Swedish Classical

I’m just back from a wonderful few days in Stockholm.  Yesterday, I was giving a talk to the Engelsberg Summer School students – and that prompted the thought that Charlie and I might spend a couple of days getting inspiration in one of the most inspirational cities I know. I can’t believe how many photos I managed to take in 48 hours.  So I’m afraid this is a very long blog.  Maybe one to split into three courses.


Stockholm basked in incredible heat and sunshine. The heatwave is bringing its own nightmare to the north of Sweden, where forest fires are raging in the hottest summer ever recorded.  No-one in Stockholm has seen anything like it. All the more beautiful to be in a city surrounded by water.

The Grand Hotel gleamed in a shiny new coat of paint.

First call, always, Svenskt Tenn:

And then in the heat of the late afternoon sun, Charlie and I wandered past the Royal Palace to the Old Town.  The torrent of water from the great fountains at the base of the palace could not have been more welcome.

I’ve always liked the little Doric pillar boxes outside the Royal Palace and was very happy to be able to take a close-up photograph of their architectural detailing, for readers of the blog.

The old town glowed in late afternoon sunshine. 

We made our way back, darting into the City Library, still open late, the dome bathed in brilliant sunshine. 

Ett Hem is the most perfect hotel in the world, I’d say.

A delicious dinner in the garden and we rolled in to bed.



The following day we went to Skansen – thanks to a nice comment on the blog from Carin last week – which was eye opening.   I didn’t know about Skansen – an open air museum, right in the centre of Stockholm, with buildings re-erected from all over Sweden in a brilliant and authentic way.  It was founded in 1891 in response to the growing industrialisation of Sweden and the thought that a way of life, passing too rapidly, would be lost and forgotten for ever.  Partly, I suppose, because it is so old, the buildings (re-erected in their new home) have the settled feeling of being there for decades.  There is an authenticity here that is sometimes missing elsewhere.

We took the funicular railway to the top of the hill – an experience in itself (another of the many Wes Anderson Moments that you get in Stockholm). 

Our first stop the Delsbo Farmstead.  We were amazed. 

Original wall decorations, of unbelievable beauty:

Next, the Mora Farmstead:

The Temperance Hall:

The Oktorp Famstead. Each place was more beautiful than the former.

The story of the Marriage at Cana, told in 18th century Swedish style:

The Folk Hall:

The Skane Farmstead:

Farm labourers’ cottages:

The school house:

First glimpses of Skogaholm Manor, to which we return later: The town:

Peering into the bookbinders window:

The dry goods store:

The 1930’s dairy, complete with unique packaging for breads and biscuits:

The actual shop of the Skansen museum is a model for what a museum gift shop should be.  Posters for sale on the wall:

Back to the Manor House for a ‘dramatised’ guided tour, which was hilarious, not entirely intentionally (you can imagine)… but was a good excuse to see the remarkable interiors. 

A last glimpse of some piglets….

And after a really happy few hours, we made our exit and the short walk to the Rosendals Trädgård, recommended by Frances Palmer. Amazing biodynamic gardens surround a perfect cafe, in a huge glasshouse.  We had a delicious lunch sitting in the shade of trees in the garden.

Seeds packets for sale in the shop:

The shop is brilliant.

And finally, to Haga Park – Charlie had dreamed of seeing the copper tent, in the shape of a Turkish Pavilion.  The structure hides the royal stables behind. 

Haga Park is beautiful and dusty, in the English picturesque style, dotted with fine neo-classical buildings.

Everyone is taking to the water.

Another perfect dinner at the hotel.  A brilliant day was over.



The next morning Charlie left. Later that day I was giving the talk, but I decided I had enough time to get to Drottingholm and back.  The day sparkled; intensely hot.

The palace itself was crowded with hordes of tourists, so I decided to head instead into the gardens, which were almost empty, by contrast. 

Within a great series of geometric hedges are these tiny, shady areas that must have been used in many a game of hide-and-seek; you can only imagine the trysts and intrigues that happened in these glades in the 18th century. 

Another painted copper pavilion, this time the Guard’s tent. 

And then I made my way to my real destination, the Chinese pavilion – which unlike the palace, was virtually empty. Magical. And with extraordinary interiors. The ‘confidence’ pavilion – where the Royal Family would dine without servants present.  Food was sent up from the kitchen below in the circular dumb waiters that slide up from the floor. Genius. 


Classical sculpture:

Distant pavilions:

Friendly ducks:

The theatre, which I will have to visit another day:

And then back to Stockholm on the SS Prins Carl Philip.

City Hall – also for another day:

I just had time to call into the Antikmuseum, cool, Neo-classical, and empty (despite hordes of tourists disembarking from coaches immediately outside the door). 

My talk was at the beautiful Matchstick Palace, formerly (and now again) the headquarters of Swedish Match, and now converted into a fabulous club house. We got a tour of the remarkable Swedish Grace interiors. 

Dinner in the old town.

And I walked home, on the warmest of evenings, at 11 at night, in daylight, the moon just rising over the Royal Palace. 

The following morning, time for a last visit to Svenskt Tent, and a farewell to Ett Hem, with its beautiful, calm interiors, where we were looked after so well.

And back to messy, hot, dusty old London, that feels sprawling and dirty and hectic by comparison to Stockholm, but it is still nice to be home – looked at, as always after travels, through fresh eyes.

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