How to Spend a Day in Gamla Stan

How to Spend a Day in Gamla Stan

By Billie Miro Breskin

School: Brown University, Class of ’25
Major or concentration: English, History of Art and Architecture
Semester abroad: Spring ’24

Easily the most famous part of Stockholm, Gamla Stan is filled with historical architecture, winding cobblestone lanes, and gorgeous views.

All photos courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.

Gamla Stan translates to “Old Town,” a literal name that befits the original site of the city of Stockholm. Though it’s not all antiquated facades these days (you’re sure to find some American chain restaurants anywhere you go in Stockholm), Gamla Stan still holds the charm of generations past, making it the perfect place to ground yourself in Swedish history and take in the beauty of the city.

Start your day at The Royal Palace, an 18th century building as large as it is beautiful. After the original palace burned down, this building took its place, and still is the official home of the Swedish royal family (though they don’t actually live there; the building is used for offices and accommodations for official guests). The interior is sumptuous, with parquet floors, chandeliers, and ornate furniture in every room. Pick up a guided audio tour, or wander the rooms on your own; make sure to look into the showcases displaying medals and crane your neck to see all the paintings that adorn the ceilings. Also worth a visit is the Royal Armoury, where you can find carriages, arms and armor, and historical clothing going back to the age of the famed King Gustav Vasa.

If you find yourself in need of lunch or a fika break, head to Panem, a roomy bistro with classic lunch options and tempting pastries. Then, walk to Stortorget, a picturesque square with a dark history. This is the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520, when the new king of Sweden, Christian II, ordered almost one hundred people to be murdered for heresy. Take a good look around, then walk up to the Nobel Prize Museum, the next stop of the day.

Having recently undergone renovations, the Nobel Prize Museum features well-designed exhibitions with educational material on Alfred Nobel himself, the origins of the prize, and winners throughout history. Discover Nobel’s origin story, view Malala Yousafzai’s iconic pink shawl, and learn about what it takes to put on the awards ceremony and following dinner.

When it’s time for dinner, treat yourself to a meal at Den Gyldene Freden, one of the oldest restaurants in Europe. Opened in 1722, the cozy restaurant maintains a proud history of Swedish cuisine while also including more experimental dishes and ingredients on the menu. While this is a pricier option, the ambiance, food and drink, and history all make for an unforgettable meal.

If you’re not ready to end your night after dinner, head to the last stop on the agenda: Stampen. The bar, founded in 1968, is the perfect spot for a drink, and features live jazz and blues music. Enjoy the eclectic decoration while you listen to classic American roots music, or get up and dance! The building’s cellar dates back to the 17th century, and it served as a church until the late 19th century. Discovered as a pawnshop by the club’s founder, Stampen now is home to great live music, a legacy of performers like Dizzy Gillespie and Eartha Kitt, and disco after midnight on Saturday nights. The perfect place to finish off a day in Gamla Stan, Stampen is a great reminder of how much Stockholm has changed, and how that change has given way to wonderful new experiences—even in the oldest part of town.

Photo courtesy of Bannon Jones.