Stockholm is the most populated city in all of the Nordic countries, with almost two million people. Spread over fourteen islands, and a myriad of connecting bridges, Stockholm is often referred to the ‘Venice of the North’, but this is also applicable to many other watery Northern European cities we’ve visited such as Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Stralsund and Lübeck. Whatever the label, Stockholm is certainly stylish.
Heading into Stockholm after a few weeks living on anchor, was a treat. From our anchorage at Vaxholm, we sailed by the Vaxholm Fortress as we admired impressive homes built on granite high above the water. We would select the homes we would live in, should we ever to move to Sweden! The channels are wide allowing fast ferries, cruise ships, power boats and schooners with full sails to share our view.
I’d prebooked our berth at the Wasahamnen marina, so after midday we proceeded directly to the berth where we squeezed between two similar sized yachts. The cost to berth for a 12m vessel was SEK400 (38€) per day, but for boats larger than 12m the price jumped up to a whopping SEK700 (68€) per day – good job our boat is 12m ;). Included was electricity, WiFi, water, and free use of washing machine (I did about five loads after a month on anchor so that was good value). Still, the ability to live in the heart of Stockholm at the island of Djurgården for around 38€ per day is pretty cool. No chance of similar accommodation for that price. One of the perks that come with living on a boat I guess.
Wasahamnen is located on the west coast of Djurgården – once the Royal hunting grounds, but now a lovely outdoor area with cycle tracks, impressive old homes, a Royal abode, the Skansen living history park, and the Nordic Museum. It’s also home to a number of tourist places such as the Gröna Lund amusement park, the Vikingaliv centre with an interactive session on vikings for the kids, the famous Vasa Museum displaying the 400 year old man-o-war, and of course, the ABBA Museum.
But the surprising thing about Stockholm was the heat. With a heatwave cooking most of Europe, Sweden was no exception. Humid days over 30degC had us feeling like we were back in Thailand! At the marina, with onlookers walking by, the air was still and sticky and the evenings showed no relief with warm nights over 20degC. From the nearby Gröna Lund screams could be heard clearly as customers spun, dipped and dropped over thrilling rides and fast moving roller coasters. It was perfect conditions to be back out in the skärgård!
With the bikes reassembled, each day we would head out and see the sights, and make sure to stay out of the heat in the afternoons. Cycling along Strandvägen passing the impressive Dramatic Theatre then across into the Kungsträdgården, water fountains had a queue of people filling their water bottles, while ice cream vendors were kept busy all day. In the cooler evenings I’d take a stroll along the foreshore to watch the sinking sun and return before dark.
A cycle to the old town – Gamla Stan – takes around 20 minutes from the marina, plus there are busses and a direct ferry for those without bikes. Gamla Stan is impressive but not intended for bike traffic. Parking the bikes outside a pub, we then walked the maze of alleys and roads stopping to enjoy an ice cream. One of the ‘must-do’ touristy things is to view the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace. The sun beat down on the hoards of tourists and then the band rolled in ahead of the Royal guards. The whole affair lasted around half an hour. Wayne felt for the poor guys standing in the heat all day as it reminded him of parades in the RAAF in the heat of an Australian summer. We’ve noticed that not many people wear hats here so there were many sunburned faces and necks.
The Vasa Museum is the number one tourist attraction and is next door to the Wasahamnen. The man-o-war ‘Vasa’ sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 as it was poorly designed and top heavy. After 333 years under the sea and after numerous attempts, she was eventually raised in 1961. Unlike the Mary Rose at Portsmouth, the Vasa is 98% original and remarkably intact (although a team of archeologists and maritime historians had a hell of a time piecing it back together). Vasa is adorned with hundreds of splendid sculptures – the carpenters who spent hours chiseling and carving these impressive nymphs and pirates must have been slightly irritated to see months of fine work disappear into the depths. Nonetheless, the Vasa timbers are preserved with polyethylene glycol so this fine example from 17th century Sweden should last a couple of hundred more years.
And of course I had to go to the ABBA museum and relive my youth! The museum showcases the history of the band, displays their gold records, costumes, and lives after the band broke up. There’s also the opportunity to sing along with the band on stage or record your voice on a track. I was happy just to look around and hum to myself as Wayne didn’t join me (another closet ABBA fan!).
As far as provisioning goes, there’s a good ICA Supermarket in the pretty suburb of Österhalm, around 2kms north of the marina. I’m not sure of nearby chandleries, but for a certain part I needed I rode about 12kms west to Hjertmans Bromma. This store has a good selection of boat stuff.
So after five nights at Stockholm, which wasn’t nearly enough, I have to say that Stockholm is one of the most stylish cities I’ve visited. I know dear old Melbourne keeps winning the ‘Most Liveable City’ award, but we’ve been to many cities where that label could easily be applied. Stockholm is one of those cities.
Back out in the southern islands of the Stockholm Skärgård, we considered sailing south around the bottom of Sweden around to Norway, rather than pass east to west through Sweden along the Göta Canal. But with a few days of strong southerlies on their way, the decision was made to head west.
From the small town of Mem is the entrance to the 58 locks of the Göta Canal. This 210nm trip passes through the heart of Sweden and will take around two weeks to pass along the Göta Canal, across Lake Vättern then along the Trollhätten Canal to Göteborg.