Stockholm, Sweden has one of the world’s nicest subway systems, but it’s more than just a great way to get around the city. Most of the stations also feature unique artwork, each with a different theme. Thanks to this dedication to making stations more than just a place to wait for a train, Stockholm’s Metro system has been billed as the world’s longest art exhibition, stretching over 110 kilometers.
As part of TBEX Stockholm, I had the opportunity to attend a sponsored guided tour that covered some of the most artistic stations. Tiiu, our guide, was an expert about the underground art & the system as a whole. The official name of Stockholm’s Metro system is the T-Bana, tunnelbana, or tunnel train. The idea of art in the Stockholm Metro system began with a competition for 12 stations in the 1950s, but continued to expand along with the system as a whole, which rapidly grew during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Since there were many more stations to visit beyond what was covered on the tour, I spent an additional afternoon exploring on my own. If you are looking to do a similar crawl of the art of Stockholm’s Metro, you can either get an unlimited transit pass, or you can just purchase one ticket for a time period & get to as much as possible, since you won’t have to exit the ticketed area to see most of the underground art.
Here are all of the Stockholm Metro stations I visited, along with some details about the art featured at each stop. Here is a map of the entire Metro system.
T-Centralen is where all three metro lines meet in the center of Stockholm. As such, it was the first station in the T-Bana station to be decorated. This station features wavy benches and tile walls.
Most impressively, the silhouettes of construction workers were painted in shades of blue, making the station look like it is perpetually in progress.
Stadion station was the second stop on our tour, heading north on the Red line. As you might expect from the station name, Stadion has a sports theme, with football club crests, athletic representations, and rainbows covering the walls to represent the Olympic rings.
At this stop you will find Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium, as well as several other athletic facilities.
Here’s another station where you can probably guess what is located here: Stockholm University, Sweden’s largest university. The artwork at Universitetet fits the nature of the neighborhood perfectly, with walls covering everything from human rights to nature to climate change.
Paragraphs containing The UN Declaration of Human Rights line external tunnel walls.
Other walls are dedicated to Carl Linnaeus’ travels around the Baltic. These art works tie Linnaeus’ historic contributions to taxonomy all the way to the modern day, focusing on issues such as climate change. Thanks to the detail of the art & importance of the overall message, this was one of my favorite Stockholm Metro art installations.
Working your way back to central Stockholm along the Red line, Tekniska Hogskolan is home to the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
The art in this station features more science and technology, including a wing in the ceiling, portrayals of earth, air, water, and fire, as well as polygons.
Kungsträdgården (King’s Garden) was the final stop of my guided tour of the Stockholm metro system’s art. While the King’s Garden is on the street level, the station below ties in with the area by including local colors & historical references.
The station features green for plants, white for marble statues, as well as bedrock stone faces, and columns for the foundations of old buildings.
I began my solo tour of Stockholm’s subway art at Hotorget, one of the best dining neighborhoods of the city, and starting point for my food tour of Stockholm that I had taken previously.
Hotorget’s art was simple, with blue tiles and neon lights, but it’s still pleasant to check out while you wait for a train here.
My next stop, Thorlidsplan, is along the Green line. As you get off the train at the station, there are few signs of the theme of this station. However, start to head down the ramp into the tunnel to exit, and you’ll find this.
Thorlidsplan looks like an 8 bit video game, with characters & other graphics that might look a bit familiar. The titles are perfect for making the walls look like you’re in a classic video game world.
While Thorlidsplan didn’t have any political or social message, it was still one of my favorite stations to visit on Stockholm. Video games are art too!
Backtracking for one stop, Fridhemsplan is located at an intersection of the Green & Blue lines. The art here is simple, but each part has a unique theme.
On the Green line platforms, it’s easy to think that there’s no art at all. The walls have spaces for what would be advertising elsewhere, but the spots are instead filled with prints of tiny question marks in various patterns.
Heading down lower to transfer to the Blue line, the bedrock tunnel is covered in green paint with splatters, reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s work.
At the platform for the Blue line, there is a ship model, as well as an overall nautical theme.
The next stop on the Blue line heading north is Stadshagen. Here you will find drawings of crudely painted roads, as well an overall sports theme that includes hockey, swimming, and more.
As you walk past each work, the two sided design changes, showing an active game in progress. Pretty cool!
Continuing north is Vastra Skogen. Here you will find simple colorful tiles with some designs.
They reminded me of those wood tiles that we used to play with in elementary school.
Solna Centrum is one of the most epic art installations of the Stockholm Metro system. The theme of the station covers the conflict between city life & country life and progress vs. the environment.
The colors show the conflict of a blood red sky and the green forest below, relating to Sweden’s environment & shifting populations.
As I write this just after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, it’s interesting to see that Sweden was way ahead in identifying the potential societal issues as more and more people move from the country to the city.
The station also features dioramas, including one that looked like the White House. The opening of Better World A Comin’ by Woody Guthrie was also displayed.
There’s so much art to see at Solna Centrum that the 11-12 minute gaps between trains give you plenty of time as you wait, but even that might not be enough to see it all. This was one of my favorite stations I visited in Stockholm.
Hallonbergen is a nice palate cleanser after the darker themes of Solna Centrum. At Hallonbergen, you’ll find simple drawings and cartoons.
If you’re looking for fun stops to bring your kids to, this is the most child-friendly station I found, with bright colors & drawings standing out on the light grey background.
Akalla is the final stop at the north end of the Blue line, way out in the suburbs. It’s another station where the color pallette really helps brighten the underground location, with pastel yellows on the exposed rock.
The theme of modern Sweden portrays various members of society, from workers to fathers taking care of children. If you’ve ever been to Coit Tower in San Francisco, you’ll recognize the parallels with the New Deal murals there.
The final stop of my art tour of Stockholm’s metro system was back in central Stockholm at Radhuset. The walls here are entirely red, with exposed fake wooden columns and other details.
The red made it look like what our subways on Mars will look like. Like many of Stockholm’s metro stations, it’s truly a stunning sight.
While I have included plenty of photos of the art I encountered, the photos can’t truly show off how majestic some of these art installations are. If you visit Stockholm, even if you can’t take the time to do a full underground art tour, be sure to take extra time as you go from place to place, so you can take in all of the artistic wonders in each Metro station.
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