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Photo: Ola Ericson/Stockholmsfoto

Welcome to Stockholm

Stockholm’s history as a settlement and later as a city, is intimately intertwined with the isolation of Lake Mälaren from the Baltic Sea. A vast system of lakes and rivers lined with a rich cultural landscape, meets the ocean and all of its possibilities via a narrow but strategic isthmus.

Of the two oldest documents that have been found, with a reliable date, in which the name Stockholm was used, one was from July 1252, issued by King Valdemar and Birger Jarl, and the other was a letter of protection dated 19 August 1252, issued by Birger Jarl. The oldest year cited for the founding of the city in medieval sources is 1187, which was written in the Visby Chronicle. According to this source, Stockholm was founded as a result of the plundering and burning of Sigtuna in 1187, as a substitute for the torched trading post. Stockholm was granted city privileges on 1 May 1436. The letter granting the privilege is considered the beginning of Stockholm’s national political heyday and is often cited as the beginning of Stockholm’s role as capital of the kingdom.

A fortress was built around the holm to protect Stockholm, and other key cities further along Mälaren, such as Sigtuna, from attacks from hostile warships. The city became a nearly impenetrable obstacle for enemies to navigate by sea when trying to enter Mälaren and the central regions of Sweden. By raising the land, it became impossible to bypass Stockholm’s central regions by sea, which further strengthened the city’s ability to defend itself and the Mälar region.

From early on, Stockholm was a key trading city for iron from the mines in Bergslagen, from which heavy shipments went by boat through Mälaren out to the coast. Stockholm experienced strong growth as a trading centre for a universal range of goods as a result of the vast number of merchants who emigrated from Germany and who had their own trading centres along the Baltic coast in northern Germany. Other neighbours and tradesmen also had their own trading posts in the city, such as the Russians, who congregated by the “Russian court,” close to what is today the Stockholm underground station at Slussen.

The city underwent a strong expansion after Gustav Vasa’s ascension to the throne, and around 1600, the city had a population of about 10,000. It was during the 1600s that Sweden evolved into a European superpower, which also had a tangible impact on the evolution of Stockholm. The city’s population increased six-fold between 1610 and 1680.

Nowadays, the Mälar region has a population of about three million, with a rate of increase that is three times that of the rest of the country. By 2050, analysts predict that the population will be 5.5 million. The Mälar region currently accounts for about 35 per cent of Sweden’s population and around 45 per cent of its GDP. The city’s infrastructure, and associated maritime-related matters, are deemed pivotal to the region’s economic engine. Railway capacity is saturated and the harbour capacity from Gävle to Oxelösund is currently being expanded to meet the needs of the region’s future economic engine. About 85 per cent of Sweden’s imports and exports are transported by sea. Plans are even in the works to return some elements of the region’s public transport system to sea-based methods, in a bid to connect the growing city across its waterways in a natural way.

As a shipyard-based island, Beckholmen comprises a key component in the region’s economic engine and the current zoning plan for the island includes the necessary development options for the repair yard of tomorrow. In addition to the aforementioned qualities as an economic engine, Beckholmen is also home to unique cultural heritage values, such as a living natural heritage site, and has thus been classified as a site of national interest. A substantial share of Stockholm’s fleet of sailing and steamboats are serviced on Beckholmen, where they are also stored during the winter. There are only a handful of places where the diversity and richness of life at sea can be admired at such close range – and Beckholmen is one of them. Tankers, sailing ships, tugboats, barges, naval vessels, steamboats, ro-ro vessels, research boats, icebreakers, sightseeing boats and dry-cargo vessels all have one thing in common – that they are docked on Beckholmen.

The maritime sector needs Beckholmen’s capacity as a shipyard-based island. Its continued development as a functioning shipyard resource is deemed to be of the utmost importance for the maritime sector. But it must also continue to evolve as a unique attraction and serve as an ambassador for life at sea, from the past until today.

Stockholm and Beckholmen have always and will continue to evolve alongside the people’s business and pleasure needs.

Seafarers and Stockholm’s geography have crafted one of the most beautiful cities in the Baltic Sea – welcome!