I gaze down on Stockholm from a giddy height. I’m feeling uneasy having been abruptly struck with vertigo, so I’m not feeling too good although I’m securely clipped to a safety wire.
Along with a five other people I’m standing on a narrow steel walkway encircling the roof of Stockholm’s criminal court and the adjacent old parliament building on the island of Riddarholmen. I have a unique pigeon’s eye view of Sweden’s capital city although my sudden nausea threatens to swamp the serendipity of the moment.
I steady myself with some deep breaths, relax my grip on the handrail and focus on the ancient shingles of a nearby rooftop. Our guide EliasElias Drakenberg is telling us about an ever-shifting Stockholm.
Much like Venice, this fascinating city is built on many islands – 14 in total – and is forever, subtly, on the move in tectonic terms. That’s why the precinct called Slussen that we see below us must undergo extensive reconstruction.
Slussen is a complex concrete network of roads and railway bridges linking the city centre the neighbouring island of Sodermalm. Roads and rail tracks are built over a lock that links the Baltic Sea with Lake Malaren.
Elias points to a whirlpool swirling in the water beneath the railway bridge. “See where the water disappears beneath the city,” he says. The whole of Slussen needs to be re-engineered, a project that’s causing considerable civic consternation.
I take another deep breath and we continue our tour, which lasts about 45 minutes. In our safety helmets and full-body harness we are clipped to a steel wire throughout the entire experience.
Halfway through the experience we clamber off a roof into a tower and inside find a cosy room with views of Lake Malaren and Slussen. Elias tells us this room is a welcome hot chocolate pit stop when it’s snowing. The rooftop tour runs year-round, rain or shine, only ever cancelled when it’s too cold for comfort.
Our aerial adventure takes us beside the lofty spires of adjacent Riddarholmen Church. Elias points out the towers in which Swedish royalty are buried. We have fabulous views and frequently pause to hear more about city history and landmark buildings we can see in adjacent Gamla Stan (Old Town).
The final stretch sees us traverse the topmost ridge of the court building with no handholds. “You’ll feel heroic afterwards,” says Elias encouragingly.
The rooftop tour is the only chance for such a unique perspective on Stockholm. Although I’ve flunked the bravado test my short time spent “aloft” like a Swedish pigeon is, if you will pardon the pun, the high point of my city visit.