One of the best preserved medieval centers in Europe, Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, dates back to 1252 when Stockholm was founded. Until 1980, this part of Stockholm was known as ‘The Town between the Bridges’, but was renamed to Gamla, meaning old, and stan, a contraction of the word ‘staden’, meaning town.

Courtyard at Hotel Castanea.

My hostel, the Castanea Hostel, is located in the heart of Gamla stan, in the midst of narrow, cobblestone streets, winding alleys and restaurants and shop galore. Even now, cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages can be found on some of the facades.

Stora Nygatan.


Stortorget Square.

The oldest square in Stockholm is Stortorget, and it is crowded with buildings of colorful facades. Within this square is also the Stock Exchange Building, which houses the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Museum, and the Nobel Library. This square was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath, where Swedish noblemen were massacred by the Danish forces under King Christian II, as he had just overtaken Stockholm.

Stock Exchange Building.

In the center of the square sits a well designed by Erik Palmstedt, and it was used to provide water to the new Stock Exchange Building. Although it dried up in 1856, it is today connected to the city water conduit. This square is traditionally renowned for its annual Christmas market.

Well in Stortorget Square.


Well in Stortorget Square.

Also located in Gamla stan is the Stockholm Cathedral, or Church of St. Nicholas, Sankt Nikolai kyrka, or Storkyrkan. Built by Birger Jarl, the founder of Stockholm, this is the oldest church in Gamla stan and a good example of the Brick Gothic style. For the first 400 years of the city’s life, it was the only parish church in the city and has been the frequent site of major events in Swedish history, such as royal weddings, coronations, and funerals. Crown Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of the current monarchs, was married here in 2010.

Stockholm Cathedral.

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, Gamla stan was considered a slum, with many of its historical buildings left in disrepair, with several blocks and alleys being demolished for the enlargement of the Parliament. But since the 1980s, it has reclaimed most of its charm and has since become a tourist attraction, showcasing its medieval, Renaissance architecture.

Gamla Stan.

Narrow, cobblestone alley.

German Church on Tyska Brinken.

Kindstugatan. My walk home.

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