Ok, here is an insider tip on how to see Stockholm’s famous subway art without having to spend a whole day on the subway. First, however, a little background information on the art and the Stockholm subway system. We call our subway “tunnelbana” or “t-bana” and the stations are marked by a blue T in a white circle. There are three lines (red, green and blue) and 100 stations, with a few new ones being built. All three lines intersect at the main subway station T-Centralen, under the Central Train Station. The whole system, along with public busses, commuter trains, trams and ferries, is run by Storstockholm Lokaltrafik (SL).
Many visitors have heard of the art found in the Stockholm subway stations (sometimes called the world’s longest art gallery), but don’t really understand what exactly it means or how to see it. 90% of the stations have some form of artwork… paintings, sculptures, mosaics, poetry, installations, etc. Some more spectacular than others. So, how does a visitor know which of the 100 stations to visit? And how to travel between them in the most time efficient manner? Most visitors really just want to see one or two, to get an idea, and not spend the whole day on the subway.
What I usually suggest for hotel guests wanting to see a few stations, is to go downtown and visit three stations on the blue line. These stations are one after the other and centrally located, so it is easy to get a feel of the art without spending too much time. The stations are called Kungsträdgården, T-Centralen and Rådhuset. If you still haven’t gotten enough after Rådhuset, you can continue a few more stops on the blue line to Solna Centrum, which is also a beautiful station.
Start at Kungsträdgården, with entrance on the street Arsenalsgatan. The blue line is the deepest of the three lines in Stockholm (about 34 meters/112 feet), so just the escalator ride down can be impressive. Much of the interior is painted a forest green and uses a lot of the natural moss-covered rock. The station is decorated with relics from former palaces in the area, found when they were doing the excavations. Many of these are collected in small statuary gardens on either side of the walkway that connects the escalators to the station proper.
Next, take the subway one station to T-Centralen. Kungsträdgården is actually the final stop on the blue line so you don’t have to worry about going in the wrong direction! T-Centralen is the hub for Stockholm subway commuters and can be pretty busy, especially during rush hour. But don’t worry, it is the blue line station here which is of interest and there is no real need to go up the escalators to the other lines. The walls and ceilings of this station are painted a vivid blue and white, with a leafy motif.
|T-Centralen (blue line)|
After this, hop on the subway again and head to the next stop: Rådhuset. This station also uses natural rock, this time painted an ochre color. But the detail that brings most visitors to this station is found on the eastern side of the station. Here you will see part of a giant pillar coming out of the rock, seemingly holding up the ceiling of the station. It gives a feeling of being from the set of Lord of the Rings. An extra tip: exit the station on the western side and look at the actual Rådhus (Stockholm Court House, which the station is named after). This building and the nearby Police House have some beautiful architecture.
Keep in mind that these are three stations with more obvious and structural art, but keep your eyes open when travelling the subways, most stations have some type of art… maybe a light installation, poetry written on the walls or mosaic decorations. If you wish to see even more subway stations that are worth visiting for their art, these are of special note. Red line: Tekniska Högskolan, Alby and Stadion. Green line: Thorhildsplan, Skarpnäck and Bagarmossan. Others of the blue line worth seeing: Solna Centrum and Sundbyberg. SL also offers free guided art walks in the subway station. During the summer months they offer them several times a week in English, during the rest of the year they only have them at a select few times in English. You can also download their app “SL ArtGuide” which is an audio guide of 21 central subway stations.