Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, the hidden world in the heart of Stockholm

There are so many islands in Stockholm with so many interesting things going on on all of them that its easy to miss the smaller, less conspicuous islands, namely, the islets of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen.

And yet the location of these islands was so strategic that prior to the modern age, Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen were core elements of the naval defence of Stockholm. The small islands of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, located to the east of Gamla Stan, facing the Baltic Sea, these islands began life in the 1600s as naval bases protecting Stockholm from raiders from the north.

These islands were essentially a final line of defence to Stockholm, we know because of a castle which still stands today on the much smaller island of Kastellholmen, the island in fact being named for the castle. The castle used to store ammunitions and was surrounded by canons, you can still see the canon structures around the citadel, facing the Baltic Sea today.

On the top of the citadel, flies a Swedish flag which till this day declares the independence of Sweden and the sovereignty of Stockholm from invaders. If the flag is removed and replaced with another flag, it means that Sweden had been conquered and is also a declaration of war. In fact a diplomatic crisis occurred on 17th May 1996, when some overly boisterous Norwegians decided to climb up to the top and replace the Swedish flag with the Norwegian one. The two sides were able to resolve the matter, not before both sides were thoroughly embarrassed (imagine if it was some overly enthusiastic Russians instead).

The naval past is but a fading memory, as little remains that calls out to the casual visitor the defensive nature of these constructions. Most of the buildings date back to the 17th century and remain as they are although all retrofitted for entirely different purpose. Whereas Djurgården houses a whole host of privately run museums such as Skansen, the Vasa Museum and the Spirit Museum, Skeppsholmen is its public cousin, being home to free, publicly-run museums such as the EastAsian museum, moderna museet and the ArkDes.

It is also a great place for a getaway, being conveniently situated in the city yet located in relative isolation. In fact this exact proposition if used to position some hotels such as Hotel Skeppsholmen, whose main clientle (it seems) are Stockholmers and Swedes on a staycation.

And if its good for the Stockholmers, its good for us tourists 😉



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