Stockholm History Facts and Timeline

(Stockholm, Stockholm County, Sweden)

Since its foundation in the 13th century, Sweden's capital and largest city of Stockholm has always been a regional hub for politics, economy and culture.

Enjoying an incredibly strategic location at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, the city is spread over some 14 islands along Sweden's eastern / south-eastern coast. Known for its clean environment, abundant parks and beautiful urban landscape, it is clear why Stockholm is often ranked as one of the world's most liveable cities.

Birger Jarl

Nearly every source credits Birger Jarl, Sweden's leading chieftain in the 13th century, for setting up a village at the outlet of Lake Mälaren, in order to better defend his people. This puts the start of Stockholm history at 1252 according to two documents, and within a century the city was the largest and most important in Sweden.

Growth Through Trade

Baltic trade with the Hanseatic League propelled Stockholm into the category of essential port cities. Its immense castle and fortified wall gave the city the protection it needed and, in fact, it was never breached in the history of Stockholm.

Under the Kalmar Union, the governor ran city affairs from the castle and by the end of the 15th century, Stockholm had an impressive population numbering in the region of 10,000 people, being a vital hub for commercial activity. Though German Hanseatic merchants ran the trade, the city grew wealthy by shipping iron and copper to continental Europe.

Swedes and Danes

Relations between the Swedes and the Danes were never good. In 1471, Christian I of Denmark and his army of 5,000 men tried to capture Stockholm. However, they were soon defeated by the Swedes outside the walls of the city, at the Battle of Brunkeberg. Although the Danes retreated to Copenhagen, trouble between the two kingdoms continued to brew.

Christian II, a later Danish king, managed to enter the city in the year of 1520, massacring members of the political opposition in an event that became known as the Stockholm Bloodbath. This act led to the eventual dissolution of the Kalmar Union and paved the way for royal power to assume control of the city under the reign of Gustav Vasa just three years later.

Swedish Superpower

Gustav Vasa quickly established an organised infrastructure, allowing Stockholm to evolve into one of Europe's top powers. The population of the city grew dramatically and in 1634, Stockholm was named as Sweden's official capital. Because of this royal favour, the city enjoyed a monopoly in foreign trade.

Living in Hard Times

When a devastating plague killed off roughly one-third of Stockholm's population in the first decade of the 18th century, things quickly went downhill. King Karl XII died, and the country as a whole went into a slump. Though the rest of the 18th century was a period of growth in Swedish arts and science, when King Gustav III was assassinated, the city entered another phase of disorder. Promised reforms were not delivered and bloody street riots became commonplace.

Good Times Prevail

The 19th century was a much better period, as important scientific organisations were established, such as the Karolinska Institute. This wave of advancement carried on into the 20th century. The history of Stockholm during this period marks it as one of Europe's most cosmopolitan and technically advanced cities.

Though many historic districts were replaced during this modernist era, other areas emerged unscathed, including the likes of Gamla Stan, Östermalm and Södermalm. Today, Stockholm reflects this blend of its historic roots and futuristic vision.