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The world's oldest open-air museum

Wander through 5 centuries of Swedish history at Skansen, the open-air museum founded in 1891. This is Stockholm’s most visited attraction, drawing 1.5 million visitors a year. More than 150 traditional houses, shops, warehouses, farms and churches from all around the country have been reconstructed here. In the adjacent zoo, children admire the bears, reindeer and elk.

Skansen is all about nostalgia and history. The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls fills the air. The baker was up at the crack of dawn to get started with his bellows – it takes hours to get the old wood-burning oven to the right temperature. A few doors down, the pharmacist is handling jars, bottles and pipettes to transform various kinds of distillates and powders into medicine. And in the Sami camp, reindeer are being milked around the lavvus, the typical Lapp tents.

Skansen: 5 centuries of Swedish history
Skansen: 5 centuries of Swedish history

Tukholma

Strolling through a miniature Sweden

A walk along the oak and elm tree lined paths of Skansen is like a mini-tour around Sweden. The historical houses are geographically grouped: buildings from Lapland are in the northern part, structures from central Sweden in the middle, and houses from Skåne and Småland in the south. The oldest building is a beautiful 14th-century wooden warehouse from Norway’s Telemark – Sweden and Norway were still united at the time when Skansen was founded. Today this is the only non-Swedish building here.


The latest additions are 2 pretty Stockholm garden houses with their accompanying garden plots, dating from the beginning of the last century. The centre of Skansen consists of an old village centre, complete with winding streets, alleys with stairways, and a church, school and post office set around a small cobblestoned square. In various workshops, the local potter, blacksmith, cabinet maker and glassblower still go about their day as if it were 1850.

“A 14th-century wooden warehouse from Norway’s Telemark is Skansen’s oldest building”

The entrance to Skansen

The man behind Skansen

Skansen would not exist without Artur Hazelius, a teacher and linguist. After he had laid the basis for the official Swedish spelling, he travelled around the country and discovered that Swedish culture was suffering significantly from advancing industrialisation and modernisation. In 1891 he founded Skansen, the world's first open-air museum. Many artefacts still on display today, from traditional costumes to sheet music for folk songs, have been personally collected by Hazelius. His concept of a 'living' open-air museum was later adopted around the world. In the last years of his life – he died in 1901 – Hazelius lived in Skansen, in the Gula Huset (the Yellow House).

Early 20th-century post office

Photo credits

  • The entrance to Skansen: jtriefen, Flickr
  • Early 20th-century post office: Nick Sieger, Flickr