This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2016. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
I finally found the perfect activity to satisfy both my own and my husband’s travel obsessions: a self-guided tour of the Stockholm subway.
He has some nerdy interests and enjoys finding out about trains and transport systems, exploring subways and finding out how a city functions. I, on the other hand, like to take photos of pretty things.
Considering this, I got fairly excited when I stumbled upon some photos of arty subway stations on the Visit Stockholm Instagram account. Finding these would be the perfect not-so-romantic way for us to spend our morning exploring the city as a couple.
I quickly listed the most interesting stations to check out, and planned a route that would take us to them all within the timeframe of one subway ticket. A ticket costs 37 SEK (about 4.00-4.50 USD) and is valid for 75 minutes of subway travel. You can also buy a 24-hour ticket for 155 SEK if you’d prefer to spend all day sightseeing as well as exploring the artsy metro.
Here’s my recommendations for a self-guided tour of the best Stockholm subway stations. It’s a fun way to get some snaps for posting on your Instagram feed!
My itinerary starts and ends at Central Station, but you could start at Kungsträdgårdsgatan instead. Here’s a few tidbits that you might find interesting about the Stockholm subway art:
- Over 90 of the city’s 100 subway stations are decorated, with installations from over 150 artists.
- The Stockholm subway has been called the ‘world’s longest art exhibit’ – it stretches for 110km.
- The first art stations appeared in the 1950s. The most recent subway art was installed in 2017.
- If you’re in Stockholm during the summer, you can tag along on a free guided art walk. At other times of the year, it may be worth booking a Stockholm subway art tour with a guide to give you commentary about all the fantastic art pieces.
T-Centralen (Central Station)
Start at T-Centralen (Central Station) and head towards the Blue line. The rocky walls here were decorated in white and blue colour scheme by artist Per Olof Ultvedt in the 1970s.
The upper levels have silhouettes of workers, as a way of honoring the many men who constructed the station. The lower levels are painted in the same style but with calming leaf-like patterns, which is meant to lower the stress level of the station’s 167,000 daily commuters.
From Central Station, hop on the Blue line and disembark at Kungsträdgårdsgatan. I think that this (unpronounceable) station is probably the most impressive of the art metro stations in Stockholm.
The design by artist Ulrik Samuelson, installed in in 1977 and 1987, is supposed to represent an archeological dig. It features actual artefacts from Makalös Palace, which once stood in the same location above the ground. The geometric-style patterned floor and ceiling with a red, green, and white colour scheme are influenced by the historic palace’s French garden.
Kungsträdgårdsgatan is the end of the Blue line, so go back in the other direction and hop off at Rådhuset.
This station was designed by Sigvard Olsson and was my fave from our makeshift tour – the red rocky walls juxtaposed with the modern escalators gave the whole place a surreal look. It felt like we were wandering through a futuristic alien space cave.
Take note when you’re in the station that this is the fourth deepest in the Stockholm metro system. You’ll be standing at 20 meters below sea level!
Continue on the Blue line in the same direction, and get off at Fridhemsplan. We only intended to use this station to change from the Blue line to the Green line, but the art in this old station is actually pretty cool, too. Fridhemsplan is another cave-like station in the Stockholm metro which was originally opened in 1952.
The Green line recently went through some refurbishments in 2019, so Fridhemsplan is a neat place where you can see the old and new elements of the metro come together.
From Fridhemsplan, change to the Green line and go one stop to Thorildsplan.
This is the only outdoor station on our itinerary, and it also has the most recent artwork. In 2008, Lars Arrhenius added the pixellated tiles arranged to show characters and scenes in the style of video games such as Super Mario, Space Invaders, and Pacman.
To get back to Central Station from here, get back on the Green line but head in the other direction.
Other Stockholm metro art stations
If you have time, there are some other really cool stations that you can check out. And don’t forget that you can book a Stockholm subway art tour to visit some of these with a guide! Here’s a few that look pretty awesome:
- Solna – Looks somewhat similar to Rådhuset with a cave interior but with some additional nature-influenced decor.
- Stadion – Famous for the painted rainbow that passes overhead at the underground platform, which is meant to reflect the blue sky above.
- Tensta – Decorated with a range of graffiti-like cave paintings that are meant to be welcoming for immigrants that have settled in the area.
- Odenplan – One of the newest stations with modern neon lights that create patterns along the ceiling.