Thursday, June 14, 2018


At sharp 7 am we were out the apartment door and got the bus 1A in a few minutes that dropped us at footsteps of Copenhagen Central station. The platforms were accessible by stairs from this side but we didn't know which platform to go down to (with all our luggage).  Since the train was at 8:20 and it was just 7:30 am - the train information wasn't displayed on the screens yet. Thankfully, a blue collar worker at the station was exiting from one of the platforms and he told us to go to platform 5 for our train to Stockholm.

While waiting for the train, I bought us some breakfast because the bar/cafe car in the train is not operational till 9:00 am. The train arrived well before departure time so we had ample time to get in our luggage and find our seats. It was a comfortable journey that lasted about 5 hours 20 minutes and included a passport check as we entered Sweden.

From Stockholm's central station, we took a T train to our hotel. The central station is huge and signs are very confusing, so it took us some time to figure out the platform for our train - but it has escalators so luggage was not an issue. In Stockholm, we had chosen Courtyard by Marriott and it turned out to be a great property. The rooms are huge and it is less than 500 m from Fridhemsplan (T station and the bus stop for the Flygbussarna airport coach)

After we parked our bags, we landed in the city center (near Royal Opera house). It was the day of Stockholm marathon that was in its last stages. We had bought 72 hour Stockholm Pass online  along with the 72 hour transport cards (as station doesn't  have a sale point and we weren't flying into the city). It was delivered to Bangalore with reasonable shipping charges.

Just like Copenhagen card, this one included all key attractions including hop on hop off bus & boat tours. Due to the marathon, the schedule for the day was different and we had missed the last bus and boat. Instead, we signed up for the 2 hour 'Under the bridges' cruise at 6:30 pm. It was the perfect time for it - it was sunny but not too hot and the boat wasn't overly crowded (just yet).  The 2 hour cruise is a sightseeing tour where you travel under twelve bridges and pass through a lock that is connecting the Baltic Sea with Lake Mälaren. (Lake Malaren is a meter higher than Baltic Sea - so boats have to wait inside the lock till the water level inside the lock rises or drops, as needed).

On this cruise, we got to see the inner city, the Old Town, the island of Södermalm and the green areas of Djurgården. By the time cruise ended and we reached Fridemsplan, it was 9:00 pm - we just had a quick dinner and walked back to our hotel.
Views from the 'Under the Bridges' Cruise

Next day we started with a one hour boat cruise to Drottingholm Palace. Thanks to google maps goof up, we couldn't make it in time for the 11 am departure, so we had to wait 50 minutes for the next boat. In the meanwhile we strolled over to the City Hall next door. It is a beautiful building and can be accessed only through guided tours. Thanks to the delay in getting on the boat, the 15:30 (last) tour wasn't an option for us! So we just enjoyed the exteriors, the sparkling waters of Lake Malaren and clicked some pictures.

We landed at Drottingholm palace at 1 pm, took the self-guided tour - The palace was not mind blowing but it is still beautiful and it was interesting to see how it was inspired by Chateau de Versailles in many places. The Swedish royal family actually lives here (since 1981) and not in the Royal Palace of Stockholm. We especially loved the Queen's library where 10000 of the total 90000 book collection were on display.
Drottingholm palace as visible from boat, Queen's library and some beautiful chandeliers

After the palace tour, we made our way to the Court Theater building for a 35 minutes guided tour of same. Our guide was impressive in her knowledge of the theater that has everything in its original form including the wallpaper.
Court Theater

We caught the 15:00 boat back to Stockholm as the day was very hot to enjoy the gardens. And then boarded the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus from City Hall. It was a bad choice because the sun was relentless and after some time roof was closed off as we were driving under the tram electric lines. The tour lasted 75 minutes and we felt baked by the end of it!!! We got off at the Central Station stop, had a lovely Italian meal and headed off to hotel just as it had started to rain.

Day 3 in Stockholm was reserved for island of Djurgarden - an area famous for Skansen open air museum, Vasa museum, ABBA museum, Nordic name a few. A combination of T and tram got us there in 45 minutes - the morning was cool and it was great for enjoying the open air museum.

Trying Stilts
Skansen is the world's first open-air museum, founded in 1891, with an area of 300000 square meters. This is great place to explore the five centuries of Swedish history which include the way of life, slavery system at the farms and many more. All of the 150 buildings in the museum were actually built in the past and then moved to Skansen. However at 10 am most of the buildings were closed, so we headed to the zoo to see bears, bison, wolves and lynx. We also tried our hand at some old Swedish games including stilt walking. After this we headed off to the aquarium where we got to see sloths, golden lion tamarins, meerkats, a vast variety of poisonous snakes & other amphibians and of course, many fishes.

After a small meal at Skansen we headed off to Vasa museum which was a short tram ride away. Vasa museum is dedicated to the battleship Vasa that sank in 1628 after just sailing just over 1300 m. The ship lay below the surface for 333 years until being salvaged in 1961. Some blame King Gustav II Adolf for the disaster, who ordered a large ship with 72 heavy-caliber cannons (though only 64 were mounted as canons took longer to build). Others blame Master shipwright Henrik Hybertsson who, apparently, was inexperienced at building ships with two gun-decks. The ship would have been gorgeous when it started on its maiden and only voyage - while the colours are gone, 95% of it is still intact and is original - thanks to the less salty & frigid waters of Baltic Sea.
Coloured one on bottom right is a model of the Vasa ship

We got lucky because we decided to rest our feet near the meeting point of the free guided tour. The guide was this short feisty lady who kind of reminded me of myself :) She was very passionate about her subject and we really enjoyed listening to her.

After Vasa, we headed over to the Nordic museum but it is no longer about Nordic countries - it's focused only on Swedish culture. It has exhibitions about work and life in Sweden from the 16th century until today, featuring clothes and fashion, textiles, furniture and interiors, jewellery, photography, folk art, glass and china. We didn't enjoy it much and left it after an hour.

It was after 5 pm and we had been on our feet since 10 am...but we decided to do Skyview today - as it is a bit far from next day's attractions that are all grouped together on island of Gamla Stan. However, when we reached Skyview we were informed that next open slot is at 12:10 pm next day - we had no option but to accept those tickets. We were, by now, very tired and hungry - so we grabbed a meal near Skyview and took the T back to our hotel.

Last day, we started pretty early as we had to accommodate Skyview in today's agenda. By 9 am we were at Nobel Museum - it is a small museum but has lot of information available digitally. The physical exhibition was focused on a handful of Nobel Laureates from Literature. Here also we got a free guided tour - which though short was very informative.

After the Nobel museum, we took the T to Skyview...enjoyed the short & slow ride in the globe shaped glass elevator to the top of the building, clicked pictures of the beautiful city and then took the T back to Gamla Stan.

We reached the Royal Palace of Stockholm barely in time for the guided tour that costs just 20 SEK (rest was included in Stockholm Pass). The palace is very beautiful and again takes lots of inspiration from Chateau de Versailles. The tour, while informative, was a bit dull - the  guide just didn't know how to connect with the audience - he was quite formal. After the tour we continued to enjoy the beautiful building before heading out to the Ridderholmen Church.
Royal Palace of Stockholm

Ridderholmen is the Stockholm’s only remaining medieval abbey, built in the late 1200s. The church is the last resting place of the Swedish monarchs and aristocracy. However, we weren't very impressed by it and decided to leave after 20 minutes or so.

The last order of the day was to get back to hotel but it was just 4 pm and sun doesn't set in this beautiful city till 10:30 pm (in summer). So we decided to board the HOHO bus again today as the weather was actually cold today. It was the eve of the Swedish National Day (which is 6th June), so the roads had many cars and open aired buses/ trucks filled with revelers enjoying the eve of national holiday. 

The bus tour was certainly more enjoyable today and we got off at the City Hall and decided to walk the 2.5 km distance back to our hotel as our travel card had expired (though attraction card was still valid) and it didn't make sense to spend money on expensive cabs for this distance.

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