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The Streets and Alleys in the Old Town of Stockholm

In the Old Town you will find streets and alleys that were mentioned the first time at the medieval times. Here is the probably oldest road in Stockholm that existed before the city was officially founded and of course also the oldest with the city itself. Each street has its own history and background and we will tell you all.

By the menu top left under the headline "Places/Streets", by the selector above or by the markings at the map below you can select the street/alley that you would like to know more about.

Image of Österlånggatan och Köpmanbrinken
Österlånggatan and Köpmanbrinken. Photo by unknown.

Info about streets and alleys in the Old Town

In the Old Town the streets are normally larger and stretches for a longer distance while the alleys are smaller and is normally a cross street to the larger streets.

The oldest streets

The oldest streets and alleys are all situated between the Västerlånggatan (Western Longstreet) and Österlånggatan (Eastern Longstreet). This is the original part of the island and once it was called the Inner quarter. The main streets in this part of the Old Town are; Skomakaregatan (Shoemaker street), Svartmangatan (Black man treet), Köpmangatan (Merchant street), Kindstugatan (Kindstu street) and Själagårdsgatan (Själagårds street). The other two main streets; Prästgatan (Priest Street) and Baggensgatan (Baggens street) were the wall streets of Stockholm and with a special function.

The slopes are the from the beginning the gullies at the ridge that crosses the island from the north to the south. It was the natural way up and down the ridge and after a while the turned into today's slopes with the ending or "brink" in Swedish.

Västerlånggatan was originally the road the passed the island connecting the south of Sweden with the middle of Sweden. This old road called Göta landsväg (the Gothic road) was here before the city was founded and might be the oldest road in the Stockholm area.

The newer streets

Outside the area enclosed by Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan are Skeppsbron (the Ships bridge), Stora- and Lilla Nygatan (the big New street and the small New street) and Myntgatan (the Coin street) the main streets. All other streets and alleys are cross streets and most of them pointing towards the water.

The island that expanded

From the beginning the water surrounding the island went all the way up to Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan. Most of the land outside these streets are created by activities by man or the raising of the land since the ice age. The result is that the present island is 3 times as big as it was when the city was founded.

The street names

In the medieval period a street was named by something well-known or in relations to something that was well-known. At typical name of an alley could be "The third alley south of the Stockholm Cathedral at the wall".

Later an alley could be named after a person and it was often the person who lived at the beginning of the alley, closest to the church, at the first floor who gave the name to the alley. This however had the draw-back that when that person moved and a new person moved-in the alley also changed name, it could be a bit confusing after a while.

Many streets and alleys also got their names after a pub, restaurant, the craftsmen who lived there etc. Today you find a lot these names of streets and alleys in the Old Town; Skomakargatan (Shoemaker street), Källargärnd (the Inn alley), Köpmangatan (the Merchant street), Tryckerigatan (the Printing press street) etc.

The view of a street was also different than today. A street was only the part outside a block, at the next block it was new street and then of course also with a different name. It means that what we see today as a long street passing several blocks was in the old days several different streets all with different names. This changed in 1832 when the streets were given the same name even if it passed many blocks.

The street numbers

From the beginning there were no street numbers, people could not read so it would have been useless. Instead of street numbers symbols were used. Today's Västerlånggatan number 45 might in the old days been identified as the house with the eagle above the door at Västerlånggatan. One remaining rest of that old system is today's pharmacies were symbols of animals often are used.

In 1729 the street number were introduced for the first time, the reason was property taxes. It didn't work out as intended and in 1832 today's system with street number at all houses along the street was introduced. All the numbers in the Old Town starts from the part of the street that is closest to the Royal Castle, odd number of the left side and even numbers on the right side.

Maintenance of the streets

In the old day's there were no city authority responsible for taking care of the streets and alleys, the cleaning and maintenance was the responsibility of the house owners along the street up to the middle of it. The house owners at the squares had the responsibility up to 5 meters from the house. The rest......well, nobody cared really.