The Stockholm subway system is often described as the world’s largest art museum — for the price of a Metro ticket, you can enjoy impressive works of art spanning from the 1950s to the 2000s.
I am armed with stacks of value propositions for Stockholm. I have read that the 110km Stockholm Metro is “the world’s longest art exhibition”. Out of 100 stations, 94 are emblazoned with paintings, mosaics and installations. For the price of a subway ticket (44 Swedish krona), tourists can take a free hour-long tour of four to five stations from June to August.
The T-Centralen station — the city’s central subway station — which was designed by Per Olof Ultvedt in 1975, is perhaps the most iconic of them all, and it features massive blue-and-white paintings on its cave-like ceilings; contemporary frescoes of blue vines soothe commuters at the busiest stop of the subway.
The rainbow colours of the Olympic Rings at Stadion seem to bring the sky underground.
Most eye-catching of all is the Kungstradgarden (King’s Garden) station in the city centre. The ceiling has a design of harlequin diamonds in a burst of colours at the Arsenalsgatan exit and it features the remains of Stockholm’s old Makalös palace.. In the same station is a little walled archaeological dig artfully strewn with statues, gas lamps and marble columns. Children have peepholes in the wall to peer at the artefacts.
And in another corner, an artist has fashioned a replica of a tree trunk to remember greenies who chained themselves to trees on the subway site before the Kungstradgarden station was built in 1971.
I must say Swedish public transport providers are unafraid of a little whimsy and activism. Peepholes at the base of the wall are created for even smaller ones – mice.
With its bright red walls and ceiling, the Solna Centrum station looks otherworldly. The Kungsträdgården subway station has been designed to look like an archaeological dig, And the Östermalmstorg stations features art by Siri Derkert that focuses on themes that include the environment and women’s rights.
In summer, guided English-language tours start at 3pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from the SL Centre at the Sergels Torg exit of the T-Centralen station. Art beautifies the subway, certainly, and helps to orientate commuters, children included. Art gives each station its own identity too and makes the subway feel safer, according to SL, which has supported subway art by 150 artists since the 1950s.
Visit the world’s longest art exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden.