Stories from my travels around the world


Around Lake Mälaren, Sweden

Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm Castle
Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm castle is beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Mälaren, next to the village of Mariefred. This is actually not the first castle that was built here. The first castle was built in the second half of the 14th century by Bo Johnsson Grip. And this name also explains part of the name of the castle : Gripsholm. The second part of the name "Holm" means "island", so it actually means Island of Grip.

The castle of Gripsholm is one of the Royal castles in Sweden. This castle started to be build by King Gustav Vasa in 1537 as part of a new system of national defences.

In the castle you can see a lot of Swedish interior design from the 16th to the late 19th century. But the main thing the castle is known for is its great collection of portraits : the Swedish national collection. The number of portraits is huge (the collection has over 4,000 pictures), and it features prominent Swedes from the days of Gustav Vasa until now. Hahaha, you have to know some famous Swedes of course to really appreciate it. But there are a few names that you might know, like Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo.

Painted stones

Gripsholm Castle
Gripsholm Castle

Like a lot of castles, Gripsholm has been altered and added to several times since they first began to build the castle. There are some fun details you can notice of these additions and changes when you look at the castle.

A fun detail of the castle gets visable when you click on the picture. The building on the left side is of a lighter and brighter colour than the rest of the castle and that is due to that the bricks are not real, but painted on as a pattern. They wanted to make the castle look like it was of all brick, and decided to paint the pattern of stones on the walls. It looks great when you look at the castle from a distance; it really looks like a 100% brick castle. But when you come closer you will notice that it is just a painted on decoration, instead of the original brick. Hahaha, I am still not sure if I like it, but it is a fun detail to watch.

Inside the castle, at the part where the 'members of the court' lived, you can see some alterations. The 'court' got so big that they didn't have enough rooms in the castle to house all the people. It was of course a great honour to live in the castle, so that's where all the members of the court wanted to be. To solve this problem in this area of the castle, the ceilings of the rooms were lowered and an extra floor was created to give the members of the court more space to live. Hahaha, the fun thing to see though is that the windows have stayed the same, resulting that some windows are at weird heights in the room, and sometimes split between the two floors.

Gardens at Gripsholm Castle

The gardens at Gripsholm
The gardens at Gripsholm

When you visit Gripsholm castle it is nice to take a look at the gardens first and walk around the castle, instead of going inside the castle right away. The castle is situated at Lake Mälaren, and the gardens around the castle are small but nice. It's great to walk here on a nice summers day, watching the views on the castle, the lake, the picturesque village of Mariefred, and of course the beautiful flowers in the garden.

The courtyard

The courtyard at Gripsholm Castle
The courtyard

This is a picture of the inner courtyard if the castle. To get into the castle you have to climb these stairs. Here is some practical information about the castle :

Opening times :
May 15th - September 15th : daily 10 - 4
September 16th - May 14th : Saturday-Sunday and holidays 12 - 3
Closed Dec 21st - Jan 1st

Admission :
Adults SEK 60 Students/children SEK 30
Children under schoolage, groups SEK 30
Children under 7 free

Inside Gripsholm Castle

Inside Gripsholm Castle
Inside Gripsholm Castle

The inside of the castle is huge! I sometimes had the idea I was lost inside the castle with its many rooms and corridors. Many of the rooms are decorated in the original style, like this room, the princess's bedchamber.

The interior decorations in this particular room have remained virtually untouched since 1782. The painted Chinese silken wall-hangings, have faded considerably though. I wonder how bright and colourful it must have looked originally, it must have been fantastic. The clock you can see is from about 1800 and the chest of drawers was made in about 1780.

I don't have that many pictures of the interior of Gripsholm Castle, as taking pictures inside the castle isn't allowed. They keep a good eye on people trying to take pictures. Hahaha, but as you can see it's not impossible to do! :-)) I did manage to get some interior pictures, although not as many as I would like :-)

Beautiful windows in the throne room

Window in the throne room at Gripsholm Castle
Windows in the throne room

This is one of the beautiful windows in the throne room. The throne room is the biggest room in the Castle and was probably completed during the 1590's. Now it is used as a concert room, with a big piano where I think the throne used to be. This does take away the feeling of the original room, but it is still nice to look at some of the details in this room.

The theatre inside Gripsholm Castle

mechanism to change the decors in the theatre
Mechanism to change the decors in the theatre

The theatre in Gripsholm castle is really impressive. I think it is the room in the castle that made the most impression on me. It was build by Gustav III in the 1780's in the old Church tower, now known as the theatre tower. Gustav III loved theatre and that really shows. The architecture of this room is fantastic and it has made the most use of the space. The theatre is one of the best-preserved 18th century theatres in Europe.

King Gustav loved the theatre so much that he was a regular actor in one of the plays performed at Gripsholm Castle.

I wish I could show you a picture of the theatre itself, but it wasn't possible to take any pictures there. So instead a picture of the back of the theatre. In this room you can see the mechanism to change the decors in the theatre during the plays.

The Upper Armoury

The Upper Armoury, Gripsholm Castle
The Upper Armoury

This picture was taken in the Upper Armoury. In this room you can see the suits of armour used in the carousels and tournaments of Gustav III. The room is decorated with wolf nets and flags on the walls, which were still being used in the 19th century for local wolf hunts.

Besides this you can also see a stuffed lion in the room. This lion was given in 1732 by the Bey of Algiers to Frederik I.

Guided tours through the castle

Guided tour through the castle at Gripsholm
Guided tours thourgh the castle

This is me taking a tour through Gripsholm castle. I could have taken a guided tour, but I had to wait for over half an hour, so I decided to buy a guidebook instead and explore the castle by myself. I was in luck though! Halfway my tour through the castle we bumped into a group with an English speaking guide and I was able to have a partially guided tour after all :-)

There are daily guided tours in Swedish for the general public. Guided tour in English at 13.00 between May 15th and September 15th. The charge for public guided tours is SEK 10 per person over and above the admission charge.

The cannons

The cannons at Gripsholm Castle
The cannons

These are the two Russian cannons you can see in the courtyard of Gripsholm castle.

The bigger cannon was cast in 1579 and the smaller one in 1577. The cannons are quite big, and they are actually much larger than most cannons of that time. Both cannons were captured during the war and dragged back to Gripsholm Castle in 1623. Originally both cannons were called 'The Wulf'. One of them, they don't know which, was taken at Narva in 1581and the other at Ivangorod in 1612.

The Swedes renamed the cannons though into "The Boar" and "the Sow". The story goes that they were so annoyed by the task of dragging the big cannons through the mud all the way back to Sweden, that they gave they gave them pig names :-)

The picturesque village of Mariefred

The picturesque village of Mariefred

When you visit Gripsholm Castle, you musn't forget to visit the village of Mariefred as well. There is nothing really spectacular to see, but it's such a lovely quiet and picturesque village. I just loved the atmoshpere of this little town. There are a few attractions though in Mariefred that you might like to see. There is a steamtrain and a little museum at the old trainstation of Mariefred. The steamtrain is still running these days for the tourists. Another place you might like to visit is the "Grafiken Hus". Here you can see exhibits of famous graphical works.

I hope you enjoyed reading my Gripsholm page! If you like castles, this page might be something for you: my Sweden Castle page, with information and photos of all the castles I've visited so far in Sweden.

Lake Mälaren Area

Lake Mälaren
Around Lake Mälaren

Area: The Lake Mälaren and the close area around it.

Mälaren is the third in size lake in Sweden. It has a climate quiet different compared to other close by areas. It is more humid and warmer in the summer, but not as cold in the winter. This has created a specific flora and also a special fauna. Several species of flowers and trees only grow around Lake Mälaren and in the south of Sweden. The mistletoe for instance is rather rare in Sweden but we can see dozens of them from our window.

Many fortifications and castles have been built around the lake. You can for instance visit 5 Royal Castles by boat on a 6-hour trip roundtrip from Stockholm. This building of fortification and permanent settlements began early, around 5000 BC, and there are many fort hills and archeologically sites around.

Everyone has probably heard about the Vikings, and you can still find lots about them in this area. I live only a 10 minutes walk from a very important Viking monument: The Sigurdsristningen. Being so close to a site like this makes me feel in touch with this part of Swedish history and has made me fascinated by the early history of Sweden. Around Lake Mälaren there are many spots where you can find signs of early culture, like in Birka and Sigtuna. Along the roads you can see a lot of Runic Stones.

Click on the map to go to the destination pages.

Interesting points to see in the area are:

  • Anundshög: old burial mounds from Viking Age.
  • Birka: ruins from old capital city of Sweden.
  • Mariefred with Gripsholm Castle. A picturesque village and a beautiful castle. In the castle is also the Swedish National Portrait Collection.
  • Sigtuna: old city with lots of historical background.
  • Sko Kloster: one of the most popular castles with a huge collections of painting, furniture and arms. The latter is one of the largest in Europe.
  • Sundby with Sundyholms Castle and the famous stone carvings from the time of the Vikings: Sigurdsristningen.
  • Eskilstuna: not a real tourist destination, but it has some nice places. My favourite of all is the Fors Kyrka (Fors Church). Also worth visiting is the Klosterkyrka, sculpture 'Hand of God' by Miles, the historic area of "Rademachersmedjorna" and the museum "Faktorimuseet".
  • Taxinge slott: Get a taste of the typical Swedish Christmas celebrations at the yearly Christmas market at Taxinge Slott.
  • Tidö slott: A beautiful castle with a toy museum.
  • Ängsö Castle A haunted castle from the 15th century and one if the many smaller castles in this area.
  • Strängnäs: one of Sweden's oldest towns. The highlight of this city is its beautiful cathedral.
  • Västerås: is one of the top 10 cities of Sweden. Suggestions: visit the park (Djäkneberget), interesting for the many boulders with inscriptions. The old part of town with historical houses at Kyrkbacken and the Cathedral.
  • Örebro: is an university city and the 7th largest city in Sweden. Places to see are castle from the 13th century and Wadköping, which is the old town and now open air museum.