Sweden See And Do
Sergels Torg 3
Tel: 46 8 5083 1508
Modern monstrosity or valuable addition to Stockholm's artistic life? Kulturhuset has been the subject of intense debate since it opened in 1974, during a period of enthusiasm for tearing down old buildings and replacing them with concrete-and-glass construction. A grim plaza leads to the huge glass front emblazoned with red letters spelling out its name. Inside, there are shops, Internet cafés, a library devoted to comics and graphic novels, and performance spaces for a packed calendar of exhibitions, dance, theater, and films. Three million visitors pass through here annuallyquite an achievement in a country with a population of nine million.
Opening hours vary by department.
Tel: 46 8 508 31 100
Fans of 20th-century Swedish architecture shouldn't miss Stadsbiblioteket in Vasastan, the city's main library. Designed by Gunnar Asplund and completed in 1928, it is a perfect example of Nordic Classicism, built around a cylindrical structure that manages to be both grand and inviting at the same time. The main hall will be familiar to anyone who has seen Andreas Gursky's epic photograph of the interior, entitled "Library."
Tel: 46 8 5195 5200
The unimposing Modern Museum, designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, seems quite at home surrounded by the older, traditional buildings on the island of Skeppsholmen. It was inaugurated in 1998, but a mold-infestation in 2002 forced the museum to decamp to a temporary location for two years, during which time the interior of the original building was spruced up. The collection includes works by Picasso, Munch, Warhol, Tinguely, Pollock, and De Chirico, and the museum also attracts major temporary exhibitions, including, in 2007, William Kentridge and Robert Rauschenberg. There's also a new espresso bar; great views from the cafeteria terrace; and what's more, the weekend brunch buffet in the restaurant—stocked with salmon, cold meats, and scones—is so popular that reservations are essential.
Tel: 46 8 5195 4300
The National Museum stands in a beautiful location, just across the water from Old Town. The collection includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Picasso, as well as one of the world's greatest collections of 18th-century French art. It also has collections of modern design, porcelain, and applied arts. The permanent display, Design 1900–2000, gives you a crash course in modern Scandinavian design, which comes in handy when you leave the museum and hit the city's shops.
Tel: 46 8 402 6000
It's not Europe's most beautiful palace, but the official home of King Carl XVI, in Gamla Stan, is one of the largest. This blocky, baroque edifice was begun in 1690 and largely completed by the middle of the 18th century. Today, the changing of the guard always attracts a crowd and the palace is open for tours, but your chances of spotting a royal here are slim. They spend most of their time outside the city at another palace, Drottningholm, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Inspired by Versailles, it is noted for its perfectly preserved theater dating from 1766, Chinese pavilions, and gardens in English and baroque styles.
Closed Mondays Sept.–May and most of Jan.
Tel: 46 8 442 8000
For anyone with children, Skansen, the world's first open-air museum, is unmissable. Spread over several acres of Djurgården, it contains historic Swedish houses (dismantled and then reassembled here) peopled by museum employees in period dress. There's also a zoo with Scandinavian animals, as well as various cafés and restaurants. Yes, it sounds cheesy…which makes the actual experience all the more pleasant. The Swedes' enthusiasm for the place is infectious, the exhibits are genuinely interesting, and it's hard not to be won over by the wolves and elk in the zoo. You may notice that the trees near the petting zoo are festooned with pacifiersit's a Swedish tradition for parents who want to wean their children off their pacifiers to come here so the children can give them to the kittens.
The archipelago makes up an area of extraordinary natural beauty: thousands of smooth granite islands, some crowned with fir trees, rising from the Baltic Sea. The inhabited ones, dotted with little red or mustard-yellow houses, look straight out of a fairy tale. Larger islands, such as Sandhamn, have restaurants and inns, while others, including Finnhamn, have youth hostels or campsites. Most Stockholmers dream of being wealthy enough to afford a house in the archipelago, but until then they make do with day trips. Boat services run regularly through the summer, with a much-reduced winter timetable. To really get into the heart of the archipelago, allow at least two hours' sailing time.
Tel: 46 8 519 548 00
If you visit only one site in Stockholm, the Vasa Museum should be it. This 17th-century wooden ship was the Titanic of its day, an ornate warship commissioned by the king that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. In fact, it only managed to sail one nautical mile before keeling over in Stockholm harbor, where it remained submerged for centuries before being raised in 1961. The Baltic Sea isn't salty enough for the shipworm, which destroys most wooden wrecks, so the Vasa is fantastically well-preserved. The museum exhibits enhance the experience: Start with the documentary about the salvage operation, then check out partial re-creations of the ship's interior and multimedia exhibitions about the investigation into who was responsible for the sinking.