Stockholm, Sweden, the country's capital and largest city. It is in southeastern Sweden near the Baltic Sea, just east of Lake Mälaren. The city is sometimes called “the Venice of the North”; it is built on numerous islands as well as the mainland and is linked to the sea by many channels. Gamla Stan, the old town district and site of Stockholm's original settlement, lies on three islands in the heart of the city. .) Bridges link the old town to the main downtown districts to the north.
In addition to being Sweden's capital, Stockholm is the nation's chief industrial and commercial city. Factories in the city and its suburbs make a wide variety of items, including electrical and electronic equipment, machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, clothing, and foods. Among the many other industries are shipbuilding, printing and publishing, and commercial fishing. Stockholm's port, one of the busiest in Sweden, handles much of the nation's foreign shipping. Two airports, Arlanda and Bromma, serve Stockholm. Electrified railways, expressways, ferries, and a subway system also serve the city.
Stockholm has long been known for its city planning and for the architectural variety and beauty of its buildings. The impressive red-brick City Hall, completed in 1923, is a notable landmark. Virtually slum-free, Stockholm pioneered in the orderly replacement of older areas with modern apartment, office, and shopping complexes.
Relatively unchanged is Stockholm's old town district, where centuries-old buildings stand on narrow, winding streets. Here is the massive 18th-century Royal Palace, once the principal home of Sweden's royal family. Also in the old town district are Stockholm Cathedral and Riddarholm Church, burial place of many Swedish kings. Nearby is the old Parliament Building, where the Swedish Riksdag met until 1971, when the new Parliament Building was opened.
Swedish culture and history are well documented in the city's many museums, especially the National Museum of Art, the Historical Museum, and the Nordic Museum. In the Skansen, an open-air museum, are exhibits portraying Swedish life of the past. The Concert Hall is the home of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Opera and ballet are presented in the Royal Opera House.
The Nobel Foundation, which sponsors the Nobel Prizes, has its headquarters in Stockholm. Also in the city are such learned societies as the Swedish Academy and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Largest of the several institutions of higher learning are the University of Stockholm (founded in 1877) and the Royal Institute of Technology (1827).
Stockholm began as one of a series of coastal forts built in the late 12th or early 13th century. As merchants settled around the forts, a commercial city took shape; by the 16th century, Stockholm had become Sweden's leading port and trade center. Sweden during this period was part of the Danish-dominated Union of Kalmar. Stockholm became the rallying point for Swedish independence after the Danish king Christian II executed a number of Swedish nobles and clergy here in 1520. The Danes were driven out in 1523 and Stockholm became part of independent Sweden.
By the mid-1600's, the city was growing rapidly, stretching beyond its original three islands onto the mainland. Nearly destroyed several times by huge fires, Stockholm was rebuilt each time larger than before. With the coming of manufacturing industries in the 19th century, the city became firmly established as one of the most important centers of northern Europe.