Down on the waterfront, beside Norrbron, is Gustav Adolfs torg, more a traffic island than a square these days. A statue of King Gustav II Adolf marks the centre of the square, between the Opera and the Foreign Ministry opposite. Look out, too, for fishermen pulling salmon out of Strömmen, the fast-flowing stretch of water that winds its way through the centre of the city. Since the seventeenth century, Stockholmers have had the right to fish this outlet from Lake Mälaren to the Baltic; landing a catch here isn’t as difficult as it looks, and there’s usually a group of hopefuls on one of the bridges beside the square.
The nineteenth-century Kungliga Operan is the proudest, most notable – and ugliest – building on Gustav Adolfs torg. It was here, in an earlier opera house on the same site, that King Gustav III was shot at a masked ball in 1792 by one Captain Ankarström. The story is recorded in Verdi’s opera Un ballo in maschera, and you’ll find Gustav’s ball costume, as well as the assassin’s pistols and mask, displayed in the Palace Armoury in Gamla Stan. The opera’s famous restaurant, Operakällaren which faces the water, is ruinously expensive, its trendy café, Bakfickan, less so.
Just off Gustav Adolfs torg, and surrounded by several government ministries, the Medelhavsmuséet contains an enormous display on Egypt, including several whopping great mummies; the most attractive pieces, though, are the bronze weapons, tools and domestic objects from the time before the pharaohs. The Cyprus collections are also huge, the largest such assemblage outside the island itself, depicting the island civilization over a period of six thousand years. A couple of rooms examine Islamic culture through pottery, glass and metalwork, as well as decorative elements from architecture, Arabic calligraphy and Persian miniature painting.
St Jakobs kyrka
Though located in a prime position opposite the Royal Opera House, St Jakobs kyrka is often overlooked by visitors to the city. It stands on the site of an earlier chapel of St James (Jakob in Swedish) and was completed some 52 years after the death of its founder, Johan III. Although the church’s doors are impressive – check out the south door with its statues of Moses and St James on either side – it’s the great, golden pulpit that draws most attention. The date of the building’s completion (1642) is stamped high up on the ceiling in gold relief. Organ recitals are occasionally held here, usually on Fridays at 5pm (free).