Gamla Stan is one of the oldest and most fascinating neighborhoods in Stockholm. With winding streets, colorful buildings, and countless attractions, there’s no shortage of things to do in Gamla Stan. Are you interested in knowing more? Follow us on our Gamla Stan walking tour to enjoy the best activities and sights!
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Table of Contents
- Before you dive into our Gamla Stan walking tour
- René Descartes Last House and Mårten Trotzigs
- Stroll through Västerlånggatan
- Pass by the German Church
- Stortorget and the Nobel Prize Museum
- Järnpojken and Stockholm’s oldest urinal
- Storkyrkan cathedral
- The Royal Palace and its museums
- Riksdagshuset, the Parliament House
- Save money on museum entries thanks to Go City Stockholm Pass
- One last word about our Gamla Stan walking tour
Before you dive into our Gamla Stan walking tour
This is the itinerary I created when I was visiting Stockholm, and it assumes that you are arriving from Gamla Stan metro station, situated in the South West of the island.
Gamla Stan neighborhood is mainly on the island of Stadsholmen, but it also includes the islets of Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg, which I have included as well in the itinerary. Don’t hesitate to follow the map below to locate the exact locations.
Depending on where you are coming from, feel free to skip our first three stops. If you have a tight schedule you can directly start your tour from Stortorget, one of Gamla Stan and Stockholm’s symbols.
The duration of our Gamla Stan walking tour will entirely depend on your pace. Personally, it took us about 6 hours including the pause for launch. But I think it could take also less. We took our time to enjoy Storkyrkan Cathedral as we got in the middle of an Easter representation for kids. And we rushed a little through the Nobel Prize Museum where you could easily spend 2 hours.
Disclaimer: I really had fun crafting this VERY detailed itinerary, and I know that some stops may look “weird” (sorry Källargränd urinoar). Feel free to take this as inspiration to create your itinerary.
Without no further ado, let’s start our tour.
René Descartes Last House and Mårten Trotzigs
Start your Gamla Stan walking tour from the Southern part. A few minutes from Gamla Stan metro station you will find a small corner square. Adorned by beautiful ancient buildings, your attention will focus on one in particular. It’s where René Descartes spent the last months of his life when he was tutoring Queen Christina. A commemorative plaque stands outside the beautiful building adorned by sculptures.
You could easily pass by Mårten Trotzigs without noticing it. And that’s because being only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point, the alley is Stockholm’s narrowest street. Note: there is a small black portal to cross (normally it’s open) to enter inside.
Stroll through Västerlånggatan
All the alleys are a joy for the eyes in Gamla Stan, but Västerlångatan is indeed one of the most beautiful. The narrow, cobblestone street is lined with colorful buildings, quaint shops, and charming restaurants. Take your time to soak in the atmosphere and admire the architecture, which ranges from medieval to baroque styles.
Be sure to keep an eye out for hidden alleys and courtyards, which often lead to quiet, peaceful spots away from the crowds. you may even find small statues or fun panels.
Pass by the German Church
On your way to Stortorget admire the external facade of St. Gertrude’s Church, also known as the German Church because during the Middle Ages, it was in an area dominated by the Germans.
The Church was built in the 15th century, but through the centuries it underwent many renovations. The interior is in Baroque style with large colored windows.
Stortorget and the Nobel Prize Museum
Stortorget, from Swedish “Grand Square”, is the main square in Gamla Stan and is one of the most picturesque and historic spots in Stockholm. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings which were built between the 15th and the 17th century.
Buildings number 20 and 18
Of all the buildings, two stand out and are often represented as Stockholm’s symbols: I’m talking about buildings number 20 and 18. Respectively the red and yellow constructions in Stortorget Square. They are among the oldest, and since the 17th century, they have been merged.
Building number 20, the red one, is known as Ribbinska huset (the House of Ribbing) and has 82 white stones, that are said to symbolize the noble’s heads decapitated by the Danish king during Stockholm Bloodbath in 1520.
The legend of the cannonballs
There is one last detail that should capture your attention: the cannonballs on the buildings’ walls. Many tourists look for the most famous, above the sign at the corner of building number 7. But there are 3 more to look for on the facade of the adjacent building.
The legend narrates that they were fired during Stockholm Bloodbath. But most likely the first cannonball on building number 7 was put there by the furniture merchant who renovated the palace by the end of the 18th century, to honor Gustav Vasa’s siege to free Stockholm from Danish domination. While the other three were added as a sort of competition between the owners of the two buildings.
The Wooden Horse Museum
On the left angle of the square (close to the Nobel Museum), there is a small shop that deserves a mention. It’s the Wooden Horse Museum. Even though it’s more a store than a museum, it collects many different types of Sweden’s unofficial symbol: the Dala Horse.
The shop showcases also artists at work to create the small wooden statuettes and many different models in size and colors. Of course, the prices are quite expensive, you can find Dala Horses at cheaper rates elsewhere in the capital, but even if it’s only to admire the different models it’s worth spending a few minutes. There is no entry fee.
Opening Hours: 11 AM to 6 PM (2nd, May – 20th, December), Tue to Sat 11 AM to 6 PM (March – April), January – February by appointment only.
Wooden Horse Museum website.
The Nobel Prize Museum
If you’re interested in science and history, you will love our next stop: the Nobel Prize Museum. Located inside the ancient Stockholm Stock Exchange Building, the museum explores the history and impact of the Nobel Prize, which was founded by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
Visitors can learn about the lives and work of Nobel laureates, as well as view interactive exhibits and installations. The museum also features a gift shop, where you can purchase unique souvenirs related to the Nobel Prize.
And since by the end of your visit, it will be lunchtime, why not enjoy a meal at the museum’s bistro? This is where the Nobel laureates eat the famous Nobel Ice Cream, a delicious vanilla ice cream with a topping of red fruit sauce.
But the hidden-not-so-hidden gems of the bistro are its chairs. Why are they special? They are signed by some of the most brilliant minds in the world. In fact, it’s a tradition for every Nobel laureate to sign the chairs when they come to Stockholm. Who knows on whose signature you will end up sitting?!
Opening Hours: Tue to Fri 11 AM to 5 PM, Sat to Sun 10 AM to 6 PM.
Nobel Prize Museum website.
Järnpojken and Stockholm’s oldest urinal
On your way to Storkyrkan, you can admire Swede’s tiniest public statue, the Iron Boy gazing at the moon. The Järnpojken was made in 1967 by artist Liss Eriksson who lived in an apartment inside the square where the statue is.
To find the statue use the GPS if possible as the square is rather secluded and difficult to find, it may look like you are entering private property. Don’t hesitate to ask locals as they are often very happy to help and surprised of meeting a tourist who has heard of their dear Iron Boy.
Definitely less romantic than Järnpojken, the first urinal of Stockholm and probably also Sweden (Källargränd urinoar) is between the Nobel Prize Museum and Storkyrkan cathedral, and you won’t have any difficulty locating it, thanks to its vibrant green structure. In case you need a pit stop, you know where to go! 😉
Storkyrkan Cathedral, also known as Stockholm Cathedral, is one of the oldest and most impressive buildings in Gamla Stan, and the first church built in Stockholm. The cathedral dates back to the 13th century when it was originally the parish church of the entire city.
It features a mix of architectural styles, including Gothic and Baroque. Inside, you’ll find a stunning altar, impressive sculptures, and intricate stained-glass windows. Don’t miss the chance to see the famous wooden statue of St. George and the Dragon a beautiful 3,5 meters statue with both religious and political meaning (it’s a tribute to the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471).
Opening hours: Daily 9.30 AM to 5 PM
The Royal Palace and its museums
No visit to Gamla Stan would be complete without a stop at the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Swedish royal family. The palace, which dates back to the 18th century, is one of the largest palaces in Europe, with over 600 rooms. Visitors can explore the various halls and chambers, as well as view the royal regalia and art collections. Be sure to catch the daily changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place in the palace courtyard.
Check out the Kungliga slotten (Royal Palace) website.
The Royal Apartments
The Royal Apartments in Stockholm’s Royal Palace are an exquisite display of Swedish craftsmanship and grandeur. Built in the mid-18th century, the apartments feature luxurious furnishings, intricate tapestries, and stunning artwork. The apartments were used by the Swedish monarchs until the early 20th century, and they are now open to the public for tours.
Visitors can explore the state rooms, which include the Throne Room and the Hall of State, as well as the private chambers of the royal family, such as the Queen’s Apartments and the King’s Apartments. The Royal Apartments offer a fascinating glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Sweden’s royalty and the country’s rich history.
Note: due to the active function of the Royal Apartments, they may be partially or temporarily closed. Check out the website’s opening hours.
The Treasury in Stockholm’s Royal Palace is located in the basement of the palace, and is home to an impressive collection of royal regalia, including crowns, scepters, and other ceremonial objects used in coronations and other state ceremonies. Visitors can also see priceless artifacts, such as the sword of King Gustav Vasa, dating back to the 16th century, and the silver baptismal font used in the christening of Crown Princess Victoria.
The treasury also displays the Order of the Seraphim, Sweden’s highest order of chivalry, as well as other orders and medals awarded to members of the royal family. Even if rather small, the exhibits in the Treasury provide a fascinating insight into the history and traditions of Swedish royalty and the country’s rich cultural heritage.
The Three Crowns Museum is dedicated to the original Tre Kronor Palace in Stockholm. It showcases the history of the palace from a Viking wooden blockade to a Renaissance palace.
The palace was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1697, and the museum displays both rescued objects and newly created models to tell its story. The museum is located on the ground floor of the palace’s northern wing, which is also the section that withstood the fire the best. Visitors can enter the museum by passing through the 5-meter thick defense wall from the 1200s.
Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities
The museum opens its doors from May to September.
The Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities is one of Europe’s oldest museums, having opened in 1794, and features a collection of over 200 sculptures purchased by King Gustav III during a trip to Italy in the late 1700s.
The sculptures were originally exhibited in honor of the king after his death, and today, they can be viewed in the Palace’s stone galleries during the summer months. The museum is located in the palace’s northwestern wing and provides visitors with a stunning view of the Logården, or “Shot Yard.”
The Larger Stone Gallery showcases the collection’s centerpiece, the Endymion sculpture, which gained great interest in the 1700s. Visitors can also enjoy a virtual tour of the museum, which is open from May to September.
The Royal Armoury
The Royal Armoury, originally a storage place for Swedish kings’ weaponry, has been transformed into a museum that displays ceremonial equipment, weapons, and costumes from Sweden’s royal history.
The museum features intriguing items such as King Gustav III’s masquerade costume, complete with a bullet hole where he was shot, and King Karl XII’s blue cap, still stained with mud from when he was shot and fell in a trench.
Opening hours: Tue to Sun 11 AM to 5 PM, Thu 11 AM to 8 PM.
Riksdagshuset, the Parliament House
Located on the island of Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm, the building was inaugurated in 1905 and has served as the seat of the Swedish parliament ever since. The impressive building, designed by architect Aron Johansson, features a neoclassical style with columns and a large central dome.
The parliament chamber is the main attraction of the building, and visitors can attend public debates and discussions during certain periods of the year. Riksdagshuset is not only an important political institution in Sweden, but it is also a significant cultural and historical landmark of the country’s democratic tradition.
If you are limited on schedule, you may end your tour here and head over Kungsträdgården Metro Station, which is also one of the most beautiful metro stations in Stockholm. Although, I highly recommend visiting also Riddarholmen Island before jumping again on Gamla Stan Metro Station.
In case you chose to finish your Gamla Stan walking tour in Riddarholmen, head back to Stadsholmen and then towards Strömsborg an islet that hosts the building of an international intergovernmental organization. You will see Riddarholmen on your right.
Riddarholmen, which translates from Swedish as “Island of the Knights”, is a small island located just west of Gamla Stan. And while it may not be as well-known as its neighbor, it is still worth a visit.
The island is home to the Riddarholmen Church. Built in the 13th century Riddarholmen is one of Stockholm’s oldest buildings and a product of the Protestant Reformation in Sweden. The church is the final resting place of many Swedish monarchs and is a fascinating example of medieval architecture. Opening Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM (October – April) and 10 AM to 5 PM (May – September)
Additionally, the island offers stunning views of the Stockholm skyline, notably one of Stockholm’s landmarks: the City Hall. Its west side is a great spot for a peaceful stroll or picnic.
Save money on museum entries thanks to Go City Stockholm Pass
Before wrapping up this blog post, I want to spend a last word about the Go City Stockholm Pass. When you are visiting Stockholm the pass is ideal because it will let you save money on museum entries.
On our Gamla Stan tour you would save the entries on the Nobel Prize Museum and Storkyrkan, if you add visiting the incredible Fotografiska, which is one metro stop away from Gamla Stan station (Slussen), or an archipelago tour you will easily repay the money on a 2-days or more pass.
Just remember that the Go City Pass Stockholm is profitable if you use it for two days or more since they removed the travel card which was included before. But depending on your Stockholm itinerary, I highly recommend doing the maths. For 3 or 5 days thanks to the Go City Stockholm Pass you could save up to 50% on your entry fees.
One last word about our Gamla Stan walking tour
In conclusion, Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen are two must-visit destinations for anyone traveling to Stockholm. These neighborhoods are full of history, culture, and charm, and offer a wide variety of activities and sights to explore. Whether you’re interested in architecture, history, food, or shopping, you’re sure to find something to enjoy.
Are you planning a trip to Stockholm? Check out our guides and itineraries for a perfect trip to Sweden’s capital, including this 3 days itinerary to help you make the most out of your visit.
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