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Ten things you didn't know about Mariefred, the most charming town in Sweden

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Ten things you didn't know about Mariefred, the most charming town in Sweden
Scenic Mariefred is full of surprises. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
14:20 CEST+02:00
Mariefred is the most charming town in Sweden, argues contributor Oliver Gee, who explains why visitors should make the trip just 50 kilometres west of Stockholm to discover its old wooden homes, craft shops, and cobblestones stretching down to the ever-inviting Lake Mälaren.

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The King has a castle there

The Royal Gripsholm Castle is located right in the heart of Mariefred. It has been in the Swedish royal family since the Gustav Vasa days and still acted as a residence up to the 18th century. 

You can stroll around the grounds or pay to go inside, where the castle houses Sweden's National Portrait Gallery as well as other artworks. Such as...

It has the world’s weirdest stuffed lion

Hold on to your hats, because this is a strange one. In the Gripsholm Castle there is a stuffed lion that looks suspiciously like the taxidermist responsible had never seen a lion -- because that was almost certainly the case. The lion was first brought to Sweden alive, as a gift to an 18th century king, and was one of the very first examples of the species in Scandinavia. So when it died, the taxidermist just had to use his imagination.

Strange square teeth, massive eyeballs, and a hanging tongue; this lion looks like a children’s drawing come to life. See it and be amazed. 

 

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The Shakespeare/Mozart of Sweden lived there

Musician and poet Carl Michael Bellman is as well known to Swedes as Shakespeare is to English people. Bellman, who lived in Mariefred in the 1700s, is the lord of the drinking songs and many Swedes can recite his music to this day. But when he lived in Mariefred, he didn’t care much for it and was particularly critical of the town's women, whom he described as ugly. 

There’s a prison there with the Pirate Bay founder inside

Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg remains in prison and is locked up in Mariefred. Don’t worry, you’re not going to run into any convicts on the run, and the prison is tucked out of the way, but we thought we’d include at least one fact that wasn’t a tourist destination. 

You can find 1,000-year-old runestones

Close to Gripsholm Castle you’ll pass an extraordinary sight; two runestones from the 11th century, just standing by the side of the path. For the history nerds out there, the stones are known as Ingvar runestones, raised in honour of those who died on expedition with Ingvar-the-Far-Travelled. 


One of the runestones. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Actor Dolph Lundgren has a summer home there

Chemical engineer-turned A-lister Dolph Lundgren is one of the world's most famous Swedes, but don't be too surprised if you spot him browsing the local ICA supermarket next to you. Mariefred is full of secrets.

And if you do bump into him, here are a few things to know about the star. His career has had an unorthodox path: after getting a Master's degree in chemical engineering, he landed a job as singer Grace Jones' bodyguard. It was when he moved to New York to join her that he moved into acting, landing his first role in the James Bond film A View To Kill, alongside Jones. He went on to add dozens more acting credits to his CV, perhaps most notably as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

It has one of the best fika spots in Sweden

Yes, the wondrous Anna’s Hembageri is in Mariefred, and it’s no stranger to big prizes. In fact, it was recognized by the White Guide earlier this year as one of the top cafes in the country (and finishes near the top every single year). Their cinnamon buns are a must-have.

 

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READ ALSO: Here's where to have the best fika experience in Sweden

It has Sweden’s oldest inn

Gripsholms Värdshus has been serving customers since 1609 and continues to be a popular local haunt today. The inn was build on top of an old monastery, relics of which can be found inside the tavern.

You can take a steam train 

If you do venture to Mariefred, you can travel by steam train either to reach the town from Läggesta station (connected to Stockholm by commuter train), or to go 11km out to Taxinge, another hidden gem with a castle and impressive restaurant. 

The train tracks are just 600 millimetres across, and the carriages are from the 1890s. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as the train chugs through the countryside.


The train pulls into the station. Photo: Catherine Edwards

You can get there by steamboat from Stockholm

Imagine taking a steam boat from Stockholm that’s been doing the same trip since 1903. Well, no need to imagine it - just do it. It’s a lovely trip on the Lake Mälaren and the perfect way to get to the most charming village in Sweden.

 

#mariefred

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