Day Trip: Gripsholms Slott (Gripsholm Castle)
Lisa Ferland, the author of Knocked Up Abroad, takes you on a day trip to Gripsholms Slott, a royal castle on Lake Mälaren.
The history of this famous Swedish castle began in the 1370s when Bo Jonsson Grip built a fortress at the location on a small island in Lake Mälaren. Queen Margaret purchased the fortress in 1404, and the structure served defensive purposes until King Gustav Vasa commissioned the construction of the main residences of the castle between 1537 and 1545.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle underwent numerous expansions and renovations, the most famous addition being King Gustav III’s magnificent theater in the round tower.
Also of interest, Gripsholm is home to one of the ugliest stuffed lion in the world. The short story is that King Fredrik I was given a lion as a gift from the Bey of Algiers in 1731. The Swedish taxidermist, having never seen a real lion before, did his best with the skin and bones he was provided, which were in bad condition. The result was laughably cartoonish, and you can even follow him on Facebook.
Gripsholm Castle is internationally known for having the oldest national portrait gallery in the world featuring portraits of significant Swedish people from the Gustav Vasa days until the present. A portrait of honor is added to the collection every year.
If you are traveling with young children, one tip is to leave your stroller parked outside the entrance in the courtyard of the castle grounds. The town of Mariefred is incredibly stroller/wheelchair friendly but inside the castle is not.
We spent more time outside of the castle than we did inside because it was a beautiful sunny day and the children had fun running around pretending to be a medieval knight and princess. If you decide not to go into the castle, there is plenty to do on the castle grounds to fill your day.
The kids loved exploring the little “dungeons” inside the courtyard, sitting atop the 16th-century canons on display, and imagining they were prisoners locked behind iron bars. Even the gift shop felt like a dungeon with a spiral staircase and impressive stone statue at the entrance.
The castle overlooks the sparkly dark blue waters of Lake Mälaren, and there are numerous picnic benches around the perimeter of the grounds offering scenic views every 15 meters among lush greenery. We brought a blanket for a casual picnic lunch, but there is a very nice restaurant (complete with mini-golf) located outside of the castle.
Given the beauty of the castle grounds, it was not surprising to learn that they host numerous classical concerts there during the summer months. They even have “Be a king for a day” program for school-aged children and other child-themed events during the summer. The fairytale atmosphere makes it incredibly easy to feel like royalty while walking the grounds.
The town of Mariefred has numerous playgrounds, parks, a steam train museum where you can ride an old steam train, impressive 15th-century church, and delicious baked goods and ice cream overlooking the harbor. Leave time in your day to explore the idyllic town of Mariefred after you’re done storming the castle.
Gripsholm Slott is located about 60 km southwest of Stockholm on Lake Mälaren in the idyllic town of Mariefred. Free parking is widely available near the castle grounds.
Toilets are available for free in the Outer Courtyard during the castle’s opening hours and there are other free public toilets available nearby in Mariefred.
By car, the journey takes about an hour from Stockholm on E20 towards Gothenburg, exit 139 towards Mariefred and Gripsholm Castle.
By public transportation, SJ train from Stockholm/Södertälje Syd towards Eskilstuna/Arboga, Eskilstuna/Arboga to Stockholm; to station Läggesta. From there, take the shuttle bus (about 4 km from Mariefred).
Steamboat from Stockholm—Route Stockholm-Mariefred, summertime every day except Mondays, S/S Mariefred.
Many people arrive by ferry (it takes about 3.5 hours) and leave by bus/train.
The fees are 120 SEK/Adult and 60 SEK/Student. Children 0-6 years are allowed in free in the parent or guardian company
The castle is open daily until September. For opening hours and the most current admission fees, visit the castle’s website.
If you enjoyed a day trip to Drottningholm, then you’ll definitely enjoy a day at Gripsholms Slott.