The Stockholm archipelago has been inhabited since the 6th century. Fishing combined with small-scale farming was the livelihood for the early inhabitants of the islands. As a modern visitor you can imagine the hardship that the early fishermen and farmers had to endure on these remote islands. One can only hope that the beauty of the place made life somewhat easier.
Today, around 10 000 people live on the islands permanently. There are a few farmers left, mostly taking care of the islands on behalf of the government. In addition, there are 50 000 summer houses in total in the archipelago, most of them owned by Stockholmers.
The contrast of leaving the bustling city life of Stockholm for the calmness and stunning beauty of the archipelago is striking. And the difference between the islands is sometimes just as big. There are islands with vast forests and small villages. Where rugged nature blends with rocky cliffs, tranquil coves and sandy beaches. All accompanied by the ever-present sea, blue, green, wild and calm. Some islands offer all-day activities, climbing, kayaking, waterskiing, and fishing. And there are places where your biggest concern is what book to read, or what to eat for dinner. There are secluded beaches where you can camp for days without being disturbed by anything but seabirds. On some islands the nightlife is equivalent with any bar in the city, spiced with magical sunsets and the with an option for a midnight swim, and yet others hosts restaurants that serve the most amazing food based on local produce, fresh fish and love.
Needless to say the beauty of the archipelago has inspired many artists, writers and poets, and to this day they seek the tranquility of the islands. Because of this, there is a lot of culture in the area, ranging from art museums and temporary exhibitions to concerts and craft fairs.
There are several places to visit on the mainland that serve as interesting reminders of Swedish industrial history. For instance, at Wira bruk and Österbybruk visitors can experience well-preserved iron works sites, smithies and forges, and join a guided tour of the area.
There is also a darker side to the history o f the islands. In the beginning of the 18th century the Russian fleet attacked and burned many islands and towns along the coast. There are still fortifications and defense batteries to be seen around the islands, many of them were built to protect Sweden during the Cold War. Today, the batteries and fortifications at Arholma, Landsort, Siaröfortet and Waxholm serve as a reminder of the military era and are popular sights for visitors.
If you need one reason to go to archipelago, it is to experience the unspoiled nature, clean air and unparalleled beauty of the sea. Visitors have a unique opportunity to explore the surroundings thanks to the Swedish right to roam. As long as you don’t disturb or destroy you are free to put up a tent, go kayaking, swimming or hiking just about anywhere.
It is just as magic as it sounds.