From landscape painters influenced by European masters to the clean lines of Nordic minimalism, Scandinavian art and design is admired the world over. There’s few better places to dive into the world of Scandinavian art than the Swedish capital city, Stockholm.
Founded in the 13th century on a handful of islands, Stockholm quickly grew to become Sweden’s biggest city. After centuries of conflict and political upheaval, Stockholm is a fantastic destination for lovers of history. But it’s art and design that the Stockholm of today is best known for, with several must-see sights spread across the city.
Housed in a recently-renovated landmark building, the National Museum is the premier venue for anyone interested in paintings, but also collections of sculptures, art and design over the past 500 years.
Highlights of the vast collection include Ernst Josephson’s The Water Sprite (1882), Johan Christian Dahl’s Norwegian Mountain Landscape (1819) and Gustaf Cederström’s Bringing Home the Body of King Karl XII of Sweden (1884). For the latter, realism-focused Cederström used real-life models dressed in historical uniforms to create the best result.
The museum offers free entry although a fee is required for some temporary exhibitions.
Very few of the world’s public transit systems are tourist attractions themselves. That’s the case with the Stockholm Metro, which doubles as an underground art gallery. Almost all of the 100+ stations feature one or more painting, mural or other art installation, contributed by more than 150 artists.
Painted bare rock in the tunnels themselves, murals in the entrance halls, museum artefacts and modern art installations are among the highlights. Buy a day pass and enjoy.
Museum of Modern Art
Located on the relaxing island Skeppsholmen, Moderna is a must-visit for appreciators of modern and contemporary art. Only a small portion of the vast collection is on display at any one time but exhibits are regularly rotated to ensure a unique experience on every visit.
That concept is heightened by the emphasis placed by the museum on temporary exhibitions. It’s also worth spending time exploring the rest of Skeppsholmen, including the museum’s outdoor sculpture park.
The museum is co-located with ArkDes, the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design. The combined shop offers an outstanding collection of art and design books.
The Vasa Museum
Despite it being essentially an embarrassing failure, the museum housing the Vasa warship is today one of the biggest tourist attractions in Scandinavia.
The ship itself is a work of art, adorned with wooden sculptures that made it dangerously top-heavy and caused it to sink just minutes into its maiden voyage. Hundreds of years later, the ship was raised and restored.
Other art museums and galleries in Stockholm
The list of art museums and galleries in Stockholm is almost endless. Here are just a small selection of others that are worth considering including in your itinerary.
The private Thiel Gallery is considered by many to be of the finest art museums in Sweden. Famous names such as Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors and Anders Zorn feature in the collection of late 19th and early 20th-century Nordic artworks.
Open since 2006, Bonniers Konsthall provides the city with a contemporary art space that also explores other art forms such as literature, music and film. The striking building with its clothes iron shape and glass-facade is a worthy home.
Full of contradictions and installations that seem to defy logic, the Paradox Museum is a fun attraction for all ages. The 70+ exhibits will leave you questioning reality, notably the spinning Paradox Tunnel that will leave you struggling for balance despite standing perfectly still.