Stockholm's Nobel Museum is surprisingly small - and delicious.
Alfred Nobel was a curious man. The man who invented dynamite maintained a friendship with peace activist (and future Nobel laureate) Bertha Von Suttner - but his belief in pacifism did not impede his businesses from owning some 90 arms factories. Unexpected harsh words in a premature obituary, in which Nobel was mistaken for his deceased brother, prompted him to write one of the most remarkable wills in history.
Nobel left instructions for his estate to establish and fund the Nobel Prizes. The results of this curious man's curious will has been capturing imaginations for over a century, which makes Stockholm's Nobel Museum a fantastic travel destination. And if you have only a brief time to spend in the city like we did, it makes for the perfect short stop. Here's what we enjoyed most about our visit.
Good things come in small packages.
The Nobel Museum is one of the smallest museums I've ever been to, as well as one of the most compact. Not realizing the scale as I perused my map, I walked by several important displays, dismissing them as just entry-way odds and ends. I'd encourage new visitors to check into every nook and cranny of the building to make sure you aren't missing anything.
The highlight of my visit was the museum's small theater where you can watch a series of short films detailing the lives and accomplishments of past recipients. Wilhelm Rontgen, pioneer of the X-ray and first winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, came to life with youthful energy, some 120 years after his ground breaking discovery. The powerful worlds of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr Martin Luther King, recorded in the 1950's and 1960's and now broadcast to a new generation, remain as fresh and relevant as when they were first spoken.
Don't forget to look up.
The museum's compact design and small space means that every possible part of the building is put to use, including the ceiling. Be sure to look up! You'll see a cable of slowly moving placards, each highlighting one of the 800 plus Nobel laureates.
What was curious to me was that some laureates had their prize citation written under their portraits, while others were blank (as you can see in the photo above - click to enlarge). We studied the slowly circulating placards for a long time, trying to determine if there was a pattern or design to this curious occasional omission. If you know, please tell us!
Dig in to Stockholm's best ice cream.
Nothing says let's celebrate excellence in chemistry and achievements in literature quite like ice cream! Happily, the Nobel Museum's cafe, Bistro Nobel is famous for it. Their signature ice cream dessert - which for many years was served at the Nobel banquet - is molded vanilla and black current ice cream, surrounded by black current sauce, fresh fruit, and a gold foil covered chocolate Nobel medal. The ice cream is shaped like a flower and there is some light green cotton candy serving as grass at the base. So pretty!
It's a delicious, albeit expensive treat. For about the same price, you can also enjoy the daily lunch menu - a bargain at just 100 kroner for a hot main course, bread, coffee, and salad (all local, fair trade, organic.) My advice is to go for lunch so you can enjoy a rare Stockholm bargain meal and then split your ice cream splurge with a friend.
Take a seat and stay for a while.
Bistro Nobel doesn't only offer hot meals and fancy desserts. Just being there is an experience. The underside of every seat in the cafe has been signed by a Nobel laureate - sometimes several. Every laureate who has visited the museum is invited to sign a seat. And the chairs of the most recent recipients are on display in the lobby, perfect for anyone who's making a quick visit and doesn't plan to stay and eat.
I was thrilled to see Arthur McDonald's signed chair as one of those on display. McDonald, the 2015 co-recipient of the physics prize, was born on Cape Breton Island (just like me!), works at Queen's University (my university), and is a physicist (I was a physics student at Queen's! Well, for a week). So clearly we are intellectual equals ;-) As I studied his chair and flipped over my seat after enjoying the ice cream, I was certain Professor McDonald would have approved of my museum excursion.
Our visit to the Nobel Museum was a relatively short one, owing to its small size and our tight schedule, but that doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable. This is the perfect spot to pop into in the midst of exploring Stockholm. You'll be sure to leave inspired - and refreshed, assuming you'll be drawn to the ice cream as much as I was!