Stockholm is spread across 14 islands at the point where the 120 long fresh-water Lake Mälaren joins the Baltic. And it is on the edge of the Stockholm Archipelago, an area of 20,000 to 30,000 islands stretching over a distance of 60. Given all that it’s is hardly surprising the city and harbour are intertwined, with ferries of all sorts scurrying constantly back and forth all over the place.
For our short stay in Stockholm we bought 72-hour transit passes which we could use on pretty much any of Stockholm’s public transport operated by the Storstockholms Lokaltrafik
, known everywhere as just the “SL”. Using these we took the tram to Djurgården to visit the Vasamuseet as our first priority. This is the museum which houses the Vasa, the Swedish warship which sank in 1628 and spent 333 years in the mud at at the bottom of Stockholm Harbour before being salvaged and preserved in this museum. This is the most popular museum in Sweden, and was much recommended to us by friends before we visited. We were not disappointed.
The island of Djurgården (The Royal Game Park) is a vast recreational area with something for everyone. There are countless museums
after you’ve marveled at the Vasa you can walk a few yards along the shore and soak up all there is to know about ABBA, if that’s what floats your boat! And then there is Gröna Lund, a classic theme park with all the usual rides, and Skansen, a large and venerable old open-air museum which includes a zoo and historical buildings. There are also art galleries, expensive homes and still plenty of parkland trails to walk around and picnic in. Enough here that Stockholm residents should never want for somewhere to take a day's outing, and enough to completely overwhelm a visitor with just a couple of days to spare.
After leaving the Vasa museum we chose to sit by the water's edge and watch the constant action in the harbour. Close by was the Maritime Museum with a number of historic ships crowded by the wharf, many of which you could board and look around. We chose to explore the Sankt Erik, an icebreaker built in 1915. Beautifully preserved
a classic varnished wood and painted steel steamship. But our target was the Allmänna Gränd ferry terminal, another 600
walk along the shore, and past another half a dozen museums!
This is the terminal for the Djurgården Ferry, also known as Commuter ferry line 82. It is operated by the SL, and therefore covered by our 72-hour transit pass, allowing us to bypass the ticket machine. The ferry runs about every 10 to 15 minutes so we did not have long to wait. Even though it was a nothing-special grey day there were lots of people waiting to board.
There are four boats plying the route, the Djurgården 8 to 11. They are operated by, and under the flag of, Waxholmsbolaget, on behalf of the SL. Waxholmsbolaget has its origins running steamboat services to the Stockholm Archipelago in 1849. These days it is owned by the Stockholm County Council, and operates 20 boats serving the Archipelago in addition to the 4 on the Djurgården route.
The first stop was Skeppsholmen. This island is home to a number of government buildings and museums, most notably the Moderna Museet, the Modern Art Museum. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge, and in turn connects to Kastellholmen which includes a picturesque little castle on top of a hill, giving the island its name.
We stayed on board at Skeppsholmen, continuing on to the end of “line 82”, the ferry terminal at the Slussen kajen (dock). As we rounded the end of Kastellholmen harbour traffic seemed pretty busy, with one of the other Djurgården boats passing close by, and other ferries and pleasure craft. To the south of us on the island of Södermalm, a Viking Line cruise-ferry and a large cruise ship were moored at Stadsgården.
The Slussen dock has services to other places, including Nacka Strand which we passed a couple of days later on the ferry back from Grinda. Slussen is at the south east end of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s “old town”, which includes the Kungliga slottet (Royal Palace).
We walked back along the waterfront, saving the exploring of the island till the next day, but noting as we did the narrow lanes that led between the tall waterfront buildings into the interior of the island.