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Things to Do in Gamla Stan | Old Town Stockholm

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This self-guided tour will take you to some of the most notable sites in Old Town Stockholm, covering the history of the oldest parts of the city in great detail.


Overview

Over the course of the tour, we’ll introduce you to the major historic sites of the neighborhood and activities to consider while you’re there.

The route is a little less than 3 kilometers or 2 miles. If you just walk through the route, you’d be done within an hour and a half.

You can also reference the map for alternate routes or to make sure you’re on track. 

Self Guidedf Tour Stockholm

The tour begins in Gustav Adolfs Torg, a city square just north of Gamla Stan, and ends at the Museum of Medieval Stockholm. 

Several public transit options can get you to the starting point. The #57 and 65 buses drop off right in the square. It’s also about a ten-minute walk from

Central Station, and several ferries land just a little east of the square.

If you’d prefer the help of a professional tour guide, check our post covering pay-what-you-wish walking tours of Stockholm.

Stockholm Walking Tours

Audio Tour

We also offer an audio tour of Gamla Stan, researched, written, and recorded by one of our own tour guides.

Here’s a sample.

  1. Purchase an audio tour - $2.99
  2. Get a confirmation email with .mp3, .pdf, and embeddable Google Map
  3. Enjoy the tour(s).

You can also find more fun attractions and activities in this city using our guide for things to do in Stockholm.


Gustav Adolfs Torg

The name “Gustav Adolfs Torg” means “Square of Gustavus Adolphus,” named for one of Sweden’s most significant kings.

He’s also the subject of the statue in the middle of the square.

He became king in 1632 at the age of 16 and was immediately thrown into multiple wars.

He rose to the occasion, and today he’s most famous for his military career, leading Sweden during the Thirty Years War.

W. Bulach, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The square is just outside the Gamla Stan or Old Town area. The statue, looking south across the water, is facing straight toward it. 

For a small sense of how things looked during Gustavus Adolphus’s lifetime, you can look at the Palace of the Hereditary Prince, the building on the left if you’re facing away from the water.

Opposite the Palace of the Hereditary Prince is the Royal Opera, while in the middle, behind the statue, is the Ministry of Defense.


Sagerska huset (Prime Minister’s residence)

The Sagerska Huset or Sager House is named for the Sager family, who built and renovated it to its current design late in the 19th century.

The last Sager resident left the house in 1988, making this the last palace in the heart of the city that served as a private residence.

It’s still a residence now, but one belonging to the state. 

I99pema, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking south, away from the Sager House and across the water, you can see the Royal Palace, ahead and slightly to the left, partly hidden behind the Parliament House. We’ll see both later.

The Royal Palace was once the seat of political power in Sweden, but today, the monarch’s power is symbolic.

Most of the substantive work happens across the water in the Parliament House and in the Prime Minister’s office.


Rosenbad

The Rosenbad or Prime Minister’s office is made up of multiple buildings that were merged together when the government took use of them.

The original buildings were completed early in the 20th century during the heyday of the Art Nouveau style.

The name “Rosenbad” means “rose bath,” and it’s named after a sauna that was located here, where oils of flowers like roses would have been infused into the water.

https://pixabay.com/photos/architecture-body-of-water-city-3144842/

As members of the Swedish government come and go from work here, they’re likely to pass a small sculpture, located at the corner of the building closest to the Sager House. 

This sculpture depicts a character from a children’s book as a homeless person, and it was chosen for this location by a poll conducted by a newspaper written for and by the homeless in Stockholm.


Riksbron

This simple bridge has the formidable name of “the National Bridge.”

It’s named more for its location, connecting the Prime Minister’s turf with that of Parliament, than for any particular grandeur – although you’ll notice the plaque on the bridge calls the arch “stylish” and the lamps “elegant.”

The water underneath is part of Lake Malaren, which drains into the Baltic Sea through this part of Stockholm.

Under this bridge is one of the sluice gates that allows the lake to be divided from the sea when necessary.

Tuomas Vitikainen, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The lake provides most of the area’s fresh water. When the lake is high, this system can keep that valuable water from draining into the ocean.

When the lake is low, the system can close to keep salt from the Baltic out of the city’s drinking water.

The architect who ended up finally designing the current bridge, Ragnar Östberg, is also responsible for Stockholm City Hall.

If you look to the right as you cross the bridge, it’s in the distance at the right end of the panorama.


Parliament House

This huge building is the home of the Riksdag, or the Parliament of Sweden. You can’t miss it – it takes up about half of the island it’s located on.

The building is classic and modern all at once. Most of what you can see is the Neo-Baroque and Neoclassical portions begun late in the 19th century.

But construction took so long that by the time it was finished, design fashion had changed, and inside, it was decorated in the latest style, Art Nouveau.

https://pixabay.com/photos/sweden-parliament-2474131/

Sweden has had a Parliament since the early 16th century, but before the late 18th and early 19th century it consisted solely of members of Sweden’s Nobility.

The Parliament House is always free to enter. Free guided tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30pm. They last about an hour and are held in English.

Between late June and mid-August, tours are available at 12, 1, 2, and 3pm every weekday.


Bonde Palace (Supreme Court)

Here’s another private palace turned state building – this one is the home of the Swedish Supreme Court.

Unlike the buildings we’ve seen so far, though, this one was built in the days of the Swedish Empire and still captures its atmosphere. Construction began in the 1660s.

Its owner, Baron Gustaf Bonde, had just been appointed Lord High Treasurer of Sweden. Important Swedes made a habit of competing to build the most impressive homes.

Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bonde was destined to never see it finished. He did move in while construction was underway, but he died a short while later.

The house never brought Bonde’s family much joy, either. Their fortunes were in decline before his death, so they resorted to renting out parts of the house, including to the city.

In 1730, the city acquired it outright and it became the City Hall.

Courts have also been located here since the 18 th century, and it became the Supreme Court in 1949.


House of Nobility

This is the Riddarhuset, another relic of the Swedish Empire. It was begun in 1641, at which point Stockholm, the capital of an empire, was a town no larger than this island.

In fact, the island still had some room to spare!

Before this building was begun, the ground under it was farmland.

If you look at the building from the side facing the water, you can see a statue of the man who owned that farmland – Axel Oxenstierna. 

He’s famous as one of the most influential men in Sweden’s history, in part because he was its longest-serving Lord High Chancellor, a position similar to today’s Prime Minister, which he filled for 42 years.

Ankara, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a phrase on a medallion in the center of the pediment, the triangular roof element centered above the door. It reads “Palatium Ordinis Equestris.” 

This is the Latin version of the building’s name, Riddarhuset. The Latin “equestris” means equestrian and the Swedish “riddare” means rider – both words that here refer to knighthood. 

So this is the Palace of the Equestrian Order or the House of Knighthood, or as it’s most commonly called in English, the House of Nobility.

The Riddarhuset opens for an hour-long visit Monday through Friday between 11am and noon.

Admission is 60 crowns for adults and 40 forstudents and seniors, with no cash accepted. It’s free with a Stockholm Pass. 


Riddarholmen Church (Tomb of Swedish Kings)

The island you’re standing on used to be called Greyfriars’ Island, and its main feature was the Greyfriars monastery, built in the 1200s, of which this church is the survivor.

Besides being one of the oldest buildings in the city, it’s also the burial place of almost every Swedish monarch from Gustavus Adolphus through 1950, along with their families and a few more kings going as far back as 1290.

https://pixabay.com/photos/riddarholmen-waterway-yacht-sweden-4575044/

If you decide to enter, you’ll find a church that is only a burial site today – it hasn’t had a congregation since 1807. 

Access depends on the time of year. It’s closed between December and April; from May through September, it’s open 10am to 5pm daily; and in October and November, it’s open 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission is 50 crowns or free with a Stockholm Pass.

A 200-crown ticket is also available that combines the church and the Royal Palace. You may also find music events here on weekends during the summer.


Takvandring Sverige AB (Rooftop tour)

This building is the home of a business called Takvandring Sverige AB. A “takvandring” is a rooftop hike – and that’s exactly what the tour company located here offers. 

As beautiful as Stockholm may be, one challenge in a flat, waterside city like this one is that views from above are hard to come by. 

These folks have fixed that by creating a series of catwalks around the roof of this building, offering a brief historic tour with a 360-degree view of Gamla Stan in just a few hundred meters of walking.

Tours last a little more than an hour and are available in Swedish, English, German, and Mandarin. Tickets are 595 crowns per person. 

Safety gear is included, but do bear in mind the elevation and the weather before committing – if there’s any wind, you’ll feel it up there.


Prästgatan

This street stands out for being narrow – it still has its medieval shape,

which has never been changed to accommodate cars. It’s also a long street – our tour runs almost the full length of it, and it connects several of our stops.

The name Prästgatan means Priest Street. This was the home of the Blackfriars monastery, now long since gone, and other clerical buildings.

Arild Vågen, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In an interesting contrast with that name, the area around this northern end of Prästgatan was known to the medieval residents as “Helvetet” or “Hell,” and this part of the street itself was called Helvetesgränd or “Hell’s Alley.” 

The reason for this isn’t known for sure, but the Swedish word used for the Christian concept of Hell was used in the old Norse religion to describe a general afterlife, somewhere all the dead went regardless of their behavior. 

And since this was a place believed to lie to the north, “Hell” was a name sometimes given to northerly places or, in this case, maybe just the northern end of streets.


Runestone

You’re looking for a single large flat stone, built into the wall, with carvings on it.

The corner of the building is protected by an upright cannon, which may be the easiest thing to spot; the stone is just behind the top of the cannon.

This is a runestone – a memorial marker, in this case, with a decorative design in the center and an inscription around the outside, partly lost.

Runes are the writing system used for many ancient Germanic languages in central and northern Europe. 

Mats Halldin 17:11, 23 March 2007 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

In recent history, you’re likeliest to see runes embraced by a variety of people who share a strong romance for pre-Christian Germanic culture, ranging from fantasy novelist JRR Tolkien to Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler.

The history of this particular runestone is hard to guess. The inscription dedicates the stone to the son of Torsten and Frögunn; the son’s name is one of the missing pieces. 

The stone was probably inscribed right around the time Sweden was Christianizing, which makes it likely older than Stockholm itself, and it probably didn’t originate here. 

Chances are good that whoever put it here didn’t understand runic writing and didn’t know or care what the stone said – just needed building material.


Sankta Gertrud, Tyska Kyrkan

“Tyska Kyrkan” means “German Church.” From the corner nearest to Prästgatan, you can see a courtyard gate with some German-language advice over it: “Fürchtet Gott! Ehret den König!” Fear God and honor the King.

This church was part of a parish set aside for German expats in the 16th century, but a German presence goes back to the beginning of Stockholm.

Birger Jarl, the man often credited with founding Stockholm, encouraged German merchants to live in the city.

And the area around the church became the German Quarter long before the church was built. 

St. Gertrude, for whom the church is named, is the patron saint of travelers – which could include merchants, expats, and maybe you. 

Anders Biörk, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you go inside, you could see a model of her, holding a model of the church itself, although not so detailed that you can see an even smaller model of her inside it.

If you looked into the relatively austere church on Riddarholmen, you’re in for a contrast here.

You’ll find an extremely detailed ebony and alabaster pulpit, a massive gold altar incorporating saint paintings and a gold king’s gallery, plus an even more than usually ornate pipe organ and some beautiful stained glass.

If you’re just looking from the outside, take a second to enjoy the spire, the point of which is the highest elevation in the neighborhood, and a few gargoyles, far away from their native habitat.

As with the Riddarholmen church, access depends on the season. You’ll be able to see when services will be held from a board by the main door. Admission is 30 crowns, though generally you can look in for free.


Tyska Stallplan

Just before the end of the playground, watch on the right for #74. On the wall, you’ll see pieces of metal in shapes like a looped knotted rope or a pair of scissors. These are wall anchors.

Looking up at the top left of the building, you can see wall anchors spelling out the exact year it was built. Tyska Stallplan is at the end of the park.

The space was once part of the Blackfriars Monastery, built in the 1300s, when Stockholm was still young.

Most of the monastery was torn down in 1547 as Stockholm was becoming Protestant, but you can still see the shape of some of its walls if you look for a line of cobblestones along this part of Prästgatan. 

Strokin.ru, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The stables that give the square its name eventually followed. Speaking of horses, there’s a small statue here of a boy mounting or dismounting a horse. 

It’s a 1956 creation by Ivar Johnsson, who’s responsible for quite a few public monuments in Stockholm and many more across Sweden.

Prästgatan may be small, but look right as you exit this area and you’ll get a glimpse down Mårten Trotzigs grand, the narrowest street in the city, less than one meter wide. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Prästgatan ends when it intersects with a street that’s called Södra Benickebrinken to the left and Österlånggatan to the right. 

From the intersection, look left along the wall and you’ll see an innocuous black door that leads into the surviving cellars of the Blackfriars Monastery.

The Museum of the Middle Ages offers tours of this space – they’ll be the last stop on this tour.


Järntorget

There’s lots to notice in Järntorget. From its construction in 1675, this became the home of the Riksbank, which is considered the oldest central bank in the world, and the bank stayed here through the early 20th century.

In the middle of the square is a gift from the bank to the city. It can easily be taken for a monument, but in fact it’s a cast iron well. You can see the pumps on either side.

Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And iron is the namesake of the square. “Järntorget” means Iron Square.

Sweden today mines most of Europe’s iron, and it’s been an industry here for centuries. 

Before there was a bank building here, there was a weighing house, where metals would be weighed before sale. But the square is the second oldest one in the city, and it predates the strength of the local iron industry. 


Judiska Museet

This Jewish Museum is in its third location since it was founded in 1987, but with this third move, it’s installed itself in the ideal place to share its subject matter. 

In 1795, part of this building, formerly an auction house, became home to a Jewish community, serving as synagogue, school, residences for rabbi and cantor, a source of kosher food, and more.

Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The law in Sweden until 1838 regarded Jewish residents of Sweden as their own separate nation, which would make this building their capital.

In the 1870s, the congregation moved out and the building became a police station.

The arrival of the museum has revitalized that earlier chapter of the building’s history, introducing a collection of 800 items, including the original pulpit. 

Admission is 100 crowns or free with a Stockholm Pass.

The best version of the experience is with the help of a guided tour; in English, they’re held Friday through Sunday at 2pm and included in the cost of admission.


St George and the Dragon

This square, Köpmantorget, falls at the end of Köpmangatan – their names mean “Merchant Square” and “Merchant Street.”

The square was home to one of the city’s medieval gates, where goods were brought in, assessed, and then sold from stalls along the street.

Holger.Ellgaard, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The statue in the center is the main attraction of the square today. It depicts Saint George slaying a dragon. What you see here is a bronze copy of the original, which is made of painted wood and is inside Storkyrkan Church, a few stops further along our route. 

The original statue was created by Bernt Notke in 1489 to commemorate a military victory by Sweden against Denmark. The monument portrays that battle as a moral fight against evil. 

The walk to our next stop will take you back the way you came, west along Köpmangatan.


Iron Boy

Trädgårdsgatan is named “Garden Street” after the royal gardens that used to be located along it. The main sight along the street today is the back of the Finska Kyrkan or Finnish Church. 

Like Germans, Finns represented a significant cultural bloc in early modern Stockholm, and they moved in their own circles where they could speak their own language. 

Raphael Saulus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the small back courtyard that borders this street is the smallest public monument in Stockholm. Its name is Järnpojke or “Iron Boy.” It’s a tiny,

simple statue of a sitting boy with his arms around his knees. 

The artist, Liss Erickson, created him in 1954, and he was already 13 years old by the time he was installed here.

People tend to leave coins around him, which you may spot before you see the monument itself, and they also dress him for the season, giving him a hat and scarf when it’s cold.


Stortorget

Stortorget, or “Grand Square,” is the oldest public square in Gamla Stan and usually one of the most crowded tourist sites in town. 

It may be a little less ostentatious than some of Europe’s medieval city squares, but there are a few standouts here.

First and foremost is the former Stock Exchange building, the large one that occupies a side of the square on its own. 

Wizdumeros, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before the Stock Exchange was built, the city hall was located here, making Stortorget a major site for demonstrations, public announcements, and executions.

Facing the Stock Exchange and looking to the right, you can see Grillska

Huset, a gray building with a rounded upper façade, which as you see it now dates from the 17 th century. Today it mainly houses a café and bakery. 


Nobel Prize Museum

This museum was founded in 2001, on the hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Prize’s beginning. Part of the exhibit concerns Alfred Nobel, the founder. 

The origin story of the prize began with a famous moment of confusion – Alfred Nobel’s brother died, and a newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary for Alfred.

And it was an unusual obituary, because Alfred was an unusual man – he had dedicated his career to inventing and patenting explosives, like dynamite, for both industrial and military use. 

Liridon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dwelling on the military side, the paper printed, “The merchant of death is dead.” So Alfred Nobel got to see his life summarized, didn’t like the story, and decided to change it. 

When he died fifteen years later, most of his fortune went to founding the prize. Most of the exhibit tells the story of the prize itself – the process, the ceremony – and of the winners and their creations and discoveries. 

Between June and August, the museum is open daily. Admission is free on Tuesdays between 5 and 8pm.

Otherwise, tickets are 130 crowns for adults, 90 for students and seniors, and free for those under 18 or Stockholm Pass holders.


Rikstelefon

You may be learning enough Swedish by now to guess that “Rikstelefon” means “National telephone.”

These vintage phone boxes were part of a service provided by the Swedish state from the mid-19th to the late 20th century through the state telecom company. 

They provided an easy way to call between cities before this was a service most people had in their homes or in their hands.

The major regional phone carrier, Telia, is the same business, after it was privatized in 1993.

Janee, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Of the many of these boxes that once stood, there are only a few left. As vintage as they look, they were accidentally a part of a high-tech discovery. 

In the early 1980s, a flaw in the design of the phone system allowed large numbers of people to call for free into a single conversation.

So Swedish teens, some at home, a few in phone booths, took advantage of this loophole to talk out loud in an early version of internet chat rooms.


Storkyrkan

Storkyrkan means “the Great Church” – it’s also called Stockholm Cathedral. It’s the oldest church in Stockholm, beginning operation in 1306.

It still has its medieval interior, with brick columns, flying buttresses, a rose window, and the original of the statue of St. George from Köpmantorget.

Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originally the church was Catholic and dedicated to St. Nicholas. In 1527, it became Lutheran. The exterior is Baroque, thanks to a major renovation in the 1740s. 

During the renovation work currently being done on the church, no entry fee is being charged.

Daily 9am prayers and occasional concerts are still ongoing. Otherwise, there’s a 60 crown fee to enter, or it’s free with a Stockholm Pass.


Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is an official royal residence, a working state house for diplomatic visits, a public tourist attraction, and the home of five museums.

This is the former site of the Tre Kronor or Three Crowns Castle, named for the onetime union of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. 

A serious fire destroyed that castle and all the state records it contained in 1697, leaving Sweden with challenges around understanding its own history to this day.

The reconstruction was the crowning achievement of Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. The castle he built has more than 600 rooms.

Brorsson, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The main entrance is in the Outer Courtyard, the half-circle area nearest to you.

There’s a daily changing of the guard here around midday, with the timing depending on the day of the week, time of the year, and a few other factors. Learn more here.

Once you’re inside, a visit can include the Royal Apartments, when they aren’t in use for events, and the Royal Treasury, the cellars where the royal regalia are kept. 

You can also visit the Tre Kronor Museum, the area of the castle least affected by the fire and where relics and models of the previous castle are on display. 

The Royal Armory, another museum, shows costumes and weapons from the castle’s history. The oldest museum on the grounds is Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.

This portion is only open between May and September and has its own separate 180-crown admission, or it’s free with a Stockholm Pass.

As for the castle itself, tickets are 180 crowns per person, or free with a Stockholm Pass.


Stockholms Medeltidsmuseet (Museum of Medieval Stockholm)

Norrbro, the North Bridge, is the only remaining stone bridge in Stockholm. The bridge also introduced a design innovation to the city for the first time – sidewalks.

The bridge also runs above the Museum of Medieval Stockholm.

The museum can be hard to spot, not because it’s particularly small, but because the subject matter – medieval Stockholm – is underground, so the museum is too. 

Jorge Láscar from Melbourne, Australia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stairs lead down from the Norrbro to a park, just above water level, and you’ll find the museum entrance going under the bridge.

When work was under way on the adjacent Parliament House, part of the plan was to add underground parking on this side of the island.

Inevitably, digging in the city center led to discoveries that were more exciting than a parking lot, and the site, now known as the National Pit, was preserved.

Because the site is an archaeological dig, the museum is built around the real remnants of medieval Stockholm, with some areas rebuilt to look the way they probably would have. 

You’d be seeing the basics of daily life – a church, a market, a town hall, a graveyard – plus another runestone and an entire 16th century ship. 

The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday each week. Hours are 12 to 5pm, except Wednesdays, when it stays open until 8. Admission is free.

If you finish crossing the Norrbro, you’ll be leaving Gamla Stan, and you’ll set foot back on land right in the middle of Gustav Adolfs Torg, where the tour began.

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Updated: June 6th, 2022
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