When we said we were heading to one of Sweden’s most famous “slott,” my mother thought I was saying a bad word in English but really, “slott” means castle in Swedish and our activities were pure and innocent.
Being a tourist in your city is a fun way to expand your horizons without ever leaving your comfort zone. We are currently on a budget (buying a house is not a cheap endeavor in Sweden, nor is a new roof and new windows for the aforementioned not-cheap house), so we’ve been on the lookout for interesting things to do in our backyard (relatively speaking) that we’ve never done before.
About an hour and a half from our house is one of the most famous castles in Sweden. Swedish castles aren’t that impressive, in my opinion, after viewing other European cities’ gothic style castles. We’ve been to Neuschwanstein—a most impressive mountaintop castle in Germany—and I’m not sure anything can top that. This day trip was more about the journey and less about the destination.
Just south of Stockholm is Mariefred and Gripsholm Slott is a popular destination for Swedish high school students to learn about Swedish history. We didn’t ever go inside the castle because A) we are on a budget and tickets are 120 kr/adult ($18 USD), and B) the day was so unusually sunny and warm for the season that we wanted to spend the entire time outdoors. Luckily for us, there is plenty to do in Mariefred without having to spend much money at all.
The castle grounds are beautiful on their own. Situated on Lake Mälaren, the castle overlooks sparkly dark blue waters, and there are numerous picnic benches around the perimeter of the grounds offering scenic views every 15 meters or so.
We did the we-are-a-family-on-a-budget thing and brought a blanket for a picnic lunch, but there are two very nice cafe/restaurants within a short walking distance if you wanted to have a hot meal or coffee.
We encouraged a lot of creativity while we were walking around the castle and we armed our son with his sword, our daughter in her fairy princess dress, and together we sought out dragons in the dark recesses of the castle “dungeons.” I’m not sure any of those rooms were ever used as dungeons (or for dragons for that matter), but since we were DIY-ing our tour, we made up the story that was most interesting.
Pro-tip: every castle has a dungeon for bad people, slots for cannons, and a dragon keep. We even found a secret staircase that allowed the king to visit those in the dungeon—again, we are totally making all of this up for our kids’ sakes, but I loved seeing their faces as we imagined life as it might have been back in the 1500s. Lucy rode on top of a cannon that had been used in battle nearly 450 years ago, and Calvin played a convincing dragon slayer. Even the gift shop felt like a dungeon with a spiral staircase and impressive stone statue at the entrance.
One tip about visiting Gripsholm Slott is to leave your stroller parked outside in the courtyard. The town of Mariefred is incredibly stroller/wheelchair friendly but the castle is not.
Given the beauty of the castle grounds, it was not surprising to learn that they host numerous classical concerts there during the summer months. They even have “Be a king for a day” program with school-aged children. The fairytale atmosphere makes it incredibly easy to feel like royalty when walking the grounds.
The town of Mariefred also has numerous playgrounds, parks, a steam train museum where you can ride an old steam train, impressive church, and delicious coffee and ice cream. Half of the fun of visiting the castle was walking around the town afterward. Some people arrive by ferry (it takes about 3.5 hours from Stockholm, so plan accordingly) and leave by bus/train. Since we drove, the return trip was a nice chance for the kids to catch a much-needed nap after running around all day.
Impressive church and beautiful cherry blossoms
Most of all, I loved the gorgeous weather (it’s rare to not have to wear a light jacket in May in Sweden) and of course, the trampoline by the lake. Embrace your inner child and enjoy your trip to the slott!
This was posted as part of Ersatz Expat’s Travel At Home link up!
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