Fri 7th: I have spent the past day and a half off work with a cold, and although it is clearing, I still feel a bit under the weather. It’s an early start and I am surprised by roadworks on the M4, which impose a 50mph speed limit for almost all of the journey to Heathrow. Fortunately we’ve allowed plenty of time. The self-service bag drop is an innovation and proves counterintuitive, as no peeling is required before fixing the baggage labels. As with all self-service options these days, staff are on hand to assist, perhaps a little patronisingly. The flight is smooth and the transfer to the hotel works as expected, with the small hiccup that the ticket machines for the Arlanda Express are reluctant to accept some cards. Once settled, we take advantage of the good weather to go for a walk around the old town, Gamla Stan.
Sat 8th: The forecast suggests a few good days, but less good by midweek, so we go to Drottningholm Palace. As well as the palace itself, we see the Chinese pavilion, the entertaining Guards’ “tent”, and the Palace Theatre.
Sun 9th: We visit the Royal Palace; after lunch we catch the popular Changing of the Guard ceremony. They do like military bands in Sweden. In the afternoon we wander around Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, before taking in the Modernamuseet and ArkDes.
Mon 10th: Another good day, and, especially as many museums are closed, we head to the open-air Skansen park. In some ways it reminds me of Beamish open-air museum, and there is some common intent, but Skansen is older, more varied (taking in architectural examples from all over the country, including from Finnish and Sami communities), and incorporates an extensive Nordic animals section. I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this seems to work quite well as an educational as well as an entertaining experience. We see owls, bears, boar, moose, seals, reindeer and wolves, as well as domesticated animals.
Tues 11th: The weather is more cloudy, and we take a day trip to Uppsala, where we see the Linnaeus museum and the Gustavianum museum, with its impressive Augsburg cabinet and anatomical theatre.
Wed 12th: We’re looking to get round the indoor options, so it’s the Historiska museet in the morning, which proves quite interesting (especially the prehistory sections), and the Nationalmuseum (which is an art gallery) in the afternoon. Although there’s the obligatory Canalettos, it contains mostly lesser-known artists. A couple of interesting Akseli Gallen-Kallela pieces appear in the later rooms.
Thurs 13th: Weather-wise, this is the worst day by far. We start at the Vasamuseet, which houses the recovered wreck of the seventeenth century Vasa. I was anticipating something more dumbed-down and interactive, but it’s much more impressive. In contrast, in the afternoon we visit the Nordiska museet, which isn’t bad but is underwhelming in comparison, not really using its space all that well. Finally we explore the Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde museum; there’s a temporary exhibition of paintings from Grez-sur-Loing and some intereating contemporary photography, but overall it’s quite a small museum.
Fri 14th: The weather is indifferent and we start with a morning tour of the Stadshus, before heading on to Vaxholm, where we see the interesting Hembygdsgårds museum (in a couple of rooms attached to the cafe) before going on to the castle and defensive works. As we exit the castle exhibition, the weather has improved substantially and it’s bright sunshine again.
Sat 15th: It’s a time-filling last day, so we begin at the Rosendals Trädgård, before moving on to the well-stocked Medelhavsmuseet and finally the Strindberg Museum, before heading off to the airport. The flight departs slightly late yet arrives early, but there’s an inordinate wait for the baggage to arrive, and in the end we’re quite late back.
Overall, public transport was good and cheap; visitor attractions were priced comparably with London, and food and drink was expensive. We managed some good budget meals (Georgian, Swedish and Mexican); though not among the cheaper options, Pelikan and Magnus Ladulas were particularly good.