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Travel Tales Episode 3: Going under ground to have some wow moments

Episode 3: Going under ground to have some wow moments

The way that I roll means that few things give me greater pleasure than when art is used to enhance taking public transport.

| Last Updated: about 2 months ago

How to find where you're looking for:

Being a train travel expert (ahem), working out the train journey options on these ‘research trips’ takes a lot less time than planning where to spend the night between trains.
My, ideal rules for an overnight stop are:
(1) no more than €80 per night
(2) within 10 mins walk of the main station, or
(3) can be accessed within 20 mins by public transport
(I prefer to stay in an easy to find location right by a tram or metro stop, or local train station, rather than invariably getting lost trying to navigate a 10 minute walk through the streets surrounding a station)
(4) no subjecting unfortunates to the experience of having to share a room with yours truly, meaning no hostel dormitories or multi-berth sleeping cabins on overnight trains
(5) online reviews, which suggest that the accommodation is basic, but clean and comfortable.
(6) and now that ShowMeTheJourney has been published, free to access reliable Wi-fi has also found its way on to the must-have list.

Stockholm proved to be a destination when not compromising on these criteria was quite a challenge.

Stockholm Central station is relatively rare in that it lives up to its name, but it’s also located in what seems to be a comparatively smart neighborhood.
A combination which tends to send room rates into the stratosphere, and as I was booking only 6 weeks ahead, an absolute bargain was proving elusive.
Hence my choice of a private room at the Hostel Birka, which turned out to be fine, as having access to an en-suite bathroom isn’t on the absolute must-have criteria.
It wasn’t just the price which led me to making this choice, the Hostel Birka is a two minute walk from Hortoget station, just a one-station hop from Stockholm Central on the metro; what could be erm, simpler?!?

If I hadn’t been arriving late at night I may have attempted to make my way there on foot, making a one-station journey on pretty much any metro system is a tad eccentric, even for such a committed public-transportophile as myself.
But I’ve been tripped up more than once by not being initially being able to find where I’m staying; on a previous InterRail itinerary I'd booked the Brussels Radisson because it was literally across the street from Bruxelles-Luxembourg station, but then spent 10 mins looking for it because I'd used the wrong exit.

So today's top tip is... have a look at the neighborhood around where you'll be staying on Google Maps before setting off from a station, so that you can find a landmark to help you guide your way
Though I was a tad perturbed to discover that on this occasion the landmark I was looking out for was the plaque which marks the location of Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme's tragic assassination.

Working out how to see the best of the Stockholm metro

I’d read that Stockholm has one of the world’s most iconic metro systems as entire stations function as huge art installations, with one of the most impressive of these being T-Centralnen.
But despite having wandered around and around that station the previous evening, I hadn’t seen anything remarkable.
Logging on, once I’d eventually made it to where I was spending the night, I researched a little deeper and discovered that the Blue Line was a later addition to the Stockholm metro and it’s this line, and predominantly only this line, which also functions as a gallery.
These Blue line platforms were the only part of T-Centralnen station which I’d yet to encounter.

The world's most stunning metro stations:

I had a reservation on the 11:25 Snabbtag train to Malmo, booked before I left home, on the SJ website.
The logic being:
(1) Rail pass users have to make reservations on the Snabbtag trains
(2) Some of these Snabbtag trains continue beyond Malmo to Kobenhavn in Denmark and when they do so, they become particularly busy trains, so I wanted the peace of mind of ensuring a place on my first choice of train before I arrived in Stockholm.
(3) I didn’t save money by booking the reservation in advance online, but what I had saved was the time required to book it at the ticket desk in Stockholm Central (no longer an option).

Time I figured I’d be better off dedicating to making the most of my brief stay in Stockholm and top of the wish list was seeing some of those fabulous metro stations.
This next phrase may provoke some of you to click on close never to return, but few things in life give me a bigger thrill than the juxtaposition of rail transport with imaginative design and inspiring architecture.
Having enjoyed multiple days of exploring the best of London’s Underground architecture, brace yourselves for a future gallery post coming to a Facebook page near you soon, I skipped off to see Huvudsta station for myself.

Huvudsta station

From there I took the train to Kungsträdgården.
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Most of these highly visual stations, which are such faves on Instagram are on the Blue Line of the Stockholm Metro and one of the most striking is at T-Centralnen, the metro station attached to Stockholm Central railway station.

Despite my explorations of the previous evening, I’d missed seeing it as the Blue Line platforms at T-Centralnen are buried deep within the station, but persevere with the multiple flights of stairs, escalators and passage ways and you’ll find a wonderland (take the lifts if you have luggage).
A metro ticket in central Stockholm covers an hour of unlimited travel, so you can easily explore multiple examples of these wondrous spaces.


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.


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