Day trip tips outside Stockholm

Uppsala Cathedral

Uppsala Cathedral is the largest and tallest cathedral and one of the most impressive religious buildings in Scandinavia. Originally built in the 13th century under Roman Catholicism and used for coronations of the Swedish monarch, since the Protestant Reformation, it has been controlled by the Lutheran Church of Sweden. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Uppsala, the primate of Sweden. The construction of the cathedral ...
Founded: 1287-1435 | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

Drottningholm Palace

The Drottningholm Palace is the private residence of the Swedish royal family. It was originally built in the late 16th century. It served as a residence of the Swedish royal court for most of the 18th century. Apart from being the private residence of the Swedish royal family, the palace is a popular tourist attraction. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mainly because of its Theatre (an opera house located at the ...
Founded: 1662 | Location: Ekerö, Sweden

Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm Castle is regarded as one of Sweden's finest historical monuments. A fortress was built at the location around 1380 by Bo Jonsson Grip, and belonged to his family until the confiscation of mansions and castles by King Gustav I in 1526. The King tore it down, and built a fortified castle with circular corner towers and a wall, for defensive purposes. Of the original medieval fortress, only the façade of a ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Mariefred, Sweden

Uppsala Castle

Uppsala Castle is a 16th century royal castle in the historical city of Uppsala. Throughout much of its early history, the castle played a major role in the history of Sweden. It was built during the time Sweden was on its way to become a great power in Europe. King Gustav Vasa began construction of Uppsala Castle in 1549. Kings Erik XIV, John III and Charles IX all remodeled and expanded the citadel into a representativ ...
Founded: 1549 | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary's Church (Mariakyrkan) is the oldest still used building in Sigtuna. The brick-made church was constructed in the mid-13th century and inaugurated in 1247. It was, however, completed probably in 1255, when the archbishop Jarler was buried there. The church was enlarged and sacristy added in the 1280’s. Due the Reformation King Gustav Vasa ordered to demolish the adjacent abbey in 1530 and St. Mary's became ...
Founded: 1230-1255 | Location: Sigtuna, Sweden

Sigtuna Museum

Sigtuna Museum exhibits the history of Sigtuna, Sweden's oldest medieval city. The museum is located on the site where the first royal palace was built in the late 900’s AD. The museum dates back to 1916 and the current museum has been built in the 1960s with new showrooms, reception and storage. The permanent exhibition displays Sigtuna's earliest history. Although the museum is active in many areas the archaeologi ...
Founded: 1916 | Location: Sigtuna, Sweden

Gamla Uppsala Church

The stone church of Gamla Uppsala, built over the pagan temple, dates from the early 12th century. Due to fire and renovations, the present church is only a remnant of the original cathedral. Before the arrival of Christianity in Sweden, Gamla Uppsala was the seat of Swedish kings and a ceremonial site known all over northern Europe. The settlement was home to royal palaces, a royal burial ground, and a great pagan tem ...
Founded: ca. 1164 | Location: Gamla Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden

Uppsala University Botanical Garden

The Uppsala University Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in Sweden. It was founded in 1655 by Olof Rudbeck the elder, professor of medicine. The garden was used for teaching students botany and pharmacy. By the end of the century, more than 1 800 species were grown in the garden, many of them for the first time in Sweden. Olof Rudbecks´ botanical garden was largely destroyed by a fire in 1702. The univ ...
Founded: 1655 | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

Vaxholm Castle

Vaxholm Castle was originally constructed by Gustav Vasa in 1544 to defend Stockholm against shipborne attacks from the east, but most of the current structure dates from 1833-1863. The stretch of water below the building was formerly the main sea route to Stockholm. Thus, the fortress was strategically situated to defend the city from naval attacks. The castle was attacked by the Danes in 1612 and the Russian navy in 171 ...
Founded: 1544, 1833-1863 | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

The Royal Mounds

The Royal mounds (Kungshögarna) is the name for the three large barrows which are located in Gamla (Old) Uppsala. According to ancient mythology and folklore, it would be the three gods Thor, Odin and Freyr lying in Kungshögarna. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were speculated to hold the remains of three kings of the legendary House of Ynglings and where thus known by the names Aun's Mound, Adil's Mound an ...
Founded: 400-500 AD | Location: Gamla Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden

Skokloster Castle

Skokloster Castle was built in the Baroque style between 1654 and 1676 by the wealthy military commander and count Carl Gustaf Wrangel. The castle was designed by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder. When Wrangel died, the castle passed into the hands of the Brahe family, and then, after 1930, became the property of the von Essens. In 1967 the castle and its contents were sold by the family to the Swedish government; sin ...
Founded: 1654-1676 | Location: Skokloster, Sweden

Ulriksdal Palace

Ulriksdal Palace is a royal palace situated on the banks of the Edsviken in the National City Park. It was originally called Jakobsdal after its owner Jacob De la Gardie, who had it built by architect Hans Jacob Kristler in 1643-1645 as a country retreat. He later passed on to his son, Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, from whom it was purchased in 1669 by Queen Hedvig Eleonora. The present design is mainly the work of archite ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Stockholm, Sweden

St. Peter's Church Ruins

St. Peter's Church have been probably built in two phases during the 12th century.The eastern part with chancel, transept and central tower were erected first during the late 1100's, while the nave and the present west tower were added later. According the tradition the church was used as a bishop’s cathedral until 1130 when the bishop's seat was moved to Gamla Uppsala. The another legend believes the church has be ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sigtuna, Sweden

Tullgarn Palace

Tullgarn Palace is a royal summer palace built in the 1720s. The palace offers a mixture of rococo, Gustavian and Victorian styles. The interior design is regarded as one of Sweden"s finest. In 1719, the old Renaissance castle from the late 16th century was demolished. The newly appointed Privy Councillor Magnus Julius De la Gardie commissioned architect Joseph Gabriel Destain to design the present palace, built in ...
Founded: 1720s | Location: Vagnhärad, Sweden

Birka

During the Viking Age, Birka was an important trading center. The archaeological sites of Birka and Hovgården, on the neighbouring island of Adelsö, make up an archaeological complex which illustrates the elaborate trading networks of Viking Scandinavia and their influence on the subsequent history of Europe. Generally regarded as Sweden's oldest town, Birka (along with Hovgården) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site ...
Founded: ca. 750 AD | Location: Adelsö, Sweden

Wik Castle

Wik Castle is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Sweden. The first owner was Israel And in the end of 13th century. The current magnificent castle with seven floors was built in the late 15th century. The massive walls and moats made the stronghold impregnable. During the Middle Ages, the castle was one of the sturdiest strongholds in the Mälaren Valley, and Gustav Wasa once besieged Wik Castle for over a ...
Founded: ca. 1450 | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

Hovgården

Hovgården is an archaeological site on the Lake Mälaren island of Adelsö. During the Viking Age, the centre of the prospering Mälaren Valley was the settlement Birka, founded in the mid-8th century and abandoned in the late 10th century and located on the island Björkö just south of Adelsö. Hovgården is believed to have been the site from where kings and chieftains ruled the area. ...
Founded: ca. 100-1520 AD | Location: Ekerö, Sweden

Helgö

The island of Helgö is probably best known for a major archaeological area. The old trading town on Helgö began to emerge around the year 200 AD, 500 years before the well-known Birka. The first archaeological excavaton in 1954 found not only remains of the early settlement, but also a workshop area that became of international interest. Among the finds were a small Buddha statuette from North India and a christening s ...
Founded: 200 AD | Location: Ekerö, Sweden

Vaksala Runestone

The Vaksala Runestone is one of the approximately forty runestones made by the runemaster Öpir, who signed this inscription and was active in the late 11th and early 12th century in Uppland. This runestone style is characterized by slim and stylized animals that are interwoven into tight patterns. The animal heads are typically seen in profile with slender almond-shaped eyes and upwardly curled appendages on the nose ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.