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Stockholm History

Stockholm’s earliest years are unclear but according to the Eric Chronicles, it was founded by Birger Jarl to protect Sweden from invasion. The earliest mention of its name dates back to the middle of the 13th century, by which time it had become the largest city in Sweden.

During the years of the Kalmar Union which united Sweden with Norway and Denmark, it became a key trading port, although relations with the Danes were often strained and there were a number of violent conflicts. In 1497, the Hans of Denmark succeeded in taking Stockholm, and for the next two decades, the city pinged between Danish and Swedish ownership before the conflict between the two nations culminated in a particularly gory clash in 1520 known as the Stockholm Bloodbath. Danish King Christian II executed 100 nobles and clergymen, many of whom were decapitated.

With the ascent to the Swedish throne of Gustav Vasa in 1523, Stockholm’s fortunes changed, with the Danes beaten back to Copenhagen and the city once again becoming a hub for Swedish life. Vasa also oversaw a building boom in the wake of the fire that destroyed much of the city centre in 1625. Nine years later, Stockholm was proclaimed capital of Sweden, but endured a troubled period. In 1710, over a third of Stockholm’s population died of bubonic plague and the city stagnated.

Scientific and artistic breakthroughs in the late 18th and 19th centuries, however, heralded the constructions of many of the fine buildings still standing today. Swift industrialisation followed, and within a few years of the city hosting the 1912 Olympic Games, Stockholm was home to more than 350,000 people whose houses now spilled out into the archipelago.

The physical expansion of the city was reflected by a stronger finance sector, and by the 1980s the krona had become a powerful currency. Today, Stockholm remains the hub for Swedish financial and cultural life, and its most popular tourist destination to boot.

Did you know?
• Stockholm’s name translates as ‘Log Island’.
• Stockholm established the world’s first national urban park in 1995 when it unveiled the Royal National City Park.
• Founded in 1891, the Skansen was the world’s first open-air museum.

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Featured Hotels


Queen's Hotel

With cheap stays hard to come by, this budget-friendly, family-run hotel on one of Stockholm's main shopping streets is a real gem. Newly updated, all rooms now come with free Wi-Fi and run from clean and cheerful singles to wildly spacious superior stays.

Elite Hotel Arcadia

This design hotel (part of a chain with five other properties in the city) has a central location in Östermalm, not far from Stockholm Stadium. The elegant 1950s property has been transformed into a sparkling, 4-star stay with Scandinavian minimalism throughout. With free Wi-Fi, a decent gym, a lovely restaurant and breakfast included, it's hard to better.

Castanea Hostel

Notable for its central location and suitability for lovebirds on a serious budget, the Castanea is set among the cobbles and historical lanes of the Old Town. There are 55 beds in total with a number of single and twin rooms, making it a cut above the usual snip-price joint.

Hotel Rival

This boutique hotel occupies a former cinema - hence the huge black and white photographs of Swedish film stars gracing the walls of the 99 bedrooms. The Rival is owned by Benny Andersson, of ABBA fame, who has turned it into one of the most rock 'n roll places to stay in Stockholm.

Clarion Hotel Sign

It's not small, but somehow the 558-room Clarion Hotel Sign feels as if it is – something that could be down to the individually designed rooms. The angular glass exterior, designed by acclaimed Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh, shouts modern which is followed up in the rooms. A bonus is the rooftop spa which has an excellent sauna.

Grand Hotel

The 310-room Grand Hotel has long been the most glamorous place to stay in the city and is justifiably one of the world's greatest hotels. Opening in 1874 its 21 luxurious suites are still popular with visiting celebrities and royalty - famous past guests include Theodore Roosevelt and Douglas Fairbanks.