Stockholm, Sweden – the Venice of the North, an Introduction

Spread over 14 islands housing a metropolitan population of 2.2 million is Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and the largest city in the Nordic region. Or as the city markets itself – The Capital of Scandanavia.

The city of Stockholm separates Lake Mälaren from the Baltic Sea.

Lake Mälaren from a southern Stockholm suburb

Emanating outwords from the old town of Gamla stan, is a city of Northern European beauty. The streets in the heart of this beautiful city are paved with old cobbled stones cut by masons who lived centuries ago. Colourful houses line up as if time stood still. The smell of history mixes with modern life as daily activities continue as they always have. Updated only in form but rarely function. With every step there exists thee pervading sense that underneath the pipes of the modern city is a rich past close waiting to be told.

This is literally true in the Stortorget in Gamla Stan, the old town, now a stunning square full of cafes and tourist…

And once the site of the infamous Stockholm bloodbath.

Stortorget in Gamla Stan

The extended city area plays host not to skyscrappers, but elegant buildings designed to complement and add to the beauty of the Venice of the North.

Residential buildings in the Sankt Eriksgatan district

Being the largest city in the Nordic region, Stockholm is the cultural, economic, political and media centre of Sweden (and some argue the whole Nordic region).

It was the former home of pop sensation ABBA,

and younger artiste such as Danny Saucedo.

Art director and lengendary auteur Ingmar Bergman built his film career in this city.

Literary names such as Astrid Lindgren, and Evert Taube were Stockholm dwellers too.

Statue of Evert Taube at Riddarholmen

As an academic centre, it is home to the Karolinska Institutet, one of the most prestigious medical universities in the world and where the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology is awarded.

The Nobel Forum in Karolinska Institutet, where the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology is announced

The Swedish Academy and Royal Swedish Academy of Science, which award the Nobel Prizes in Literature, Chemistry, Physics and Economics are also based in Stockholm.

Mobile company Ericcson, fashion label H&M and electrical applicance giant Electrolux are based in the city. Skype and Spotify were founded in Stockholm.

Stockholm is fast growing city and the largest engine of population growth is through immigration, with some 27 % of the city born outside Sweden. Significant immigrant populations come from Finland, Iraq, Iran, Poland, Turkey and Somalia.

In recent years Stockholm has taken in many refugees fleeing the conflict in the Middle East. Sweden and Stockholm is one of the largest acceptors of refugees with the majority housed in cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg and Mälmo.

Unfortunately, the Swedish openness has been tested in last two years with a influx of refugees that some have argued has overwhelmed the country and its social system.

Efforts have been made to improve integration and provide jobs for the refugees.

Despite its beauty, Stockholm is a creation of humans and is not a perfect utopia. The beautiful city has its own fair share of problems, including a housing crunch with the waiting time for a house going up to 20 years in parts of the city. This is however not a recent problem, it has been in existence since 1945 (partly as a result of Stockholm’s post war economic boom. It was not invovled in World War II and thus had a booming city crying out for labour once the war ended).

An attempt was made to deal with the problem from 1965 to 1974 with the Million Programme (Miljonprogrammet), where a million houses were planned to be built in a decade. The programme concluded with 1,006,000 dwellings completed. A new project, Stockholmshusen was launched in 2015 to try to ease the housing challenge.

Every city will have its challenges, but there is way more beauty than the ugliness in this city. Its standard of living is high and has plenty to he proud of including a low crime rate, high ratings on human rights, clean environment and good basic facilities (water, transport, electricity etc).

It is a city that developed over centuries, unlike Doha or Singapore which grew in decades, and there is beauty in that.

Welcome to the Venice of the North.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.