Sweden (Part 2 – Stockholm City Hall, Gamla Stan Old Town)

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I got partnered with a GS teacher from a primary school and we shared a hotel room together. We got along quite well and we coordinated well on who would use the bathroom at what time etc. I learned that she is a mother of four daughters and enjoys playing electronic games on the iPad! Mums can be fun too!

We got up at 7:30 in the morning and headed down for breakfast. I was so impressed by the quality of the buffet! There really wasn’t a lot to choose from but the food was quite good. I had extra helpings of the Swedish pancakes, cheese and scrambled eggs. If I hadn’t gained those extra pounds after my previous trip, I would have eaten even more!

Our itinerary included ‘City Exploration’ on the first day. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the activities for each day since it was all written in Chinese so I was happy to just arrive and be surprised at each location.

Stockholm City Hall

Our coach picked up our local guide and we made our first stop at City Hall. You can only visit City Hall with a guided tour, either by joining a public tour or booking a private tour in advance. They have some strict rules for visitors and our guide told us that there are cameras everywhere. If we wander away from the group or anything, they can kick us out!

It is so beautiful, inside and outside and it was so hard to capture it in pictures. We walked around the conference room and some of the halls and admired the mosaic walls and statues all around. 

Some interesting facts about Stockholm City Hall:

The building construction took 12 years and around 8 million red bricks were used!

The 106-metre tall tower features a spire with three golden crowns. The Three Crowns represent the national emblem of Sweden. The tower is only open during the summer from May to September at specific scheduled times, and you can climb up the 365 steps inside the tower to the top with an additional fee of SEK 60. There are nine bells that strike every hour, and a tune is played at noon and 6pm each day. (Unfortunately, our tour did not include the Tower, as there were some renovations going on around it.) 

It houses the offices for 200 people including the Municipal Council.

The Nobel Prize banquet is also held here at City Hall every year on 10th December; special guests and speakers would speak from the grand marble staircase in the inner courtyard. After the dinner, the guests, laureates and royalty will gather in the Golden Hall to dance. The Golden Hall is adorned with 18 million gold mosaic tiles! 

We finished the tour with a visit to the Gift Shop where I bought a cap and a keyring, nothing at all to do with the landmark!

Outside the City Hall is a beautiful view of the city and Lake Mälaren. It was a cool and cloudy day and we really felt the cold air on our faces and hands!

Gamla Stan – Old Town

After our tour of City Hall, we made our way to the Old Town in Gamla Stan and walked around the area on our own. This is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants there, and of course, the Nobel Museum, which you can’t miss. The buildings were strongly influenced by North German architecture. The most iconic scene is the Stortorget large square in the centre of the Gamla Stan, especially the red and orange buildings, though I’m not really sure what those buildings are. They do make a nice postcard or magnet, which are sold in pretty much every single souvenir and gift shop there! There is also the Stock Exchange Building and a very beautiful well in the square.

I walked around some of the souvenir shops and learned that there is a special kind of dishcloth produced in Sweden, invented by a Swedish engineer in 1949. It consists of 70% wood cellulose from FSC certified forests and 30% cotton, making the dishcloth highly absorbent, more hygienic than a sponge, and can be reused many times. It air dries quickly and does not breed bacteria or smell. It is even biodegrable which is very environmentally friendly! I bought a couple of them with some printed designs (of the Swedish War Horse and the Stortorget square buildings) to try at home.

I also came across a science fiction book store and was blown away by the wide selection of books and collectors’ items, from fantasy novels, Japanese anime, to Marvel and DC comics! I was a little disappointed that I didn’t discover this earlier on during my walk. (I was happy to come back the next day and bought a couple of comic books!)

We gathered outside the Royal Palace and I watched some of the guards walking about. Too bad we couldn’t go inside the Palace, but it was nice to just take some photos outside.

We also walked past the Riddarholmen islet and caught a glimpse of the Riddarholm Church, Wrangel Palace, Stenbock Palace and the Birger Jarls torg public square. The architecture all around is just breathtakingly beautiful, and I love the contrast of the colours on every building. I was disappointed that it was such a cloudy and gloomy day that I couldn’t catch the blue skies behind the buildings though.

After dinner at a Chinese restaurant (yes, I was surprised too), we arrived back at the hotel at around 7pm and the sun was still out. The sun doesn’t set until 9pm so we decided to head out to the supermarket to buy some snacks before winding down. We have another full day of exploring before we need to begin our meetings with schools and agencies.

End of Part 2

Back to Sweden (Part 1)

Continue to Sweden (Part 3)

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