Stockholm is a beautiful city, famed for its open spaces, waterways and islands. So my travelling companions were unsurprisingly shocked when top of my itinerary for our long weekend in the Swedish capital was a tour of its underground train stations.
Known as the Tunnelbana or T-bana in Swedish, Stockholm’s subway system dates from the 1950s and consists of three main lines, red, blue and green, all converging on T-Centralen, or central station. The system is clean, efficient and easy to navigate. It is also a relatively inexpensive way to travel around the city. Tickets cover a 75 minute, 24 hour, 72 hour or 30 day period and are valid on all public transport including commuter trains, trams and boats. But the best thing about it is the art. Come with me on a tour through some of my favourites.
If you land at Stockholm Arlanda airport, chances are that your first introduction to the city centre will be stepping off a connecting train at T-Centralen station. There are two trains that run from the airport, the express and the commuter. The express currently costs SEK 540 for a return (about £47 or $60 or EUR 53). The commuter train is included in a standard ticket although you do have to pay a SEK 120 surcharge for getting on or off at the airport. We opted for the commuter train with a 72 hour pass, costing SEK 250, bringing us in at a total each of SEK 490.
As a hub, T-Centralen has more than one platform. One of the platforms serving the green and red lines is decorated in pearlescent mosaic tiles, an ode to the style of the 1950s when the system was built.
In complete contrast the blue line platform was the first to feature murals and was painted in 1975 by Per Olof Ultvedt. It is one of Stockholm’s cave stations, where the bored rock has been left in natural form, leaving you in no doubt that you are underground. The upper level, depicts silhouetted images of the construction workers who built the station whilst the lower level, where the trains arrive, is covered in a network of organic shapes as though the platform lies beneath the roots of a giant tree.
Descending the escalators at Solna Centrum, on the blue line, is a little unsettling. The dim light, cavernous ceiling and red and black tones, make it is hard not to think of Renaissance images of hell, or the bubbling liquid heart of the earth. In fact, the murals at this station, painting by Karl-Olav Bjork and Anders Aberg are depictions of Sweden’s countryside, the red the sky at night and the black and green the land. The mural was designed as a social commentary on rural depopulation and deforestation, a significant problem for Sweden in the 1970s when the station was painted.
Painted by Ake Pallarp and Enno Hallek in 1973 Stadion on the red line is perhaps one of the most iconic of Stockholm’s stations, featuring amongst other colourful installations, a blue sky emblazoned with a rainbow. Stadion is the stop for the 1912 Olympic stadium (hence the name) and an area still used for music concerts and annual Pride events.
Universietet station on the red line is your stop for Stockholm University and the Natural History Museum. Mosaic is the media of choice here with walls dedicated to Carl Von Linne (otherwise Carl Linnaeus) Sweden’s famous botanist who formalised the system of naming organisms. The tiles may homage to his cataloguing methods and also to the countries he visited and creatures he saw.
The translation of Kungstradgarden, on the blue line, is King’s Garden and is built beneath what was once the French gardens of Makalos Palace. The station is a homage to the Palace, and other buildings, that were lost as the city redeveloped. It features a number of statues that are replicas of those that would have stood on the site in its former incarnation.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey through the subway and please do join me as we venture in to the sunshine for my next post from Stockholm.