It had been a cultural morning, a stroll around Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, followed by a visit to contemporary photography gallery Fotografiska in the Södermalm district. The gallery is on the waterfront and, as we stepped out in to the sunshine and let our eyes wander across the city skyline, our attention was drawn to a glinting jumble of structures on the opposite shore, the unmistakable towers and tracks of an amusement park. My travelling companions’ faces lit up. My insides tumbled.
Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s city centre amusement park, has a long history. Established in the 1880s it was owned by the same family until 2001, and you can tell. There is a peculiar charm to the place despite the crowds and the noise, the colour and the fear. Part of its character is its size. Perched on the edge of Djurgården Island it has nowhere to expand, on three sides there is water, at the back the road. But small is beautiful and nothing is lacking, from the more sedate teacups and merry-go-round to adrenalin fuelled 95 metre drops and rollercoasters that hurtle at over 55 miles an hour.
Then there is the styling. Love fairground kitsch? Love 50s pastel hues? Love lights and glitter and vintage fonts? You will not be disappointed.
It is a photographer’s dream and a voyeur I would happily have stayed. It is no secret that I am ever so slightly risk adverse and the thought of plummeting to my likely death strapped to a flimsy bit of plastic is not my idea of entertainment. For someone who has only recently made peace with the use of lifts (elevators to my US friends) and once had to sit down on an escalator in Japan because it was ‘too high’, a rollercoaster ride is kind of a big deal.
Perhaps it was the balmy spring weather, perhaps fun is infectious, perhaps it was peer pressure, perhaps it was my faith in Scandinavian health and safety standards. Whatever the cause, I took the plunge, metaphorically and literally, and braved my first ride (above left). Admittedly a ride designed for children but a ride none the less. Feeling jubilant, having survived my swift swoop through a witch’s house (the ride is called Kavasten which is Swedish for broom), we took it up a notch and boarded ‘Jetline’, sitting in the front cart. Needless to say, my time on the park’s oldest, highest and faster rollercoaster was spent screaming and swearing I would never do anything so foolish again!
My companions laughed. I ate a restorative ice cream. All was right with the world.
Gröna Lund, and indeed the whole island of Djurgården, is not on the subway line and so you will either need to walk from the centre or take the tram. The tram is a good option, with stops directly outside (line 7N), but be warned, at peak times they can get very crowded and you may not make it on to the first to pass (unless you have sharp elbows and low morals!). The tram is included in a Stockholm travel pass (see my previous post here for more details).
Entry to the park is free for children under 7 and for adults 65 and over. For everyone else admission is SEK 120 (roughly £10 or $13 at the time of writing). Each ride costs 1 to 3 coupons. You can purchase an all day pass, with unlimited rides, for SEK 340 (£29 or $37) or various sizes of coupon books.