Old Town (Gamla Stan) Walking Tour, Stockholm

Old Town (Gamla Stan) Walking Tour (Self Guided), Stockholm

Stockholm, established around 1000 AD on an archipelago on the eastern coast of Sweden, flourished due to Viking-established trade routes. Originally a Viking site, it became a key iron trade hub by 1252. The city's name, derived from the Old Norse words for "log islet," reflects its historical significance, as a fortified island used for defense against sea invasions, and its strategic location.

Stockholm's core, the present Old Town (Gamla Stan), built on the archipelago's central island in the 13th century, rose to prominence through Baltic trade via the Hanseatic League, developing strong ties with key northern European cities. Influenced heavily by its German-speaking community, Stockholm's strategic significance influenced Swedish independence efforts, leading to the establishment of royal power under king Gustav Vasa in 1523.

In 1634, Stockholm was declared the capital of the Swedish Empire. In the late 18th century, during the Enlightenment, it saw significant economic and international gains, becoming a cultural hub with prominent figures like biologist Carl Linnaeus and physicist Anders Celsius spending time here.

In the early 19th century, Stockholm faced economic decline, but it rebounded by the late 1800s, regaining its economic prominence. The early 20th century marked the inception of the Nobel Prizes, enhancing the city's cultural stature. Despite modernist changes, many historical structures in Old Town, the historical heartbeat of Stockholm, survived, maintaining its essence in the modern, diverse cityscape of the late 20th century.

Known officially, before 1980, as “The Town Between Bridges”, Old Town is a maze of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and ochre-colored archaic buildings that seem to whisper tales of past times.

There are quite a few notable sights in this compact neighborhood, including – at its heart – the majestic Royal Palace, the official residence of the Swedish monarch.

Adjacent to the Royal Palace is the venerable Stockholm Cathedral, a prime example of Swedish Brick Gothic architecture. A short walk away, the Nobel Prize Museum celebrates the legacy of Alfred Nobel and the laureates who have followed in his footsteps, providing a deep dive into the worlds of science, literature, and peace.

Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm, serves as the scenic setting for much of the city's historical narrative.

To truly experience the essence of Stockholm, one must wander through its historical corridors, from regal palaces to sacred churches, each telling a unique story of a city that has beautifully melded its past with the present. To explore the delights of Stockholm's Old Town in more detail and experience the way it used to be in the old days, follow this self-guided walk!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Old Town (Gamla Stan) Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town (Gamla Stan) Walking Tour
Guide Location: Sweden » Stockholm (See other walking tours in Stockholm)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: Daniel
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Royal Palace
  • Stockholm Cathedral
  • Nobel Prize Museum
  • Stortorget (Grand Square)
  • Köpmanbrinken (Merchant's Slope)
  • Österlånggatan (Eastern Long Street)
  • Den Gyldene Freden (The Golden Peace) Restaurant
  • Marten Trotzigs Grand (Marten Trotzig's Alley)
  • German Church
  • Västerlånggatan (Western Long Street)
  • Riddarholmen Church
  • Wrangel Palace
  • Riddarhuset (House of Nobility)
  • Bonde Palace
Royal Palace

1) Royal Palace (must see)

Stockholm Palace, also known as the Royal Palace, is the official residence of the Swedish monarch. As for the actual residence, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia typically live at Drottningholm Palace. Located in the Old Town of Stockholm (Gamla Stan), the Royal Palace sits adjacent to the Parliament (Riksdag) building. It houses the offices of the King, the Royal Swedish family, and the Royal Court of Sweden. Primarily, it serves a ceremonial role for the King in his duties as a head of state.

This site has been a royal residence since the mid-13th century. The initial Three Crowns (Tre Kronor) Castle was replaced by the current building after a devastating fire in 1697. Its construction was completed only in 1754, halted by nearly 30 years by the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia.

Nowadays, visitors to the palace are greeted by the Swedish Royal Guard (Högvakten), whose history reaches back to medieval Sweden, adding much intrigue to this majestic structure.

Shaded by an exquisite copper roof, the palace – one of the largest in the world – features over 1,400 rooms, of which 660 are with windows, including state and guest apartments, the Hall of State, the Royal Chapel, the Treasury, and museums such as The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) and the Three Crowns (Tre Kronor) Museum. The Bernadotte Library occupies what used to be the National Library of Sweden until 1878.

Also of note is the on-site Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities, one of Europe's oldest museums, which opened in 1794. King Gustav III acquired numerous sculptures during a trip to Italy in the late 1700s. Following his death, over 200 sculptures (including the prominent Endymion) were displayed in the palace's stone galleries.

The Royal Gift Shop in the palace offers unique souvenirs connected to the Royal Collections, featuring limited edition items and interior designs from historical patterns. With a wide range of products – from postcards to fashion accessories, – it is a distinctive shopping destination, open daily with free entry.

While the rooms are well-marked in English, it's always good to go on a guided tour for a more personalized experience.
The Treasury room, with all the regalia, would justify taking the tour as you actually get to learn more about what you're looking at.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Stockholm Cathedral

2) Stockholm Cathedral (must see)

Stockholm Cathedral (Stockholms domkyrka), also known as "The Great Church" (Storkyrkan) or the Church of Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolai kyrka), is the oldest temple in Stockholm. Centrally located at the highest point of Old Town (Gamla stan), it's wedged between the Stock Exchange Building and Stockholm Palace. An "irreplaceable" part of the cityscape of Stockholm, the cathedral represents a key component of a unified Baroque architectural ensemble.

Consecrated in 1306, its origins trace back to the 13th century. The church retains a late medieval hall interior, while its exterior showcases Baroque modifications from the 18th century. Serving as a pivotal site during the Reformation, it hosted the first Mass held in the Swedish language. Since 1942, it has been the seat of the Bishop of Stockholm.

Historically tied to the Swedish royal family, the cathedral was the city's sole parish church and has been the venue for royal coronations and significant ceremonies, including Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding in 2010. It also continues to host national events and memorials, such as the funeral of Astrid Lindgren (the Swedish author best known for her children's book series, featuring Pippi Longstocking and Karlsson-on-the-Roof). Inside, the church contains several important works of art including a medieval Saint George and the Dragon sculpture and a painting, depicting one of the earliest images of Stockholm (Vädersolstavlan).

The surrounding area features courtyards and historical statues, including depictions of Reason and Divine Love, and figures symbolizing Caution and Hope. A statue of Olaus Petri, a Swedish reformer, adds historical context, situated near the church's east facade. In the pavement, next to it there are also lines marking the former extent of a church choir, demolished during the reign of King Gustav Vasa in the 16th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Architecturally interesting, culturally enriching, and very peaceful.

Check for free organ recitals (usually at noon) and other events.
Make sure to pick up a brochure as it is very helpful in explaining several main focuses within the cathedral.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nobel Prize Museum

3) Nobel Prize Museum (must see)

If you are keen on learning about Alfred Nobel, a brilliant 19th-century scientist world-renowned for his peace-keeping effort, as well as about the Nobel Prize and its winners, make sure to visit the Nobel Prize Museum. Formerly known as the Nobel Museum (Nobelmuseet), it opened in the spring of 2001, marking the centenary of the Nobel Prize. The permanent display includes numerous artifacts from the laureates and their life stories, including those of the very first ones from 1901 and continuing to the present day. Among them are prominent individuals like Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill.

The museum celebrates the accomplishments and the memory of the Nobel Laureates with an immense range of exhibitions, films, and science-related productions. The Cultures of Creativity Exhibit takes visitors on an excursion through the process of selecting a Nobel Prize winner, from the appointment to the actual banquet. Speaking of the latter, no such banquet is complete without sampling the famous Nobel ice cream that is served every year at the awards ceremony.

Multilingual tours, including English, are offered daily. The museum also hosts numerous public events, conferences, and workshops, and will work with guests to accommodate their needs.

For visitors who want to bring a piece of the museum home, a souvenir shop is available. One of the most popular items here is Alfred Nobel's gold medal made in dark fair-trade chocolate. Another one is the Swedish “dynamite” candy flavored with jalapeño pepper, plus a lot of educational toys for kids, books by and about Nobel Prize laureates, as well as other unique items found nowhere else but here.

There is also Bistro Nobel where you can savor Nobel chocolate, Swedish cakes, as well as a full lunch or dinner. The bistro also offers the unique Nobel ice cream and Nobel tea – both served at the annual Nobel banquet.

Join the English tour to get the most out of your visit.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Stortorget (Grand Square)

4) Stortorget (Grand Square) (must see)

Contrary to its name, Stockholm's "Grand Square" (Stortorget) was never a stylish showpiece unlike the ones in many other European cities during the Middle Ages. It was created gradually, with the surrounding buildings added haphazardly throughout the years.

Nowadays, this is the city's oldest square and an artistic and shopping hub, particularly renowned for its annual Christmas market with fun shows, traditional handicrafts, and sumptuous culinary delights.

It is also the location of the Stock Exchange Building (Börshuset) – home to the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Museum, and the Nobel Library – built in 1773 through 1776. The nearby well dried up in 1856 due to land elevation. It was then relocated to another square (Brunkebergstorg) but eventually moved back to its original location in the 1950s, and has been connected to the city water conduit ever since.

Grand Square sits at the highest point in Stockholm and presents a carefully restored rendition of the historical buildings. Among them is house No. 3 constructed in the 1640s, commonly known as Grill House (Grillska Huset), named after its owner, Antoni Grill. The nearby building No. 5 was also Grill's property. The buildings at numbers 18 and 20 were merged into one in the 17th century and named for Johan Eberhard Schantz, the secretary of King Charles X Gustavus. House No. 22, on the left side of the square, once occupied by one of the closest friends of King Charles XI, was built in 1758 and is easily identified by its green color.

The square had a violent history, ill-famed as the location of the Stockholm Bloodbath, which took place in 1520 and resulted in the beheadings of over 80 noblemen. Their bodies were left there to bleed out, leaving pools of blood running throughout the town. Eww...(((

Indeed, the antique cobblestones of Grand Square make you feel like stepping back into the times of Old Sweden, with the pastel buildings mimicking the colors commonplace in those days.

Why You Should Visit:
The Old Town is by far the most picturesque area in Stockholm, and while this square seems unpretentious at first sight, it has a unique ambiance.

Make sure to stand in the middle and look all around you.
Köpmanbrinken (Merchant's Slope)

5) Köpmanbrinken (Merchant's Slope)

Merchant's Slope (Köpmanbrinken) is a historic street in Stockholm's Old Town. As a matter of fact, this street comprises not just one but two slopes. In 1885, the two streets separated by what's known as Merchant's Square (Köpmantorget) and were merged into one, under the present name.

Historically, the northern slope has been referred to as the Fishing Shore Slope (Fiskestrandsbrinken), because during the Middle Ages, from 1413 to 1520, the area east of it housed the city's main fish market (Fiskaretorget).

Walking along Merchant's Slope, you can't help noticing the statue of Saint George and the Dragon, which is a copy of the medieval sculpture kept in the Stockholm Cathedral. While the original piece dates back to 1489, this bronze replica – depicting Saint George as a young man, in full battle armor, fighting the dragon – was cast in 1912. In contrast to the original, though, several parts of the statue have been altered, such as the knight's helmet and the position of the dragon. Here, Saint George is presented sitting atop a life-size horse with the dragon’s legs pushing into the horse’s stomach. The sculpture's plinth is embellished with reliefs of the martyrdom of the brave saint.

The building at Number 17, designed in 1902, features ground-floor shops, office spaces, and residences, as well as a restaurant “Pontus in the Green House” (whose choice of color reflects modern tastes). On either side of Number 17 there are two 16th-century alleys flanking the former fish market area, namely: "New Alley" (Nygränd) and "Well's Alley" (Brunnsgränd), the latter named somewhat misleadingly as it contains no well in fact.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Österlånggatan (Eastern Long Street)

6) Österlånggatan (Eastern Long Street)

Eastern Long Street (Österlånggatan) in the Old Town of Stockholm has a history dating back to the 13th century. Originally, it used to pass along the eastern shoreline outside the city walls. Over the centuries, significant changes occurred, such as land fillings pushing the shoreline further east, transforming the area into a major thoroughfare lined with workshops, stores, and residences.

In the 17th century, the street was home to numerous taverns much popular with the business crowd. Of these, only "The Golden Peace" (Den Gyldene Freden), at Number 51, has survived. Established in 1722, it is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the oldest eateries with an unaltered interior, which can hardly give a hint of the filth, stench, rows, and misery once hidden behind its romantic name.

The shipping trade gradually disappeared and by the early 20th century virtually everything associated with it was gone. Today, the street is much quieter compared to its bustling past, yet still retaining its historical charm.

Among the notable sites here are the Royal Coin Cabinet, displaying a collection of coins dating back to the 16th century, the Stockholm Concert Hall, and the Stockholm School of Economics. Skipper Karl Alley (Skeppar Karls Gränd), named so after a 16th-century skipper, reflects the area's maritime heritage.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Den Gyldene Freden (The Golden Peace) Restaurant

7) Den Gyldene Freden (The Golden Peace) Restaurant

“The Golden Peace”, or simply the “Peace” as shortened by locals, is a restaurant named after the Treaty of Peace of Nystad. The latter marked the end of the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden in 1721, by which Russia gained control over a hefty chunk of the Swedish possessions in the Baltics (including present-day Estonia and the area of Saint Petersburg). But the treaty allowed the Sweden to keep Finland which is much larger in territory; hence the "Golden" part of the name.

One of Sweden's best-known eateries, this is the second oldest restaurant in the world to have retained its original interior, unchanged since 1722. This makes it a unique example of an 18th-century tavern and a well-deserved entry to the Guinness Book of Records.

Throughout centuries, the restaurant has been a central gathering spot for many of Sweden's noted authors, painters, and songwriters. It initially gained its reputation and fame through the songs written by the 18th-century national poet, Carl Michael Bellman, and more recently by the 20th-century singer-songwriter, Cornelis Vreeswijk.

Since 1901, the restaurant has had a significant association with the Nobel Prize in Literature. It has been the venue where the Swedish Academy gathers to announce the Nobel laureate in literature each October.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Marten Trotzigs Grand (Marten Trotzig's Alley)

8) Marten Trotzigs Grand (Marten Trotzig's Alley)

Marten Trotzig's Alley (Mårten Trotzigs gränd) in Stockholm's Old Town is renowned for being the narrowest street in the city. At its narrowest part, it measures only 90 centimeters (or 35 inches) wide and has 36 steps narrowing towards the top, which can be somewhat visually intimidating as the narrowing is very apparent with each step taken upwards.

Reflecting the above, over the centuries the street has changed many names, including "Narrow Strait" (Trångsund), "Narrow Staircase Alley" (Tronge trappe grenden), and "Staircase Alley" (Trappegrenden). The first association with Morten Trotzig – the German merchant, who immigrated to Sweden in 1581 and bought properties in the alley at the turn of the 17th century – came in 1733, when it was marked on a map as Trotz Alley (Trotz gränd).

In the mid-1800s, the alley was closed off in both directions with a fence and not reopened until 1945. It got its current name in 1949.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
German Church

9) German Church

The German Church (Tyska kyrkan) of Stockholm, sometimes called Saint Gertrude's Church (Sankta Gertruds kyrka), has been a major house of worship for the Swedish German community since the 1580s. Initially shared with Finnish parishioners, the temple became solely a German ecclesiastical site in 1607. Ever since then, its tower's carillon plays psalms over the Old Town every day.

Completed in 1878, the church's 96-meter brick steeple and copper spire feature Neo-Gothic gargoyles, which is an unusual but now iconic element in Swedish architecture.

The southern portal showcases sandstone statues of Jesus and Moses, symbolizing the New and Old Testaments, surrounded by statues representing Love, Hope, and Faith, crafted in the 1640s.

The church interior showcases a Baroque style, accentuated by large windows that illuminate the white vaults adorned with angel heads. Beneath the current marble flooring lie the original guild building's wine cellars. A prominent feature is the atrium's stained-glass window of Saint Gertrude, depicted with a chalice and a church model. The ten-meter Baroque altar dominates the space. The "king's gallery," adorned with King Charles XI’s monogram, features a magnificent staircase and a painted ceiling, reflecting its historical German connections. The gallery, now containing the sacristy, overlooks painted windows from around 1900.

Notable for its musical contributions, the church also remains a cultural cornerstone for the German-speaking community in Stockholm, holding regular services and maintaining historical traditions.

Check the schedule – you may be able to catch a musical performance.
Visitors can hear the carillon every day, at 8 am and 4 pm.
If timing allows, you may see the inside with good lighting and be treated to the spectacular stained glass scenes.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Västerlånggatan (Western Long Street)

10) Västerlånggatan (Western Long Street)

"Western Long Street" (Västerlånggatan) is one of Old Town Stockholm's most picturesque and busiest tourist magnets. Previously united with its eastern counterpart – "Eastern Long Street" (Österlånggatan) – it was collectively known as "The Common Street" (Allmänningsgatan) or "The Long Street" (Långa gatan), running well beyond the city walls. The current name for the Western section was coined officially in 1885.

Originally, this street was little more than a pathway following the shoreline, linking the northern city gate to the southern. In the 15th century, it became a high-traffic paved artery lined with dwellings and shops on both sides. During the Middle Ages, the street was densely packed first with the blacksmiths' and coppersmiths' workshops which were confined outside the city limits due to the risk of fire and then, starting from the 17th century, was inhabited by goldsmiths who added much prestige to the area.

From the mid-19th century, the medieval facades were transformed with plaster ornaments and cast iron colonettes mail-ordered from Germany to reflect the taste of the day, often resulting in the large shop windows displaying lavish interiors.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the street had another face-lift amid revitalization marked by the arrival of hotels, high-end businesses, and restaurants pushing out many of the old-time shops, unable to compete with the more fitting successors marketing tourist-oriented gewgaws.

Despite that, today the crowds of shoppers mingling in the boutiques, blustering pub crawlers vexing stoic dwellers, and musicians entertaining Stockholmers hurrying to work in the morning successfully preserve the street's vibe in its old ways.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Riddarholmen Church

11) Riddarholmen Church

Located on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) is a part of the former medieval Greyfriars monastery.

The congregation was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is used solely for burial and commemorative purposes, serving as the final resting place of the Swedish kings.

Indeed, the vast majority of Swedish monarchs, starting with Magnus III and Karl VIII (who died in 1290 and 1470, respectively), have been entombed here. Several chapels within the church are dedicated to the kings and queens whose remains rest therein.

Traditionally, the armorial plates depicting the arms of deceased knights of the Royal Order of the Seraphim are affixed to the walls of the church. When a knight of the Order dies, his coat of arms is carried from the royal palace and rehung in the church. When the funeral takes place, the church's bells are rung without pause from noon to one o'clock.

The church's age is well seen in its architecture, rather eclectic and reflective of various eras. Most of the church is in Northern European Gothic style, although some parts are also Baroque. The building itself dates back to the 13th century. Originally, it was constructed with two naves; another one was added sometime in the 1400s. The present cast-iron spire replaced the 16th-century original which was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1835.

The church is open to the public during the summer months, with a program of concerts running all year round.

Why You Should Visit:
Interesting spire and external architecture – the history of Royal Sweden in this one building.

Try to catch a guided tour (included in the entry fee) which lasts approximately 45 minutes but makes the visit a lot more informative.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Wrangel Palace

12) Wrangel Palace

Wrangel Palace is a historic townhouse mansion on Riddarholmen Island in Stockholm. Steeped in history, this building features a combination of architectural styles.

Its southern tower used to be part of King Gustav Vasa's defense fortifications back in the 1530s. Around 1630, the mansion was turned into a palace. Between 1652 and 1670, it was rebuilt and expanded for Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, author of many buildings in the Old Town. In 1693, following a fire, the palace was rebuilt and expanded again, this time to accommodate the royal family who had to relocate after another fire ruined the Three Crowns Castle in 1697.

From then on, Wrangel Palace remained the official royal residence until 1754, when the Royal Palace of Stockholm was completed. During that period, it was called “The Kings House”. From 1756 to 1928, the palace accommodated the Court of Appeal and the State Office.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Riddarhuset (House of Nobility)

13) Riddarhuset (House of Nobility)

The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) in Stockholm serves as a focal point for the Swedish nobility, accommodating a corporation that manages records and acts as an interest group.

Its Swedish name translates literally to the "House of Knights," reflecting its medieval origins when the nobility consisted mainly of knights, alongside higher titles such as counts and barons. The corporation also represents esquires and untitled nobility, a tradition stemming from the time of the Kalmar Union when Sten Sture was Sweden's sole knight.

Throughout the centuries, the building has served multiple purposes. Historically, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, it was a chamber of the Parliament (Riksdag) of the Estates – the Swedish equivalent to the British House of Lords, – playing a significant role in Sweden's legislative process. During the 18th century, the building was also used for public concerts. However, in 1866, with the establishment of a new parliamentary system, its role shifted to a more symbolic one as a quasi-official representative body for the nobility, overseen by the Swedish government.

Since 2003, the House of Nobility has been a private institution. Its primary mission is to uphold and promote the traditions and cultural heritage of the Swedish nobility.

The building itself, initiated by French-born architect Simon de la Vallée and completed by his son Jean in 1660, is a historic site in Stockholm’s Old Town. It features a Latin inscription praising ancestral virtues and a statue of Gustav Vasa, the king of Sweden from 1523 to 1560. The building's design has also influenced architecture outside Sweden, such as the old main library in Turku, Finland.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bonde Palace

14) Bonde Palace

The Bonde Palace (Bondeska palatset) in Stockholm is a major monument of the Swedish imperial era (1611-1718) architecture, designed in 1662-1667 by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and Jean De la Vallée. Originally constructed as a private residence for Gustaf Bonde, the Lord High Treasurer, the palace embodies the French Baroque and Renaissance styles, featuring an H-shaped plan with southern and northern wings, a steep-pitched, copper-dressed roof, and Ionic pilasters decorating its facades.

The building's role evolved over the centuries. After the 1697 Three Crowns (Tre Kronor) Palace fire, it temporarily housed the Royal Library and the Svea Court of Appeal. A fire in 1710 destroyed its elaborate roof, though the original cupolas survived. By 1730, Stockholm City purchased the palace for use as the Town Hall. In its judicial capacity, the Bonde Palace was the site of notable historical events, including the public flogging of the assassin of King Gustav III (Jacob Johan Anckarström) in 1792 and the mob murder of statesman Axel von Fersen the Younger in 1810.

Throughout the 19th century, as the courthouse's needs outgrew the palace, the building fell into decay and was nearly demolished in 1920. However, restoration in 1925 and subsequent renovations in the 1940s revived its historical appearance using original materials and craftsmanship. Since 1949, it has served as the home of the Swedish Supreme Court. Today, the Bonde Palace is a protected historical monument.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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