The Stockholm archipelago, Stockholms skärgård or skärgården, is a group of thousands of islands in the Svealand region, extending east of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea. While many of the islands are relatively small, two large ones, Värmdö and Vaxholm, stand out as major destinations. This article also includes Saltsjöbaden, a suburb with its own rail line, Saltsjöbanan.
From the Middle Ages until the end of the Cold War, the Swedish military has had troops, ships and fortifications in the archipelago, to defend Stockholm. The only major enemy attack on Stockholm was committed by the Russian Empire, in 1719 to 1721. Today, most defense facilities are closed down. The local population relied on subsistence fishing and farming, isolated from Stockholm's tremendous progress in the 19th century, as tourists started to colonize the area. During the 20th century, many islands were de-populated, and transformed to summer resorts, with very small population during winter. Today, most island-dwellers commute to Stockholm for work, and enjoy maritime life as a hobby.
Islands and settlements
- Ljusterö is the largest island in the archipelago without a bridge to the mainland. It is served by a ferry from Östanå.
- Värmdö (archaic spelling Wermdö) is the largest island in the archipelago, accessible by road. It contains suburban neighbourhoods as well as deep forests, lakes and beaches, similar to the Swedish mainland. Gustavsberg is the main town. Stavsnäs is a major ferry terminal for the southern archipelago.
- Vaxholm (archaic spelling Waxholm) is a quaint island-town connected to the mainland, with a historical fortress, a variety of boutiques, and a major ferry terminal to the northern archipelago.
- Sandhamn is the largest island in the outer archipelago, known for its summer nightlife.
- Grinda is a small rural island, near Stockholm and Vaxholm.
- Utö is an outer-archipelago idyllic island with a closed-down silver mine, and remnants from the mining industry. Do not confuse with Utö in Finland, across the sea.
- Öja is an elongated island, at the southern edge of the archipelago, off Nynäshamn.
- Saltsjöbaden is a waterfront suburb for the well-to-do, at the end of Saltsjöbanan, a rail line from central Stockholm. It was built up around 1900, and is famous for its observatory, the Grand Hotel, and the acclaimed sitcom series Solsidan.
- Furusund is an island where Astrid Lindgren, August Strindberg and many other writers and painters spent their summers. Also Norröra and Söderöra are in the same region, off Norrtälje.
For the purposes of this guide, the complete Österåker municipality is also included in this article, despite the fact that most of it is on the mainland. Österåker municipality's largest town is Åkersberga, where also the municipal seat is located.
Buses to the northern archipelago depart from Tekniska Högskolan (Östermalm). Buses to Värmdö depart from Slussen (Södermalm). Buses for the southern archipelago depart from Gullmarsplan. See Stockholm#Public transport and the official public transport website:
However, for a good view, take a boat from central Stockholm, see below.
The major shipping companies are the public-transport Waxholmsbolaget, and the private-owned Strömma, which runs Cinderellabåtarna. Waxholmsbolaget's regular boats depart from Strömkajen at the Grand Hotel. They stop at most docks, and tickets are comparably cheap.
From April through September, numerous services operate directly from the city centre to various destinations, with Waxholmsbolaget departing from Strömkajen right downhill T Kungsträdgården, and Cinderellabåtarna departing from Nybrokajen, 400 m from T Östermalmstorg or T Kungsträdgården.
Other (and basically the only ones during winter) routes operate from suburban mainland jetties connected to central Stockholm by urban rail and bus, such as Vaxholm, reached by bus 670 from T Tekniska högskolan (Östermalm), Stavsnäs, reached by bus 433 or 434 from T-Slussen (Södermalm), and Gåshaga Brygga on Lidingö, reached by the Lidingöbanan rail line from T-Ropsten (Östermalm). Even during the summer, when many services operate from central Stockholm, transfer via a suburban jetty is usually both faster and cheaper. This is because even though the archipelago is within the metropolitan area, local transport tickets are not valid, and fares are based on distance. For multiple rides, you can buy a 5 or 30 day card (420 SEK and 750 SEK respectively), which belong to Waxholmsbolaget, but are also valid on Cinderellabåtarna.
Some destinations in the archipelago are Grinda, Svartsö, Finnhamn, Möja, Sandhamn, Ingmarsö, Runmarö, Nämdö and Utö. From April through September, most of these can be reached either from central Stockholm, or via suburban jetties. The islands offer a wide variety of nature, from the lush green of the inner archipelago to the bare cliffs of the more distant outposts. Some islands have restaurants, youth hostels and country stores, while others are entirely deserted islands.
A good destination for a day trip is Sandhamn, which is reached either by taking a direct ferry from the city centre (this takes 5 h) or by taking the 433 or 434 bus from the centrally located T Slussen to Stavsnäs and from there a connecting ferry bound for Sandhamn or Hagede (from T Slussen this takes 90-95 min during summer and 110-115 min during winter). Both Waxholmsbolaget and Cinderellabåtarna serve both routes, but again, Cinderellabåtarna service is shut down during winter.
Utö makes another good trip and is accessible from the city centre (takes 3.5 h) or by taking suburban train from Stockholm central station to Västerhaninge, then bus 846 to Årsta brygga and then a connecting ferry (from Stockholm C this takes 90 min during summer and 1 h 45 min during winter). Both routes are served solely by Waxholmsbolaget.
The Baltic Sea ferries offer an elevated, comfortable view of the archipelago, though without the opportunity to set foot on any of them.
Cycling is a good option for some islands with proper roads.
While the major islands Värmdö, Ingarö and Ljusterö look rather similar to the mainland, the more spectacular views are outside them, near the open sea; be sure to get out all the way. During summer, sailing boats add to the scenery.
- Gustavsberg Porcelain Museum. Reminds of the closed-down Gustavsberg porcelain factory.
- Artipelag. An art gallery in Värmdö.
- Archipelago museum. In Stavsnäs, Värmdö.
- Värmdö Church. A 14th century church.
- Vaxholm fortress (Vaxholm)
is a mine on Resarö, with one unusual distinction: nine chemical elements of the periodic table were discovered here, four of them named by the settlement: yttrium, ytterbium, terbium and erbium.
- Rydboholm Palace
- Wira Bruk
- Siggesta Gård. Is a farming estate with several activities.
- ÖTILLÖ. For hardcore swimmers, ÖTILLÖ (literally ISLAND TO ISLAND) is an all-day swim-run race where teams of two swim between and run across many islands in the Stockholm archipelago. The swimming portions total 10 km and the running portions total 65 km. ÖTILLÖ is considered one of the toughest endurance races in the world.
Most boats in regular traffic have a simple bar, offering regular beer and wine.
- Nässlingen, ☎ +46 8 542 472 10, e-mail: email@example.com. Restaurant and guest house located on the island Nässlingen
- Grinda Wärdshus.
- Waxholms Hotell.
- Grand Hotel Saltsjöbaden. A Grand Old Hotel, remembered in Swedish history for the 1938 Saltsjöbaden Agreement, Saltsjöbadsavtalet, an agreement between employers and unions to ensure peace on the labour market.
- Wermdö Golf & Country Club.
Ticks, fästingar, are common in grassy areas of the archipelago. Check your body and your pets every evening.