Stockholm’s Skansen isn’t just a home to tame and wild animals, it’s the first open-air museum in the whole world – and located in central Stockholm. There’s no doubt Skansen is a dream destination for families with kids but is Skansen worth a visit for a 30+ couple travelling without children?
Just before Christmas the capital of Sweden is still bare of snow. We could get a tram to Skansen from the city centre, but as always on our trips, we prefer walking. We choose the seaside route when heading towards the island of Djurgården. The weather is cold but sunny, and the seaside route turns out to be a perfect option.
We arrive at the gates of Skansen and think twice before joining the long queue. Would a day in Skansen really be worth queueing and 150 crowns entrance fee? On the other hand it would be silly to skip Skansen; after all, we had walked all the way there and reserved the whole Saturday for it. We decide to join the end of the line.
During Christmas markets, the tickets to Skansen cost a little bit more than usual. Perhaps the queues are also longer compared to an ordinary Saturday; it’s hard to tell.
After 45 minutes of freezing in the queue the gates of Skansen finally open to us. At the end of the escalator, we’re welcomed by the authentic atmosphere from hundreds of years ago. It’s like travelling back in time.
The winding paths spreading between the log cabins seem endless. We peek inside a log house where a family lived a normal everyday life somewhere around the 18th and 19th centuries. I can’t help wondering how it would have been to live back at that time.
While warming my fingers up next to a stove, I’m trying to listen how the guide, dressed up as the lady of the house, is telling about the history of this exact cabin to a Swedish family. I haven’t before realised how rusty my Swedish has gotten. I can only recognise a word or two, perhaps even a short sentence every now and then.
We continue walking along the winding paths past windmills, a wooden church and a soldier’s cabin. I remember reading the wooden church in Skansen being one of the most popular wedding chapels in the whole of Sweden.
The atmosphere and the old and detailed buildings feel authentic. It’s hard to believe that modern and busy Stockholm with its’ 800 000 inhabitants is just one bridge away.
We pass the pigs and the sheep. The woolly sheep don’t seem to mind the chilly weather. They are just lying on the grass, enjoying the sun. Two male pigs are wrestling in a mud puddle, probably fighting over a cute little pigtail.
We arrive at the bison enclosure, and we have to stop for a while. What a huge animal! I wonder what’s going on in its’ mind.
I wanted to see wolves, but their enclosure is empty. Also the bears are missing in December due to hibernation. A wolverine instead is being very busy, carrying a big lump of meat in its teeth, trying to hide it from the curious tourists.
A fox is sunbathing on top of a big pile of rocks. The seals are diving underwater every single time I am about to press the trigger on my camera. My cold fingers are working way too slowly. But it’s nice to see how the animals in the Skansen zoo can live their lives in an environment that is natural to them.
I am watching a lynx following a magpie that has flown to the enclosure. Another cat pal is ripping off pieces from a big lump of meat. It doesn’t need to mind about the magpie.
The cunning bird is playing with the spotty cat beast. The magpie is stepping closer and closer until it flies away. The lynx is jumping high, but the jump ends up with bitter disappointment. I find myself laughing. Besides the difference in size, these lynxes are not that much different from my cats at home. They are so jealous and selfish. Playful predators. Killers, but cute ones. Cats will be cats, no matter what size.
I’m freezing, so we pass by the elks, reindeers and owls quite quickly. We head indoors to Lill-Skansen, the petting zoo for children. I can’t help wondering if the cats, bunnies, guinea pigs and other pets get stressed due to screaming kids running around.
There is a box full of dummies next to the cats’ room. In Lill-Skansen they are encouraging kids to leave their dummies for kittens. It seems like many tiny visitors have already made the most significant decision of their lives yet. The life after Skansen will continue without a dummy.
We go back outside and grab an elk meat snack on the Christmas market. We are warming up next to a bonfire and watching a band climbing on the outdoor stage. The band starts playing, and in all of a sudden, the dance floor is full of jamming Swedes jumping like crazy. In Finland, it would take a lot longer, and a few pints of beer, before the dance floor would be that full.
Before leaving Skansen, we visit the town quarter. The workshops, bakeries and spice shops are inviting us in, but we end up visiting a pitch dark blacksmith’s cabin. The Smith is hammering moulds for candles out of metal. He doesn’t talk much. Actually, he doesn’t say a word. A bunch of people is just standing in the dark room following the blacksmith working. I take another step closer to a fireplace located in the corner of the cottage.
There are over 150 buildings in Skansen, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries, that are brought there from all over Sweden. In the afternoon when the sun is setting, the only source of light is a candle. Of all those buildings we peeked into ten, maybe fifteen. I find myself wondering how many cool things we most probably have missed.
But we had to get on our way to the harbour to catch the evening boat back home, so Skansen with its’ Christmas markets, cute animals and atmosphere from ‘the olden times’ was left behind.
Would I have enjoyed myself in Skansen a little bit longer? Yes, I would have. Would I have wanted to see and experience more about the buildings and the old school way of life? Of course, I would have. Was Skansen worth 45 minutes of queueing and 15 euros entrance fee? Oh yes, it was. Is Skansen worth visiting, even without kids? Hell yes!
Should I have dress up warmer? Oh, definitely!
Have you ever visited Skansen, with kids or without? Perhaps you were as impressed with the wonderful Skansen as I was – or perhaps not? Share your thoughts and leave your footprint in the comments below.