Visited December 2013
I remember our Finnish Lapland guide said that when in Stockholm, you must do at least these: Visit Gamla Stan and view the Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace.
As we were there on a Saturday, the changing of the guards was scheduled for 12.15pm. As we wanted to make sure that we got a good spot, we decided to wake up earlier for breakfast, and then head down straight to the Royal Palace.
Breakfast at the hotel was a nice affair, as they had a good range of food. As we had been having traditional Scandinavia food thus far, the international spread was a lovely welcome for the Boy.
With our Stockholm Card on hand, we made our way back to Gamla Stan and made our way to the palace. And luck wasn’t exactly on our side, for the day was rainy and gloomy. As we lingered around the palace square, the guards started erecting barriers, of which signalled the soon-to-be changing of the guard, which also beget the mad flock of visitors around the barriers as everyone fought for their best available spot.
The whole event took about 40-45 minutes, and English commentary was also provided. Today, the Royal Palace is still the King’s official residence, and the main duty of the guards is to protect to two royal palaces in Stockholm and Drottningholm. And given my fascination for the military and my little background in military band, the ceremony was an enjoyment.
We got to explore the interiors of the palace subsequently, and as usual, photography was not allowed. There was also a special exhibition commemorating the 40 years of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s reign, which featured photographs and his royal attires. Within the palace was the Royal Treasury which was located down some mysterious stairs, of which they displayed many royal regalia and its paraphernalia, much to my delight as I adore insignias. It was here that I learnt that the royal regalia of the King of Sweden include the Crown, the Sceptre and the Orb.
Nearby to the palace is Storkyrkan, the mother church of the Church of Sweden Diocese of Stockholm. Somehow we chose not to enter, but head down to the nearby harbour for some shots.
After that, it was back to Gamla Stan for Stortorget Christmas Market, which was located next to the Nobel Museum. It was a pretty small market, but popular and crowded nonetheless, selling mainly souvenirs and trinkets.
As it was too crowded for our liking, we decided to instead try out another Christmas market, Ostermalmshallen. But as much as we tried to follow the instructions and alight at Östermalmstorg station, we were not able to locate the exit as stated in the guidebook and got lost. Instead, we ended up right on the opposite side at Kungsträdgardens. Surprisingly though there was another Christmas market there as we explored the many stalls while I contemplated joining in the ice skating rink.
As most places close by 6pm, we could only explore the nearby malls near our accommodation.
And while most people would have gone crazy shopping at H&M given that it is a Swedish brand, the fact that it was the winter period meant that I could not buy anything useful for the hot and sunny weather I would usually experience back home; plus I had more than enough winter wear to last me a few years.
Instead we started to fall in love with their toiletries such as Face Stockholm and Rituals, and we got ourselves a few bottles as souvenirs.