Riding the tube may not be your usual idea of fun – but a self guided tour of Stockholm’s subway art is a major attraction in itself…
I arrived in Stockholm proper at around 3pm on a Sunday. Which meant that by the time I’d worked out the way to my hotel, checked in, and eaten the cheese sandwich I’d picked up in Boots at the airport, there wasn’t that much time for daytime exploring, and I didn’t fancy spending the evening jostling past tipsy tourists for an overpriced beverage.
So on my first evening in Scandinavia’s capital, I decided to spend a few hours riding Stockholm’s metro.
Which really doesn’t sound like a particularly fun thing to do. I can’t imagine going round and round on the London Underground’s Circle line for shits and giggles. But this subway is a bit special. Because Stockholm’s metro stations are basically one big art gallery.
If you’re planning on doing a self-guided subway art tour in Stockholm, these are the stations you just can’t miss!
Where to begin your Stockholm subway art tour…
Artist: Per Olof Ultvedt
This Stockholm subway station sort of reminds me of that blue and white china my mum used to have loads of. For a lot of visitors, it’ll be the first station they see – and a definite incentive to uncover more of Stockholm’s metro art. Because basically, it’s SUPER PRETTY.
Take the Red line all the way north…
Artists: Gösta Wessel and Karin Ek
The Instagrammer’s dream. Colourful pastels on the walls are just aching for a ‘stride-by’ photo. A ceiling that looks like it’s dripping bubblegum ice cream down the walls, with an almost camouflage type print of darker pinks and greens laced through it. This was my first stop on my Stockholm metro art adventure – and it’s definitely a great place to start.
Take three stops South…
Artist: Françoise Schein
The style of Stockholm’s Universitetet subway station is very much in keeping with its namesake, Stockholm University. Tiled artwork on the walls depict educational maps and drawings based on the work of Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus. Although not as fully-encompassed in artwork as some of the Stockholm metro stations, the level of detail on these pieces is seriously impressive.
Take one stop south…
Artist: Lennart Mörk
Impressive shading and detail is key at Tekniska Hogskolan, with artwork celebrating science and technology. It makes sense, as this is the station where you’ll find Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. As well as the impressive polyhedrons on the wall, you can also find works depicting Newton’s laws of motion and Da Vinci’s flying machine.
Take one stop south…
Artists: Åke Pallarp and Enno Hallek
The colourful rainbow ceiling of Stadion makes it one of Stockholm’s brightest and most eye-catching subway stations. The area is home to Stockholm Pride festival, which makes it the perfect decor. It was one of Stockholm’s first ‘cave’ stations, and the bright blue and rainbow design was painted to remind people that although they were underground, to not despair – as the sky isn’t all that far away.
Take two stops back to T-Centralen, then take the blue line to Kungsträdgarden…
Artist: Ulrik Samuelson
Not sure whether I was still in Stockholm or I’d been transported to some Nordic fantasy realm, Kungsträdgarden station is the epitome of ‘extra’. No, a tube station doesn’t need a cave-like entrance, ruined columns, statues, gargoyles, parquet flooring or intricate ceiling patterns. But I think if all subway stations were more like Kungsträdgarden, getting the tube might be a much more fun experience…
Take the blue line six stops on the 11 (Akalla) branch…
Artists: Karl-Olov Björk and Anders Åberg
Perhaps one of the most notable and recognised stations on the Stockholm metro, vibrant reds and greens adorn the station walls. Most of the ceilings in the subway stations have an ‘exposed rock’ style to them, which makes the stations feel almost cave-like. The real centrepiece of Solana Centrum’s artwork, though, is the deep red escalator entrance. As you make your way to the station exit, a descent upwards from the circles of hell may not be far from your mind…
Take the Blue line towards Kungsträdgarden for three stops to Friedhemsplan, then change to the Green line towards Alvik/Akeshov/Hasselby Strand, for one stop…
Artist: Lars Arrhenius
The only above ground station in this self-guided Stockholm subway art tour, Thorildsplan will go down a treat with anyone who’s into video games, or even just the retro look. The tilework was created in 2008, and features classic 8-bit arcade game imagery – clouds, mushrooms…and, of course, Pac-Man style ‘ghosts’.
Finally, head back on the Green Line to complete your journey at T-Centralen.
What’s the best time to tour the Stockholm subway art?
To avoid busy times, late evenings or early afternoons on weekdays and Sunday evenings tend to be the best times to explore Stockholm’s subway artwork.
How much does a self-guided Stockholm metro art tour cost?
You can pick up a single ticket for 44 SEK (about £3.68), which allows you to travel for 75 minutes – so just make sure you make your last interchange before this time. Trains run from most stations every 3-6 minutes, so you should be fine to see all the stops in this guide on one single ticket.
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The Stockholm Metro is a fascinating way to see art in situations where you might not expect it – the subway system is basically an art gallery in itself. The stations are definitely worth a look if you’re after things to do in Stockholm that don’t cost too much, and you can find out more about the stations on the Visit Stockholm website.