Stockholm archipelago

The Stockholm archipelago, ( Sweden  )Stockholms skargard or skargarden, 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, Varmdo and Vaxholm, stand out as major destinations. Understand : Since the Ice Age ended, the land has been rising from the Baltic Sea, changing the sceneries over generation; see Nordic countries#Geography. In modern times, the archipelago consists of at least 24,000 identified islands, islets, and skerries. 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 of the outer 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. In contrast, many of the inner islands have become suburbs of Stockholm.

Islands and settlements : Just as the rest of Sweden, the Stockholm Archipelago is divided between municipalities, kommuner. From a traveller’s point of view, the major islands are more useful as divisions.

  • Furusund — is an island where Astrid Lindgren, August Strindberg and many other writers and painters spent their summers. Also Norrora and Soderora are in the same region, off Norrtalje.
  •  Grinda — is a small rural island, near Stockholm and Vaxholm, good for a one-day excursion.
  •  Lidingo — is a suburban island near Stockholm, described in its own article, together with Fjaderholmarna.
  •  Ljustero — is the largest island in the archipelago without a bridge to the mainland. It is served by a ferry from Ostana.
  •  Sandhamn — is the largest island in the outer archipelago, known for its summer nightlife.
  •  Uto — is an outer-archipelago idyllic island with a closed-down silver mine, and remnants from the mining industry. Do not confuse with Uto in Finland, across the sea.
  • Vaxholm —  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.
  •  Varmdo —  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. Stavsnas is a major ferry terminal for the southern archipelago.
  • Oja — is an elongated island, at the southern edge of the archipelago, off Nynashamn. The Landsort lighthouse on Oja is an important landmark when arriving from Gotland.
  • Yxlan is an island in the Stockholm archipelago, which lies between Furusund and Blido

Mainland settlements
This article also describes some mainland destinations associated with the archipelago.

  •  Akersberga — The entire Osteraker municipality is included in this article, despite the fact that most of it is on the mainland. Osteraker municipality’s largest town is Akersberga where also the municipal seat is located.
  •  Saltsjobaden — is a waterfront suburb for the well-to-do, at the end of Saltsjobanan, 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.

Access : Coordinates: 59.38778, 18.73581 / Most major islands can be reached on road (by car or bus), at some locations through free-ride car ferries.

Buses to the northern archipelago depart from Tekniska Hogskolan (Ostermalm). Buses to Varmdo depart from Slussen (Sodermalm). Until 2023, the Slussen bus station is relocated to a temporary site outdoors, and the re-routing can cause congestion and delays. 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.

By ferry : The major shipping companies are the public-transport Waxholmsbolaget, and the private-owned Stromma, which runs Cinderellabatarna. Waxholmsbolaget’s regular boats depart from Stromkajen at the Grand Hotel. They stop at most docks, and tickets are comparably cheap.

Waxholmsbolaget also has two old-fashioned steamboats, mainly for slow dining cruises in the inner archipelago, or day-trips to Sandhamn.

Stromma is aimed at major tourist destinations, faster but costlier, often with a tour guide. Most of their boats depart from Nybrokajen at Nybroplan.

From April through September, numerous services operate directly from the city centre to various destinations, with Waxholmsbolaget departing from Stromkajen right downhill T Kungstradgarden, and Cinderellabatarna departing from Nybrokajen, 400 m from T Ostermalmstorg or T Kungstradgarden.

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 hogskolan (Ostermalm), Stavsnas, reached by bus 433 or 434 from T-Slussen (Sodermalm), and Gashaga Brygga on Lidingo, reached by the Lidingobanan rail line from T-Ropsten (Ostermalm). 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 kr and 750 kr respectively), which belong to Waxholmsbolaget, but are also valid on Cinderellabatarna.

Some destinations in the archipelago are Grinda, Svartso, Finnhamn, Moja, Sandhamn, Ingmarso, Runmaro, Namdo and Uto. 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 hr) or by taking the 433 or 434 bus from the centrally located T Slussen to Stavsnas 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). Waxholmsbolaget and Cinderellabatarna serve both routes, but again, Cinderellabatarna service is shut down during winter.

Uto makes another good trip and is accessible from the city centre (takes 3½ hr) or by taking suburban train from Stockholm Central Station to Vasterhaninge, then bus 846 to Arsta Brygga and then a connecting ferry (from Stockholm C this takes 90 min during summer and 1 hr 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.

By yacht
Private vessels are a good way to get around the archipelago. Due to the right of access, you can anchor and land nearly everywhere, as long as you respect local residents’ privacy. There are thousands of islands that lack road or ferry connections, many of them with good natural harbours. Although most of those close to roads are full of summer cottages, others are there for you to explore. There are also many good marinas.

By bicycle
Cycling is a good option for some islands with proper roads.

Attractions :
While the major islands Varmdo, Ingaro and Ljustero have rather mundane sceneries, similar to most of mainland Sweden, 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.

  •  Archipelago museum, Byholmsvagen 9 (In Stavsnas, Varmdo). Also has filials at Namdo and Runmaro.
  •  Artipelag, Artipelagstigen 1 (Gustavsberg, Varmdo). An art gallery. Received the Swedish tourist award 2017.
  •  Bogesund Palace (Bogesunds slott), Per Brahes vag (Vaxholm). A palace.
  •  Finnhamn. A small village
  •  Gustavsberg Porcelain Museum, Odelbergs vag 5. Reminds of the closed-down Gustavsberg porcelain factory.
  •  Rydboholm Castle (Rydboholms slott) (Akersberga). An old castle, once owned by the Swedish royal dynasty “Vasaatten”.
  • Vaxholm Castle (Vaxholms fastning). An old fortress which today contains a museum.
  •  Wira Bruk, Bruksgardsvagen 11 (Akersberga). An ironworks founded in the 17th century, with a museum.
  •  Varmdo Church, Varmdovagen 55-57. A 14th-century church.
  •  Ytterby. A mine on Resaro, 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.
  • Landsort Coastal artillery battery / Landsort lighthouse , the oldest lighthouse in Sweden 

Activities :
Outdoor life, especially water sport. Rod fishing is allowed without a license, as this is the sea, not freshwater lakes.

  •  Saltsjobaden observatory. Impressive from outside, though not usually open to the public.
  •  Siggesta Gard. Is a farming estate with several activities.
    Otillo (literally “island to island”). Held on the first Monday of September. For hardcore swimmers Otillo 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. Otillo is considered one of the toughest endurance races in the world.

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