Stockholm, Sweden’s vibrant and hip capital in the southeast corner of the country, is mostly an archipelago city; numerous little islands and islets make up Stockholm, as well as the greater Stockholm Archipelago which trails out into the Baltic Sea.
One such island, one of Stockholm’s most visited, is the island of Djurgården, located near the center of the city. If you only had but a day in Stockholm, Djurgården would be the best option to make the most of your short stay. With its myriad sights, museums, and monuments, the island of Djurgården can give you a greatest sense of what the city is about and how it came along, in the shortest amount of time.
Here’s some of the options awaiting you on Kungliga Djurgården (the Royal Game Park):
Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum)
The Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) is one of the most popular museums in Stockholm, and at first it is difficult to understand why; the museum has essentially one key artifact, and they built the whole thing to show it off. The Vasa was the largest warship that Sweden ever built, which they did proudly in the 17th century. Well, not even an hour after the ship set sail on its maiden voyage, it sank; it was pulled from the deep hundreds of years later, in the 20th century, in relatively good condition.
Now it sits majestically preserved inside the Vasamuseet. One you wander around within, you begin to understand why it’s such an important enough piece to require its own museum; the ship single-handedly tells a tale of a completely different time for a completely different Sweden, and it does it quite well.
Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum)
The Danish Renaissance architecture of the building that houses the Nordic Museum was originally planned to house Sweden’s national treasures, as a sort of national monument; standing nearby to the Vasa Museum, the Nordiska Museet is now the country’s largest museum dedicated to its cultural history. With over a half-million pieces and artifacts, the Nordic Museum helps visitors visualize how life progressed in Sweden from the 16th century to the present day.
If there had to be only one destination within Stockholm from which you could choose, Skansen would probably be the most educational. Founded in the late 19th century, it is the first open-air museum in the country. With a mind towards preserving its living history for future generations, Skansen was founded in 1891. Its founder, Artur Hazelius, traveled all over the country and purchased 150 different houses.
These houses were of varying architectural influences and eras of Swedish history; they were all transported intact to this current site. Visitors can walk throughout a model town and even see original items from the houses’ various times and locations, such as cooking instruments and living quarters fully redecorated. In addition to this main draw, Skansen also boasts a zoo and an aquarium.
Beckholmen is actually its own tiny island, but it is so close to Djurgården that it is often considered part of it; a bridge connects it to Djurgården directly north. Beckholmen has some very unique buildings on its small surface, many considered to be national monuments. It also still functions as a small shipping and maritime facility, giving visitors a sense of its more glorious heyday. One of the most-photographed items on its shores are some cranes, fully-erect, decorated as giraffes.
Walking back across the bridge to Djurgården from Beckholmen sits Gröna Lund. Often referred to as Tivoli Gröna Lund, or more simply Grönan, Gröna Lund is a small amusement park on the island’s southwest corner. Its small, 15-acre size is limited to expansion due to its surroundings, but it is actually Sweden’s oldest amusement park, having been built in 1883. During the summer the amusement park is a popular venue for many outdoor concerts.
Rosendal Palace & Rosendals Gardens
Rosendal Palace (Rosendals slott) is a royal palace originally built in the late 1800’s as a retreat from the royal family’s more-everyday residence – a weekend home, if you will. Today, Rosendals slott is frequented by tourists as an historic building. Rosendals Gardens (Rosendals Trädgård) are the palace gardens situated to the west of the royal home; it has become a somewhat educational experience by demonstrating the cultural significance of gardening over the past few centuries.
Waldemarsudde, or the “Cape of Waldemar” in English, was built over a hundred years ago at the turn of the century as a home to the Swedish Prince Eugen. Once a painter, Prince Eugen built up an impressive collection of artwork of his own as well as others; today the home is a museum which displays this artwork which he collected and some new additions.
The Swedish Royal Family opened Junibacken almost 20 years ago to be a museum devoted to Swedish children’s literature. Though there are dozens of authors represented, the most prominent is the renowned Astrid Lindgren, author of many beloved and timeless stories featuring some household names like Pippi Longstocking. Also on the grounds is the largest children’s bookstore in Sweden, a theater, and some exhibition space.