With more than
60 million copies of the bestselling trilogy Millennium sold worldwide, late
author Stieg Larsson has presented a different
side of Stockholm to the world. His lead fictional characters – journalist
Mikael Blomkvist and hacker-extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander – show the reader a
grittier, more contemporary face of the capital through tales of espionage, white
collar crime and other seedy activities . Visitors to the city and Millennium
enthusiasts alike can now walk in the footsteps of Larsson’s characters and
take in Stockholm’s beauty from their point of view.
From Bellmansgatan 1 on the island of Södermalm, tour
guide Ylva da Silva from Stockholm
City Museum showed visitors the views of Gamla stan, Stockholm’s old town, located
across Riddarfjärden bay. During the 17th Century, only structures
made of stone and brick were allowed in Gamla stan after fires destroyed a
portion of the city, meaning that most working class residents who could only
afford wooden houses had to move south to Södermalm (“Söder”), an island then known
as “Åsön”. Remnants of these red wooden cottages can still be found at the end
of popular Söder street Åsögatan.
was in Söder, which today is an eclectic mix of wealthy, religious and working
class residents. Until his death from a heart attack in 2004, Larsson was
editor-in-chief of Expo,
a Söder-based anti-racist magazine on which the fictional Millennium magazine in
his books is loosely based. Larsson’s protagonists and “good guys” all live and
operate from here.
21-room penthouse on Fiskargatan 9 that character Lisbeth Salander purchases; the
highly-coveted hilltop location of Mikael Blomkvist’s apartment on
Bellmansgatan 1; and the Jewish synagogue Adat Jisrael where detective Jan
Bublanski often meets with Dragan Armanskij, CEO of fictional Milton Security, are
all within blocks of each other in Söder; and Salander lived as a young girl in the industrial-style
socialist-era apartments on Lundagatan.
As the museum-led
tour continued along Monteliusvägen , with its spectacular views across to
Riddarholmen island, da Silva also pointed out Östermalm, Stockholm’s
wealthiest and glitziest neighbourhood, where Larsson bases his “bad guys” such
as fictional billionaire Wennerstrom from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who
lives on the most expensive street of all, Strandvägen.
Coffee and food culture
Leaving Monteliusvägen, the tour headed along Norra Agnegatan towards the cosy
Lebanese tavern Tabbouli, where Larsson
often ate lamb stew. The tavern also served as inspiration for the fictional
Bosnian restaurant Samir’s Cauldron, where a shoot-out takes place in the third
book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
All along the popular
streets Folkungagatan and Götgatan, as well as in the area south of
Folkungagatan (known as “so-fo”) , a variety of ethnic restaurants sit alongside
traditional Swedish restaurants. Lisbeth Salander often met with members of
fictional girl band Evil Fingers at the restaurant-pub-club Kvarnen, where visitors can dig into classic dishes such as
reindeer, meatballs and moose.
vibrant coffee culture is heavily fuelled by the Swedish tradition of fika – socializing over cups of coffee
and sweet pastries. Mellqvists
Kaffebar was Larsson’s fika joint in real life and it also served as fictional
character Mikael Blomkvist’s regular coffee spot. Larsson was often found working
on his laptop at the cafe, which is conveniently located beneath the Expo offices.
Other key spots
Leaving Mellqvists Kaffebar, the tour continued along Hornsgatan towards the synagogue
Adat Jisrael, where fictional detective Bublanski regularly worships, and onto the
pedestrian drag Götgatan, where the Millenium’s editorial offices were based on
the corner of Götgatan and Hökens Gata. A short hilly hike up Hökens Gata leads
to Mosebacke Square.
In the books, Salander
walks across the square past the iconic statue The Sisters, which was created
by Swedish sculptor Nils
Sjögren and is said to be inspired by the 1900s
suicide drowning of two sisters in nearby Hammarby Lake. Cutting across
Mosebacke finally lead the tour to Fiskargatan 9, where Salander’s penthouse
has impressive views of the lush, green Djurgården island and the amusement
park, Gröna lund.
While Larsson’s books were inspired by Stockholm’s – particularly
Södermalm’s -- rich diversity, they are also infused with traditional literature
references and socio-political undertones. Larsson pays
homage to famous Swedish author Astrid Lindgren and her wildly popular
children’s books, and da Siva explained that Lisbeth Salander is meant to
represent Lindgren’s famous red-haired character Pippi Longstocking once she reaches her
Salander is actually
red-haired beneath her signature jet black dyed hair, as described by Larsson
in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, and her rebellious nature pulls from Pippi
Longstocking’s independence. Da Silva also pointed out that the name on
Salander’s door at her house is “V. Kulla”, harking back to the name of Pippi
Longstocking’s house, “Villa Villerkulla”. Visitors to Stockholm can find a
model version of this fantasy villa at Junibacken, a children’s
playground and storybook museum on the island of Djurgården -- which can also
be seen from Fiskargatan 9.
As for Mikael
Blomkvist, many suspect Larsson’s heroic character was modelled after Lindgren’s
Kalle Blomkvist -- who played the lead in Lindgren’s teenage detective series Bill
Beyond the geographical
split of the author’s good and bad guys, Larsson enthusiasts -- including guide
da Silva -- note that his characters are culturally and ethnically diverse to
reflect a truer, ever-changing picture of Stockholm, like Armanskij from the
Balkans and Bublanski who is Jewish.
The article 'Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.