When you are at Drottningholm at noon don't forget to take a look at the changing of the guards! The main "Changing of the Guards" takes place at the Royal Palace in the heart of Stockholm, but Drottningholm also has its own, although this is a much shorter ceremony. The event takes place at 12 o'clock and takes about 10 minutes.
I didn't wait to watch it myself as a guided tour of the palace started at 12 as well (bad timing in my opinion to let the two start at the same time). I watched the changing of the guards in the city centre quite a few times and it is fun to see. Unlike in some other countries the guards are allowed to move, smile and talk to the general public. Maybe surprising to some, but it is also normal to have woman standing guard. Quite refreshing in my opinion :-)
Directly beside the Palace you can see the The Drottningholm Palace Theatre, or in Swedish called "Drottningholms Slottsteater". The Slottsteater is an opera house from 1766. Nowadays it is run by a private foundation, but you can visit it and it is even in function as a real theatre! I would love to go here to watch a theatre play some day, but it is quite hard as tickets are sold out quickly.
What makes this theatre so special is that it is still the way it used to be centuries ago. Quite a sad history caused it to be like this: The theatre was built for Gustav III by his mother in 1766. Gustav III loved the theatre and therefore was often called the Theatre King (see next tip). In 1792 he was assassinated and his grieving mother Louisa Ulrika of Prussia decided to close up the theatre at Drottningholm. The theatre had been forgotten about for many generations but in 1920s it was rediscovered. Because the theatre had not been used or touched in so many years, almost all the original equipment is still there.
Drottningholm Theatre had its true period of greatness during the reign of Gustav III, but who was he? Gustav III (1746-1792),also called the theatre king, became king in 1771. After one year on the throne he made, with support of France, a coup d'tat to increase his power. He ruled despite his dictatorship in the name of "enlighten autocracy" and carried through many reforms. The most important was freedom of religion and the ban of torture. He also changed the law so that the number of crimes with the death penalty was decreased.
He was a big sponsor of cultural activity and built many theatres in his castles, i.e. Gripsholm and Drottningholm and also Haga Park. He started many academies like "Svenska Akademin" (now responsible for the Nobel prize in literature). He played in many theatre shows..... it is been said that he wasn't a good actor though :-)
He was assassinated by a group of people, when he was participating in a "Masquerade" at the Opera. The group was lead by Johan Anckarström who shot the king with a pistol. The king was hated by the nobility because of his reduction of their privileges and they were the "sponsor" of the murder. Gustav III died 13 days later from his wounds. Anckarström was beheaded one month later, the other in the group expelled from the country.
Let's move on and visit the Guards' Tent. You can't miss seeing it when walking through the garden from Drottningholm to Kina Slott (The Chinese Pavilion). This strange looking building used to be the quarters for the dragoons of Gustav III. It was built in 1781 and designed by C.F. Adelcrantz. The idea behind the building was to give it an exotic look and resemble a tent in a Turkish army camp.
Strange building you might think, but even more weird when you know that this tent building is not unique; there are actually more of these 'tents' in Stockholm! At Haga Park I saw three similar ones, build only a few years later (1787). These "tents" do make a bit more sense when you realize that they were build during the time of Gustav III, who is also called the theatre king. The tent buildings certainly have this dramatic and theaterical look to them that fits to Gustav III's love for the theatre.
If you visit at the right time of year you might even take a look inside. The Guards' Tent is open from mid June to mid August, daily 12.00 - 16.30. Inside is a little museum. Free admission.
Time to visit my favourite place at Drottningholm: the Chinese Pavilion! The Chinese Pavilion, or Kina Slott in Swedish, is a small pleasure palace hidden away in the gardens of Drottningholm. No worries though, there are lots of signs pointing you into the right direction, so you can't miss it. If you are at Drottningholm I really would recommend stopping by at Kina Slott as well and most of all, take a guided tour here! I had a tour in Swedish and I enjoyed every minute of it! The tour was interesting, the guide enthusiastic, the Chinese Pavilion itself is so unusual and fascinating: this was easily the highlight of my visit to Drottningholm!
May-Aug: Daily 11:00-16.30
Sept: Daily 12:00-15:30
June-Aug: Daily at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00
The entrance fee is 60 SEK. If you are thinking of visiting Drottningholm Palace as well I can recommend buying the combined ticket instead which costs 110 SEK.
From the windows at the top of the stairs you have a good view over the formal gardens of Drottningholm. The view over the garden is actually the only place where you are allowed to take photos inside Drottningholm. These formal gardens are the oldest in the series of three garden styles at the palace. They date back to the 17th century and were laid out here by Queen Hedvig Eleonora (who also had the palace built).This formal garden is called the Baroque Garden and is directly adjoined to the Palace. The garden has very strict lines, dominated by box-hedges and stripes of crushed brick of black granite. It is divided into four different section, but they all have the same formal and strict feel to it. There is no flower in sight though! Just lawns, hedges, statues, some fountains and 'manicured' trees. For me these gardens were a huge disappointment as I had hoped for so much more. The cold 'feel' of this particular garden and the lack of a real 'highlight' is just not my cup of tea.
Beside the formal garden there are two more gardens, which in my opinion are a bit more attractive. The one surrounding the Chinese Pavilion is from the mid 18th century and it is a blend between the strict ideal garden design and a more natural kind of park. The third is a real English natural landscape garden.
As you can see the garden really disappointed me, partly due to my high expectations and memories of the formal gardens at Versailles (which I loved). The good news though is that the gardens are for free! And the English garden seems perfect for a nice stroll and picnic spot! There are two ponds located in this garden and some beautiful big lawns. Unfortunately I didn't have my picnic basket with me, otherwise I would have tried it out for you ;-)