Stockholm – the City

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and largest city in the Nordics, with more than 2,2 million inhabitants.

The inner city is made up of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges on Lake Mälaren, which flows into the brackish Baltic Sea, and passes the Stockholm archipelago with some 24,000 islands and islets.Stockholm is a cosmopolitan place with both classical and modern architecture, and a captivating Old Town, Gamla Stan. Over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways, and another 30% is made up of green spaces.

The city contains buildings from all ages since the 13th century. Like the rest of Sweden it was untouched by the World Wars, but between 1955 and 1975, hundreds of old buildings in the district Norrmalm were demolished in a large-scale modernization process, encouraged by similar projects in other European cities. Since then, only infills and a few  areas have been developed with new architecture in central Stockholm.

History

Stockholm is not the oldest town in Sweden. As Sigtuna, Sweden’s first capital, was sacked by pirates in 1187, the Swedes built up fortresses along the inlet of Mälaren, and Birger Jarl (Jarl is a title corresponding to British Earl) had a fortress built on an island later known as Gamla Stan. Birger wrote the first records of Stockholm in 1252. As the land raised, the Stockholm straits became the only waterway between Mälaren and the Baltic Sea during the 15th century, replacing Uppsala as the effective capital. Since King Gustavus Vasa liberated Stockholm in 1523, Stockholm has remained Sweden’s most important centre of commerce, although Gothenburg later became the largest international port. During the 17th century, Stockholm was the base of the Swedish Empire, with a land area twice the country’s current size, nearly encircling the Baltic Sea.

Climate

Stockholm has fairly mild temperature throughout the year.

As a result of its northerly latitude, the city sees a dramatic seasonal variation in sunlight, from more than 18 hours of daylight around midsummer, to around 6 hours of daylight in late December. Stockholm enjoys an average of nearly 2,000 hours of sunshine a year.

Throughout the summer, the average daily high temperatures reach 20-25°C (68-77°F), with lows of 12-15°C (54-59°F). However, summer heat waves are frequent and temperatures above 25°C+ (77°F+) are not uncommon. Autumn tends to be rather cool and often rainy; in October, average daily highs dip to approximately 10°C (50°F). In the winter months, from December through early March.

Average daily temperatures in winter fall between -3 and 3°C (26-38°F). Milder periods occur, but so do cold spells with temperatures around -10°C (14°F). Snowfall can occur from late November to early April, but the amount of snowfall varies greatly from year to year and through the winter season. Deep snow cover throughout the winter is rather uncommon in Stockholm. Spring is the driest season, with average daily temperature reaching highs of 9°C (48°F) in April and 16°C (61°F) in May.

Governance

The Stockholm City Council essentially function as Stockholm’s parliament. Its 101 councillors are appointed following general elections, held at the same time as the elections to the national parliament and county councils. The Council convene twice every month at Stockholm City Hall, and the meetings are open to the public. The matters on which the councillors decide have generally already been drafted and discussed by various boards and committees. Once decisions are referred for practical implementation, the employees of the City administrations and companies take over.

The elected majority has a Mayor and eight Vice Mayors. The Mayor and each majority Vice Mayor is a head of a department, with responsibility for a particular area of operation, such as City Planning. Together the Mayor and the 12 Vice Mayors form the Council of Mayors, and they prepare matters for the City Executive Board. The Mayor holds a special position among the Vice Mayors, chairing both the Council of Mayors and the City Executive Board.

 

The inner city (“Innanför tullarna”)

Norrmalm contains the central business district known as City, with several department stores and shopping malls, museums, hotels and restaurants of all sorts, most of Stockholm’s major theatres, and the central railway station. The pedestrian shopping street Drottninggatan runs in a north-south direction through the area, by the square Sergels Torg. The islets Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen can be reached on foot. Vasastan is a mainly residential area, where the streets around St Eriksplan and Odenplan square offers shopping and nightlife.

Östermalm is an affluent borough, including Nationalstadsparken, “the National City Park”. The Stureplan square is a hub for upmarket shopping and nightlife. Södra Djurgården or simply Djurgården is an island-park owned by the Royal Court, with several major tourist venues – the Skansen open air museum, the Gröna Lund amusement park, and the Vasa Museum. The borough also contains a forest, a museum cluster with the Science and Technology Museum and Kaknästornet, as well as Stockholm University and the Royal Institute of Technology. The Frihamnen cruise port is on the eastern edge.

Gamla Stan, or the Old Town,is an island with great waterfront views and medevial architecture. The northern part of the Old Town is dominated by the Royal Palace and the Swedish Parliament. The rest of the island is a picturesque collection of old buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. The adjacent island Riddarholmen holds a church and several old government buildings.

Södermalm is a rugged island with buildings of all ages. It is always commonly referred to as Söder (The South). Fjällgatan offers some of the best views of Stockholm and the Baltic Sea inlet. The major north-south street Götgatan and adjacent streets are littered with a variety of restaurants, bars and shops. It starts like a hump next to Slussen with the busy pedestrian zone called Götgatsbacken (“The slope of Götgatan”), and passes Medborgarplatsen (“Citizens’ square”), which has plenty to offer in terms of shopping and night life. The “bohemian” area south of Folkungagatan is occasionally nicknamed “SoFo”, with obvious inspiration from SoHo. Among its variety of restaurants, cafés, pubs, odd shops and trendy boutiques one will encounter the most liberal assembly of successful but also wannabe Swedes. Shopping and exposing their offspring at the idyllic square Nytorget or just basking in the lovely park Vita Bergen. At Skeppargränd people still inhabit an entire block of remaining small wooden houses along cobbled streets from a bygone era. Långholmen is a lush island off Södermalm. This is where the notorious prison Långholmsfängelset is situated. The cells have since been converted into small hotel rooms, and the sometimes macabre history of this historical complex is displayed in cabinets. The waterfront has some of central Stockholm’s most popular beaches and there is also room for nudists on some of the cliffs.

Kungsholmen is an island at the western inner city, with Stadshuset (Stockholm City Hall) at its eastern tip. Further west, a collection of relaxed neighbourhood bars and restaurants can be found. West of the Fridhemsplan transport hub and the Västermalmsgallerian shopping mall, the island is more suburban. Lilla Essingen and Stora Essingen are two smaller, mainly residential, islands that belong to the borough of Kungsholmen. Close to the park Rålambshovsparken is a nice natural beach, Smedsuddsbadet, suitable for children.

The Greater Stockholm Area (“Storstockholm”)

The western suburbs

The western suburbs encompasses Solna and Sundbyberg, which are two separate cities within Storstockholm (Greater Stockholm) area. Solna is the home of Friends Arena, Sweden’s national football stadium, the vast royal park and recreational area Hagaparken, and the Karolinska Hospital and Karolinska Institute, a leading institution of medical research. Haga slott (palace) in Hagaparken is currently the home of crown princess Victoria and her family. Neighbouring Sundbyberg is the smallest municipality in Sweden and comonlny referred to as “Sumpan”.

Further west the suburbs of Bromma, Vällingby and Hässelby stretches out along the the green subway line, with a mix of multistory buildings, flats and villa communities. Just off Bromma Ekerö is situated in Lake Mälaren, the only Swedish municipality with two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Royal residence Drottningholm and Viking Age settlements Birka on the island Björkö alongside Hovgården on the island Adelsö. The islands also contain manors, farms, forests and beaches.

The northern suburbs

Sollentuna just north of Solna, is one of Stockholm’s largest suburbs and a vast villa community with several lakes and nature to offer. In the winter you can go skiing at Väsjöbacken or enjoy outdoor life in many forests and lakes in the municipality. North of Sollentuna, Upplands-Väsby i situated with a predominately multistory housing flat community. Further north Märsta and Sigtuna are situated just near to Arlanda Airport, Sweden’s busiest international gateway. 

Danderyd and Täby, to the north-east, are affluent municipality suburbs that can be reached by underground and bus or Roslagsbanan, a narrow-gauge railway. Danderyd has the lowest income tax In Sweden and the Djursholm area displays some of the most expensive private homes in the whole country. Täby centrum claims to be one of the biggest shopping malls in Scandinavia, and the horse-race track Täby Galopp will entertain spectators for a few more years. Runriket at Jarlabankes bro in Täby kyrkby is the gateway to the world’s largest collection of Viking Age standing stones with narrations carved in runic script. The museum trail is always open and stretches many miles along public roads and pathways into the municipality Vallentuna. Around Täby and Vallentuna there are vast stretches of parks and outdoor areas as well as many golf courses.

The eastern suburbs 

The Eastern suburbs has more of archipelagic character with several island communities and water connections. Vaxholm is the gateway to the northern Stockholm archipelago, and a ferry hub. The town has a great waterfront view and a quaint small-scale shopping area. It also sports Vaxholms fästning, which is a fortress turned into a coastal defense museum. Lidingö is a separate city within the Storstockholm (Greater Stockholm) area. Situated on a large island just east of central Stockholm it boasts affluent suburbs, small town centers and quaint rural areas. Points of interests are Millesgården: an impressive open-air sculpture museum; Bosön: a national sports facility; Ekholmsnäs: a ski slope; and Elfvik: a farmland with an array of conference hotels. Lidingö is reached by Lidingöbron (Lidingö bridge) and buses from Ropsten terminal station on the red underground line.

The southern suburbs

The southern parts of Stockholm municipality, Söderort, is best known for the stadium cluster: Globen the Globe Arena, clearly visible from most of Södermalm, host ice hockey games as well as international artist performances, the smaller Hovet and the newest stadium in Stockholm Tele 2 arena, home to the football teams Djurgårdens IF and Hammarby IF. Nearby Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery), is an UNESCO World Heritage site. To the south-west of the inner city, the borough Liljeholmen has a pleasant recreational area around lake Trekanten.

Södertörn is the peninsula of eastern Södermanland. Except Stockholm’s southern suburbs, it contains Nacka and Värmdö, to the south-east, are suburban municipalities with large recreational areas and much of the southern part of the Stockholm Archipelago. Points of interest are Hellasgården, a recreational area with everything from outdoor sauna and swimming to ice skating and skiing in the winter.

Huddinge, Haninge and Tyresö to the south are residential suburban municipalities with large recreational areas, including the large Tyresta virgin forest, one of 28 national parks in Sweden, where the oldest pine trees are around 400 years old.

Södertälje, a city with a distinct history where the Baltic sea meets lake Mälaren in Sweden’s biggest lock. Södertälje is the home of Tom tits – Stockholm’s biggest science center for children as well as two of Sweden’s largest multinational companies Astra Zeneca and Scania.

Nynäshamn, a coastal vacation town with ferry connection to the island of Gotland. 

The Archipelago

Stockholm is home to a archipelago with over 24 000 islands and islets. 

The archipelago extends from Stockholm roughly 60 kilometres (37 mi) to the east. In a north–south direction, it mainly follows the coastline of the Södermanland and Uppland provinces, reaching roughly from Öja island, south of Nynäshamn, to Väddö, north of Norrtälje.   Some of the better-known islands are Dalarö, Finnhamn, Nässlingen, Grinda, Husarö, Ingarö, Isö, Ljusterö, Möja, Nämdö, Rödlöga, Tynningö, Utö, Svartsö and Värmdö.

The biggest towns of the archipelago, apart from Stockholm, are Nynäshamn, Vaxholm and Norrtälje. The village of Ytterby, famous among chemists for naming no fewer than four chemical elements (erbium, terbium, ytterbium and yttrium), is situated on Resarö in the Stockholm archipelago.

Visiting the larger islands in the archipelago is easy all year round, but during winter period the routes depend on the ice conditions. Several companies have regular routes. The largest ship owner company is Waxholmsbolaget owned by the Stockholm County government. Taxi boats are also available.

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