`The Venice of the North`. You can`t go anywhere in Stockholm without crossing water. It is situated on fourteen islands which are all part of the vast archipelago on the Baltic Sea. I headed for the old town of Gamla Stan the medieval centre of the city full of cobbled streets, earthy red and yellow coloured buildings, a 13th Century Cathedral, a Royal Palace and numerous cafes and restaurants.
I strolled around the narrow winding streets stopping occasionally to enter one of the many handicraft shops or hunt for souvenirs in the labyrinth of buildings and narrow alleyways. After sauntering around having done a little window shopping I stopped for `fika` which is a Swedish excuse to stop for a strong coffee, something sweet to eat and a chat. I decided to snack on a huge cinnamon bun at a suitable sidewalk café so that I could do a little people watching too whilst I rested my weary feet.
Suitably refreshed I visited the Cathedral and watched the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. I am told the Palace is one of the largest palaces in the world with over six hundred rooms and several interesting museums including the Royal Armory. The Nobel Museum is also an interesting diversion but I was anxious to check out the Vasa warship at Djurgarden.
The ship sank on its maiden voyage after sailing about 1,300 m (1,400 yards) into her maiden voyage in 1628 drowning most of those on board in front of the king (Gustav II Adolf) and many hundreds of onlookers gathered to celebrate the launch. It was salvaged in 1961 and took over thirty years to restore her to the excellent condition you can see today. It really is a magnificent sight the cutaway floors revealing the inner workings of the ship from keel to decks.
The Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art) is well worth a visit, more so if the weather is good as a lot of the more interesting sculptures and installations are on the outside in the Sculpture Park. Recently refurbished the Museum has an impressive collection of works by Picasso, Dali and Kndinsky.
If you have children or teenagers with you and they need to let off a little steam visit Grona Lund the high energy theme park. It is located on the seaward side of Djurgården and although relatively small compared to other amusement parks the 15-acre amusement park has over 30 attractions and is also a popular venue for pop music concerts during the summer so check out the posters. The child in me was amused to see chocolate bars called Plopp.
One of the must do`s in Stockholm is take one of the many sightseeing boats from Blasieholmen or Slussen out into the archipelago and soak up this magical watery paradise. It really is the best way of experiencing the varied landscape from the more populated, thickly wooded inner archipelago to the bare flat rocks and islands surrounded by pristine forests. I loved it.
For many people to think of Sweden is to think of the music of ABBA. Now over thirty years since Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid split up there is The ABBA Museum. I could not resist visiting the exhibition having watched the film Mama Mia on many occasions with my wife.
The Museum presents the band’s stage clothes, concert footage, interviews, photographs and waxwork models of the famous four as well as the music. ‘Dancing Queen and `Waterloo` provided the soundtrack to my visit. I challenge anyone not to come out singing their favourite ABBA song! I resisted the temptation to sing and dance with the holograms of ABBA and wear a digital costume and have my picture taken.
There is so much to do in Stockholm I can`t wait to go back and see more of this wonderful city.