Stockholm’s maritime setting is utterly distinctive: The capital of Sweden includes 14 islands connected by about 50 bridges, where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Stockholm’s early history is part Norse myth, but by the 13th century it was a prominent trade center within the Hanseatic League. Gamla Stan is the well-preserved historic heart of the city, an island with winding medieval streets and the Royal Palace (one of Europe’s largest), an example of 18th-century Baroque architecture with 1,430 rooms. Experience Stockholm’s thoroughly modern side on the island of Södermalm, with its vibrant mix of bars and design boutiques; visit Djurgården Island for its museums and parks.
Stockholm is not only the capital of Sweden, but the nation's cultural, educational and industrial center. With a population of about 700,000, Stockholm is also Sweden's largest city.
The heart of the city lies on 13 small islands where Lake Malaren joins the Baltic Sea. Channels turn some of the main streets into waterways, and many have called Stockholm the Venice of the North. Three small islands -- Stadsholmen, Riddarholmen and Helgeandsholmen -- form Gamla Stan, or the Old Town. This is where Birger Jarl founded Stockholm in the 13th century.
Stockholm's medieval past is reflected in many buildings, particularly the Riddarholmen Church, where most Swedish rulers are buried. The church has a 295-foot spire. On Helgeandsholmen, or Island of the Holy Spirit, is the House of Parliament.
Stockholm is also the headquarters of many learned societies, including the Nobel Foundation. Cultural institutions include the Royal Theater, the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Dramatic Theater. Not far from Stockholm are Gripsholm Castle and Skokloster Palace, both of which are popular tourist attractions.
The winters in Stockholm are long and cold, but the summers make up for it. Some days are more than 20 hours long. Midsummer's Day on June 24 features dancing around Maj, or green leaf, poles.