Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Jim Ferri
It’s really quite incredible – the Vasa Museum is devoted to a hugely historical screw-up…
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Over the centuries there have been few, if any, reports of ship disasters that have been as ignominious as that which you’ll see in the Vasa Museum.
After sailing barely ¾ mile on its maiden voyage in 1628, the Vasa heeled over and sank. Right in the middle of Stockholm harbor.
The Vasa was a huge warship at the time, about 226 feet long. Weighing more than 130 tons, it was designed to carry 145 sailors and 300 soldiers.
The Vasa was finally salvaged in 1961, and painstakingly restored. For 17 years it was sprayed day and night with the preservative PEG (polyethylenglycol). That replaced the water in the wood’s cells and prevented it from drying out and splitting.
The Incredible Vasa Museum
The Vasa’s new home is in its own museum, the Vasa Museum (Vasa Museet). It’s on the island of Djurgården in the harbor of Stockholm, one of the top 10 places in Sweden. Sans the paint, it looks almost exactly as it was many years back, thanks to the painstaking restoration. It is the only almost-fully intact 17th-century ship ever salvaged. There’s no other museum like this anywhere in Scandinavia, or the entire world. When you visit Stockholm don’t miss it.
The Vasa Museum building itself is very plain. This makes the ship, as well as the other exhibits, all the more striking. It’s also the most popular museum in all of Scandinavia, and a visit to it is an incredibly interesting experience. More than one million people visit it every year.
You’ll Be Awed
Although you can’t board the ship, when you view it, it’s still awesome. The Vasa is huge and covered with over 500 carved ornaments. Just as interesting as the actual ship are the artifacts now on display. They include an officer’s backgammon set, coins, bowls, pottery, munitions, cannon, medical equipment, etc.
A 1:10 scale model of the Vasa, which took four model builders in the Maritime Museum 12,000 hours to build, sits alongside the ship.
Across from the Vasa are a series of balconies that provide unique views and also contain 10 exhibits that explain what life was like aboard the ship and show the items salvaged in and around the ship. Luckily for us non-Swedes, all of the explanations are in both Swedish and English.
For more information you’ll find the 25-minute guided tours in English quite interesting. They are included in the price of your ticket. The tours leave every half-hour throughout the day from under the bow of the ship. The Vasa Museum also provides visitor information sheets in 14 languages.
Behind the Vasa Museum on the harbor you’ll find several more historic (and more modern) ships moored, as well as a beautiful view across the water to Stockholm and its old medieval center of Gamla Stan.
If you go:
115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 8 519 548 00
Open: daily 10am – 5pm (Wednesdays until 8pm) / closed December 24 / early closing December 31 at 3pm.
Admission: September – May – Adults (including seniors) 170 SEK (approximately $20) / June – August 190 SEK (approximately $22)
Note: There are numerous ways to get to the museum. The easiest is by tram: from the city center (by Sergels torg square, on Hamngatan street) take tram number 7 towards Waldemarsudde. Get off at the first stop across the bridge to Djurgården Island, about a 10-minute ride. You’ll find the Vasa Museum behind the Nordic Museum.