Summer has taken its toll. Don’t you just want to escape the intense heat and look for a new adventure? This month, we fly to Sweden for a one of a kind getaway.
By Erika Grace R. Lapitan
Situated east of Norway, Sweden is considered as the largest of the five Nordic countries. Many historical events, both good and bad, have strengthened Sweden into its present developed state. Some of these events were the Bloodbath of Stockholm in 1520, Sweden joining the Third Coalition against France during the Napoleonic Wars, and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1975.
There are a lot of things to unravel in Sweden. Discover more about the territory and learn of its rich antiquities piece by piece.
The Center of Culture
Our story happens at the capital city of Stockholm. The place was established to protect Sweden from maritime invasion. Birger Jarl, a Swedish statesman, founded the city. In 1634, Stockholm was officially declared as Sweden’s capital.
Hailed as the European Capital of Culture in 1998, Stockholm makes visitors swoon with its beautiful landmarks. The first stop is Stockholm Central Station built in 1867 to 1871. It has a 119-meter long waiting hall, a conference facility, and a Royal Waiting Hall.
Travelers can get a glimpse of three World Heritage Sites—Drottningholm Palace, Birka, and The Woodland Cemetery. While Stockholm may entice travelers with its many aesthetic structures, cultural festivals are also a must-see whenever visiting. There’s the Nobel Prize Banquet every December, the Stockholm Pride Parade held around July and August, and the Stockholm Jazz Festival in July.
Reliving the Past
From the Central Train Station, find your way to the old Swedish town of Gamla Stan. The place was once known as Staden Mellan Broarna or The Town between the Bridges. Reachable through bridges connecting to the mainland, the area comprises of over three small islands.
Many attractions in the area all played a great part in the country’s history. The Baroque-styled Royal Palace served as a replacement for the burned Tre Kronor Castle in 1697. The Stockholm Cathedral, also known as the Church of St. Nicholas, houses historical pieces such as The Sun Dog Painting that depicts Stockholm’s image, the statue of Saint George and the Dragon, the Silver Altar filled with religious sculptures and the Den Gyldene Freden restaurant which was hailed as the oldest unaltered diner by Guinness Book of Records.
Roam around Stortorget and be fascinated by its streets such as the Skomakargatan or the Shoemaker’s Street, the Svartmangatan or the Black Man’s Street, the Trädgårdsgatan or the Garden Street, and the Köpmantorget or the Merchant’s Square. There’s also Prästgatan or the Priest’s Street. It remains to be the official residence of the city’s three chaplains and bell-ringer. Don’t forget to visit the Mårten Trotzigs Gränd which is considered as the narrowest street measuring only 35 inches.
Take a chance to see Järnpojken or The Iron Boy. Referred to as the smallest statue in the country, it was designed by Liss Eriksson in 1967. After your sightseeing, make sure to visit the Nobel Museum for an enlightening exhibit of works done by Nobel Prize awardees.
A Place Fit for a Royal
Feel like royalty upon visiting the Svaneholm Castle. Built in the 1530s, Svaneholm Castle lies along Lake Svaneholmssjön in southern Sweden. The castle was once referred to as Skurdorp. It has become the home to royal families from the Gyllenstiernas, the Coyets, the Macleans, the Bennets, Hallenborgs to the Ehrensvärds.
Today, the castle is now owned by Svaneholm Castle Cooperative Society along with other valuable relics. Locals and tourists can take time to explore the castle and learn history from tour guides.
Another historical gem is Sergels Torg. The central public square is a tribute to 18th century sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel. The monument looms over 37 meters with a glass obelisk designed by Edvin Öhrström in 1962. Meanwhile, Järntorget is the second oldest town plaza in Gamla Stan with a history that dates back to 1300. Edifices surrounding the area are known by their numbered names. Some notable structures are the Number 80 or Medusa 4 decked with art nouveau exteriors, Number 85 where a crane symbolizes the square’s trading activities and the Number 84 home of the world’s oldest national bank—Södra Bankohuset.
More Meaningful Places Ahead
Stunning in a lot of ways, tourists can also have a good time in Södermalm Island offering individuals with few yet admirable landmarks.
The church of Katarina Kyrka, named after Princess Katarina, was built in 1695. The church was designed by Jean De La Vallée. It is the resting place of prominent figures like Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and Author Per Anders Fogelström. The church was rebuilt after a devastating fire hit it in the 1990s.
Take a swim while listening to classical music at the Liljeholmsbadet bath house. Meanwhile, Fotografiska Museum can show you a wonderful display of contemporary photographs. Learn more about Sweden’s rich history in the Stockholm City Museum. Located in Södra Stadhuset, the building was constructed in 1685.
Lastly, walk the streets of Fjällgatan and interact with the locals. Get to know how they spend their daily lives. Along Fjällgatan Street is the house of Anna Lindhagensgatan, a popular fighter of women’s rights. It has been converted into a museum depicting her life and works.
They say that journeys are far better than the destination. However, as much as the journeys create a whole new experience, it would always be the destination that solidifies the whole experience. In the end, what would always matter is how you enjoyed your stay and made the best out of it especially if the destination is the city of Stockholm.
Find that cozy retreat you have ever wanted in Sweden and make your summer worthwhile by visiting the country’s iconic landmarks and experiencing its unique culture and traditions.
Summer vacation is just around the corner and people have been asking each other on their plans for the season. While everyone wants to freshen up in the beach by strolling in the fine sand and drinking their cold coconut juice, one can take their summer vacation up a notch by going to a foreign country like Iceland.
Iceland is considered as the second largest island in Europe next to Great Britain. It has been known to be settled by the Norwegian Seafarers during the 9th century. Many of its locals get their sources of living in agriculture, fishing and tourism. Beautiful in its own, the island truly is one of the most sought after vacation spots during the summer season.
A Warm Welcome
If you’re looking for a place with rich cultural heritage, then Reykjavik downtown is just right for you. Home of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks and historical edifices, the area will surely provide all your vacation needs. Among the many attractions seen are the Grjótþorpid, Reykavik City Hall, Old Harbour, and the Laugavegur.
Popularly called as the Stone Village, Grjótþorpid is a residential area popular among travellers for its cheap rentals. One can learn more about Icelandic history in the Reykjavik City Hall which opened in 1992. The edifice holds different exhibits showcasing some of the country’s widely recognized masterpieces. The city hall also houses the offices of the Mayor and his executive officials.
Tourists will have fun in the Old Harbour. They can dine, shop, and explore different recreational activities in the area. There’s the weekend flea market called Kolaportið and the city’s oldest shopping district—Laugavegur. The latter is famous for its exclusive stores, bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Iceland has more iconic sights to share. The Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral, for instance, stands as the largest church in all of Iceland. It was named after Hallgrímur Pétursson, a known author and clergyman. The church was completed 41 years after its first construction in 1945. Architect Guðjón Samúelsson designed the church after Iceland’s lava flow. The edifice looms over 73 metres and has a viewing deck offering locals and tourists alike a view of the entire cityscape.
As you enter the church, you will be amazed the majestic pipe organ designed by Johannes Klais and the statue of Leif Eriksson made by Alexander Stirling Calder. The cathedral is Lutheran in nature and was consecrated in October 1986.
World-class entertainment takes place in the Harpa Concert Hall. The edifice is made of steel with colorful glass panels serving as the windows. It can welcome over 1,800 guests in the main hall. Currently, the concert hall serves as the headquarters of the country’s Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera.
A trip to Iceland can never be complete without visiting two of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls—the Goðafoss Waterfall situated in the Bárðardalur district and the Gullfoss Waterfall lying at the end of the Hvítá River.
Known as the waterfall of the Gods, Goðafoss tells its story from the time when Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, a prominent lawspeaker, discarded his most precious Norse Gods statues into the falls after converting Iceland’s religion to Christianity. The said waterfall finds its base at the Skjálfandafljót River.
Visitors near Goðafoss can cross the Ring Road Bridge which connects the main city to other breathtaking places. There’s also the nearby Fosshóll Restaurant where sumptuous meals are served.
Another Icelandic gem is the Gullfoss Waterfall, also known as the Golden Falls. It is part of the Golden Circle together with Þingvellir National Park and the Haukadalur geysers. Unique in its own way, Gullfoss Waterfall flows over a canyon giving it the illusion of a river vanishing from view. Visitors of the area should never miss the chance to take a memento of Sigriður Tómasdóttir stone memorial established next to the falls. This commemorates the late hero’s act of preserving the natural beauty of the place.
Hit the Water
Visit the whales in their natural habitat at the Skjalfandi Bay located in Husavik, Iceland’s whale-watching capital. The area houses an educational center that lectures about whales and the town’s fishing industry.
Lundey Island is an ideal place for bird watching. The place is flocked every season with seabirds such as the puffins and other cliff-dwelling animals.
And while you’re at the area, take the time to stroll around other interesting museums. Husavik offers recreational activities like horseback riding, hiking and swimming.
Take a swim and get that tan in the Blue Lagoon situated in the Reykjanes Peninsula. It was formed in the 1976 when a pool-like area was created from the waste water of the geothermal power plant adjacent to it. The lagoon was later turned into a geothermal spa in 1992. The spa can help cure skin diseases and hold experimental facilities. The Blue Lagoon was also used as a set location for the movie Hostel: Part II and first leg pit stop for The Amazing Race 6.
An Icelandic Escapade
The thing we’ve all been waiting for has finally come. Summer yet again brings us its ray of sunshine filled with expectations that we hope to achieve before it ends. With that said, let us all journey to Iceland, a country where land and water sceneries coincide to give us that unforgettable vacation we’ve all been waiting for.