Capital City 1630—1720

The Noble Palace Makalös in all its glory. Photo: Mattias Ek.

The city was now to be gentrified. In Stockholm’s salons, the urban planners, civil servants and wealthy aristocrats meet, but the city is also home to the destitute, to refugees and victims of the plague.

Stockholm becomes the country’s capital city. Many people move here and the population triples in only a hundred years. New public authorities are established to create order in the heart of the new major power, Sweden. The first city plans are drawn up, with straight, wide streets crossing both Södermalm and Norrmalm. Take the opportunity to visit one of the city’s many potters, who throws jugs, mugs and beautiful dishes for Stockholmers’ dinner tables.

During the seventeenth century. the Church controls large parts of people’s lives. Crimes are punished according to the Bible. Thieves may be pilloried and whipped on the town square. Or be put to death if they stolen before. In 1674, the rumour spreads that witches are luring children to Blåkulla, where the Devil holds Earthly court. The testimony of a child may be sufficient to send you to your death. The court in which women were tried is right here in the same building as the City Museum.

Sweden is constantly at war. Drunken, brawling soldiers make the city unsafe. That said, may Stockholmers profit from the war, most of all the nobility, and Stockholm sees the construction of many stately palaces.

The most lavish of these is known colloquially as Makalös (peerless in Swedish), the seat of the De la Gardie family adjacent to Kungsträdgården. Step inside and enjoy the ostentatious decor in gold, silk and velvet. In the midst of this however, you will discover a death’s head — a reminder that you too are mortal.

The year is 1710. Do you notice the cross on the door? This is a sign that the house has been struck by the plague. We enter a desolate city in which shutters bang in the wind against empty window frames. The plague hits Stockholm hard: the King and anyone else who has the luxury leaves the city. By January 1711, a third of Stockholmers lie buried in plague pits. Hurry along to Pharmacy Markattan and see if you can find a remedy!

The cellar of Södra Stadshuset is one of the eighteenth century’s most popular taverns. It is run by Madam Jöransson and here sit some of her customers, drinking and playing cards. If you are lucky, you might run into Carl Michael Bellman along with Maria Christina Kiellström, known as Ulla Winblad in Bellman’s poems.