Sweden opens the doors to its secret spaces

Sweden opens the doors to its secret spaces
Photo: Gunilla Svensson Arkitektkontor
Sweden's National Property Board (SFV) is a landlord of giant proportions. It manages a seventh of the country's land area and owns 1,800 properties in Sweden and another 73 abroad.

Impressive, but the Board is at pains to point out on its web site that all its properties “are owned by Swedes collectively” and that its duty is simply “to administer them in the best possible way”.

The notion of taxpayers owning the state’s assets is enticing and on Saturday all Swedes will have the chance to act like the property moguls they sort of are.

May 24th marks the second ‘Secret Spaces’ day, on which the National Property Board will throw open the doors to 27 of its ‘hidden treasures’ for the benefit of Swedes and tourists alike.

The first event, back in 2004, was a grand success with over 50,000 visitors showing up to have a snoop around. Over 20% of those said it was the first time they had visited a historic building.

Castles, palaces and manor houses inevitably make up the bulk of the properties on display this time around, but there’s also a prison, underground military bunkers, an old post office and an ambassador’s residence to check out.

Here are ten of the best:

1. Granudden Watermill, Jokkmokk

SFV says:

The watermill on Lake Skalka has become an attraction 150 years after it was built. The Swedish name for this kind of mill is “skvaltkvarn”, which means “splash mill”, so you can imagine what it sounds like around this site. Come and explore its innermost depths.

2. Prison, Umeå

SFV says:

For 120 years, bandits and conmen, thieves and murderers dreamed of leaving their cells and the large stone building in central Umeå behind them. Now you have the chance to check in for a day.

3. Rosersberg Palace

SFV says:

The royal summer palace of Rosersberg, near Arlanda Airport, remains unknown to many. It offers uniquely well-preserved interiors in a Neo-Classicist style. The secrets and delights of the Juno wing are being revealed to the public.

4. Central Post Office Building

SFV says:

For a hundred long years, the monumental sandstone building on Vasagatan was home to the Post Office. Ultra-modern and innovative in its time, it is now going to house the Government Offices. But you get to have a look around what will soon become one of Sweden’s most secured buildings first.

5. Tower in the Bergius Botanic Garden

SFV says:

One of the most remarkable buildings in the Bergius Botanic Garden is the tower that was constructed in the early 20th century. Now you can enjoy the views from the top of this previously inaccessible feature.

6. Skeppsholmen’s underground bunkers

SFV says:

The island is criss-crossed by long tunnels and large underground bunkers that were the previously secret site of the military command centre. Today the dark, empty corridors echo to the sound of dripping water. Don’t miss it.

7. Mårten Skinnare’s House and the Hospital Museum, Vadstena

SFV says:

Our oldest private house, from the Middle Ages, has one of Sweden’s most photographed toilets: the privy that hangs like a bird box from the brick wall of the building. Come and explore the house’s hidden treasures. The neighbouring Hospital Museum also has some unusual secrets to reveal.

8. Citadel, Landskrona

SFV says:

As a bit of a control freak, Danish King Kristian III initiated work on the Citadel in 1549 to maintain control of the Öresund strait. As part of the Peace of Roskilde in 1658, the fortress passed to Sweden. Since then the fortress has been home to prisoners on a life sentence, prostitutes and thousands of refugees fleeing the Nazis. Now you can explore all the rooms for a day.

9. County Governor’s Residence and Fortifications, Karlskrona

SFV says:

The naval town of Karlskrona is no. 560 on UNESCO’s list of unmissable World Heritage Sites. Come on our boat tour to some of its secret spaces and fortifications dating back four centuries. The marvellous County Governor’s residence, one of Sweden’s most recent, offers elegant rooms and a small garden.

10. Swedish Ambassador’s Residence, Helsinki

SFV says:

Check out a bit of Sweden’s cultural heritage abroad with these impressive reception rooms. The boat from Stockholm will moor up just below the residence and over the day you will hear stories in these hidden rooms.

For more information about the Secret Spaces day, call +46 8 696 73 73 or visit the National Property Board’s web site.

Properties in Sweden