For families with kids in tow, get lost in this living fairytale world dedicated to author Astrid Lindgren’s vibrant stories.
I didn’t know what to expect when I took my daughter on her first train ride through Junibacken. But as we boarded what felt like a full-on 3D experience, our solo cart was pulled into the darkness and we were transported right into the middle of Astrid Lindgren’s magic.
World-renown Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s stories inspired children’s museum Junibacken located on lush Djurgården island. The Story Train pulls you from reconstructed story scene after story scene with Lindgren’s famous characters such as Emil Lönneberga and other popular Nordic children’s characters like Alfie Atkins (Åberg), Festus and Mercury and Mamma Moo. The characters come alive with laughter, noises, thundering sounds, fire-breathing dragons, and trolls around each turn as we traveled along in the dark.
The museum was designed by playwright and director Staffan Götestam whose working relationship with author Astrid Lindgren started in the late 70s. After producing various musicals and plays around her works, he presented the idea of a train ride through Lindgren’s stories and of creating an interactive cultural center to her which she was excited about.
He collaborated with illustrator Marit Törnqvist to design its fairytale stages, lighting, narrations, and background music. The resource-intensive project was financed by investor Peder Wallenberg and today, Junibacken whose mission is “to ensure that children’s book should always be an important part of children’s culture” is financed entirely by own revenues.
Construction started in 1994 with a team of Stockholm’s top stagehands – puppeteers, painters, prop designers, carpenters, and lighting experts. Two years later in June 1996, the Story Train opened up to the world.
And this is just one part of the overall experience that is Junibacken – one of the largest children’s theaters in Sweden.
Upon entering Junibacken, my daughter left my grip and ran full force to its fantastical Storybook Square with cobblestones, old-fashioned street lamps, and mini tot-sized cafes for the kids. The square is peppered with popular Nordic characters like Alfie Atkins’ home, old man Festus’ kitchen, and Mulle Meck’s airplane.
Next up is the Story Train designed by Götestam and Törnqvist with a conductor who directs you to a personal train coach. The whole experience with a narrator – you can pick from 16 languages – adds heightened drama alongside musical sounds, lighting effects, and an overall whimsical atmosphere that fully sweeps you in – even adults.
The train journey ends at Villa Villekulla, the makeshift house which is where Astrid Lindgren’s most popular red-haired character Pippi Longstocking lives in her books. And as expected, there are lots of activities for the kids from riding Pippi’s horse, Old Man to slipping down a large slide and exploring the villa.
Special at Junibacken from 2016-2017 marking the 70th anniversary of its conception and publication is a special Moomin exhibit from Finnish novelist Tove Jansson’s classic books: The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My.
More on the interactive Moomin exhibit from Junibacken:
Visiting the exhibition is like visiting Moominvalley itself, where you can meet many of its inhabitants. The forest with the winding path seen in The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My is here, where you can pick beautiful red fruit and creep around among the trees.
The carousel from Who Will Comfort Toffle? lies just beside, inviting you to take a ride before going on to the campfire, where you can join Moomin, Sniff and Snufkin and help them toast pancakes.
You can direct your own play using shadow puppets in the floating theatre. Climb up the huge mountain, and swoosh down on a fallen tree. You can go fishing and listen to the rhythm of the waves in the small bathing hut, then watch the stars and consider the mysteries of the universe in the observatory.
On Junibacken’s permanent staff are six actors, three musicians and an artistic director who writes and directs four to five performances a day, with an estimate of 1,600 performances a year. There’s a large bookstore with an impressive selection of books, toys, games, videos, and many more gifts you’d like to bring back with you.
Admission – It costs 139 SEK for children 2-15 years and 159 SEK for adults. Junibacken is included for free if you have a My Stockholm Pass.
Here are more suggestions on family-friendly activities around Stockholm.