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HOME AT FIRST'S

ADVENTURE

STOCKHOLM
-

SWEDEN'S                         ROYAL RESIDENCE

Photo © Home At First 

Have you ever explored a real royal palace? At Drottningholm Palace you are free to wander the grounds, explore the lavish interiors, and imagine the life of Sweden’s highest royalty during the
days of the Swedish Empire through to today. Want to see one of Europe’s great palaces?
A day trip to Drottningholm offers all this and more. Come along for the adventure!

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN OCTOBER, 2008.                                                           LATEST UPDATE: 2014.

This primitive log cabin in Pennsylvania and the vast Baroque Drottningholm Palace (above) both owe their existence to the rise of the Swedish Empire in the 17th century. Both photos © Home At First.
This primitive log cabin in Pennsylvania
and the vast Baroque Drottningholm
Palace (above) both owe their
existence to the rise of the
Swedish Empire in the 17th century.
Photo © Home At First.

IMPERIAL SWEDEN. Not far from where I live in Pennsylvania there is an old log cabin in the woods by a creek. Local historians believe this cabin to be a relic of the colony of New Sweden, built sometime between 1638 and 1655. If true, this old house ranks among the oldest buildings in the United States, possibly older than anything still standing from England’s Jamestown or Plymouth colonies. New Sweden? Who knew?
          In the 17th century, with a population of only about one million, Sweden joined England, Spain, France, and Holland as a great European power. It was a crucial time in European (and western) history, when wars were fought to

 

determine the territories of Catholicism and

Protestantism, and nations emerged from

 

alliances of smaller states with mutual interests. Sweden’s power grew along with its enlarging territory, as a series of wars and treaties expanded its holdings. Like Europe’s other great powers, Sweden sought to participate in the great North American land grab, establishing New Sweden in the Delaware Valley (in what would become the states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) in 1638. Sweden’s empire continued to grow in size during the reign of the warrior King Karl X Gustav whose adventuresome wars on Poland and Denmark increased Sweden’s holdings, but emptied its treasury. When the king fell ill and died in February 1660, his crown went to his five-year-old son, but the power of Sweden fell to his widow, the former queen consort and now queen regent of Sweden, Hedvig Eleonora. Even when her son officially took over the crown, Queen Hedvig Eleonora remained most powerful person in Sweden, power she

The greatest warship of the 17th century Swedish navy, The Vasa, was built on orders of King Gustav II Adolf, builder of the Swedish Empire two generations before the reign of King Karl X Gustav and Queen Consort Hedvig Eleonora. The top-heavy, under-ballasted Vasa never made it to sea, capsizing not far from Stockholm after being launched in 1628. One of the largest wooden ships in history, the Vasa was rescued from its watery grave after 333 years. The partially restored relic is on display in Stockholm's Vasa Museum, which also provides a look at life in the heady days of 17th Century Sweden. Photo © Home At First.
The Vasa, greatest warship of the 17th
century Swedish navy, was built on
orders of King Gustav II Adolf, builder
of the Swedish Empire two generations 
before the reign of King Karl X Gustav
and Queen Consort Hedvig Eleonora.
The
top-heavy, under-ballasted Vasa
never made it to sea, capsizing not far
from Stockholm after being launched
in 1628. One of the largest wooden
ships in history, the Vasa was rescued
from its watery grave after 333 years
and
is on display in  Stockholm's Vasa
Museum, which provides a look at life in
the heady days of 17th century Sweden.

Photo © Home At First.

maintained until her death in 1715.

 


QUEEN HEDVIG ELEONORA,
FIRST ROYAL MISTRESS OF
DROTTNINGHOLM PALACE.

Queen Hedvig Eleonora, needing a fitting royal residence for herself after the death of her husband, purchased a renaissance palace called Drottningholm (“Queen’s Island”) on an isolated site several miles west of Stockholm in 1661. When at the end of the year the palace was destroyed by fire, the Queen Regent determined to rebuild in the grandest fashion possible. In 1662 Sweden’s great architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder was commissioned to design and build the new Drottningholm Palace. Tessin spent the last twenty years of his life creating his masterpiece, but died before its completion. Tessin’s son Nicodemus the Younger finished the grandiose exterior work and the palatial interiors. Drottningholm Slott the queen’s island palace was fit for a king, but in Sweden in 1700, the Queen was king.

 

Drottningholm Palace like the Swedish monarchy — has evolved significantly over the ensuing three centuries. Arguably the finest example of 17th century Baroque architecture in Northern Europe, the palace has influenced design throughout the Baltic region: grand buildings in Denmark, Germany, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and St. Petersburg reflected this highly decorative style that may have had its roots in French chateau architecture of the 16th and early 17th centuries. As fashions changed, so did Drottningholm. Tessin’s elaborate Baroque

Drottningholm Palace with formal gardens and dramatic statuary. Photo © Home At First.
Drottningholm Palace with formal gardens
and dramatic statuary by
Adriaen de Vries.
Photo © Home At First.

interiors were replaced by the even more ornate

 

 

Rococo style of the 18th century the latest

The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm — the Queen's fanciful guesthouse. Photo © Home At First.
THE CHINESE PAVILION AT DROTTNINGHOLM —
THE QUEEN'S FANCIFUL GUESTHOUSE.
Photo © Home At First.

opulent French fashion, seen in the Palace of Versailles, which was built at the same time as Drottningholm and remains the exemplar palace of the 17th and 18th centuries. Like Versailles, Drottningholm is immense and set dramatically among carefully manicured gardens, together composing a majestic unity, as if a painting by the gods.
          The queen’s palace became state property at the time of the American Revolution when Queen Louisa Ulrika sold her lavish home to the nation in 1777. Thereafter, Drottningholm fell into disuse and, after a century of neglect, disrepair. The renaissance of Drottningholm

 

occurred in the twentieth century with several

major  renovations that restored the palace to its former glory. Such was the improved condition of Drottningholm that in 1981 Sweden’s royal family named it their principal residence.

A WORLD HERITAGE SITE: In 1991 UNESCO named Drottningholm Palace, its gardens and ancillary buildings—including two treasures: the still active 18th century Court Theatre and its “Chinese” Pavilion guest residence the first Swedish entry on its World Heritage Site list. In making its selection the United Nations agency cited Drottningholm as “… the best example of a royal residence built in the 18th century in Sweden and…representative of all European architecture of that period, heir to the influences exerted by the Chateau of Versailles on the construction of royal residences in western, central and northern Europe.” As a World Heritage Site, Drottningholm has become a popular

The beloved 18th century Court Theater at Drottningholm is among the last of its breed. Built in 1766 on the site of a previous theater that had been destroyed by fire, the theater was used for about thirty years, then fell into disuse until the 1920s when it underwent a renaissance. Its 2½ month (late-May through early-August) season brings enthusiastic audiences to see opera performed on stage in an authentic period theater. Photo © Home At First.
The beloved 18th century Court Theater at
 Drottningholm is among the last of its breed.
 Built in 1766 on the site of a previous theater
that had been destroyed by fire, the theater
was used for about thirty years, then fell INTO
disuse until the 1920s when it underwent A
 renaissance. Its 2½ month (late-May  through
early-August) season brings enthusiastic
audiences to see opera performed ON
stage in an authentic period theater.

Photo © Home At First.

destination for visitors, and the palace

 

exterior had another makeover that was completed in 2002, while upgrading restoration continues on the extensive gardens and the classic rococo Chinese Pavilion.

The motor boat Prins Carl Philip awaits passengers at its mooring along Stockholm's City Hall Quay. Photo © Home At First.
The motor boat Prins Carl Philip  awaits
passengers at its mooring  along
Stockholm's City Hall Quay.
Photo © Home At First.

Getting to Drottningholm is part of the adventure of a fun day out of Stockholm. While it is possible to drive to the island, or take the subway plus a regional bus, or even bicycle there, we recommend taking the lake boat from downtown Stockholm to the palace quay. Boats depart daily from the City Hall Quay (by Stockholm’s Stadshuset City Hall where the Nobel Prizes are awarded each December) only May through September, hourly from May through June and again during September, and twice hourly during July and August. (A limited service runs on weekends during October.) The fifty-minute voyage (each way) channels

 

through the maze of island-strewn Lake

Mälaren, passing colorful villages and numerous forested islands en route to Drottningholm, itself on the island of Lovön. Three 100-year-old boats operate on the route, two motor (diesel) boats, and one classic 1909 steamboat, the Drottningholm.

AT Drottningholm there is significant although essentially flat walking to be done to see everything. The quay is within a few hundred yards of the entrances to the palace and the theater itself a national treasure for culture-oriented Swedes. Behind the palace extend the formal gardens in the French Baroque style some private, but most accessible, lined with hedges and trees and populated with sculpture by the Swede Adriaen de Vries. Beyond the formal gardens is a second garden of rolling, wooded parkland leading uphill past the fanciful Palace Guards’ “Tent” to the lavish Chinese Pavilion, the romantic location of many palace intrigues and

The curious Palace Guards' "Tent" is one of the fanciful buildings found in the park extending across rolling rolling woodlands behind the palace. Photo © Home At First.
The curious Palace Guards' "Tent" is one
of the fanciful buildings found in the
 park extending across rolling rolling
 woodlands behind the palace.
Photo © Home At First.

secret liaisons. The theatre, the Chinese

 

Pavilion, and much of the Palace itself (except the south wing, the royal family’s residence) are all open to visitors. Separate entrance fees are needed to access the palace and the pavilion. Both come with 50-minute-long guided tours (English available), but joining a tour is not mandatory.

The 100-year-old steamship SS Drottningholm on the home journey to Stockholm. Photo  Home At First.
The 100-year-old steamship SS Drottningholm
on the home journey to Stockholm.
Photo © Home At First.

RETURNING TO STOCKHOLM: After exploring the palace and the Chinese Pavilion and strolling the grounds, visitors can eat at a choice of cafés and restaurants at Drottningholm and shop in the Royal Gift Shop for souvenirs of their visit. Boats depart from the palace quay as late as 9PM at certain times of year, but visitors should consult current schedules to determine which return boat best meets their needs. As the old lake boat settles back into its landing at the City Hall Quay, passengers are only a few hundred yards from the city island with Stockholm’s Gamla Stan old

 

town with the Swedish Royal Palace, the

official (but not private) residence of the royal family. An 18th century masterwork of Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, this Baroque palace and the old city around it are an adventure for another day.


 

Drottningholm Palace

Photo © Home At First

IF YOU GO:

Getting There:
Drottningholm Palace is easily reached from HOME AT FIRST’s lodgings in
STOCKHOLM AND UPPSALA, SWEDEN. Free admission and boat transportation comes with the Stockholm Pass option for HOME AT FIRST guests.

From Stockholm lodgings: walk to the City Hall Quay (Stadshusbron). Purchase tickets at the ticket office by the boat piers. Plan to arrive and purchase tickets at least 15-30 minutes before departure on sunny, warm days and weekends. See below for more information about sailings.

From Uppsala by public transportation: take the train approximately 30 minutes to Stockholm Central Station. From the station, it’s a 5-10-minute walk to the City Hall Quay (Stadshusbron). Purchase tickets at the ticket office by the b\oat piers. Plan to arrive and purchase tickets at least 15-30 minutes before departure on sunny, warm days and weekends. See below for more information about sailings.

From Uppsala by car: follow highway E4 south. Continue along route 279 until you past Kista. Turn right at route 275 to Vällingby. At Brommaplan, follow signs to Drottningholm. Visitor parking is available at Drottningholm and the Drottningholm Palace Theatre. Bus and parking for the disabled is also available. Additional parking is also available approximately 300m from the palace at Karusellplan.

Opening Times & Admission:

DROTTNINGHOLM PALACE OPENING HOURS:

• May-August daily 10AM-4:30PM
(Gift Shop: 9:30AM-5PM)

September daily 11AM-3:30PM
(Gift Shop: 12N-4PM)

Oct & April: Fr-Su 11AM-3:30PM
(Gift Shop: 11AM-4PM)

Nov-14Dec & 12JAN-31MAR:
Sa-Su 12N-3:30PM;
(Gift Shop: Sa-Su 11AM-4PM)

31Dec-30Mar: Sa-Su 12N-3:30PM
(Gift Shop: Sa-Su 11AM-4PM)

ADMISSION: SEK120/adults; kids 0-17 free;
     SEK60/student 18 years & older.

   Combo Tix for Palace & Pavilion:
     SEK180/adults; kids 0-17 free;
     SEK90/students 18 7 older.

-
GUIDED TOURS:

May: Sa-Su at 10AM, 12N, 2PM & 4PM

June-Aug: Daily at 10AM, 12N, 2PM & 4PM

Sept: Daily 12N & 2PM

October & April: Fr-Su at 12N & 2PM

November-March: Sa-Su at 12N & 2PM

Drottningholm Palace and grounds from the air.

 

The Confidence Dining Room at the Chinese Pavilion. This separate dining building permitted the surety of private rendezvous and discourse. Servants stayed one floor below the dining room. Meals were hoisted already laid on the table, which was raised and lowered on a pulley system. Photo © Home At First.

CHINESE PAVILION OPENING HOURS:

May-August daily 11AM-4:30PM

September daily 12N-3:30PM

ADMISSION: SEK100/adults, kids 0-17 free; SEK50/students 18 & older.

GUIDED TOURS: May: Sa-Su at 12N, 2PM & 4PM; June-August: Daily at 12N, 2PM & 4PM; Sept: Daily 12N & 2PM

The Confidence Dining Room at the Chinese Pavilion.
This separate dining building ensured private rendezvous
and discourse. Servants stayed one floor below the dining
room. Meals were hoisted already laid on the table,
which was raised and lowered on a pulley system.
Photo © Home At First.

 

.
SPECIAL NOTES:
Courtesy bus available for visitors who have trouble with steep inclines and/or steps.
The south wing of the Palace (the royal residence) is not open to the public.
Some portions of the castle not suitable for wheelchairs.
Wheelchair ramps available at the Chinese Pavilion only.
Free guided tours included in the cost of admission.
Cafés, restaurants, snack shop,
   and gift shop.

Photo © Home At First

 

BOAT TRIP FROM STOCKHOLM TO DROTTNINGHOLM:
FARES (subject to change):
Round Trip: SEK195/adult; SEK97.50/child 6-11
50% reduction to holders of the Stockholm
   Card (issued to Home At First guests
   staying in Stockholm 3 nights or longer)
• Combination Fare: R/T boat + entrance fees
   to Drottningholm Palace & Chinese Pavilion:
   SEK325/adult; SEK162.50/child 6-11

TIMETABLE (subject to change):
May-June: 6-8 times daily; 10AM to 7:30PM
July to mid-Aug: daily; once or twice hourly
   in each direction from 9:30AM to 7:30PM

The motor boat Prins Carl Philip at Drottningholm quay. Photo © Home At First.

Mid-Aug thru Sep: daily; 10AM, 12N, 2PM;                                                     Photo © Home At First.
   from Drottningholm at 11AM, 1PM & 3PM. Extra sailings on SA & Su.
Mar-April & October: Sa-Su only: to Drottningholm at 10AM, 12N, & 2PM;
   from Drottningholm at 11AM, 1PM & 3PM.

SPECIAL NOTES:
Journey time: 50min each direction.
Consult official timetable for accurate current schedule.
Restaurants on all boats.
Boats are not handicapped friendly.
Consult official timetable to see steamboat operation.
Purchase round-trip tickets at City Hall Quay; Book by phone: +46 (0)8 12 00 40 00, or ON-LINE.
-

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