Stockholm is a gorgeous capital city in Scandinavia and you could take a thousand postcard-perfect photos on a visit here. You get ancient architecture and a long history, plus this is a thriving and electric city with a great food, music, and nightlife scene. Stockholm often shows up on lists of the “most creative cities in the world” and its people often rank themselves as some of the happiest.
You’ll learn a lot from a guidebook or tour guide during your visits to museums and waterways, but here are a few surprises to get you started before you book a hotel and map out your plans.
You Probably Have Something From Here in Your House
Those Swedes aren’t real braggarts, but they’ve got an eye for business opportunities. Here are just a few brands that have rolled through Stockholm on the way to your house or garage: Ikea, Absolut, Volvo, Saab, Abba, Spotify, Electrolux, AstraZeneca, Skype, H&M, Fjällräven, Minecraft, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
The Nobel Peace Prize Founder Was a Bomb Maker
Alfred Nobel is now known as the man who left his fortune for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes, including the Peace Prize. The way he made all his money though, was developing explosives. He invented dynamite and held the patent on it. Along the way though, he blew up several of his family’s factories and one blast ended up killing one of his brothers.
More #1 Hits By Anyone Not Named Lennon or McCarthy
You’ve probably never heard the name Max Martin, but unless you’ve been living in a cave for three decades you’ve heard a few of his songs. He has been behind #1 hits recorded by Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and lately The Weeknd. (If you now can’t get “Oops, I did it again” “Bad Love,” or “I Want It That Way” out of your head, blame him.)
Stockholm is Really a Collection of Islands
There are 14 islands connected by 57 bridges in Stockholm, for a city of 2 million. Roughly one-third of the city is green space and one-third of it is water. While the whole country of Sweden only has 7 million people total, it’s the 5th largest country by land mass in Europe.
King Gustav Was Killed at a Masked Ball
On March 16, 1792, Swedish King Gustav III arrived at a masked ball in costume. While most participants were incognito, he couldn’t help but show off his identity through a large star symbol on his vest. A captain planning a coup could easily tell it was him and shot him in the back. Gustav lived but ended up dying 13 days later from a resulting infection. This story eventually became an opera by Verdi, now known as The Masked Ball.
Boats Have to Come Out of the Water Each Winter
There are a lot of boats in Stockholm: an estimated 7% of Swedes own a boat and the waterways are lined with marinas. They can’t stay there when the water freezes in winter though, so most get moved to storage facilities up on the land.
The Country’s Most Famous Ship Was a Failure
The Vasa Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm, a giant wooden ship rescued from the harbor after lying at the bottom of it for hundreds of years. It sailed a little more than a kilometer on its maiden voyage of 1628, then toppled over and sank. It took three years to build and the carvings are grand, but they apparently neglected to budget for an experienced engineer to make the plans. It was poorly designed and top-heavy. If it hadn’t sunk near the shore, it would have sunk at sea.
The Heir to the Throne Married Her Personal Trainer
Princess Victoria is next in the line of succession for one of the world’s oldest monarchies. In 2010 she married her former personal trainer, giving hope to gym rats around the world as 1,200 attended and half a million watched on TV. He’s gone from pumping iron to being called Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland. We can only assume he also gets to hear, “Yes your highness” on a regular basis.
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Article and photos by Tim Leffel, editor of Perceptive Travel online magazine. See his story there on biking the Kattegattleden Trail in Sweden.