Swedish Classical

22 July 2018
Ben Pentreath

I’m just back from a wonderful few days in Stockholm.  Yesterday, I was giving a talk to the Engelsberg Summer School students – and that prompted the thought that Charlie and I might spend a couple of days getting inspiration in one of the most inspirational cities I know. I can’t believe how many photos I managed to take in 48 hours.  So I’m afraid this is a very long blog.  Maybe one to split into three courses.


Stockholm basked in incredible heat and sunshine. The heatwave is bringing its own nightmare to the north of Sweden, where forest fires are raging in the hottest summer ever recorded.  No-one in Stockholm has seen anything like it. All the more beautiful to be in a city surrounded by water.

The Grand Hotel gleamed in a shiny new coat of paint.

First call, always, Svenskt Tenn:

And then in the heat of the late afternoon sun, Charlie and I wandered past the Royal Palace to the Old Town.  The torrent of water from the great fountains at the base of the palace could not have been more welcome.

I’ve always liked the little Doric pillar boxes outside the Royal Palace and was very happy to be able to take a close-up photograph of their architectural detailing, for readers of the blog.

The old town glowed in late afternoon sunshine. 

We made our way back, darting into the City Library, still open late, the dome bathed in brilliant sunshine. 

Ett Hem is the most perfect hotel in the world, I’d say.

A delicious dinner in the garden and we rolled in to bed.



The following day we went to Skansen – thanks to a nice comment on the blog from Carin last week – which was eye opening.   I didn’t know about Skansen – an open air museum, right in the centre of Stockholm, with buildings re-erected from all over Sweden in a brilliant and authentic way.  It was founded in 1891 in response to the growing industrialisation of Sweden and the thought that a way of life, passing too rapidly, would be lost and forgotten for ever.  Partly, I suppose, because it is so old, the buildings (re-erected in their new home) have the settled feeling of being there for decades.  There is an authenticity here that is sometimes missing elsewhere.

We took the funicular railway to the top of the hill – an experience in itself (another of the many Wes Anderson Moments that you get in Stockholm). 

Our first stop the Delsbo Farmstead.  We were amazed. 

Original wall decorations, of unbelievable beauty:

Next, the Mora Farmstead:

The Temperance Hall:

The Oktorp Famstead. Each place was more beautiful than the former.

The story of the Marriage at Cana, told in 18th century Swedish style:

The Folk Hall:

The Skane Farmstead:

Farm labourers’ cottages:

The school house:

First glimpses of Skogaholm Manor, to which we return later: The town:

Peering into the bookbinders window:

The dry goods store:

The 1930’s dairy, complete with unique packaging for breads and biscuits:

The actual shop of the Skansen museum is a model for what a museum gift shop should be.  Posters for sale on the wall:

Back to the Manor House for a ‘dramatised’ guided tour, which was hilarious, not entirely intentionally (you can imagine)… but was a good excuse to see the remarkable interiors. 

A last glimpse of some piglets….

And after a really happy few hours, we made our exit and the short walk to the Rosendals Trädgård, recommended by Frances Palmer. Amazing biodynamic gardens surround a perfect cafe, in a huge glasshouse.  We had a delicious lunch sitting in the shade of trees in the garden.

Seeds packets for sale in the shop:

The shop is brilliant.

And finally, to Haga Park – Charlie had dreamed of seeing the copper tent, in the shape of a Turkish Pavilion.  The structure hides the royal stables behind. 

Haga Park is beautiful and dusty, in the English picturesque style, dotted with fine neo-classical buildings.

Everyone is taking to the water.

Another perfect dinner at the hotel.  A brilliant day was over.



The next morning Charlie left. Later that day I was giving the talk, but I decided I had enough time to get to Drottingholm and back.  The day sparkled; intensely hot.

The palace itself was crowded with hordes of tourists, so I decided to head instead into the gardens, which were almost empty, by contrast. 

Within a great series of geometric hedges are these tiny, shady areas that must have been used in many a game of hide-and-seek; you can only imagine the trysts and intrigues that happened in these glades in the 18th century. 

Another painted copper pavilion, this time the Guard’s tent. 

And then I made my way to my real destination, the Chinese pavilion – which unlike the palace, was virtually empty. Magical. And with extraordinary interiors. The ‘confidence’ pavilion – where the Royal Family would dine without servants present.  Food was sent up from the kitchen below in the circular dumb waiters that slide up from the floor. Genius. 


Classical sculpture:

Distant pavilions:

Friendly ducks:

The theatre, which I will have to visit another day:

And then back to Stockholm on the SS Prins Carl Philip.

City Hall – also for another day:

I just had time to call into the Antikmuseum, cool, Neo-classical, and empty (despite hordes of tourists disembarking from coaches immediately outside the door). 

My talk was at the beautiful Matchstick Palace, formerly (and now again) the headquarters of Swedish Match, and now converted into a fabulous club house. We got a tour of the remarkable Swedish Grace interiors. 

Dinner in the old town.

And I walked home, on the warmest of evenings, at 11 at night, in daylight, the moon just rising over the Royal Palace. 

The following morning, time for a last visit to Svenskt Tent, and a farewell to Ett Hem, with its beautiful, calm interiors, where we were looked after so well.

And back to messy, hot, dusty old London, that feels sprawling and dirty and hectic by comparison to Stockholm, but it is still nice to be home – looked at, as always after travels, through fresh eyes.

24 comments on this post

Isla Simpsonsays:

Oh Ben,
Beauty in abundance, I think this has to be one of my favourite posts EVER.
I must book a trip to Sweden immediately, all the colours are beautiful offset by all that wonderful light they enjoy at this time of year. What a place for inspiration.

Thanks for sharing it with us.
Isla xxx


Thanks for taking such nice pictures of beautiful Sweden!

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, I’ve spent so long (over an hour) looking at/studying your superb photos, I don’t have the wherewithal to write anything, except, Thank You! for taking us on this lovely, loving tour of the sights of Stockholm and environs. Truly a treat!

Hugs from Diane


Dear Ben and Charlie, Your beautiful blogs make this a better world. Your pictures and stories enlighten my day. It renews my faith in the human spirit I love your animals and your beautiful gardens.


Dear Ben, I have just read what Marguerite says about your blog and she has said the exact words that I was thinking of writing. I looked at every photo but not too carefully so that tomorrow I can have another look and enjoy all the details!


Really enjoyed your blog Ben Sweden looks so interesting great architecture and some wonderful interior designs.I particularly like the simpler less ornate interiors lm not a fan of elaborate fussy interiors l much prefer arts and crafts and a less formal look.Thank you for generously treating us to a glimpse of Stockholm it is very kind of you.


So beautiful! Suddenly Sweden has moved up on my travel bucket list! Thank you.

Clay McCleerysays:

You were lucky to have such quiet, leisurely sites to tour, the way I like to explore.
Thanks for the beautiful visit!

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Oh wow Ben. The images from Skansen – Delslo Farmstead in particular – wow. (I’ve always wanted to visit the Chinese Pavillion too). x

Susan Kingsays:

Dear Ben
Thank you for taking so many photos – I would have liked even more!The faded but somehow still fresh colours of the walls – blues, silvery grey and terracotta are so dreamy and lovely as are the wonderful wall decorations – including the Chinese Pavilion. What I really liked best were the painted copper pavilions which I have never seen before. Or maybe it was the hotel !

Thanks again to you both for sharing your trip.



Oh that beautiful shade of green in the Chinese Pavilion. And you got to visit Svenskt Tenn twice. I’m green with envy.


Thank you so much for taking us in your pocket on your travels, sharing what has caught your eye and giving us so much to consider. You cannot possibly imagine how these posts open worlds to all of us. Thank you for this incredibly gracious and generous gift.

Darlene Chandlersays:

I just loved your weekend trip photos about Stockholm. You have both inspired me to book a holiday there and enjoy it as you both did. Thank you for the lovely pictures and beautiful inspiration to travel next trip.

I am so glad you could take a picture of that pillar box. The detailing is indeed exquisite – especially around the nose

Barbara Gordleysays:

Dear Ben and Charlie,

All of it is achingly lovely; makes me deeply regret my only visit to Sweden happened in the course of an academic conference in February. Carl Linneaus’ gardens in Uppsala had to be seen with the mind’s eye only.
Your photograph of the fountains in the Drottingholm gardens has me wondering what caused the lower third of each stream to fall in curling, Leonardesque patterns. Anyone have an idea?

Barb from New Orleans


You do spoil us! This generous post repays such close examination. All my favourite stuff is here: architecture, interiors, chinoiserie, fabrics, ceramics, pelargoniums, gardens, pavilions, lakes, old boats, ducks…So great. Thank you. Nicola


Heavenly, heavenly Stockholm – so much to see and always so little time! Enough in your blog to justify another trip sometime soon, I hope. And in return I’d highly recommend the Vasa.


Beautiful. Thank you. A joy to see.


Magical interiors. Beautiful gardens. Thanks so much for a look at Stockholm through your eyes.


Dear Ben,

thank you very, very much for all the lovely pictures of Stockholm, and the interiors of Skogaholm in particular. Thanks to you I now have the possibility to relish the exquisitely simple nobility and soft tones of all the rooms. Mmmmm! Thanks for mentioning me 🙂
We would really like to go again soon, there is so much to see and I regret not going into Svenskt Tenn.
Hope you both can cope with the allmost too beautiful weather, especially regarding the garden. It’s too dry over here.

Love from Carin in the Dutch countryside


“Inspiration” indeed. Thank you much as I am visiting in dusty dry Waxhaw, NC. Despite the unusual heat there, the pictures speak of cool and calm. Have a wonderful week…I am sure the pups missed you.


The patterns of the rolls of fabric look superb- why can we not have these in the UK? It looks a wonderful place and is now definitely on the list of cities to visit. Many thanks for showing it to us.


Dear Ben & Charlie
Thank you for your gorgeous photos, amazing interiors !
Love Skansen, simple and beautiful folkart, love the blue & white 🙂 The seed shop must have been heaven for Charlie 🙂 Wonderful chinese pavilion and geranium of it’s best ! Amazing photos, I was never been in Stockholm but I would love it ……. thank you again for sharing your fantastic days with us !
Wish you a also wonderful week back at home in my beloved England !
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

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