There are so many wonderful museums in Stockholm, most of which I thought I wouldn’t see. My Lonely Planet guide listed most of them as having entrance fees of about $10-15 each, which is definitely too much money for me to spend on a simple afternoon visit (especially after visiting so many free museums in Malmö and Gothenburg). I was never much of a museum person, but now that I’m traveling alone, I’ve begun to seek them out. Museums, both the good and bad ones, provide an easy way to spend time between project meetings, visit different areas of a city, and learn more about a country’s culture and history. And the more museums I see, the more I’m impressed by the good ones.
So I was quite disappointed to read that Stockholm, already so expensive compared to the rest of Sweden, charged for its museums as well. Luckily, my Lonely Planet guide is just a little out-of-date. It doesn’t incorporate the results of a February 2016 law that removed the entrance fee for many of these state-owned museums (https://www.thelocal.se/20160202/now-its-free-to-go-to-swedish-museums). Good news for me! This post covers five of the free museums I’ve visited in the past week (with more to come).
The Medieval Museum was fun because it focused on day-to-day life in a medieval Swedish village, using life-size wax people and prop houses. The museum is housed in a fairly small space and doesn’t require much reading, teaching visitors more about feeling and attitude than strict facts (which is appropriate, since we’re discussing a time period that ended 600 years ago).
Moving on, I visited the much larger Natural History museum next. This is where I got a sense of Stockholm’s importance and size as the capital of Sweden; the natural history museum here is admittedly much better than the one in Göteborg (which consisted mostly of overly lit 1940s-esque taxidermy cabinets – instructive but creepy). The Stockholm Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet makes an effort to place its stuffed subjects in more “natural” poses and environments. I also appreciated the more focused and relevant exhibits such as one about Sweden’s waters and another about climate change.
Remember when I told you that Sweden is home to the world’s largest scale model of the solar system? I visited the “Sun” my first day here in Stockholm. It’s represented by the Ericsson Globe (“Globen”), and it’s huge. I was happy to find both the moon and the Earth in the Natural History Museum, placing the “Earth” 7.6km from the “Sun” (exactly 1/20000000th of the actual distance).
Next, I decided to visit the Royal Coin Cabinet (“Kungliga Myntkabinettet”), the city’s currency museum right next to the Royal Palace. I’m not so interested in currency, but it’s one of the few museums in Stockholm – really, in all of Sweden – that’s open on Mondays, so last Monday I thought, why not?
Well, honestly, I don’t have many positive things to say about this museum. It’s difficult to retain any information after staring at a thousand years’ worth of coins.
Next up is the Sjöhistoriska Museet, the Maritime History Museum of Stockholm. It’s situated in a beautiful building just by the water. While I can’t say it’s particularly instructive, it’s still fun to walk through (a bit like the medieval museum). One gets to see many model ships and develop a bit of a sense for life as a sailor, especially with the mock bunks built in shipping containers in one section of the museum.
Finally – at least for this post – I visited The Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan. You might already know that most of the Nobel Prizes (all except for the Peace Prize) are awarded in Stockholm each year. The museum has information about all the winners, in all the categories, since the Prizes began in 1895. It showcases various award winners and their projects, and it also covers the life of Alfred Nobel himself. I was really impressed with the Nobel Museum. I didn’t have any expectations about it and I never really planned to go, but I’m so glad I did. It’s well-organized, and I think that the best museums are those with a specific topic – I find it easier to learn from such focused museums.
This is going to sound really cheesy, but I found the Nobel Museum incredibly inspiring. The museum’s main message is that anyone has the ability to be a Nobel Prize winner, and it really feels true when you see the huge diversity of past winners. Also, the museum stresses that experimentation, failure, and persistence are key to developing something prize-worthy – not sheer genius or resources or luck.
Sweden deserves to be proud of Alfred Nobel and his Prizes. Based on the snippets of his life that I saw at the museum, he seemed to be an interesting man (with a dry wit) who clearly saw the value in celebrating great achievements and inspiring future generations.