Old Town in Stockholm, locally known as Gamla Stan, is located on the site of the city’s original 13th century settlement. This photo was taken from the bridge leading to Stockholm City Hall, which is located on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, looking back at Gamla Stan. Today Old Town spreads across the three islands of Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg, which separate the Baltic Sea from Lake Mälaren, the third-largest freshwater lake in Sweden. During Viking times the lake was a huge bay on the Baltic Sea, and vessels could sail directly up it into the center of the country. By 1200 the lake had silted up and Old Town in Stockholm became the closest access to the Baltic.
Through the centuries, many of Stockholm’s historic buildings were torn down to make way for modern architecture. Thankfully, Gamla Stan escaped this modernist drive. The Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with mansions and palaces. As the most popular tourist destination in the city, it also is chock-a-block with shops, cafes, galleries, and museums. Gamla Stan is best explored on foot. Visit Stockholm offers a 1.5-hour English-speaking walking tour of the district every afternoon, year-round, for about $18.50 USD.