Top museums in Stockholm
Museums in Stockholm, like basically in any European capital, can be overwhelming. They usually cover every topic from the country’s history and development, visitors can choose those more traditional ones in form or more futuristic, those for free and those making people go bankrupt, those in the city centre or in the suburbs. How to not get lost and lose your time and not regret a visit in a museum, while you could have gone to another fika? Hopefully my ranking will help you.
At the beginning I would like clarify some things. First of all, I haven’t been to all Stockholm’s museums. Yet. Reasons for that were several: time issue, money issue, never-ending renovation works issue. For me it means pain, as I am cut off from all those Swedish pieces, but for you as the reader it’s a sign that this list will grow. For now, I attach a PDF map of all museums in Stockholm LINK and here I present my ranking of the places that I have already seen and have opinion on, judged by following criteria:
accessibility (easy/hard to find/to get there, popularity, crowd)
price range (free admission / some money is needed / being a member of some European Royal Palaces Organizations helps you a lot)
sensation (simply it – did I like the exhibition)
ARMY MUSEUM (ARMEMUSEUM)
One of the oldest museums in Sweden, created in the best possible place for it – at the old Stockholm Armory Garden. Here in the middle of 17th century artillery was stored and repaired. New building was built between 1769-1806. In 1877 the regiment moved to new estate, the idea of a museum emerged and came into life two years later. Over the years the museum changed its name from Artillerimuseum to Armémuseum and the exhibition was rebuilt several times. Current interior design and composition took shape in the 1990s. The museum is divided in three floors. The tour starts on the second floor with the history mainly from 16th century till 19th, yet a compendious introduction from before that period is provided. The first floor focuses on 20th and 21st century history, including weapon exhibition and a room dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg. The ground floor contains temporary exhibitions, which during my visit was about war games.
Sweden’s history in general in the early modern age focuses at lot on war and different shades of conflicts. Thanks to Army Museum the visitor can yet learn more, because around Swedish campaigns some political and social narrative is presented. I admire the great balance between requisites and the amount of information on boards. The exhibition engages the visitor to interact with it, but it’s not forcing itself, more tends to create the impression of “wow”. I’m sure I’ll go back there if only I have an opportunity to do so.
Prince range: 5/5 – free admission
ROYAL ARMOURY (LIVRUSTKAMMAREN)
If you want to experience Swedish history from the high class perspective, here you find it at it’s most core. It’s English name makes me think of another war museum, but it’s much more than that – I would even say that war items are a small addition to the whole exhibition. Events, which are the essence of Swedish history, can be seen through items there, like battle of Lützen, the assassination of Gustav III and death of Charles XII. We can take a look at Gustav II Adolf’s horse, on which king fought and died at Lützen. Sure, it’s not comfortable to look at stuffed corpse, but at the same time I am amazed by the 17th century Swedes which preserved it. We can almost investigate by ourselves the evidences from the night when Gustav III was shot – what was he wearing or what guns were used. Another amazing uniform belongs to Charles XII from the day when he was shot by the fortress of Fredriksten. Livrustkammaren collection contains much more costumes, paintings and royal utensils.
Accessibility: 5/5 – museum is located in the same building as the Royal Palace. It cannot go any easier. Not that crowded from what I recall (or at least taking a picture is possible – although here is a small note: everything is behind a glass. And for me, with my poorly mediocre photography skills, it means a nightmare. But for sure you’re better, so don’t mind me complaining).
Prince range: 5/5– that’s strange. One rabbi says it’s free, the other rabbi says it’s free only to the age 18. All I know it’s that I didn’t pay.
Sensation: 5/5 – it’s amazing! I mean, I don’t want Polish horses to be stuffed in Polish museums, taken from dead kings or Polish politicans suits covered in blood to hang there – but if Swedes has those stuff, it’s an experience to see all of that (it’s not like Polish history is boring and we have no thrilling exhibits, we’re just geographically unlucky – see world war 2).
VASA MUSEUM (VASAMUSEET)
Vasa Museum was a place that I was the most reluctant to visit and afterward I was the most enchanted. And here I would like to put on a record a note, that Vasamuseet is one of the most pricey museums in Stockholm – 130 kronor for adults, 110 for students (that’s me!). So what, I’m gonna see a ship, that’s it? First, let’s take a look at historical value of this object. Vasa is a 17th-century ship, which drowned on its maiden voyage on August 10th 1628, remained under water for 333 years, lifted from the water in 1961 and after conservation it still consists of 98% of original pieces. A bit more about Vasa’s history is in my video. The museum’s center is of course the ship, but around it several floors with 9 exhibitions were arranged:
what was happening to it while it was resting under the water, after the lifting and what might happen to it in the future; stories about the passengers and the crew of Vasa; how ships were built in the Vasa times
the whole history of the Vasa ship, from the moment of the decision to create it until restoring the last pieces of equipment in the 1970s
about sea battles in the 17th century and what could happen if Vasa faced the enemy
how the life looked like on board, along with preparation of the food and dealing with diseases
about the ornaments, colours, equipment, sculptures and meaning of all the symbols
Stockholm has variety of museums with free admissions. If you’re about to choose one with the tickets, Vasamuseet has to be the place. People of all sexes, age and interests are absolutely astonished by this amazing exhibit and people who worked around it, starting from the minds that constructed it finishing with its discoverers and present museum personnel.
Accessibility: 4,5/5 – easy to find, in a walking distance for people who don’t mind walking – it takes around 30 minutes of foot to get there from the old town and it’s not a distance that everyone feels up to.
Prince range: 4/5 – minus one point as it’s pretty expensive, but it’s worth it. It’s possible to buy tickets online.
SWEDISH HISTORY MUSEUM (HISTORISKA MUSEET)
I might sound very Polish conservative right now, but I believe that the greatest part of this whole museum is the one with religious medieval objects. Everything went smooth there – the concept of composition worked with the items. Beside that… I really didn’t feel the newest exhibition, focusing on Viking age. Looked like fun for kids, no informative value for me. The room arranged as a baroque church had a potential if not for the Artur Żmijewski’s movie screened there about Polish xenophobia, homophobia and/or anti-Semitism (again, hello, Polish conservative me). What was supposed to be the centre of this museum – Swedish History – gives me an impression that someone had a genius idea, good resources, even sense of humour, but the execution came out cheesy.
Accessibility: 4/5 – around 20 minutes of walk from the city centre, but once you’re passing by it’s hard to miss it
Prince range: 5/5 – free admission
Sensation: 3,5/5 – very uneven. Great exhibits mixed with cringy ones in bad composition or great idea filled with ridiculous objects. Mixed feelings.
THE ROYAL PALACE (KUNGLIGA SLOTTET) - THE ROYAL APARTMENTS, THE TREASURY, THE TRE KRONOR MUSEUM, GUSTAV III'S MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITIES
I guess here I am controversial (1) and a snob (2). First the controversy (1): you get to see so many parts of the Royal Palace, so for sure they should compensate the ticket price. I don’t believe that. The interiors of the Royal Palace Apartments are poor, maybe mediocre in their best moments. Both the museum of Tre Kronor and Gustav III’s Antiquities should let people in for free. Only the Treasury defends itself, as it contains regalia of the highest rank. Me being a snob (2): having visited so many other royal residencies in Europe, I simply don’t think it’s worth it. It’s better to save up money for another museum in Stockholm or Drottningholm. Plus obviously Royal Palace is overcrowded, the objects are either behind a glass or have poor light, so it’s hard to take a good picture.
Accessibility: 4/5 – obviously, very easy to find, but really overcrowded.
Price range: 3/5 – 160 SEK for adults, 80 SEK for students. It’s possible to buy tickets online.
Sensation: 3/5 – here price range and sensation are not correlating with each other. In contrary to Vasamuseet, I don’t believe that tickets reflect the true value of visited objects. Of course, Royal Palace subconsciously represents a higher value than a museum with a ship, but it doesn’t convey any emotions, impressions or information.
MUSEUM OF MEDIEVAL STOCKHOLM (MEDELTIDSMUSEET)
Good place for a backup plan, when it’s too early or too late or simply when you want to have a brief introduction to the history of Stockholm. The exhibition relies on reconstructed objects of different aesthetical value. The boards contain stories which are well-balanced between informative and entertaining. As for my experience, I was more intrigued with the museum’s store than the exhibition itself. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad – I’m simply not their target. I think it works really well for families and maybe people interested in history and not doing history professionally.
Accessibility: 5/5 – it’s not just very much in the city centre, but also has an awesome location underground
Price range: 5/5 – free as the air, although they have really cool store, very interesting range of books as well as adroit items and accessories
Sensation: 3/5 - I can imagine this place being great for kids and families with kids. The vast majority of the exhibitions are reconstructed objects, which helps to teach the history to the children in a hasty manner. As for me, history student in my 20ties, I need more stimulation.
I’m a bit disappointed by this place. I had my hopes high and I was underwhelmed by two features: admission and exhibitions. Their website was not helpful, all I knew about the tickets was from the guide, saying that there is a free admission to Moderna Museet Collection and several temporary exhibitions. So I thought that most of what I want to see it’s in the former, Moderna Museet Collection sounds like a very capacious term. Nope. It looked like they put out for free foreign 20th century artists, while I was eager to see Swedish ones. Sure, Dali is fine, but Dali can be found in several places all over world, while Sigrid Hjertén is probably in three Swedish towns (okay, I found ONE painting made by her). The vast majority of objects I wanted to see was behind the pay wall…
At the same time, Moderna Museet has one of the best museum stores I have seen in Stockholm. But well, I don’t go to a museum to check out it store.
Accessibility: 3/5 – surprisingly hard to find, requires a bit of walking as well
Prince range: ??? – let me just leave question marks here
Sensation: 3/5 – nothing spectacular at all, but it was not too crowded, so at least it was nice to walk around. Great museum store.