If you are planning to spend a couple of days (or more) in Stockholm, add a day trip to Drottningholm Palace to your itinerary! With a design inspired by the Palace of Versailles, Drottningholm Palace is the best preserved 17th century palace in northern Europe. Read on for the ultimate guide to visiting Drottningholm Palace from Stockholm, Sweden!
Located right on the water on the island of Lovön in the Stockholm archipelago, Drottningholm Palace is the private residence of Sweden’s royals. While the apartments used by the royal family at Drottningholm are private, much of the complex is open to the public.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO VISITING DROTTNINGHOLM PALACE
Drottningholm Palace is one of the best day trips from Stockholm you can do. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of Stockholm’s top attractions and a beautiful place to spend a few hours!
It’s also one of the easiest day trips you can do from Stockholm, because it’s located just a few miles from the city center and conveniently accessed by public transport.
Here, then, is the ultimate guide to visiting Drottningholm Palace! But first, a little bit of history…
The history of Drottningholm Palace
Designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, and completed after his death by his son Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Drottningholm Palace has a rich history.
After work on the palace was completed in the late 1600s, Drottningholm was used as a summer residence by the Regent Queen Hedwig Eleonora. You can see her fabulously-decorated bedroom when you visit!
In the middle of the 18th century, Drottningholm Palace was gifted to Louisa Ulrika, then the Swedish Crown Princess. She redesigned the palace interior in the fashionable French Rococo style.
In the mid 19th century, Drottningholm was abandoned for a while by the Swedish royals. Later, it was modified to suit more contemporary tastes, creating some controversy.
Eventually, King Gustav V ordered the palace and the grounds restored to their original grandeur, a project that was started in 1907 and took four years.
Today you can see it in all its heyday glory!
What to see and do at Drottningholm Palace
Drottningholm Palace is a large complex, and every part of it is gorgeous. Apart from the main palace building, the complex includes the beautiful Court Theater, the Chinese Pavilion, the Baroque Garden, and the extensive grounds.
Join a guided tour of the Court Theater
You can only see the interior of the Court Theater as part of a guided tour. It’s worth paying the separate entrance fee to sit in the beautifully preserved theater as the guide walks you through its history!
The 18th century theater is still used for performances, and what’s more, the 200-year old stage machinery actually works. When the guide asks for volunteers to help operate some of the machinery, raise your hand!
During our tour, we heard thunder roar and the wind howl as the machinery was worked backstage by the guide and two people from our group.
The theater was built by the command of Queen Louisa Ulrika and first opened in 1754. But it burned down just a few years later, and a replacement theater was built. Two thrones for the monarchs are placed front and center.
By the end of the 18th century, the theater was no longer in use and the space was just used as a storage area. But in 1921, it was rediscovered and performances resumed in 1922. Today, operas are performed in the theater in the summer months.
Admire the beautiful Baroque Garden
The Baroque Garden lies just behind the palace. Created in the 17th century by the Tessin father and son duo, the garden features formal hedges and beds. You get a great aerial view of the entire garden from the interior of the palace.
Gilded gates lead into the garden, and avenues of lime trees line it on both sides. The designers drew inspiration from famous gardens in France, where formal design and symmetrical arrangements were the norm.
You can’t walk through all of the garden, as some areas are cordoned off. But you can view the garden from the surrounding pathways.
In the Baroque garden, you’ll see lots of statues and fountains. The statues, by Dutch sculptor Adriaen de Vries, were brought back by the Swedish army in the 17th century from Prague and Frederiksborg as trophies of war. The statues in the garden are bronze copies; you can see the originals in the Museum de Vries.
Walk the gorgeous grounds
One of the most fun things to do at Drottningholm Palace is to walk the grounds beyond the Baroque garden. Laid out after the fashion of an English park under King Gustav III of Sweden, the extensive grounds take some time to explore.
You’ll see ponds and canals, bridges and walkways. Stroll along broad avenues flanked by mature trees on either side. Admire the meadows and large grassy areas.
Try to find your way out of the tall maze. Admire the many statues placed at strategic spots through the grounds. Many of these statues are copies of classics brought back by the king from his travels.
Tour the charming Chinese Pavilion
King Adolf Frederick had the Chinese Pavilion built in the early 1750s, as a surprise birthday gift for his wife, Queen Louisa Ulrika. But the wooden building was put together in a hurry, and started deteriorating quickly.
Ten years later, the royal couple initiated the building of a more durable version, which was finished in 1769. It has been renovated several times since then.
The building stands at the end of a tree-lined avenue. The exterior, with three wings, is painted a beautiful deep red-pink, and looks like it stepped out of a fairy tale.
Inside, the design is Rococo. At the time the pavilion was built, Swedish nobility were enamored of all things Chinese, and you’ll find an impressive collection here, from wallpaper to artwork and sculptures to screens.
Every room is painted a different color, so you’ll see a red room, a yellow room, a blue room, and a green room. Each room is beautifully decorated with Chinese elements.
Visit the lovely Palace interior
Inside the palace, there are many beautiful reception rooms to tour. You’ll see a mix of styles: Queen Hedwig Eleonora, Queen Louisa Ulrika, and King Gustav III all contributed to the interiors of the palace during their respective reigns.
The majestic Baroque staircase and Queen Hedwig Eleonora’s bedchamber were designed by Nikodemus Tessin the Elder. The beautiful blue bedchamber, gilded with lots of gold, was used by the queen not for the purpose of sleeping, but to grant audience to important guests!
Parts of the palace interior were designed in an elegant French Rococo style under the discerning eye of Queen Louisa Ulrika. The gorgeous library, for example, was created during her reign.
You’ll see a plethora of painted ceilings, art work, and ornate furniture in the reception rooms. A guided tour or an audio guide is extremely helpful to learn more about what you’re seeing as you tour the interior.
How to get to Drottningholm Palace from Stockholm
Drottningholm Palace is located about six miles from central Stockholm. In season, you can ride the ferry to Drottningholm Palace and back, and all year round you can use the Stockholm public transport system (subway + bus).
By subway and bus
Take the T-bana (the Stockholm subway) green line towards Hässelby strand, and get off at the Brommaplan station. This journey takes about 17 minutes.
Then take a bus from Brommaplan to Drottningholm Palace. The bus stop is right outside the subway station, and the journey takes just a few minutes. You can plan your trip here.
If you are planning to visit between April and October, and you are not time-constrained, the ferry is a lovely way to travel from Stockholm to Drottningholm Palace and back.
The ferry departs from Stadshuskajen, the City Hall Quay, (Klara Mälarstrand) and the cruise through Lake Mälaren takes one hour each way. Meals are served on board, so you can opt for a cruise with a lunch or dinner option if you like. The boat dock is just a few minutes walk from the entrance to Drottningholm Palace.
The approach to Drottningholm Palace from the water is dramatic, and the walkway from the pier to the palace, lined with statuary, is lovely. We took the ferry both ways when we visited in June, and the ride was both scenic and relaxing.
Both the boat ride and the entrance to Drottningholm Palace are included in the Stockholm Pass.
Boats depart every hour, and you can buy boat tickets at the quay on the day of your visit, or ahead of time online. Join the line to get onto the boat at least 20 minutes in advance of the scheduled departure time.
By Guided Tour
If you prefer a tour, consider this 4-hour group tour that combines Drottningholm Palace with some highlights in the city of Stockholm.
Where to eat at Drottningholm Palace
For a snack or a drink while you’re near the Chinese Pavilion, pop into the Pavilion Cafe. Open during the summer months, it serves sweet treats and sandwiches. It’s the perfect place for a fika break!
We sat outside because we visited on a gorgeous day, but you must check out the cool indoor eating space. The space now occupied by the cafe used to be the kitchen when the royals ate in the dining room at the Confidance Building next door.
For a full meal, visit the restaurant in the Karamellan building by the entrance to the palace. This is where you’ll find the Visitor Center as well. We had lunch here and it was good.
How long should you spend at Drottningholm Palace?
There’s a lot to see at the Drottningholm Palace complex. If you are planning to tour only the palace and the gardens, allow about 3 hours. If you also plan to do the tour of the Court Theater and the Chinese Pavilion, allow about 5 hours.
We took the first ferry of the day out to the palace, which left at 10.00 a.m., and took the 5.00 p.m. ferry back. That was plenty of time to tour the Palace, the Court Theater, and the Chinese Pavilion, and do a leisurely stroll of the grounds and the gardens. We stopped often to take photos, and took breaks for a snack and a meal.
What should I see first at Drottningholm Palace?
When you arrive at Drottningholm Palace by boat, you’ll notice that everyone heads straight to the palace. To avoid the crowds, start by exploring other parts of the complex.
Start at the Court Theater, since it can only be visited as part of a guided group tour. Then explore the garden and the grounds. Take a break at the Pavilion Cafe before you tour the Chinese Pavilion. Make your way back to the waterfront for lunch, and finish with a tour of the Palace interior.
Entrance Fees and Tickets
You can buy tickets online at the Palace website or the Stromma website. Combination tickets are available if you plan to visit the Court Theater or the Chinese Pavilion (or both) in addition to the Palace.
If you have the Stockholm Pass, the boat tour and entrance to the Palace are included. If you plan to visit Stockholm for a few days, check out the pass to see if it will save you money! Boat tours run only between April and October.
Guided tours of the Palace interior are offered for an additional fee. A guided tour lasts about 45 minutes.
Drottingholm Palace opens at 10 a.m. everyday from April until October. Between May and September, it stays open until 5 p.m., and in April and October, until 4 p.m. From November until March, Drottningholm Palace is open on weekends from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The palace may on occasion be closed for special events, so check current hours of operation at the official website.
Other parts of the complex, such as the Court Theater and the Chinese Pavilion, may have different hours of operation, so drop in at the Visitor Center in the Karamellan Building near the boat dock upon arrival for a map and more information.
Drottningholm Palace Park is open year round. It must look stunning in the fall and the winter, as it did when we visited in late spring!
So there you have it: my guide to visiting Drottningholm Palace near Stockholm, Sweden! Have you been? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have: comment below to respond. If you haven’t yet visited, I hope you get to visit soon.
If you are planning a visit to the Swedish capital, check out my list of the best things to do in Stockholm. From touring Stockholm’s underground metro art to visiting Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm’s woodland cemetery and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are lots of cool things you can do in Stockholm. So plan on spending at least 3-4 days in the city! If you only have one day in Stockholm, however, don’t worry: I have the perfect itinerary for you.
Planning your first ever Scandinavia holiday? My 10-day Scandinavia itinerary for first-timers covers the highlights in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
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