Tunnel Visions in the Tunnelbana

Stockholm Subway Art

Spending time in major cities can get expensive, so we love finding ways to have fun without breaking the bank. Stockholm was no exception. The city’s network of subterranean transport is a kaleidoscope of color, texture and symbolism. There are pieces by 150 different artists spread throughout most of Stockholm’s 100 or so stations. Styles include mosaic, painting, sculpture, tile and mixed media installations among other mediums. All have a different feel, but exposed rock in many of the stations creates a cave-like quality we found ourselves really digging (pun intended)! Since we were visiting in winter, exploring Stockholm subway art also turned out to be great cold-weather/rainy day activity.

We each purchased a ticket for 44 SEK (about $5.50) which entitled us free roaming on any subway line in Zone 1 (central Stockholm) for a total of 75 minutes. We were moving pretty fast to see as much as we could in that amount of time. If we did it again, we might opt for a “travel card,” which can be purchased for 115 SEK (about $14). This gives you 24-hour access.  Our route is mapped out below. You could just as easily start at a different station, making T-Centralen your main hub. We got a lot of good info for planning our initial exploration from Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s post on Slow Travel Stockholm. She traveled with one of the certified guides from the free weekly guided art tours run by Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, another option for checking out Stockholm subway art. (English tours available in June, July and August.)

Kungstragarden stockholm subway art

Kungsträdgården Station (Blue Line)

Since we were staying right near Kungsträdgården, a central Stockholm park, we began our tour at Kungsträdgården Station on the Blue Line. After descending the escalator, you’ll come upon what looks like an archaeological dig. In a cave-like setting, there are 17th and 18th century artifacts from Makalös Palace, which stood nearby, as well as relics from other areas of the city. You can see Roman columns, ancient streetlights, pots and statues. These items all belong to the National Museum, but have been on display here since the station was opened in 1977. The paintings in the station were done by Swedish artist Ulrik Samuelson for the station’s opening. He added to his work there again in 1987. Even the floors are painted. The colors are symbolic, and are supposed to remind us of the history of Kungsträdgården above: red for the gravel pathways green for the plants and trees of the garden itself and white for the marble statues that decorated the garden.

Central (4)

The Hub: T-Centralen

Just one stop away, the blue and white floral and leaf motifs of T-Centralen were painted by artist and sculptor Per Olof Ultvedt.  The main hall of the Blue Line connection at T-Centralen features silhouettes of workers who contributed to the making of the station. You can pick out men with hardhats up on scaffolding. They’re using power tools, hammers, drills, welding. Take time to check out the detail. We thought the colors gave the station a kind of Greek feel.

Hotorget stockholm subway art

Hötorget  and Thorildsplan (Green Line)

A quick transfer to the Green Line, and we hopped off at the very next stop, Hötorget. While interesting, this wasn’t a favorite. The light teal and neon remind many of a toilet, and the station is sometimes called the “bathroom station.”

Continuing on the Green Line, we exited at Thorildsplan. Swedish artist Lars Arrhenius was commissioned to design this station in 2008. Clearly, he was inspired by the pixels of 8-bit video games of the 1970s and 1980s, recreating scenes from games like Super Mario Brothers, Dig Dug and Pac-Man. We also found an appropriate friend for Donny in Oscar the Grouch.

We then backtracked to Fridhemsplan, which features a nautical theme, with a model ship in a glass case, lots of green shades, a compass and an anchor. From here, we switched back to the Blue Line.

Thorildsplan (3)

Solana Centrum (6)

Solna Centrum (Blue Line)

Solna Centrum has a distinctly political feel to it. Paintings by artists Anders Åberg and Karl-Olov Björk depicted social issues such as “rural depopulation and destruction of the environment.” There is a large section dedicated to the outdoors, with vast green forests and hills, moose, people fishing, etc. Most striking at this station is the deep, red ceiling. We went up the escalator just so we could descend again into the fiery depths.

Stadion (1)

Stadion (Red Line)

Back to T-Centralen and now running out of time, we ran to catch the Red Line, taking it to the Stadion Station. This is probably the most photographed station, with a huge rainbow as the central feature. It’s a happy atmosphere, with everything cheery and colorful. We imagined there must be a unicorn painted there somewhere. Let us know if you spot one! This station was designed by by Enno Hallek and Åke Pallarp in 1973 to commemorate the 1912 Olympics.




About the author

Tamara and Donny have wandered together since 2004, with no cure for their insatiable wanderlust. They write about discovering new destinations including beautiful photography, plus budget travel tips and how to give back through travel.