- Stockholm has more workers in the creative and cultural sector than any other European region.
- Democratic access to culture is a priority for the City Council, which invests in adult education organisations and Europe’s largest art school.
- A former gasworks site in the Stockholm Royal Seaport is being transformed into a new cultural quarter including 10,000 homes.
City data: Key facts
Geographical area: 6,526 sq. km
Total population: 2,163,042
Total national population living in the city: 22 %
Education level – with degree level or higher: 47 %
GDP (PPP) million: US$ 63,641
Creative industries employment: 6 %
Founded in the 13th century, Stockholm quickly became a centre of both politics and trade for Sweden. Its historic medieval Old Town, once a slum, has largely been preserved and is now a major tourist attraction. Built on a large number of islands, Stockholm is known for its waterfronts, historic architecture and green space.
Today Stockholm has a population of nearly one million, and is the largest city in the Nordic area. It is experiencing a population boom, growing faster than at any time in its history. Over 30% of its residents now have a foreign background, either born overseas or with both parents born overseas. (Asylum seekers are not included in these statistics.)
Stockholm is attractive to migrants due to a high quality of life and a dynamic economy which drives demand for highly skilled labour. The Stockholm region generates 45% of Sweden’s GDP and has more workers in the creative and cultural sector than any other European region. Already a leader in clean technology, biotechnology and mobile communications, Stockholm is becoming strong in gaming and music, important export industries. Stockholm is second only to the United States in the number of unicorn companies (startup companies with $1 billion turnover) per capita.
A large number of refugees have arrived in Stockholm in recent years, drawn by a generous immigration policy. The city is now working to welcome and integrate these new arrivals and to decrease social segregation. The city’s Culture Board has a role to play, establishing cultural settings where people from different backgrounds can meet and mix.
The City Council’s vision for culture, based on its Vision 2040 programme, envisions a ‘city for citizens’ which is ‘innovative and growing’ and ‘versatile and full of unique experiences.’ It aims to provide democratic access to high-quality culture, with children and young people a specific focus. Increasing cultural participation is a key objective. Contributing to this are major investments in libraries and adult education organisations; free park theatre shows in summer; city-funded cultural and community centres across Stockholm; and Europe’s largest arts school, with 15,000 students.
Branding itself as ‘the capital of Scandinavia,’ Stockholm is a significant tourist destination. In 2015 it had nearly 13 million overnight stays, ranking eleventh in Europe. It has one of the highest museum densities in the world, with around 70 museums drawing 9 million visitors every year. Stockholm’s culinary scene has also become a draw for visitors within the past decade; the city now has nine Michelin-starred restaurants.
Drawing major events to Stockholm is a key priority for the city, which currently earns over one-fifth of its tourism revenue from this source. Its 2011 events strategy aims to make Stockholm one of Europe’s three leading events destinations by 2030 and to cement the city’s status as a world leading centre for congresses, exhibitions and high-level conferences. Two multipurpose stadiums with retractable roofs have been built in the past decade, as well as Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre with a capacity of 3000. In 2016 the city appointed a new Event Strategy Manager as a step towards this goal.
Other new developments are underway. A former gasworks site in the Stockholm Royal Seaport is planned to be transformed into a new cultural quarter including 10,000 homes. One of the gas holders will be turned into a centre for the performing arts. Renovations to the Stockholm City Museum will be finished in 2017; so will an extension to the Liljevalchs art gallery, which is located on the island of Djurgården in the heart of the city. Part of the Royal National City Park, Djurgården is a major centre for culture and recreation, including a range of art museums, the Vasa maritime museum, an open-air museum and zoo, an ABBA museum, and a large amount of green space. Alongside Disneyland Paris, the City Park has more visitors than any other park in Europe.
The City of Stockholm organises and hosts two major festivals: the Stockholm Culture Festival and the We Are Sthlm youth festival, which attract a combined audience of around 850,000 people. The city also stages an annual culture night in which 135 cultural institutions participate and which attracts 140 000 people. These events have a popular focus and offer free admission.
The city is adapting to new cultural consumption patterns driven by the shift to digital. Public libraries are gradually replacing their bookshelves with facilities better reflecting their roles as study environments, social spaces and communications hubs. Three new libraries have been sited close to city subway stations and more are planned. A new library offering a range of digital services recently opened in a shopping centre in the suburb of Kista, a leading IT cluster. In 2015 it was named the world’s best library by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.
Today Stockholm has entered a period of economic dynamism and unprecedented growth. It is now a major centre for the creative and cultural sector in Europe. Its challenge for the future is to manage its growth to retain its social cohesion and high quality of life.