Stockholm is famous for its palaces, grand houses and other decorated buildings along the city's many quays. These buildings were built as the city expanded, for the Swedish monarchy as well as nobles, businesspeople and other powerful people of its time; some of them for government agencies or companies. They can be visited roughly chronological, beginning at Riddarholmen, walking along the quays of Gamla stan, through Norrmalm and further along Strandvägen in Östermalm and to Djurgården.
This is mainly a showcase of Stockholm's architecture, representing several historical styles.
In Swedish, the words slott (from German Schloss) is used for a rural (sometimes fortified) building for a king or a local ruler. Palats (from French palace) is used for palace-styled townhouses. Neither word has a fixed definition.
The palaces in Stockholm are used for various purposes today: museums, conference sites, offices or private residences. Access to the public varies; all palaces can at least be seen up close.
Riddarholmen, "the Knight Isle", is dominated by nobility palaces. Most are today used by the judiciary. Some interiors are open during weekdays.
- 1 Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan). Riddarholm is the ancient core of Stockholm and this is the city's oldest building - though no longer the oldest church, as it's nowadays simply a museum. Built as an abbey in the late 14th century. Many Swedish monarchs are buried here, including Gustavus Adolphus (Gustav II Adolf) and Charles XII (Karl XII). But what about Nelson Mandela, Lord Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek and other notables? - no, their plaques are here as "Knights of the Order of Seraphim", a Swedish heraldic society.
Norrström is the stream north of Gamla Stan.
- 1 Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset). The city hall, where the Nobel Prize Banquet takes place every year, is an imposing brick building in the city centre. The building was finished in 1923, and as Stockholm is one of several cities claiming to be the Venice of the North, the City Hall's exterior was inspired by Venetian palaces, while the interior has similarities to a Viking-age longhouse. Guided tours are held daily, and allow you to see the impressive halls used for the Nobel festivities, the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall. The tower offers a great view of the Old Town and can be climbed (optionally, a lift can take you half the way).
- 2 Swedish Parliament (Sveriges riksdag). Nordic representative governments have their roots in the Old Norse thing, a word still used for the parliaments of Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Sweden has the more German-inspired word riksdag, literally "kingdom day", a term which reveals that the assembly used to be occasional. In 1866, the riksdag became a permanent two-chamber parliament, and the original riksdag building on Riddarholmen turned out to be too small for the chambers. As the current building by architect Aron Johansson was finished in 1905, the Neo-Baroque style was criticized for being outdated. The size was also intended to rival the palace. It has a great collection of exterior sculptures, some of them from dismantled government buildings.
- 3 Parliament Chamber (Riksdagens plenisal). The west wing of the building, at Lake Mälaren, was built for the Riksbank office. Since a 1971 reform, the riksdag has only one chamber of 349 members, too many to seat in the old building. A renovation finished in 1983 made room for the new chamber in the west wing, with a bleacher for the public. The old building is used for parliamentary groups and committees. Free guided tours in Swedish and English, and occasional access to sessions and debates.
- 4 Riksäpplet. The Globus cruciger is an ancient symbol for the monarch's divine right to rule on Earth. In Swedish it is more casually known as Riksäpplet, "the kingdom apple", and has been a piece of the Swedish Regalia since the 16th century (on display in the Stockholm Palace Treasury). 20 apples were made of granite for the Riksdag's roof. For a renovation in the 1930s, 14 of them were relocated, two on the ground near the riksdag. The 1980s renovation added glass fiber replicas of the apples to the roof.
- 2 Rosenbad (Swedish Government Offices). The 1902 Jugend (art nouveau) building was built for a bank, and acquired by the Government of Sweden in 1922. Since the 1980s, most government ministries are located in the neighbouring buildings, connected by underground tunnels. During the 2000s, security has been tightened, with less access by cars. Not open to the public.
- 3 Sager House (Sagerska huset). This 1900 neo-Renaissance building was Stockholm's last private palace, until widow Vera Sager, the last inhabitant, died in 1988. The 1986 assassination of Olof Palme called for increased security; since 1995, the Prime Minister lives here. Not open to the public.
- 4 The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). The building for sessions of the noble estate. Most of the nobility's privileges were abolished in 1866. In 2003, the last token privileges were abolished. The building has plenty of statues.
In the old days, Stockholm's citizens have thrown household waste in the water. As the land rose, much of the new surface consisted of dried waste, which compacted over the centuries. The waterfront buildings were built on top of this loose ground.
Skeppsbron (literally The Ship Bridge) was Stockholm's main harbour during the Age of Sail. The buildings on the waterfront were commissioned by the merchants, affectionally called Skeppsbroadeln, ("the Skeppsbron Nobility") though not legally nobles.
- 5 Zum Franziskaner ("Zum"), Skeppsbron 44. A German-themed restaurant tracing its history from the Hanseatic period, allegedly founded in 1471, in its current location since 1906. The wall sculptures have some interesting details, including a vagina.
- 6 Södra Bankohuset (Southern Bank House), Järntorget 84. The city's official iron weighing house was located here until 1662. It was replaced by the current building, Riksens Ständers Bank, later Sveriges Riksbank, the world's oldest surviving central bank. Sweden's currency used to be daler (same word root as dollar; as the crown had copper mines, they minted enormous copper coins, which could weigh up to 20 kg (44 lb). Since 2018, the building hosts a video game studio. Though Stockholm's main export commodities have changed from hardware to software, Järntorget still has many restaurants and taverns.
- 7 Brasserie Le Rouge, Brunnsgränd 2. A French-style luxury diner.
- 8 First Hotel Reisen, Skeppsbron 12. Large 4-star hotel on east waterfront. Rates from 2284 kr.
- 9 Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet). The Royal Palace remains the monarch's official residence, but King Carl XVI Gustaf, reigning since 1973, lives in Drottningholm in Ekerö. Most of the palace is open to the public, unless being used for a state ceremony. Entrance ticket includes The Royal Apartments, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Treasury, and Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities. Since 2011, a restoration of the Palace's exterior is under way, scheduled to finish in the 2030s.
- 10 The Royal Swedish Opera (Operan) (T-Centralen). This 1898 building, stages classical operas in original language or Swedish, as well as classical ballets and concerts. The first opera house was built in 1782, commissioned by King Gustav III; 10 years later he was assassinated at a masquerade ball in the same building (which was torn down in 1892). The Opera House offers daily guided tours in English. Strömterrassen is a café with an astounding view of the Royal Palace. Within the same building is Operakällaren and Café Opera (see below).
- 11 Grand Hôtel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8. A Grand Old Hotel opened in 1874 overlooking the Royal Palace, and the usual accommodation for visiting heads of state, Nobel laureates and pop stars, who can usually walk around the neighbourhood without being too disturbed by fans. The first Nobel Prize ceremonies were held here, and room No 702 is the astounding Nobel Room, where the literature prize winners stay overnight. The restaurant gives an excellent Swedish smörgåsbord, one of the very few establishments in Scandinavia that still does so. The piano bar is a delightful end-of-the-evening place to get a sophisticated drink.
- 12 Survey Office (Lantmäteristyrelsens hus). Built in 1642 as a leisure palace for Queen Kristina. From 1688 to 1975 it was headquarters to the National Survey Agency.
- 13 Tändstickspalatset (Matchstick Palace). A Swedish Grace office building commissioned by Swedish "matchstick king" Ivar Kreuger who owned up to 75 per cent of global matchstick production. He co-founded the Swedish film industry, and became a world celebrity himself, with the Matchstick Palace finished in 1928. The 1929 Wall Street crash and his death in 1932 bankrupted the company. The building has state-of-the-art technology for its time, with electric elevators, central heating, and decorations by Sweden's greatest artists at the time. Limited opportunities for visiting.
- 14 Radisson Blu Strand Hotel, Nybrokajen 9. Founded in 1912, previously owned by the Swedish Freemason Order, this waterfront hotel is a prominent example of Swedish architecture.
- 15 Hallwyll Museum (Hallwyllska Museet), Hamngatan 4. This urban palace was built in 1898 for Walther och Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, collectors of art and antiques from around the world. Since 1938 it is a museum. While some rooms have a historic or geographic theme, the building is a showcase of upper-class life of the early 20th century.
Strandvägen was built in the 19th century, with residences of the rising capitalist class.
- 16 Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten), Nybroplan. Sweden's national theatre, built in Wienerjugend (art nouveau) style in 1908. The building has rich ornaments in gold and marble, and a row of sculptures, with a bust of playwright August Strindberg (1849-1912) whose play Master Olof inaugurated the building. A statue of actress Margaretha Krook (1925-2001) represents the theatre's later history. The building has a restaurant.
- 17 Svenskt Tenn, Strandvägen 5 (T Östermalmstorg), ☏ . A well known store for high-quality Swedish design.
Djurgården was a royal park; since the 19th century it has hosted museums and exhibitions.
- 18 Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum), Djurgårdsvägen 6-16 (On Djurgården, next to Djurgården bridge.). 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.
- 19 Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet), Galärvarvsvägen 14. This museum displays the Vasa, a warship built for the Thirty Years War which sank in Stockholm Harbour on its maiden voyage in 1628, during the heyday of the Swedish Empire. Salvaged in 1961, the ship is almost wholly preserved, and is the only one of its kind.
- 20 Abba The Museum, Djurgårdsvägen 68. A museum of the Swedish pop band ABBA: their spectacular costumes, gold records and original items. In the same building you’ll find Pop House Hotel with 49 stylishly decorated hotel rooms and Pop House Hotel Food & Bar. It has a gift shop.
- 21 Vikingaliv, Djurgårdsvägen 48. A Viking museum opened in 2017. The main attraction is Ragnfrids saga, an 11-minute ride through dioramas depicting a Viking adventure. There is also an exhibition with replicas of Viking objects. See Vikings and the Old Norse for more real-life Viking experiences.
- 22 Spirits Museum (Spritmuseum), Djurgårdsvägen 38. Displays the history of alcoholic beverages in Sweden with heavy drinking, heavy government control, and heavy taxation. The museum also contains the Absolut Art Collection, containing advertising for Absolut Vodka by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and others.
- 23 Liljevalchs ([ˈliljəˈvalks]), Djurgårdsvägen 60. A contemporary art gallery, in business since 1916.
- 24 Waldemarsudde ([valdəmaʂˈɵdə]), Prins Eugens Väg 6, ☏ . F-W 11:00-17:00, Th 11:00-20:00. Prince Eugen (1865-1947), son of King Oscar II, was a revered artistic painter, and an avid art collector. His palace is now a museum housing his enormous art collection spanning the 1880-1940 period.
- 25 Thiel Gallery (Thielska Galleriet), Sjötullsbacken 8. An art gallery at the eastern edge of Djurgården, reached by bus 67.