Stockholm is surely an urban planner’s dream.
Everything works. Everything looks good.
– Janine di Giovanni
Exactly one year ago tomorrow I woke up in a charming boutique hotel in an area of Stockholm, Sweden called Solna. The sun was streaming in through the windows and it was a gorgeous day. I was nearly over my jetlag [I’d spent the better part of the previous day resting up and exploring the hotel, as well as the adjacent shopping mall – Solna Centrum]. I was over the jet-lagged-ness, possibly due simply to the excitement of just being there.
After an amazing breakfast…at what would be two weeks of the most magnificent morning buffets, or smörgåsbords, you could ever imagine…I would see my husband off to work and the day ahead was mine for adventures.
There are a vast amount of impressive outings in Stockholm, so for my first day out & about I decided to head down to the smallish island of Djurgården, which consists of historical buildings and monuments, museums, galleries, the amusement park Gröna Lund, the open air museum Skansen, the small residential area Djurgårdsstaden, yacht harbors, and extensive stretches of forest and meadows. My destination was very exciting to me: Junibacken museum – a small fairy-tale world based on Swedish children’s literature, and especially the novels of Astrid Lindgren, the beloved author of Pippy Longstocking!
I set off to take the subway from Solna directly south to central Stockholm, where I would then have to switch to an above-ground tram system to reach my stop on Djurgården. I popped into the Pressbyrån (a chain of Swedish convenience stores) right outside the mall/hotel to purchase a metro pass and I was ready to go.
The Pressbyrån was connected to the station entrance; it could not have been more convenient. I’m not sure if I can convey to you my utter shock and surprise at what came next. After I’d gone through the turnstile to head down the escalator I got my first surprise: the escalator was the longest one by far that I’d ever seen in my life; the fairly speedy ride down to the bottom may have lasted at least forty-five seconds. That may not seem like much, but imagine riding continuously downwards at a good clip for this long:
Looking down to the bottom was genuinely dizzying…
Mostly because I’m a bit fearful of heights it took several seconds for me to register the bright-red painted rock walls. Once I did though it became very intriguing. I’d never seen anything like this in a subway.
The real surprise and shock though came once I exited off at the bottom.
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.
– Pablo Picasso
I felt as if I’d entered a museum rather than a train station. Beautiful works of art greeted me and stopped me in my tracks. Thankfully it was well passed rush hour as I could have caused a serious traffic jam. I would quickly learn the rhythms of the station, the ebb and flow of the crowds. But that first morning it was blissfully uncrowded of people…but full of eye-catching displays.
Not having had any inkling to expect anything like this, I found myself quite confused by these surroundings, in the best way possible. It was really beautiful.
Because I didn’t have a data plan my iPhone was in airplane mode so I couldn’t google this mystery until later. I just began snapping a few pictures as I waited for the next train, on this the Blue Line, to pull into this station.
The cavernous depot was completely covered with gorgeous murals; every square inch seemed to be coated in typical Scandinavian colors and frescoes. It was surreal for me, especially as this was my first time on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, so I’d never been in any of the many European subway stations that I would subsequently hear about later.
Here comes the Blue Line –
I got myself on and found a seat. Then I rode along in a kind of a dream-like state; it was like nothing I’d ever experienced, nor expected.
Once inside the trains it seemed very dated, but also very European; which in turn, at least in my experience, most countries in the EU often have a real ‘80s feel to them. It was such a cosmopolitan atmosphere and it had been a while since I’d been in one. Everyone was speaking Swedish or other foreign languages all around me; to each other or into their many, many mobile phones. It was very enjoyably-noisy.
I tried not to get too distracted by all there was to see as we pulled into new terminals that were each as artfully decorated as the last, so as to not miss my destination stop: Kungsträdgården (Swedish for “King’s Garden”) which, as well as a metro station, is a park in central Stockholm.
I was greeted by truly overwhelmingly colorful and artful sights:
Just all of it, wonderful. So much detail, so much to see.
I made my way out of the metro, another steep escalator, but this one actually went to a second, much shorter escalator that led to the street level. And there was more artistic work to see all along the way, too.
It continued right out onto the street with a kingly statue outside the main doors of Kungsträdgården station. Amazing!
Next I hopped onto an above-ground tram to go to Djurgården to find the Junibacken museum:
Turns out the Stockholm metro system is 105.7 kilometres (65.7 mi) long and has been called the world’s longest art gallery. With more than 90 of the network’s 100 stations decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs by over 150 different artists.
The Blue Line was the third and final one built, it has existed since August 1975. It was used by 171,000 passengers per workday or 55 million per year (as per 2005) and the maximum speed is 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). I couldn’t find any specific information about the depths of the network of lines, but it was all still quite fascinating. Not to mention it’s pretty much a free museum…well minus the cost of your subway trek, I suppose.
I’ll never forget stepping off that escalator into this other world, that delights the senses. The city of Stockholm in general did the same, and I highly recommend visiting it and Sweden if you get the chance. Especially in the summer months! I mean the city itself is spread across 14 islands on the coast, in the southeast of Sweden, at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago and the Baltic Sea. We also did a boat tour of the archipelago, it was absolutely stunning. Stunning!
A few more metro station snaps that I took, mostly with my phone. I really hope to return some day. Once was definitely not enough. There’s so much more to see.
Stockholm – truly a vibrant and lovely place to be…even underground!
But now I wish I could back to Stockholm…
– Lasse Hallstrom
(Swedish film director and screenwriter)
Raina K Morton March 10 2015
See for yourself:
*Article 1. “Photos capture Stockholm’s beautiful subway system after its makeover by artists”
**Article 2. “What I Just Discovered Underground In Europe Blew My Mind. I Cannot Believe This Exists… Wow.“