Stockholm – Venice Of The North

August 28, 2011 · Posted in Europe, Travel 

There’s no better hub for exploring Scandinavia than the beautiful “Venice of the North,” Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.¬†From the cultured capital to the wild mountainous north, Sweden holds fascination for the arts and history buff and the fan of outdoors’ activities alike.

The country’s mountains begin in Dalarna with gentle slopes that build up to a 1,900-kilometer (1,140 miles) chain culminating in the magnificent snow-covered peaks of the far north. The Lapps who live here off fishing and reindeer herding have done an admirable job of retaining their distinctive culture.

But, unlike North America, in Sweden you don’t have to go to the remote north to encounter fresh air and pure water. In fact, in downtown Stockholm the water is so clean you can swim and fish right off the major thoroughfares. One of the most popular spots for fishing is outside the royal palace. Here salmon and sea trout are caught on their migration from the Baltic to Lake Malaren. Among the more humble species to be hooked are perch, pike, zander and Baltic herring.

The city of Stockholm was founded in the 13th-century on an island where Lake Malaren flows out into the Baltic. As time passed the inhabitants spread out across the neighboring islands and mainland to the north and south. The current population of greater Stockholm is 1.7 million, with about 700,000 living within the city limits.

Stockholm is beautifully situated on 14 islands separated by wide bays, broad channels and narrow waterways. Surrounded by unspoiled countryside, the city is also peppered with lovely parks. In the heart of the capital the contrast between old and new is striking: an ultra modern city center adjacent to the cobbled alleys and medieval buildings of Gamla Sta’n (Old Town).

Visitors to Stockholm are strongly recommended to purchase a Stockholm Card. The card gives you free entry to 75 museums and attractions, free travel by public transport, free sightseeing by boat as well as several other bonus offers. You decide whether you want a card that is valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours. The card will not be valid until it is stamped with the time and date the first time you use it. Two child cards can be purchased per adult card. The card is valid once per attraction and entitles you to unlimited travel by metro, bus and commuter train.

Stockholm’s Viking heritage may be enjoyed by taking a boat trip to see the remains of the old capital at Birka and the 1,000-year-old town of Sigtuna.

Medieval Stockholm can be experienced by visiting the Medieval Museum or by merely strolling through Gamla Sta’n, where many of the churches and other buildings date back 800 years or more.

The Swedish royal family is very popular with the people. The Royal Palace in Stockholm is the largest in Europe still in use and the royal family lives in the 18th-century palace at Drottningholm with its world famous theatre.

Stockholm is also a city of the sea, located as it is on the edge of the world’s largest archipelago of more than 25,000 islands. Take a lazy cruise on one of the seven genuine steamers still in use. In service for a century, these old character ships have been beautifully restored to maintain their Edwardian ambience. Cruises go to the medieval castle at Gripholm, the little fortress town of Vaxholm and to royal Drottningholm. All the steamers boast first class restaurants in which you can enjoy lunch or dinner.

Water is a dominant element in the life of Swedes. In Stockholm, the “Venice of the North,” water adds immeasurably to the charm of this already captivating city. As Sweden’s international tennis champion, Bjorn Borg puts it: “Sweden is surrounded by water and even away from the coast our lakes and rivers are the dominant feature of the landscape. I live outside Stockholm and some days I take my boat into the city when I have a business appointment. I get a tremendous kick out of that. Who wouldn’t?”

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