If you arrived in Stockholm by plane, you’ll already have had a tantalizing glimpse of the Stockholm archipelago. In Swedish the word for archipelago is skärgård – literally “garden of skerries” and a pretty accurate description: the array of hundreds upon hundreds of pine-clad islands and islets is the only one of its kind in the world. Most of the little-known islands are flat and are wonderful places for walking; we’ve picked out the most rewarding islands for strolls and hikes, and have suggested a few trails which are a good way to take in the sweeping sea vistas and unspoilt nature here. The archipelago, though, holds another secret, little known even to most Swedes – many of ABBA’s most famous hits were written out here, on the island of Viggsö where the famous foursome owned a couple of summer cottages.
The easiest and fastest section of the archipelago to reach, and consequently the most popular with day-tripping Stockholmers, the central archipelago is the islands at their most stunning: hundreds of rocks, skerries, islets and islands jostle for space in the pristine waters of the Baltic, giving the impression of giant stepping-stones leading back to the mainland.
The islands in the northern stretches of the skärgård are far fewer in number. As a result, the appearance of the northern archipelago is very different: characterized by open vistas and sea swells rather than narrow sounds and passageways, the islands here are very much at the mercy of the sea and weather. Although sharing more in appearance with the denser central archipelago than its more barren northern counterpart, the southern archipelago is generally much quieter in terms of visitor numbers, because it’s harder to reach from central Stockholm.Read More
A beautiful low-lying island covered with thick pine forest, Gällnö is the archipelago at its best. Home to just thirty people, a couple of whom farm the land near the jetty, Gällnö has been designated a nature reserve: you can spot deer in the forest or watch eider ducks diving for fish. The youth hostel is well signposted from the main village, where there’s also a small shop selling provisions. From here, there’s the choice of two walks: either head east through the forest for Gällnönäs, from where you can pick up boats back to Stockholm or further out into the islands, or continue past the youth hostel, following signs for Brännholmen until you arrive at a small bay popular with yachties. Look for the hut where the toilet is, as one of its walls bears a map and sign on the outside showing the path leading from here to the row-boats – these enable you to cross the narrow sound (around 15m wide) separating Gällnö from its neighbour, Karklö. When you head across, remember to leave one boat on either side of the sound.
Thank Viggsö for the music
Thank Viggsö for the music
The rocky outcrop topped by dense pine forest that lies sandwiched between Grinda and much larger Värmdö to the south holds a big secret. It was here on the island of Viggsö that ABBA composed Dancing Queen, Fernando and several other chart-topping hits; shots of Viggsö were also used in ABBA The Movie. Agnetha and Björn bought a summer cottage here in 1971, closely followed in 1974 by Benny and Anni-Frid; the sound of piano music drifting across the treetops a sure sign that one or other couple had sailed their boat out from Stockholm to spend a few days away from the city. The two men would spend days at a time in Björn’s yellow wooden outhouse hammering away at a battered upright piano and strumming an old guitar – the restorative calm of Viggsö was at the heart of much of ABBA’s music-making.