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Inside the Stockholm Metro – The Longest Art Gallery In the World

Things To Do In Stockholm

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.

stockholm metro
Stadion
Stadion
Stadion, which services the Olympic Stadium and represents the Olympic rings
stockholm metro
T-Centralen, the first station in the network and where it all began. The pattern is supposed to create a soothing experience for commuters.
stockholm metro
T-Centralen
T-Centralen
The artist who designed T-Centralen wanted to honour the workers who built the station; instead of simply engraving their names on a plaque that no one would notice, he opted to paint each profession on the ceilings. If you look closely, you can see carpenters, miners, welders, and even the painter himself
stockholm metro
Radhuset
stockholm metro
Radhuset, which contains archeological remains from the Franciscan era

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stockholm metro
Radhuset

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stockholm metro
Solna

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stockholm metro
Solna
stockholm metro
Solna – home to a 1-kilometre long mural by Anders Åberg and Karl-Olav Bjork picturing a spruce forest

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)
stockholm metro
Kungsträdgården’s decor is basically a harlequin-themed archeological dig
stockholm metro
The relics insinde Kungsträdgården station belong to the National Art Museums and have been on display since the 1970s
stockholm metro
Kungsträdgården

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.
  • 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!

[disclaim]I travelled to Stockholm using my Eurail pass. All opinions are my own.[/disclaim]

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CategoriesSweden
Marie-Eve

Marie is a native Montrealer trying to balance a deep love for her hometown and an unquenchable thirst for travel and discovery. She has been to more than 36 countries, lived abroad in both France and the U.K., and is always on the lookout for authentic experiences wherever she travels -- especially if it involves chocolate.