Length: 6.5 km (4 miles), terrain flat
Note: I forgot to take my cell phone on this trip, so I had to run with my laptop to take the pictures! That's why you see my ear in half the pictures
Stockholm running routes:
Stockholm 5 Islands route
Stockholm Djurgarden island park route
For other running routes, see Route List
Stockholm ("Stick Island") sits scattered amidst a network of fjords and islands. Water and land seem to crash into each other everywhere you look. Like most coastal areas of Scandinavia, there is never a definite coastline, just a fascinating, gradually shifting mixture of land and water, with more land as you move inland.
Stockholm's fjord looks a bit like Sydney Harbour, with side-coves everywhere, but without the palm trees. What better way to discover it than to run the 5 islands that form its historic core? Even though we'll cover 5 islands, the run is fairly short, and brings us to stuff like the old town ("Gamla Stan"), the parliament, the royal palace, the original castle, the old navy headquarters island, and another castle island.
We'll start the run at the spot where the city center meets the first island, Helgeandsholmen, a tiny island occupied solely by the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag. Drottninggatan (Queen Street) runs south from the downtown to the Riksdag and goes over a pedestrian bridge to the island, splitting the parliament into two halves. Run south through the parliament, and on the other side of the building you cross the next bridge to the old town, Gamla Stan, on its own island. You'll see the huge royal palace rising above on the left.
|Parliament, the pedestrian street goes through the arch behind the tree|
|The way up on Riddarholmen|
|Riddarholmen: view from the terrace towards the city hall|
Run past the Riddarhuset palace again and now take the street that goes uphill diagonally to the right between the 2 Italian restaurants, Storkyrkobrinken. At the next crossing, Västerlanggatan, turn right and run down this pedestrian street with its shops and restaurants.
|Gamla Stan, Västerlanggatan|
NOTE: I heartily recommend O'Leary's sports bar on the corner for a good meal and a good time. Even though it's a chain, you don't notice it in its character: Friendly staff, great burgers, a selection of wonderful beers, good barbeque sauces, it can't be beat. You can eat right at the bar, and watch a game at the same time. The Swedish founder had lived in Boston, and has covered the walls with Boston team memorabilia.
Rising above you on the left is the heart of the old town. We'll go up and take a look. Across from the Gyldene Freden restaurant, follow the side street that goes uphill to the left. Follow the narrow Prästgatan (Prieststreet) alley as it takes you through the heart of the neighborhood. You'll soon pass the German church on the right, St. Gertrude.
Like most northern cities, Stockholm has it's traditional German Hansa quarter, where the merchants had their houses and warehouses. St. Gertrude sits atop the center of the island, with a motto hanging over the quiet churchyard entrance, "Fürchtet Gott! Ehret den König!" ("Fear God! Honor the King!").
|Swedish Academy of Sciences at Stortorget|
Just past the church, run straight into the royal palace compound, and turn right into the yard bounded by the curving arcades. The palace guards with their white fur hats look like the guard at the Wizard of Oz's castle. They just happened to be changing the guard when I ran by. Run past the row of cannons, right towards the guard in his sentry house at the front door, then turn right, leave the courtyard, and run downhill to the left to the water.
|Royal palace: changing of the guard|
Run the one block on Slottsbacken to the water. Cross the busy street (Skeppsbron) at the waterside to run along the water itself, towards the left. Here you can see the windjammer across the fjord at Skeppsholmen, where we will now run to. The ship is used as a youth hostel. What a great idea!
|Youth hostel windjammer with Skeppsholmen island|
Keep going across the bridge to the mainland. The water rips right through a rapids in this spot. Turn right at the end of the bridge, keeping the water on your right. The shore curves to the right, passing the Grand Hotel, then the National Museum. Now an old metal bridge leads you to island number four, Skeppsholmen (Ship Island).
Stay along the water, running past the youth hostel windjammer. Skeppsholmen is covered with old admiralty buildings, the traditional naval headquarters of this old seafaring land. In a couple of minutes you'll come to the bridge to island number five, tiny Kastellholmen (Castle Island). Head across the bridge and up the little hill to the castle-like building at the top, with its great view over the fjord.
|Bridge to Kastellholmen|
|View of Gröna Lund amusement park from Kastellholmen|
Just before coming back to the bridge back to the mainland, you'll see a few bunkers dug into the rock along your left side, left over from some past wartime zeal.
Now, retrace your steps, following your way along the shore, with the water on your left side. But at the first bridge back to Gamla Stan just keep running straight. This will take you back to the starting point, there at the foot of Drottninggatan at the Riksdag. You'll pass the center's main square, Kungstradgarden, then the opera house, running along the rapids towards the Riksdag on the left side.