Skip to content

Stockholm, The Open City

Cities narrate stories without the need for words. In their architecture, their organization, their geography, our urban centers dictate how we should live in them. They show us what ideals they value, what principles they follow. People do the same. Often the needs of the populace and the demands of the metropolis conflict. I see it in the way glass, steel, and concrete have overtaken public parks and gardens. I notice it in the treeless motorways criss-crossing one another over denuded terrain. I observe it in the barbed wire perches to keep birds away, in the contorted metal benches to ward off loafers, in the barren privately owned cement courtyards dotting municipalities. 

The qualities of settlements which made them essential to us in the past no longer hold sway. From creating artificial islands to damming rivers we keep separating ourselves from the ecosystem to which we belong.

So I was a skeptic when I arrived in Stockholm, Sweden. I hesitated to believe that this modern capital had anything to offer except dull architectonics and estrangement from nature. I was in for a surprise. Covering fourteen archipelagos, Stockholm is a third waterways, a third green spaces, and a third civilization. Balance between productivity and eudaemonia is the main narrative. Everything in moderation, or “lagom,” is the operative motto. The pursuit of this equilibrium is achieved through a confluence of design which seeks to incorporate beauty, comfort, community, and functionality into every facet of the workaday. 

There are no barricades here. I walk from the narrow alleys of Gamla Stan to the shady slopes of Vita Bergen in Södermalm. I hop on a ferry chugging past the lush shorelines of Värmdö to a tranquil trail in Djurgården. I travel through underground caverns in search of sylvan boulevards…and find them. No one rushes about, head down. No one frowns when I lean against the railing to watch gulls play along the pier. No one forbids me from lolling along the embankment.

This is not to say that Stockholm is perfect. Time and money constrictions hamper sustainability. Scaling up biodiversity in an expanding market is a challenge. The ecological experience is not available to all. However, the city continues its dedication to transforming into a place where nature integrates into neighborhood.

The future of Stockholm is in the hands of thinkers, designers, and developers. They will have to shape its civic structure to align with our changing earth. What provides me hope is that Stockholm today is a destination in flux, willing to learn from its mistakes. It is a sanctuary, open to both humanity and the wider interconnected network in which we exist.  


TRAVEL NOTE:

Hammarby sjöstad is one of several development projects within Stockholm’s jurisdiction which seeks to implement a green-blue infrastructure embracing energy conservation, natural aesthetics, and evolving social services to residents.


What features are necessary to you in urban spaces? What resources delight you in a city, which ones do you not prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

Advertisements

132 replies »

  1. I love Stockholm, and I loved this post! The parks, the museums, the waterways, the color of the buildings… It is quite grand and at the same time, scaled to humans. Now I want to go back.

  2. Stockholm is an interesting city. I enjoyed the outdoor museum with homes from all different periods which one could enter and marvel at and wonder about life in former times. Thank you for another informative post.

  3. I didn’t realize there was so much water in Stockhom. It looks like a truly interesting city.

    You make an interesting point about our always wanting to distance ourselves from our environment. The more I think about it, the more I see examples of it.

    Great post, as always. 🙂

  4. I’m not a city traveler, but if I ever make a city trip again, then Stockholm is the next one, thanks to your story and photos here 🙂 I like to combine nature with culture and architecture during my travels. Thank you!
    With kind regards, Heidi

  5. Another delightful adventure you have taken us on–you have opened our eyes and minds with your words. Now if every city and everyone can learn from their mistakes, what a better place for us all.

  6. We have friends that will be visiting Stockholm this August. After seeing your lovely photos, I know they will enjoy their time spent there.

  7. Stockholm seems truly spectacular and you post was an excellent read! It seems like a very walkable city which I would love to cross of my bucket list soon! Thanks for whetting my appetite!

    • Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you liked Stockholm through my story. It is an extremely walkable city, but also great for bicyclists. Given that it’s based on several islands, taking a ferry ride is also a marvelous way to discover Stockholm.

    • I thought so too. It’s an interesting and inspiring city, one which feels like it wants to give its citizens the best life they can have. That can’t be said of very many places.

  8. Good question. Necessary urban space features?
    1) Clean, decent public transportation with a good coverage. (Rome is out!)
    2) Pedestrian space. Wide sidewalks so you can walk around safely with your nose up in the air.
    3) Security. Can’t do the above two if you know you can be mugged at every corner.
    4) Shops, cafés, galleries on the ground floor to muse around.
    Tak.

    • “Pedestrian space. Wide sidewalks so you can walk around safely with your nose up in the air.” I love this image. How often I have been out strolling with my nose in the air only to discover that the sidewalk meant for me had mysterious disappeared and I was now forced to walk among the cars! Tack för din kommentar.

  9. A lovely post! Where indeed did our priorities for liveable spaces take the wrong fork! A measured view of Stockholm comes through to me. There is much to be admired.

    • Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Commercial interests always battle against livable spaces because there is no monetary value in them. I like to hope that people will have a greater say in how they wish to live in the cities of the future.

      • Some years ago the powers that be ‘upgraded’ the square in front of our townhall. Previously a favourite spot for office workers and others to lunch under the shade of trees, the new minimalist concrete and stainless steel space was not only barren but people-less. They voted with their feet. How galling for them to see their taxes squandered

      • Oh yes! That particular look is everywhere; it is the love of all urban commercial interests. It keeps things “clean” and “undesirables” away and doesn’t cost money to upkeep. So having no people hanging out in the space is exactly what the powers that be wished would happen.

  10. You’ve painted such a vivid picture of Stockholm, a city I’ve never been to, that it’s left me wanting to travel there one day. Thank you for taking me in this mini virtual tour on this cold grey Melbourne morning.

  11. I enjoyed reading your post about Stockhom and its complex character. You never stop suprising your readers with fresh and innovative outlooks and ideas. Very beatiful and unusual photos too.

    • Oh, thank you Natalia for that very wonderful praise. I try to talk about different perspectives that interest me, so I’m glad my stories provide that sense of surprise and innovation for you.

Now let's chat, shall we?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

My Books + Journals

Enter your email and never miss a post:

Join 18,002 other followers

Support Bespoke Traveler

On Social Media

Choose Your Language

My Writing

%d bloggers like this: