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Vasa Museum–a “must-see” in Stockholm


 Going to  Stockholm and skipping the Vasa Museum would be a big booboo.  I’m still marveling at the glimpse  of early 17th century life I saw there.

Time stopped when the Vasa  sank.

The seamen’s chests were still packed with tools and clothes.  Barrels of meat lay in the hold.  And the admiral’s table was set for dinner.

Model of the Vasa

 Having taken  three years to build, the huge battle ship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628 in the Stockholm harbor.   Yep, it got 1500 meters away from the dock, encountered a gust of wind, listed to the side, filled with water and sank.

It took ten minutes to sink.

In 1961 the ship was pulled up from the bottom and restored, creating an amazing museum.

The Vasa

Why  did the Vasa Sink?

Basically, the Vasa was top heavy.


 It sank because it didn’t have enough ballast. The center of gravity was too high and the cannons too heavy. When the ship was hit with a gust of wind and tilted to one side, water rushed into the two rows of canon openings.

Why were they open?  To celebrate the ships launch by shooting off the cannons—all 64 of them, of course.

About 145 sailers were on board.  They don’t know for sure, but about 40 perished.   The ship was designed to hold about 400,  but the soldiers hadn’t come on board yet.


 The amazing thing is that the sailing ship that was launched and sank on 1628, wasn’t destroyed during the 300 plus years that it was under water.

The reason: the low level of salt in the Baltic Sea doesn’t support the shipworms or mollusks who feed on wood submerged in water.  And the high level of pollution created an environment short of oxygen also needed for deterioration.

It was beautifully preserved.

Why I loved visiting the Vasa Museum


  1. The whole ship is inside a massive building designed to be museum with layers of landings and spaces over 6 plus stories creating many opportunities for viewing the ship from different angles.  It is the largest wooden ship in the world to be raised and conserved.


The Vasa

 2. You can enjoy a wonderful model of the ship with the sails showing how it would have looked when it sailed majestically out of the harbor towards the Swedish King who was in Poland leading the war against Poland and waiting for its arrival.

Model of the Vasa


3. I really liked the many exhibits staged around the museum showing everything from the pot the cooks prepared meals in to the cannons.  We saw actual clothes and dishes and tools pulled out of the water.





4. The Museum also educates.  Here’s a model showing how the sails would shift in the wind as the boat turned.



5. I was most surprised with the colorful painting on the stern of the boat.  Here you can see a replica and some individual samples.






6. Here’s a model  is what the Vasa  looked like as it started to sink.



 7. And my favorite: cutaway models of the inside of the ship, showing how the crew lived and worked while under way.  This doesn’t show the officers quarters but the museum has a full size model of that space to view.



It was interesting to see a replica of the how the canons were placed in the hull of the boat and the carvings on the doors.  They were added to scare the enemy.



Expect to see much more.  We spent almost four hours at the museum, absorbing it all.

Tips for Visiting the Vasa Museum

Try to get there right when the Vasa Museum opens.  We did and it was an stunning experience to stand near the bottom of the hull and look up at the massive structure.  The Vasa Museum has 1 million visitors a year and can hold 1500 people at a time.  Being the first in the door was memorable.

Also, be sure to watch the 17 minute video about raising the Vasa.  It was a fascinating and well done film.

We also took a half an hour free tour in English.  Well worth the time.





Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Jun 28, 2015 Reply

    Your photographs and descriptions of the Vasa Museum are fascinating. I can only imagine what a fun and educational experience it must have been!!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 6, 2015 Reply

      Thanks, Kathy. It was fun and educational. I love that the “education” part was presented in such an interesting way. Very real. This is a museum for all ages as well as people interested in history.

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    […] First and foremost is the Vasa Museum. I enjoyed and loved this so much I did a blog post on it already. Click here to read about this “must do” in Stockholm. If you don’t do anything else in Stockh… […]

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