To call the Hallwyl House (‘Hallwylska Palatset’) a late 19th century businessman’s house would be factually accurate, yet this description belies the sheer extravagance of this private palace in the heart of Stockholm.
While the Royal Palace might be bigger – and offer more opportunities for spotting Princess Madeleine – Hallwylska Palatset is a striking testament to the fact that in royalty has not always had a monopoly on bling in Stockholm.
The house was built in the 1890s by the Count Walther and Countess Wilhelmina von Hallwyl. He was a Swiss aristocrat and businessman, she was the daughter of a hugely wealthy Swedish timber merchant.
Architect Isak Gustaf Clason was not constrained by anything as vulgar as a budget, and designed an interpretation of an Italian palazzo on Stockholm’s waterfront.
The final bill came to 1.5 million kronor, a fortune by the standards of the day. It ranks as one of the most expensive houses ever built in Sweden.
The building is a sumptuous combination of Venetian Late Gothic and Early Spanish Renaissance styles.
But while the design of the house might have looked traditional, behind the scenes it was one of the most technologically advanced homes in Sweden, with bathrooms, central heating and electric lighting throughout.
The house was donated to the nation in 1920, along with the countess’s collections of old masters and silverware. The state was under instructions not to change anything about the house and its contents, and has been good to its word. What is left is a fascinating time capsule that should be on the schedule of every Stockholm tourist.