Skogskyrkogården cemetery was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1994

© Victoria Koskela / Getty Images / iStockphoto

One of Stockholm’s most unexpected attractions, Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery) is an arrestingly beautiful graveyard set in the soothing pine woodlands a short subway ride south of town. Famous residents include the city's own screen goddess Greta Garbo. It’s a calming and meditative place to wander, especially if you need a break from the sensory overload of city touring.

History of Skogskyrkogården

Designed by the great architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, Skogskyrkogården is on the Unesco World Heritage List and is famed for its functionalist buildings and harmonious layout. It represents a different style of thinking about how to integrate buildings in a landscape, how man-made structures should subtly blend with their natural surroundings.

A competition was held in 1914 for the job of designing the new cemetery according to this forward-thinking aesthetic, and only Asplund and Lewerentz’s submission got the idea right. It took another couple of decades to finish planning and complete the project. Several famous Swedish artists, including Carl Milles, contributed their work. The serene Woodland Crematorium, with its three chapels, was finished in 1940, and Asplund died just a few months later. His urn is buried near the Chapel of Faith.

Greta Garbo's gravestone
Greta Garbo's gravestone at Skogskyrkogården © Michael Höck / Getty Images

Thoughtful design

The entire layout of the cemetery is carefully planned to elicit certain feelings in its visitors. Each structure works with the landscape to create a calm, soothing atmosphere. For example, a set of stairs leading up to a hilltop is built so that the higher you go, the shorter each step is, in hopes that you feel peaceful rather than tired when you get to the top.

But even for those who have no interest in architectural theory at that level, the experience of wandering around in this place is worth taking time to appreciate.

Tickets and other practicalities

The cemetery is located in Söckenvagen – take the tunnelbana to the Skogskyrkogården stop.

Skogskyrkogården is open 24 hours but the visitor center is open 11am-4pm from mid-May to September, and Saturday and Sunday only during October. A visitor guide is available on the website in several languages. Guided tours (100kr) in English are available at 10.30am on Sunday, from June to September.