Skansen, the world’s oldest open air museum – Stockholm

National history museums are often high on my ‘must see’ list when visiting a country for the first time.  They are the perfect place to learn about the local culture, both from the artefacts on display and the displays themselves: what a people consider important and why is often as interesting as the material thing.  Museums also lend themselves to photography, the buildings as much as their contents, as nothing sets a treasure off better than a grand backdrop.  But even the most avid museum buff can find their loyalty tested by some unexpected sunshine.  The weather during our long weekend to Stockholm was, quite simply, glorious.  Luckily for this vitamin D deprived traveller, Stockholm is home to Skansen, the world’s oldest open air museum, the ideal combination of sunshine and history.

Skansen is located on the central island of Djurgården, which is where you will also find the Vasa Museum (more on this in my next post), the Nordic Museum and Gröna Lund amusement park.  Spread over 75 acres of parkland, Skansen opened in 1891 as a means of preserving and celebrating Sweden’s architectural and social history, bringing together original buildings from all over the country, ranging in date from 1720 to the present day.

Maps are available at Skansen’s website and from the ticket office with suggested walking routes to make sure that you don’t miss the key sites. We chose to follow the two hour itinerary.  This is definitely a minimum rather than a maximum time as you could easily spend a full day in the park.  We started in the Town Quarter, home to a mixture of replica and working shops, including a glass blowers, bakery and printing works.  The photos above are from the iron mongers, whose displays date from the 1930s.  Throughout the town, as with the rest of Skansen, are people in period costume who will happily chat about the history of commerce and craft in Sweden and show you a whole range of interesting artefacts.

After the town, our route took us by a number of farms, formal gardens and allotments which in late May were full of spring flowers, cherry blossom and wisteria.

Other highlights included:-

Selgora Church (above left), an entirely wooden construction dating from the 18th century which was moved to Skansen in 1916 when it was scheduled for demolition and replacement with a modern building.  The church was closed during our visit but is open on Sundays and can be hired for weddings.

Vastvest storehouse (above centre), one of the oldest buildings at Skansen, dating from the 14th century.  It was used as a store at a farm in Telemark, Norway and is the only building not to come from Sweden.  It is covered in Norse carvings and its position on a rise at the edge of the park means that it is a great spot to take a break and soak in the peaceful atmosphere and the fantastic views over the city below.

The imposing Hallestad belfry (above right), from the Ostergotland region of Sweden, was built in 1732 and is over 40 metres tall.  At the time of the tower’s construction most churches had separate bell towers, presumably to reduce the risk of the main building being destroyed by a lightning strike.  When wood is the building material of choice, fire prevention is a real concern.

If historical buildings are not your bag, or if you need something to entertain smaller members of your travelling party, Skansen has plenty of other attractions to offer, including a petting zoo, aquarium, playpark, cafes and funicular railway.  If you are in Stockholm then do consider adding Skansen to your itinerary.  I can’t promise that you will get the weather we had, but I do hope that you will enjoy your visit as much as we did.

The practicalities:-

The island of Djurgården, where Skansen is located, is not on the subway line and so you will either need to walk from the centre or take the tram (line 7N).  The tram is included in a Stockholm travel pass (see my previous post here for more details).

Skansen is open from 10 until 8 during the week and until 6 at the weekend.  Entry is free for under 4s and at the time of writing in August 2018 costs 60 SEK (£5/$7/6 EUR) for children up to 15 and 195 SEK (£17/$21/18 EUR) for adults.

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