The small islands of Fjäderholmarna, Ångsholmen and Fågelskyddsområde (don’t ask us to pronounce that last one), which lie in Stockholm’s main shipping channel just where it divides into a northern and southern inlet to provide the city with two big-ship ports, are considered to be islands of the archipelago.
A host of small ferries serving islands in the archipelago dock right in the heart of Stockholm, at Södra Blasieholmshamnen and at the nearby Nybrohamnen. Both of these attractive harbor-front streets are very close to the 15th-century center of Stockholm at Kungsträdgården just north of the Royal Palace. (Sweden’s grandest hotel, the five-star Grand Hôtel, where Nobel Prize winners are accommodated when they come to the annual awards ceremony, is located overlooking the harbor-front on Södra Blasieholmshamnen.)
The ferries from Södra Blasieholmshamnen and Nybrohamnen – an even more attractive esplanade than its near-neighbor – carry you within a couple of hours to the main islands and small towns of the archipelago. Tourists can island-hop on a day trip, or take their time and spend days or weeks roaming among the islands.
Back in Stockholm again, just south of Gamla Stan is Slussen, which literally means ‘sluice’ or ‘weir’. Slussen is a narrow strip of land separating the eastern tip of the huge Lake Mälaren from Stockholm’s main sea harbor, Strömmen, to the east. Slussen is located on the northern tip of the large island of Södermalm, an increasingly trendy Stockholm district often mentioned by Stieg Larsson in the Millennium Trilogy.
A few hundred yards east of Slussen (still on Södermalm island) is one of the main ports for large ferries. Here, the cruise-ship-sized ferries of the Viking Line and the Birka Line sail to international destinations throughout the Baltic carrying passengers, cars and large trucks.
If all of this to-ing and fro-ing by boat suggests to you that Stockholm is a city which is best viewed from the water, you’d be absolutely right. Countless sightseeing boats shuttle back and forward round the inner parts of Strömmen, docking at jetties every few minutes to let you hop on and off to view different parts of the city at your leisure.
However, we think one of the best ways to see Stockholm from the water is to take the ferry from Nybrohamnen to Lidingö for an entire out-and-back trip to Stockholm’s eastern reaches. The ferry leaves Nybrohamnen about once every couple of hours during the day and more frequently during the morning and evening rush-hour periods.
This ferry service (usually operated by the M/V Mysing), heads southeast past the lovely little inner-harbor islands of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen (of which more later) and then out into more open water in the form of the wide Saltsjön channel. Saltsjön is the name of Stockholm’s main shipping channel as it continues east of the city-center Strömmen harbor, to form a widening stretch of water to the south of a large island called Djurgården.
Many fine buildings line the southern shore of Djurgården, among them the Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde (also known as the Cape of Waldemar), the former home of the Swedish Prince Eugen and now a museum of his and others’ paintings. This mansion sits in an extensive estate. Djurgården is rich in museums, notably Skansen (the world’s first open-air museum, with houses and outdoor exhibits from throughout the ages), as well as an aquarium and four other major museums.