Every Saturday at 11:30 a bunch of people from all over the world gather in front of the yellow building at Bellmansgatan 1 in the capital of Sweden. There are locals, Norwegians, Finns, Germans, Americans, Italians, Venezuelans … and sometimes even visitors from Slovenia. :)
The purpose of coming to this unspectacular place is a bit crazy for some people: in the next two hours they will visit locations, mentioned in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy.
Stockholm Stadsmuseum (Stockholm City Museum) has been arranging the Millennium Tour since 2008 and it’ been a huge success. Legend has it that the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attended a tour, even before he began his official visit to Sweden.
If you plan to visit Stockholm, you’ll find that there is so much to see. The city has more than 100 museums, which makes Stockholm the city with the highest museum density in the world. Before I visited Stockholm in August last year, I had browsed the web about the things to do in the city and somehow stumbled upon the Millennium Tour. English guided tours were organized twice a week: on Wednesdays and on Saturdays, and the price was also fair: SEK 120 (EUR 13.32 or $18.87).
When I discussed the idea of taking the Millennium Tour with my friends they were surprised that a tour like that even exists and were excited at the same time. I have to admit I was excited too, but only till the point I had to actually buy the tickets.
Just before making the decision I was thinking: “It’s a tour based on a book. We would wander around the city and the guide would explain some passages from the book in great detail. It’s going to be boring. Boring and for old people.”
Well … Somehow I realized that it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity and bought the tickets.
And on Saturday we met Asa.
Meet Asa Danielsson
Åsa Danielsson is a private tour guide from Stockholm and our guide for the Millennium Tour. When we came to our meeting point she was already there, chatting with other attendants. Our first impression was: this might be better than expected. But enough about Asa for now.
We have started our tour at Bellmansgatan 1 on Sodermalm, one of Stockholm’s biggest island. This is where Mikael Blomkvist, the main character from the trilogy, lives in an attic apartment with a view of Gamla stan, another big island (Old Town). Asa told us why Stieg Larsson placed Blomkvist in exactly that apartment on Sodermalm and why it makes sense. BTW, all good guys in the trilogy came from Sodermalm and all bad guys lived in the northern part of Stockholm (in Norrmalm, Ostermalm or Gamla stan).
After not-so-brief introduction we moved to the west and checked awesome view of Stockholm from a small path just above the water. During the tour we learned a lot about Stockholm, its islands and the city history. We also tried to spot all Stockholm’s landmarks. Asa told us several interesting stories about filming American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and from January this year, Millennium Tour includes stories and locations from David Fincher’s remake, too.
During the tour we’ve also learned about Sweden’s history, their typical houses, emigration of Swedes in the 19th and 20th century, history of women’s rights in Sweden and gender equality, about Stieg Larsson’s life and his fight against right-wing extremism, coffee drinking habits of the Swedes (they drink a LOT of coffee) and much more.
We’ve also learned that during one tour a huge Larsson’s fan from Australia bumped into Lena Endre, who played the editor of the Millennium magazine and occasional Mikael’s lover Erika Berger in the Swedish movie adaptation. You can imagine his excitement :)
We realized that there are different translations of the first book’s title Män som hatar kvinnor, which means “Men Who Hate Women”, but was translated in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, some translations preserved the original meaning.
On the road to Lisbeth’s apartment
We continued our tour through Götgatan street, spotted the location of Millennium magazine headquarters and found a 7-Eleven store, where Lisbeth was buying large packages of frozen Billy’s Pan Pizza and cigarettes.
After almost two hours we finished our journey in front of Lisbeth Salander’s home. If you read the Millennium trilogy you’ll remember that in the second book The Girl Who Played with Fire Lisbeth got an insane amount of money and she bought herself a new flat. She moved into a new home at Fiskargatan 9 near Mosebacke Torg on Sodermalm. For 25 million kronor (around 3.9 million USD or 2.7 million EUR) she got a suite on the top floor with 21 rooms and fantastic views over Djurgarden island.
Asa concluded our tour with some parallels between characters from the Millennium trilogy and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking and Bill Bergson (original: Kalle Blomkvist) books.
Was it worth it?
One of the best elements of the tour was our guide Asa. I found her profile at Viator Private tour guides website. She stated that she: “love to guide combining a mixture of entertainment, making history come alive, interesting facts about the present society, fun anecdotes about everyday life and love of my home city! To me, it is very important that my guests have a great time and at the same time get to learn about Stockholm, Sweden and the Swedish life style.”
We have experienced everything that she promises in her description. I thoroughly enjoyed, because she speaks flawless English, is really knowledgeable, well-organized, extremely nice and friendly. It was brilliant.
What else to say about the Millennium tour?
I was totally surprised, because I really expected that the tour would be boring. Well, far from it. Even more, it was one of the most memorable things from Stockholm. I highly recommend taking the Millennium tour. You won’t be disappointed.