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Why You Should Visit Gamla Stan in Stockholm

Why you should visit Gamla Stan in Stockholm?

Gamla Stan is the foremost tourist attraction in Stockholm Sweden. Stunning architecture, colourful buildings, quaint cobblestoned streets greet you as you enter Gamla Stan from across Riksbron Bridge that connects Drottninggatan Street and Gamla Stan. There are so many reasons why you should visit Gamla Stan, you will fall in love with this area and will want to return as often as possible.

(Editor Update 2021)

Where is Stockholm Sweden

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
Stockholm Sweden Map


Stockholm is Sweden’s Capital City. Stockholm is located on the mouth of Lake Malaren and is spread across 14 islands. Its location is in the southeast of the country of Sweden by the Stockholm Archipelago and the Baltic Sea. Sweden is one of the Scandinavian countries and has borders with Norway and Finland.


Stockholm Map Showing Gamla Stan

Why you should visit Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm, full of history, ancient stories and mystery, is located on the small island of the same name in Stockholm Sweden.  Gamla Stan is one of the best-preserved medieval city centres in Europe.  An island of winding cobblestoned streets, well-preserved buildings and squares, it is where the changing of the guards occur daily at the Palace and where tourists throng to wander, shop and eat.  If you delve deeper into the history you will find stories of executioners, ghosts and bloody killings, age-old rune stones and an alleyway that at its smallest width measures just 90cm (if you can find it that is)!  Should you visit?  Of course, you should!  Let us show you why.

What to see in Gamla Stan

There are many things to do in Stockholm.  You should allow at least half a day to visit Gamla Stan.

1.  Riddarholmen Church on the Island of Riddarholmen

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
View of Riddarholmen Church from Gamla Stan


Look out towards the skyline on the island of Riddarholmen from Gamla Stan and you cannot miss the church that dominates the view.  The Riddarholmen Church was completed around 1300 and for over 300 years it was the burial places of the Swedish Kings and their consorts.  Today it is under renovation and visitors are not allowed.  The island of Riddarholmen can be visited on foot, no one lives there now, the buildings are used for government offices.

2.  Prastgatan Street (Priests Street)

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
Prastgatan Street Gamla Stan

A narrow cobblestone street that runs from North to South on Gamla Stan.  Prastgatan is one of the oldest streets in Gamla Stan.  Originally it was divided into two parts – Swedish and German.  The Northern part of the street, also known as the Alley of Hell, housed criminals and it is where suicides were normal everyday happenings.  The local executioner lived in this area.  Executioners were prisoners who were sent to death themselves, to become an executioner one had to kill the previous one. Regardless of whether you were an executioner or just an ordinary prisoner your fate was already sealed.

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
Runestone in Gamla Stan

There is a Runestone featured on the corner of Prastgatan Street and Kakbrinken.  The stone is believed to date back to 1000, it is 200 years older than the city.  A runestone is a stone carved by the ancient Scandinavians and the patterns inscribed where depicting heroic men,  telling the tales of historic events, claiming land ownership and family inheritance and even oracle divination. They first appeared in Norway and Sweden around the 4th and 5th century. You can see a cannon by the stone, it is understood to have been placed there as a protection to the runestone from carriage wheels.

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
46 Prastgatan Street Gamla Stan

#46 Prastgatan Street has an emblem above the door that represents the phoenix.  It is a symbol of one of the first Insurance Companies in Sweden.  The emblem was placed on doorways if the residents were wealthy enough to afford insurance, their property would be one of the first saved if a fire was raging in the street, which apparently happened quite often.

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
Unique colourful buildings in Gamla Stan

You will note iron patterns on the external walls of buildings.  Each iron pattern relates to a particular year it was used for renovation purposes to support the walls and the beams of the house.  This one dates back to 1630.

You will also note that the houses are painted in bright colours.  During winter the shortest day is 70 minutes, the Swedes painted their houses in bright colours to lighten their moods.

3.  St Gertrudes German Church Gamla Stan

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
St Gertrudes German Church Gamla Stan

The Church was founded in 1571, the spire is the tallest on the island of Gamla Stan standing at 86m tall.  The gargoyles on the tower are unusual for Swedish architecture as they are neogothic gargoyles.  It is built in the Baroque style.  If you visit the church, view the historic organ which was originally built in the romantic style during 1884. It was superseded by a neo-baroque organ in 1972 when the romantic instruments had fallen out of favour.  There are plans in place to sell the 1972 organ and restore and rebuild the original one.

If you are visiting Gamla Stan in the summer why not have an adventurous climb by a series of disconnected stairways to the top of the medieval church tower of Storkyrkan.  The climb is worth the stunning view from the top.

4.  Marten Trotzigs Alley Gamla Stan

why you should visit Gamla Stan
Narrowest alleyway in Gamla Stan

The narrowest alleyway in Gamla Stan, at it’s narrowest point it only measures 90cm wide and contains 36 steps.  It was named after the richest merchant Marten Trotzig who owned two properties in the narrow alleyway.  He was beaten to death in 1617.

5.  Iron Square – Jarntorget

Why you should visit Gamla Stan
Iron Square Gamla Stan

The second oldest square in Gamla Stan and an important centre for trading for centuries.  Note the windows on the buildings in the square.  During the summer you will find that the windows have no curtains only a lamp placed in the window.  During the Middle Ages, there was a law that citizens were not allowed to have curtains, the Swedish people had nothing to hide, so no need for curtains.  Today it is viewed as an ‘old grandma style’ if you have curtains on your windows.  The lamps have a purpose, they reflect the light in the evenings.

6.  Den Gyldene Freden – the oldest restaurant in the world still in its original location

Why you should visit Gamla Stan

A good example of an 18th-century tavern which was the place that famous Swedish writers and songwriters used to frequent. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

7.  In Bollhustappan the smallest statue in Stockholm


You will find a small sculpture of a sad boy looking up towards the sky which was created by Liss Eriksson in 1954.  It reminded him of when he was a small boy when he would look up at the moon at night.  Legend states if you pat the boys head you will return to Stockholm.  In winter, you will find him with a hat and scarf that has been knitted by an anonymous local.  Legend also states that if you steal the coins placed around the statue it will bring you bad luck because the boy sees everything and never forgets.

8.  Stortget (The Big Square)

Why you should visit Gamla Stan

The oldest square in Gamla Stan.  It now houses the Nobel Museum which used to be the Stock Exchange.  A square with a ‘bloody’ history.  If you look at the red house #20 with white stones, the white stones represent the beheading of 82 Swedish Nobleman by the Danish King Christian II in 1520.

After a busy day sightseeing, why not head to Pharmarium.  A unique and some would say a bizarre restaurant in the square that pairs cocktails with the food that you choose.  Tapas style menu paired with medicinal ingredients sounds like the perfect end to a great day.

The information contained in this blog post came from our free walking tour with Free Tour Stockholm.

Check their website out for their three tours that they operate throughout Stockholm.

We enjoy walking tours, it is definitely a great way to learn more about the history of a city and we enjoy the small tidbits of information the guides have up their sleeves.

Other Things To Do in Stockholm

What to do in Stockholm? We have a sample of tours available for you. What is the most famous Stockholm Attraction? The Abba Museum. Click here for details.



Accommodation in Gamla Stan

Where to stay in Gamla Stan Stockholm?

Sven Vintappare Hotel: Sven Vintappares Gränd 3, Gamla Stan

Residence Perseus: Baggensgatan 17, Gamla Stan

Castanea Old Town Hostel: Kindstugatan 1, Gamla Stan

Victory Hotel: Lilla Nygatan 5, Gamla Stan

Scandic Gamla Stan (rated 8.3): Lilla Nygatan 25, Gamla Stan

For more hotels in Gamla Stan

Where to eat in Gamla Stan

The top 5 restaurants in Gamla Stan are:

Stockholms Gastabud: Osterlanggatan 7Stockholm
Corvina: 47 Kornhamnstorg, Stockholm
Aifur Krog & Bar: Vasterlanggatan 68B, Stockholm
Pubologi: 20 Stora Nygatan, Stockholm
The Hairy Pig Deli: Osterlanggatan 9, Gamla Stan
For more restaurant options and reviews by Tripadvisor click our link below:
Why you should visit Gamla Stan

 Getting In Stockholm

Cheap Flight Deals to Stockholm

Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner who then directs you to the airline’s website with no extra fees to pay.

There are private transfers available from Stockholm’s airport to the city click here for information and the latest prices.
Travelling by train you may want to consider purchasing a Eurail Pass.  Click here for the latest deals.
Car Rental in Sweden
Car rental is available from the airport and from the City. Click here for details and the latest deals.

Travel Insurance

When is the best time to purchase travel insurance? We get this question all the time.  Our recommendation is when you start to pay deposits on flights, accommodation, cruises or tours.  Do not leave it till the day before you travel.

If you are based in Australia click here for travel insurance details.

If you are outside of Australia click below for travel insurance details.

Travel Shop

If you are looking at purchasing new travel luggage, packing cubes or travel guides, have you checked out our new To Travel Too Travel Shop yet?

Travel Shop


Are you on Pinterest? We are at To Travel Too and we have many travel-related boards check us out at Pinterest.  If you enjoyed our article why not pin it to your board.



Why you should visit gamla stan


Our blog posts on Sweden to inspire you:

Why You Should Visit Sweden’s Sormland Region

Stockholm’s Archipelago and its Military History

Why Baby Boomers Should Visit Stockholm

Further Reading:



You can take our article with you after you download it from iTunes with GPS location to help you discover Gamla Stan at your leisure.

Why you should visit Gamla Stan


Thanks for stopping by and welcome to To Travel Too – Australia’s top Baby Boomer lifestyle and travel blog, with an international worldwide audience in mind, run by the married couple, freelance writers and full-time travellers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Come with us as we explore the world. Our two mantras that we live by are 'chase time not money' and 'age is no barrier when it comes to travel'.

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