Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a storybook wonderland consisting primarily of the island Stadsholmen. The surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg are officially part of, but not colloquially included in, Gamla Stan. The old town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. North German architecture has had a strong influence in its construction.
As well as being home to the Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, and the Riddarholm church, Gamla Stan also boasts Kungliga slottet, Sweden’s baroque Royal Palace, built in the 18th century after the previous palace Tre Kronor burned down. The House of Knights is on the north-western corner of Gamla stan.
On österlånggatan is the restaurant Den gyldene freden located, in business since 1722 and known as the oldest in the world with an unaltered interior according to the Guinness Book of Records. From the mid 19th to the mid 20th century Gamla Stan was considered a slum, many of its historical buildings left in disrepair, and just after World War 2, several blocks together five alleys were demolished for the enlargement of the Parliament. From the 1980s, however, it has become a tourist attraction as the charm of its medieval, Renaissance architecture and later additions have been valued by later generations.
Thankfully, most of the heavy tourism and souvenir hunting is concentrated along Västerlånggatan and Strona Nygatan, making it rather easy to avoid if you’ve no interest in ceramic Vikings, Dalahast key chain or Absolute Swede shot glasses. Venture into the back alleys and you’ll find a city that seems almost unchanged since medieval times. Here, leafy little squares hide dusty old shops and the only sound is your footsteps echoing down the street.
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