Gamla Stan, Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
GPS: 59.326183490254, 18.072952929094
Surrounded by water, Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s historic heartbeat, linking the southern district of Södermalm with the northern district of Norrmalm. This old part is the original city centre of the Swedish capital, ideally situated on the edge of Riddarfjärden Bay and at the mouth of Lake Mälar. Built on Stadsholmen Island in the mid-13th century, Gamla Stan became the centre of the medieval city. Gamla Stan includes the magnificent Main Square (called Stortorget), the oldest square in the city where the Stockholm Bloodbath took place in 1520. A series of public executions were ordered by King Christian II of Denmark against the allies of Sten Sture the Younger, Regent of Sweden. At that time, the Danish monarch ruled over the three Scandinavian kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the Union of Kalmar. A year after the massacre in Stortorget Square, Christian II of Denmark was deposed from his throne by Swedish rebels led by Gustav I Vasa. Vasa was crowned King of Sweden in 1523 and ended the union of the three kingdoms. He then initiated a Protestant reformation, replacing the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
After the country’s independence, Gamla Stan attracted German traders and merchants, who built impressive houses on the Baltic Sea. Most of the buildings visible today with their North German architecture date from the 17th, 18th and 19th-centuries. This period of economic prosperity came to an abrupt halt between the second half of the 19th-century and the 1950s, which saw Gamla Stan deteriorate into a slum. Many of the area’s historical monuments escaped destruction when they were restored after the Second World War. It was not until the 1980s that Stockholm’s narrow, cobbled streets once again became a tourist attraction in the “Venice of the North”.
Inhabited today by some 3,000 people, Gamla Stan includes three other islands (Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen and Strömsborg), giving Stockholm its nickname “the city between the bridges”. The Nobel Museum, the Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Stockholm (with 1,430 rooms) are the most visited tourist attractions. With its many museums, restaurants, cafés and shops, Gamla Stan is the perfect place to stroll the narrow streets and discover the architecture, cultural heritage, and colourful houses of the Swedish capital.