August 9, 2010

The Vasa Museum

This weekend I played tour guide to a friend visiting from Wales. As it was her first time in Stockholm, I had to take her to the Vasa Museum. There is a good reason why this is the top tourist draw in the city... not only is the ship impressive to see, the museum built around the ship is manificent as well.

The Vasa was a Swedish warship built at a time when Sweden, under Gustav II Adolf, was growing in power and taking her place on the world stage. Sweden was at war with Poland and was on the brink of being dragged into the Thirty Years War. A strong navy was important and the grand and ornate Vasa was to be its centerpiece. Unfortunately, she was too grand and ornate... top-heavy and unstable she sank minutes after setting sail in 1628 on her maiden voyage. She was found again in Stockholm harbour in the 1950's. The cold brackish water of the Baltic meant that shipworm hadn't destroyed her and she was nearly perfectly preserved. The ship was raised and the museum built around her, opening for the public in 1990 and quickly becoming the most visited museum in Scandinavia.

I really think that they have done a remarkable job with the museum. It is made up of several floors, all looking on to the immense ship. On each floor you learn about how the sailors lived on board, how the ship was constructed, what the ornamation meant symbolically, how the ship was found and raised, and more. There are loads of artifacts found with the ship on display as well. Whenever a guest tells me that they have one day in Stockholm and ask what they shouldn't miss... I always say the Vasa Museum.

The museum is located on the island of Djurgården and is a quick ferry ride from Slussen, or else you can take bus 47 from Norrmalmstorg. Entrance costs 110 SEK, 80 for students and free for children under 19. Entrance is free with the Stockholm Card. During the summer the museum is open daily from 8:30am to 6pm, otherwise it is open daily from 10am to 5pm (until 8pm on Wednesdays).

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