Dating back to the 13th century, Stockholm's old town of Gamla Stan was being cleared as a slum until its medieval charm became appreciated in the 1980s. It covers the island of Stadsholmen in the Stockholm archipelago on the Baltic Sea.
Stockholm – Been There

Gamla Stan, Stockholm's slum turned most handsome district

Photo by Andrew Turner

Stockholm – Been There Gamla Stan, Stockholm's slum turned most handsome district

Low winter sun is lighting up the buildings of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan with a warm, golden glow. My watch is showing a little after 8.30am, but the daylight is only just beginning to break through the early morning mist, casting reflections across the waters that flank this most handsome district of the Swedish capital.

Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes Travel Writer

“Gamla Stan is the oldest part of the city,” says Nina Lindgren, who was born and raised in Stockholm and is passionate about Swedish culture. We became friends when she was in London for a few years teaching history at my son's college. “It’s the place most visitors head to first, partly because it’s such a historic area and partly because there’s so much to see and do here.”

It is also somewhere that has a romance all its own, with narrow, cobbled streets leading to wide squares that are lined with café tables in summer. At the impressive, Baroque-styled Royal Palace visitors convene three times a week – in winter – to observe the changing of the guard ceremony.

Perhaps in keeping with Sweden’s rather democratic approach to monarchy, the event seems comparatively understated, with youthful soldiers in heavy, blue-grey greatcoats and distinctive, bright-white spats, marching, wheeling and stamping – largely in time with each other.

“It’s more of an event in summer,” says Lindgren, slightly apologetically. “Then they have full bands playing music and it’s all very bright and colorful.”

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The daily Changing of the Guard, Stockholm's most popular tourist event, takes place at midday in the Outer Courtyard of the Royal Palace. Photo by Jeppe Wikström / Alamy

Jeppe Wikström

Jeppe Wikström

Agency
Alamy

The daily Changing of the Guard, Stockholm's most popular tourist event, takes place at midday in the Outer Courtyard of the Royal Palace.

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