Although Stockholm has no shortage of things to do on the ground level, it does have an underestimated masterpiece hidden deep beneath the 14 islands that make up the famous archipelago. Only the Swedes could make an otherwise rather dull public transit system so riveting; indeed the Stockholm metro has been deemed the world’s longest art gallery numerous times, at 100 kilometres long and stretching over 90 stations.
Where Does All This Art Come From?
The presence of art inside something as ordinary as a metro network goes to show just how equalitarian Swedes fundamentally are. Stations were enhanced as part of an animated social debate back in the 1950s about how art should be accessible to everyone, not just the arguably scarce elite who could afford steep admission fee of Stockholm’s galleries and museums.
It was, at the time, quite unusual to launch such extensive and frivolous works in Europe in the aftermath of World War II, after which most construction works were only completed out of sheer necessity; but if you paid attention in history class, you’ll remember that Sweden was neutral in the conflict and didn’t suffer from a major economic crisis, leaving the country with plenty of money.
Although most Stockholmers have become oblivious to the art they walk past on their daily commute, they are definitely part of the fun for out-of-towners. Sculptures, paintings, engravings, mosaics; creativity knows no bounds in this vast underground gallery. 150 artists were selected to bring 90 of the 100 Stockholm metro stations to life through various mediums, topics, and tones – every station is different and sends a different message.
Touring The Stockholm Metro – Noteworthy Stations
Visit Stockholm has a pretty complete list of stations that should definitely be on your subterranean itinerary. I didn’t have enough time to do ALL of them, but my favourites were:
- Kungsträdgården (blue line)
- T-centralen (blue line)
- Rådhuset (blue line)
- Solna Centrum (blue line)
- Stadion (red line)
Know Before You Go
- If you plan on taking pictures, I recommend doing a self-guided tour in the evenings when there are much fewer commuters. I did my tour on a Saturday night (how mundane of me, I know) and I had most platforms to myself once trains left the station.
- You can stay in the Stockholm metro as long as you want after you’ve purchased your ticket. In other words, this tour won’t cost you more than a few kronas.
- If you’d rather go on a guided tour, there are free English-speaking tours of the metro led by certified guides in the summer. All you need is a valid ticket to join.
- For even more pictures of the Stockholm metro, my pal Lola over at Slow Travel Stockholm photographed many stations in the city. The Guardian also has a nice gallery.
- Try to keep this activity for a rainy or chilly day (trust me, it will come faster than you think in this Nordic city). You wouldn’t want to waste a blissfully sunny day by staying indoors several metres below ground!