Swedish Language Blog

Visiting Sweden – Gamla Stan Posted by on Jun 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

All this language learning should be good for something. Like visiting Sweden maybe. There’s hardly a better time to visit Sweden than summertime. Having lived in Stockholm for quite some time, I’m especially partial to the capital. It’s a beautiful city built on several islands meaning you’re never far from the water. There are museums to visit, restaurants to eat at, bars to drink at, churches to see, parks to lounge in, ice cream to eat. It’s glorious.

But one of the classic tourist destinations is Gamla Stan. That’s where you’ll find the Royal Castle, Storkyrkan, and Stortorget. The cobblestone streets are lined with medieval buildings and tiny little alleyways that, unfortunately at times, are packed with plenty of tourists.

First things first though, check out the Royal Castle. It’s an impressive building, but be warned, it is not your classic castle with big towers. Instead, it’s built in a Baroque style that ends up presenting what looks to be a large box. The castle is still used by the royal family and during the summer months, you can watch the changing of the Royal Guard. The guards here will speak with you, but just don’t get too close to them. They don’t take kindly to that.

Just next door is Storkyrkan, literally the Big Church, it is the cathedral in Stockholm. The King and Queen of Sweden were married here, just as the crown princess and her prince were married here. The building is beautiful, although it is the red brick and vaulted ceilings inside that are most impressive. I wander into a lot of churches throughout Stockholm and Sweden, and this one might just be my favorite based solely on the bricks. It’s that impressive. Towards the front of the church you can see St. George slaying the dragon in the form of a wooden statue.

And because I wouldn’t want you to walk too much (and because Gamla Stan is quite little to begin with), just head out the doors of the church and walk a few steps to Stortorget – the Big Square. Stortorget is a great place to grab some food, some coffee, maybe some delicious baked gods. During the winter, there is a Christmas market, but during the summer, it is bustling with people and outdoor seating. Take advantage and enjoy. The area is best known for the medieval Stockholm Bloodbath, which, in 1520, led to the death of almost 100 noblemen and eventually the rise of Gustav Vasa. Today, things are much calmer. Luckily.

Now just wander. Take in the sites. Admire the buildings, the streets, the trees, the views. But be careful. There are constantly games of “chance” being played in the streets, especially Västerlånggatan. And by chance, I mean there is a 100% chance that you will lose your money. The game is simple, there tends to be a group of people gathered around a man kneeling on the ground. He’s trying to convince you that you can find the ball in the small boxes. He sticks it in a box, you follow the boxes as he scrambles, pick the box with the ball, you win, Yay. Except you won’t win. He has the ball in his hands. If you see someone win, he’s in on the fix. They tend to work in teams. In fact, as people stop to watch, you’ll sometimes have a roaming teammate with stick fingers relieving people of their wallets. Just be careful.

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.