Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Gamla Stan, with the royal palace and its squares and narrow streets with the tightly-packed houses of wealthy merchants was the core of the historic city and its very beautiful streets survive with many amazing buildings but the area is inevitably dominated by shops aimed at the huge numbers of tourists who visit the city. 

However, there are some craft shops that sell well-designed work such as linens and rugs and are well-worth seeking out.

At the south end of Gamla Stan is Slussen, the site of weirs and mills in the past but now a nightmare of underpasses and transport interchanges created in the second half of the 20th century although the area is about to undergo major rebuilding.

Slussen connects Gamla Stan to the next island of the city to the south called Södermalm. Here, on the south side of the interchange, is the city museum or Stadsmuseet. This is an important building dating from 1685 - designed by Nicodemus Tessin following a fire that damaged an earlier building on the site - but the lower level and the courtyard, around which the large house was built, have been almost swallowed by the road system. The house looks out onto Ryssgården (Russian Yard) after the Russian merchants who sold leather and fur goods here in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The museum is well worth a visit particularly for the series of historic models of Gamla Stan that show how the houses, courts, gardens and streets of the old city were laid out.