Regularly referred to as the Venice of the North, Stockholm is built on several islands, 14 to be precise, scattered between Lake Mälar and the Baltic Sea. With its 1.3 million inhabitants, it is both Sweden's largest metropolis and its capital. As well known for its harsh sunless winters and endless summers as for its status as a green city, it is also often cited as an example of equality and human rights, and its cultural influence, especially in Europe, is significant.
Stockholm Syndrome is defined as "the creation of a bond of attachment, or even love, between a victim and his aggressor, developed in an unconscious manner". Derived from a news item that occurred in the capital during a bank robbery, the phenomenon has made the name Stockholm famous in everyday language.
But the capital is far from being limited to this victimised image. Its reputation is based above all on its ambivalent character: at once steeped in tradition and open to the world, the city is both calm and organised and energetic and avant-garde, alternating nature and urbanism.
Between modernity and tradition
Situated on a fabulous natural site, an archipelago of almost twenty-four thousand islands and islets, Stockholm is like a fairytale city of palaces, churches and houses set on the water. This is where the government is based and where the head of state, King Carl XVI Gustav, resides, more precisely in the historic district of Gamla Stan, founded in the 13th century on the island of Stadshomen. The winding streets of the old town lead you to Stortorget Square, the monumental Royal Palace and the House of Nobility, the former House of the Estates General, now a private institution for the Swedish nobility.
The people of Stockholm are not only ardent supporters of royalty, but also progressive and innovative. This character is reflected in their taste for art and design. If you are a lover of interior design and architecture, head for Norrmalm, the city's nerve centre, where you will find the central station and its ultra-modern train, innovative restaurants and numerous design galleries. The districts of Södermalm and Östermalm are not to be outdone, while the eco-district of Hammarby is a perfect example of Swedish urban planning. To get there, simply take one of the city's 53 bridges! A synthesis of classicism and modernity, the Stockholm City Library is the quintessential paradigm of the metropolis. You will find it as you walk through the streets of the Vasastan district.
History and culture
Founded by Birger Jarl to protect the country from invasion and plunder, Stockholm quickly gained a reputation as a prosperous city. It was proclaimed the capital in 1419, and from that time onwards the city grew steadily during the Kalmar Union and the Vasa reign. This growth slowed down from the 18th century onwards, during the troubles caused by the Great Northern War.
Many remarkable monuments date from this period. Drottningholm Castle in the suburbs of Stockholm is one of them, and together with Skogskyrkogården Cemetery it is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Stockholm.
Among the city's most beautiful buildings is the Royal Swedish Opera House, a neoclassical building dating from the 19th century but whose origins go back to the early 18th century. In terms of music, the city also stands out for the reputation of its orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
Finally, the city, which was the capital of culture in 1998, is home to over a hundred museums. A number of them are located on the island of Djurgården, including the Vasa Museum, the Skansen Museum and the Nordic Museum.
A city at the cutting edge
Whether it is equality and rights or ecology, the Swedish capital seems to be an international leader. Albert Camus gave his speeches here when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, a ceremony founded by the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The environmental activist Greta Thunberg is also from here!
Stockholm's inhabitants base their daily lives on a very ecological way of life. Pedestrian islands, hiking trails, biogas buses, outdoor activities, bike paths and parks as far as the eye can see: the city seems to have been designed with this in mind.
On your run, be sure to visit the island of Djurgarden (and its museums), a green area that was once the hunting ground of Swedish kings. The island of Södermalm contains a record 60 parks. Walking to the royal palace, you can fish for salmon. Even more remarkable is that Stockholm is the first capital city in the world to have a national park. This huge park covers 27 square kilometres.
Run with Runnin'City from the island of Gamla Stan to the trendy Norrmalm district!