When I was looking at things to do in Stockholm, I never even considered going to the Vasamuseet. A maritime museum sounded like a snooze. I mean, a museum about a sunken ship? This is a popular tourist attraction in Stockholm? (It is actually the #1 most visited museum in all of Scandinavia!) But one of my girlfriends urged me to go see it, claiming it was one of her favorite things in Stockholm, and since I trust her, I finally gave in on my last full day in Stockholm and told the people selling the tickets to just take my money (or you know, I just said, one ticket please!) and I stepped in to the Vasamuseet.
Some backstory: The Vasa was a warship, built between 1626 and 1628, that set sail from the harbor in Stockholm in 1628 and sunk that same day. Theories about why she sunk are that she was too top-heavy and unstable. The Vasa was recovered by being lifted out of the harbor almost fully intact in 1961 after 333 years under the sea. It is still the largest ship to ever be lifted out of the water. Experts say that the Vasa was so well preserved because of how polluted the harbor. I guess that’s a +1 for pollution? The detailing on the Vasa is breathtaking and worth seeing in person.
From 1961 to 1988, Vasa was housed in a temporary structure called Wasavarvet while she was treated with polyethylene glycol but people could visit her, though only from two levels and from about 17 feet away. The Swedish government decided that Vasa needed a permanent home in 1981 and an architecture competition was held and the museum was officially opened in 1989. The winners of that competition were two architects called Marianne Jakobbäck and Göran Månsson.
When you walk into Vasamuseet, you can see the Vasa immediately. Some of the museum was actually built around stylized masts that are supposed to represent Vasa’s actual height when she was first built. There are six levels that you can view Vasa from and in the side rooms, you can see artifacts (there were thousands recovered) and bones from people on board that were recovered from the ship when it was lifted. There are also rooms with historical facts and details on how they lifted the ship and why previous attempts had failed.
Also kind of cool: There are preservationists there every day still working on preserving the Vasa. You’ll hear drills and torches, or whatever tools you use to preserve a ship, while you’re walking around and taking in all of it’s glory.
Overall, I give this museum a 10/10 and everyone is 100% correct that this is THE museum to go to if you’re in Stockholm. If you go to Stockholm, put this at the top of your list. Don’t be like me and leave it until your second to last day.