Did you know that at over 100km long, Stockholm’s subway system (also known as “tunnelbana”) is said to be the longest art exhibition in the world? Over 90 of the 100 stations in the city’s subway system have been adorned with paintings, carvings, mosaics, sculptures, and more. Taking a tour of Stockholm’s subway art is must-do for any visitor.
These artworks have been created by 150 artists since the 1950s. The idea of decorating the stations in the city’s metro system was born out of an idea that art should be accessible to the masses, and not just Stockholm’s elite. Many of the installations draw attention to various social and issues that were prevalent during the time the stations were being built.
I had been intrigued by Stockholm’s subway art, so I was super excited to check it out for myself – and it definitely did not disappoint. Obviously, I did not have enough time to check out all 90 stations in the system, but the ones I did stop at did have some truly unique, spectacular works. There were a few more stations that I wanted to go to but didn’t get around to (Swedish meatballs were also calling my name and competing for my attention), but I suppose there is always next time?
Here are the stations that I made stops at on my tour of Stockholm’s subway art:
T-Centralen (Blue Line)
The T-Centralen, or Central Station, is the hub of Stockholm’s metro system – all of the lines in the subway system pass through here on multiple levels. Go down to the blue line platform on the lower level – here, you will find this blue and white floral motif, designed to give commuters a sense of calm and peace in this bustling station, the busiest in the system. The T-Centralen was the first station to be built in the system, and was designed in the 1970s by Per Olof Ultvedt, who honored the workers working on the station with painted silhouettes of them all over the walls and ceilings. This is a good station to start off at on your tour of Stockholm’s subway art.
Kungstradgarden (Blue Line)
The terminus of the Blue Line, Kingstradgarden is arguably the most impressive of all the stations that you will see on your tour of Stockholm’s subway art. Designed by Ulrik Samuelson to be an underground garden, the station features a vibrant, abstract harlequin design painted on the ceiling. At the Arsenalsgatan exit of the station, there is a full-on archaeological dig featuring artifacts from the Makalos palace which stood on the ground above the station in the 17th and 18th stations – crazy!
Solna Centrum (Blue Line)
Walking into Solna Centrum is like walking into the depths of a dark, blood-red cave – the exposed bedrock ceiling is painted in a vivid, deep shade of red. On the walls is a 1km long mural depicting a spruce forest. Designed by Anders Aberg and Karl-Olov Bjork during the Swedish Industrial Era, the artwork here calls attention to issues such a rural depopulation and deforestation.
Stadion (Red Line)
Station may have been my favorite of all the stations on my tour of Stockholm’s subway art, mainly because of the rainbow vibe – couldn’t help but be happy seeing it! The station was designed in 1973 by Enno Hallek and Ake Pallarp to commemorate the 1912 Olympics which were held in Stockholm (the Stadium was nearby the station). The colors of the rainbow represent the colors of the Olympic rings, and is also a symbol of inclusion.
Morby Centrum (Red Line)
Morby Centrum isn’t as popular as the other stations, but I saw a photo of it on Design Sponge, fell in love with the paste-paneled walls, and knew I had to make a stop there. Artists Karin Ek and Gösta Wessel used a shadow-painting technique that gives passengers an interesting perspective – when viewed from one side, the station looks pink, while it looks blue-grey from the other side. This was inspired by the unique characteristics of the rocks in the station, and symbolize change for both the station as well as the people who pass through it. This is definitely worth checking out on your tour of Stockholm’s subway art.
Radhuset (Blue Line)
Radhuset, created by Sigvard Olsson, is designed to look like a pink underground grotto. The Radhuset station is on the island of Kungsholmen (which houses several government buildings, including the courthouse that gave the station its name), which was founded by Franciscan monks in the 15th century, and the station contains various imaginary archaeological findings from that era. The organic architecture, exposed bedrock, and dramatic lighting create a cave-like atmosphere.
Hotorget (Green Line)
This wasn’t originally on my list, but I just happened to keep passing through this station because it was the closest to my hostel. I was fascinated by the winding neon white lights on the ceiling, which were added in 1998 by artist Gun Gordillo (they could also be kind of creepy if it was empty at night, I guess). The vintage teal-colored tiles and the retro signage also gave Hotorget the moniker of being the “bathroom station.”
THINGS TO KNOW:
– The fare for a single adult ticket is 43 SEK, or 30 SEK if put on a reloadable transit access card (the card itself costs 20 SEK). The fare is valid for 75 minutes. You can also purchase 24, 48, or 72 hour travel card – I purchased a 72 hour travel card included with my Stockholm Pass.
– I stopped over these stations over the course of my 4-day trip, doing a few at a time. Many people set aside a few hours solely for doing a tour of Stockholm’s subway art. I just found it easier to break it up and do a few at a time as I found pockets of time.
– There is also a guided art walk available from SL. Swedish tours are available year-round, but English walks are only available in the summer. The tour takes about an hour and admission is a valid subway ticket.
– The best times to visit the stations is on the weekends, weekday evenings, or midday. Avoid rush hour!
Have you been to Stockholm? Have you seen the subway art there?