Gripsholm Castle – Mariefred, Svealand, Sweden
A Castle, a Special Inn, a Picture-Perfect Town
This endearing lakeside village, with its main attraction, the impregnable redbrick Gripsholm Castle, is Stockholm’s perfect day trip. Throw in an excellent lunch at the acclaimed country manor Gripsholms Värdhus Hotel, Sweden’s oldest inn, and this is anybody’s idea of a perfect day. It’s about the journey as much as the destination when you arrive by a nostalgic little coal-fired steamboat, the Mariefred, then return by narrow-gauge steam train.
The day in Mariefred revolves around the 16th-century onion- towered castle, attentively watching over the town from its position on Lake Mälaren. The castle was occupied until 1864 and is still considered one of the five royal palaces of Sweden. But it’s principally known as the national portrait gallery, with one of the finest collections in the world (and, with 1,200 of its 4,000 portraits on display, Europe’s largest).
Reserve a table for a wonderful lunch on the lakeside glassed-in veranda of the Gripsholms Värdshus & Hotel. It first welcomed guests in 1609 when it was just a hospice built on the site of an earlier monastery (ceiling beams date back to 1507 and the wine cellar, where tastings can be arranged, was used by the monks as early as 1493).
The staff here is a delight, so are the romantic guest rooms and lakeview suites beautifully decorated in country style. It all makes for a wonderful and easy getaway and day-trippers often regret their haste: bring your toothbrush and check in.