Cruise Guide: Classic Stockholm a must-see port

By Michael Coleman 

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – This cosmopolitan city, while still clearly embracing its past, has transformed itself into one of the world’s must-see cruise ship destinations. 

It features pedestrian-friendly shopping, gastronomic delights and a cultural component unlike any other place on the planet. From the Alfred Nobel Museum to Millesgarden, some 100 art galleries and 70 museums make for the single greatest concentration of such in the world.

Among the most popular stops for cruise ship visitors is medieval Gamla Stan (Old Town), the heart and soul of the city. You need only a few minutes on these narrow cobblestone streets to be transported back to a bygone era here, where people ate, stocked up on supplies and readied themselves for their own sea-going journeys.

Today, friendly shopkeepers, trendy bars and colorful cafes welcome visitors daily. While meandering through these tiny streets, don’t miss the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace and a visit to the Nobel Museum is a must. Here, in an 18th Century building, Stockholm’s most famous son is honored as are each of the 750-plus Nobel Prize Laureates for their groundbreaking achievements in science, literature and peace since 1901.

A nearby museum, meanwhile, houses King Gustav Adolph’s warship, the Vasa, which sank shortly after embarking on its maiden voyage in 1628. Salvaged in 1961 after 333 years under the sea, it’s a jaw-dropping spectacle housed in a museum that was constructed around it. The only preserved 17th Century ship in the world, Vasa is not only one of Stockholm’s top tourist draws, it has become one of Scandinavia’s most popular attractions.

A few steps away, make time for the Historiska Museum. It houses artifacts dating back thousands of years, a gold exhibit, and brings the Viking era to life.

A trip to Millesgarden is another can’t-miss experience. It features the works of famed Swedish sculptor Carl Milles set amidst terraces, fountains, stairways and columns overlooking the waters of Vartan.

If the historical side of this 750-year-old city has yet to excite the senses, perhaps shopping for crystal, designer jewelry, high fashion and art fits the bill.

Famed department stores NK and Ahlens stand tall with legendary Swedish glass makers Kosta Boda, Orrefors and Svenskt Tenn, a company dedicated to contemporary interior design since 1927. So good was the collaboration between founder Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank, an Austrian architect/designer, Svenskt Tenn does global business today with many of Frank’s timeless textile and fabric print designs even though he passed away in 1967.

Such legends have inspired a new generation of designers and retailers who are flourishing here, throughout Europe and abroad. Efva Attling makes jewelry for Madonna and Sharon Stone; J. Lindeberg is a hot new clothing brand for men and women partly-owned by professional golfer Jasper Parnevik; tennis legend Bjorn Borg’s namesake line continues to flourish.

Visitors returning to their respective cruise ships also learn yet another intriguing fact about the city: Stockholm deserves a second look.