Observatorielunden, a green oasis in Stockholm city

Stockholm is a beautiful city with pockets of nature all around as a way to get away from it all including Hagaparken in the north, Langholmen beach in the west and the island of Djurgarden. It also has a couple of great nature reserves barely an hour’s bus ride away such as Tyresta Nature Reserve and Bjorno Nature Reserve.

Now add one more to the list of oasis’ in the city – Observatorielunden.

The parks located within Stockholm city itself all have slightly different natural features that make each unique and worth visiting. Langholmen is a sandy beach facing the Lake Malaren with unique plants and features on the island because it used to be a quarantine site; Djurgarden is slightly hilly where the most wealthy ride their horses on a glorious sunny day; Hagaparken is a green patch with many small lakes and houses that used to belong to the upper class.

Into this mix is Observatorielunden, named after the Observatory that was build on it. The location was so chosen because of its height. The Obseratory sat on an esker. An esker is a long winding ridge, usually a few kilometres long. These geological phenomena take tens of thousands of years to form and come about due to the presence of ice glaciers. Debris and deposits accumulate under and around these glaciers and just hang around there, since the flow rate of the glacier is slow. As the ice melted away the compressed deposits remain forming almost a little hill.

Walking up the “Hill”

That elevation, combined with the much lower levels of light pollution mean that this geological ground was a great base on which to study the stars. The 18th century was a period of vast change in Europe, marking the beginning of the Enlightenment. Europe was caught up in a fever – the fever to acquire knowledge. This process would give rise to modern science, and also set in motion the rise of democracies around the world, and the 200 years in which the Western world flipped the  global world order and led to the Western dominated world that most of us grew up in (a situation that some observers argue will re-calibrate).

The study of nature fascinated the upper classes, who saw it as a hobby of the mind. Swedes were not immune to this, and a highly influential group pushed for the establishment of an observatory to study the stats. The observatory was eventually completed in 1753 under the patronage of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science (the same group that award the annual physics, chemistry and economics Nobel Prizes). And it was from that the astronomers observed the stars.

This was to be the first observatory in Sweden. The chief astronomers made notable contributions to science including Bertil Lindblad who studied the theory of the rotation of the galaxies, developing a finding called the Lindblad resonance. Astronomy has gone very very far since those early days.

The observatory was however abandoned in 2000, and remains today as a museum and a weather station, because the development of Stockholm meant that the light pollution was too strong for the observatory to be able to observe the night sky.  In its place now is a park with a beautiful view of the city around it,

And at the peak, next to the observatory museum, a cafe popular for its Swedish pancakes.

Its a great way to get out of the crowd for ten minutes.


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