Destination Museums: Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

The most visited museum in Scandinavia is also one of the most unique in the world and with a more exciting history than most other museums could ever boast of.

Located on the island of Djurgården off the Swedish capital, Stockholm, the Vasa Museum, it is a maritime museum built around the only almost-completely preserved 17th century warship ever discovered. It also features four other museum ships moored nearby – an ice-breaker, a torpedo boat, a light vessel and a rescue boat.

Entry for adults is 130 Swedish Kroner (approximately USD 16) and students will gain admission for 100 Kroner (about USD 12). However, entry for anyone up to the age of 18 is free. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and extended to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. It closes for Christmas from 23rd to 25th December and is also closed on New Year’s Day.

Stockholm is best visited in the middle of the year – July is the warmest month – but nights may still be significantly cooler so pack accordingly. The summer season is also the most costly. Vasa Museum is especially crowded during lunch time (due in no small part to the excellent restaurant).

The museum is named after the Vasa, a formidable warship armed with 64 guns which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 within sight of shore and before a shocked audience of thousands. Salvaged 333 years later in 1961 through a dramatically complex operation and transformed into a museum in 1990, it offers an incisive glimpse into life in the 17th century not only through the structure of the ship but through the skeletons and possessions of the 17 sailors found on board.

The ship could hold 145 sailors and up to 300 soldiers. One sailor’s chest was found preserved exactly as it had been packed by him over three centuries before, giving poignant insight into his life. The utensils of the commanders were of glass, imported pottery and pewter whereas the sailors had to content themselves with wooden ones. An amazing array of objects found on board is displayed and interactive computer programs allow visitors to delve deeper.

The full-scale mock-up of a section of the upper gun deck which visitors may enter gives an immersive experience that is both thrilling and educational, an ideal combination for lifelong memories. A garden annex to the museum is filled with plants that the crew would have used as food and medicine. The hops that grow on the fence bordering the garden are of the same variety that was used to flavor and conserve the beer on board.

The Vasa Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in maritime history. Parents will find it the most captivating way to introduce otherwise less than keen children to museums and the concept of historical discovery.