Stockholm: walking in Astrid Lindgren’s footsteps
On the 75th anniversary of the Pippi Longstocking books, we explore the author’s enduring legacy in the Swedish capital
Stockholm is a vibrant city, sprinkled across 14 islands which feature many historical and cultural sites, and an endless selection of bustling restaurants and bars.
One of Sweden’s most treasured national icons is children’s writer Astrid Lindgren, whose Pippi Longstocking books captivated the imaginations of children worldwide. The books turn 75 this year, and three-quarters of a century later, Pippi is still considered a childhood staple and a feminist icon.
Lindgren’s enduring legacy extends far beyond the books she penned, having been an influential activist and social commentator in her time.
She spent much of her life living and working in Stockholm, and if you visit the city there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in her work and walk in her footsteps.
From 1941 until her death in 2002, Astrid Lindgren lived in Dalagatan 46 in central Stockholm.
The house is now open to the public, preserved exactly as she left it. Her shoes and hats still remain by the door; notebooks with her writing lie open on her desk next to the typewriter on which she wrote many of her books.
Lindgren’s daughter Karin Nyman’s childhood bed still sits in the bedroom, where the character of Pippi Longstocking first came to life. Pippi was famously born when Nyman lay ill in bed one day and asked her mother to tell her stories about “Pippi Longstocking”, pulling the name out of thin air.
The carpet by Lindgren’s bed has two worn patches where her feet would touch the ground every morning. Guided tours get booked up far in advance, so planning ahead is essential.
Across from Dalagatan is Vasaparken, a park where Lindgren often went for walks. Now, a section of the park has been renamed the Astrid Lindgren terrace in her honour.
Cirkus Stockholm is one of the city’s most interesting events venues, which in 2016 hosted an adaptation of Mamma Mia! as an immersive theatre and dining experience.
Björn Ulvaeus is now executive producing a Pippi Longstocking musical due to premier in Cirkus Stockholm this summer, which, fittingly, brings to life the adventure of Pippi at the circus.
Ulvaeus and director Maria Blom are working with Swedish circus company Cirkus Cirkör to put together a show that sets the story to music and circus acts, including a flying orchestra.
For the soundtrack, Ulvaeus has written original songs as well as lyrics to go alongside existing instrumental music written by his ABBA co-star Benny Anderson.
For families with children, Junibacken is a must visit, a lively attraction dedicated to children’s literature. The centre brims with installations which encourage adults and children to play together.
Lindgren’s works are the main attraction, including an incredibly detailed replica of Villa Villekulla, complete with Pippi’s footprints on the ceiling and ginger snap batter rolled out onto the floor. On weekends and during the summer, child actors put on shows as the characters.
One of the highlights of Junibacken is the Story Train, the last story Lindgren ever wrote. Guests sit in carts which move through an elaborate display of towns, worlds and characters in motion.
You have the choice between Swedish or English narration, with the Swedish voiceover having been recorded by Astrid Lindgren herself.
Finish your visit at the cafe with a coffee and cinnamon bun.
Astrid Lindgren World
Another experience perfect for families, Lindgren’s books and characters are brought to life in this theme park with elaborate play areas and sets. During the summer, there are multiple shows daily across the many stages.
Visitors can dine at one of the restaurants, or bring a picnic to enjoy while watching shows in the sprawling outdoor sets.
The park is located in Lindgren’s hometown of Vimmerby, reachable by train from Stockholm. It’s also possible to camp or stay in cottages overnight.
The park is open all summer long and on selected dates throughout the year.
Visit Astrid Lindgren World
Astrid Lindgren Näs
Also in Vimmerby is the childhood home that Lindgren grew up in, where she found inspiration for many of her stories. At Näs there are daily tours of the house and an extensive exhibition called The Whole World’s Astrid Lindgren, exploring the author’s life, personality and upbringing.
The gardens at Näs feature several works of art and installations inspired by themes of Lindgren’s books, including freedom, courage, melancholy and joy. There is also a shop and café.
Visit Astrid Lindgren Näs
While working as head of children’s fiction at Rabén & Sjögren publishers, Lindgren walked through this park in Stockholm daily. Story has it that her book Mio, my Son was inspired by a walk through this park, when she spotted a little boy sitting alone on a bench. Now the park is home to a bronze sculpture of Lindgren.