Bird’s Eye View: Rooftop Tours in Stockholm

Rooftop tours in Stockholm of Stockholm. Photo Takvandring Sverige AB
Rooftop tours are a unique way to view the city of Stockholm. Photo by Takvandring Sverige AB

Standing on a Stockholm street on this summer day with about a dozen other tourists, I contemplate the youngish woman who will be our guide for the next 90 minutes or so. She works for the company whose name says it all: Rooftop Tours.

Rooftop Tours in Stockholm

That’s right: We have paid to walk on rooftops in Stockholm. Slanted rooftops, at that.

At street level, it seems to me that the guide is exceedingly carefree, considering the task at hand. Carefree, and lacking the heft needed to prevent too-hefty me from plunging over the side, should I slip.

Would my screams disturb the other Rooftop Tourists? Would the screams alert the pedestrians below?

Explaining the process, the guide’s occasional smile and charmingly accented English bring me, uh, back to Earth. And after climbing several flights of stairs to reach the super-hot attic of the first building, I am too out of breath to clearly think about anything.

Turns out, we Rooftop Tourists are kept too busy while aloft to think about the guides. Instead, we need to overcome any fear of heights while walking along a fixed metal path that is perhaps 1-foot wide.

Walking the rooftops of Stockholm requires some concentration. Rooftop tours are a unique way to view the city of Stockholm. Photo Takvandring Sverige AB
Walking the rooftops of Stockholm requires some concentration. Photo by Takvandring Sverige AB

A View of Gamla Stan in Stockholm

We adrenaline junkies will be hesitantly moving atop buildings that overlook Stockholm’s famed Gamla Stan, or Old Town.

In the attic, each of us dons a helmet before stepping outside onto a platform about 140 feet above the street.

There, two guides quickly strap us into safety harnesses, snug around our thighs and chest. The harness has a sturdy tether hanging from it, with a carabineer at the free end. The guide snaps that onto a metal cable that runs at ankle level.

Then, one guide in front, one guide at the rear, we set off. The metal walking path seems too narrow, the handrails way too few, the streets too far down.

The cable, about 950 feet long, runs along the rooftop parallel to that narrow metal pathway.

We hold our tether with one hand and follow the leader across the roofs of Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Robert N. Jenkins
Getting ready for our rooftop adventure. Photo by Robert N. Jenkins

We hold our tether with one hand and follow the leader, carefully watching not where we put our feet so much as where the guy ahead is confronting a joint that holds together two pieces of cable.

These joints are called dogs. Most occur when the cable is going in a straight line, but sometimes the dog is curving or even climbing up or down a slope. There are steps in the metal path at those places, but no handrails.

The dogs can briefly snare the carabineer. Then, we must either hold the tether upright or tilt it at a 90-degree angle and jiggle it to slide the carabineer past the joint. This is called “walking the dog.’’ Those jolly Swedes.

I find that if I cannot clear the joint by jiggling the tether, I must nudge the carabineer with a foot — thus forcing myself to stand on one foot on the metal ramp. When my foot nudge fails, I squat down to move the carabineer by hand.

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Janna Graber

Janna Graber is an award-winning American travel journalist and current editor of Go World Travel Magazine. Since moving to Austria at age 19 for college, she's been in love with world travel, and has covered destinations around the globe for more than 55 newspapers, magazines and websites. She's the author of three travel anthology books, including "A Pink Suitecase: 22 Tales of Women's Travel".
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