams of plutonium short of a live bomb test; but since the 1960s the country has adhered to the non-proliferation treaty. A national referendum in 1980 led to the ambiguous result to phase out nuclear power in Sweden; while the proposed deadline was 2010, the country still has three active nuclear power plants in 2020, supplying nearly half of the country's electricity. Access only during special events.    
  • 5 Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska riksmuseet), Frescativägen 40 (T Universitetet and then bus 40 or 540). The museum's displays animals, plants, fungi, minerals and fossils from all continents, some acquired during the voyages of James Cook. Feature exhibits of evolution, the polar areas, and Scandinavian nature.    

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