Djurgårdsbrunnskanalen. Photo: Lars Nyberg
A haven for city dwellers
‘Countless numbers of people, especially on festival days, divert themselves with walks when all, native and foreign, are allowed to amuse themselves there.’
As early as 1662, Djurgården was referred to as a recreational place for the city’s inhabitants and visitors. When the hunting park was opened up to the public in the mid-18th century, the island became a recreation area for walks and outings. Visitors were attracted as much by its outstanding landscape as its many taverns, small waffle booths, inns and simple wine parlours which had grown up around the game-park gates and fences.
By the late 18th century Djurgården had become a popular venue for public entertainment, as portrayed for example by the poet Carl Michael Bellman. However, Gustav III was granting more and more land to his friends, especially in the northern section of the park. Unease grew that these beautiful surroundings which belonged to the State, would soon be overtaken by private owners. It had already been argued that Djurgården was important for the ‘health and leisure’ of the city people; so the year after Gustav III’s death in 1792, a commission was set up to protect the public’s interests on Djurgården.
‘While I silently regretted that once more a great part of Djurgården was no longer available for the free enjoyment of the city, which so needs a large summer park for the well-being of its population, my eyes were entertained by the elegance and cultivation that the place had now won. But freedom – freedom was missing. The eye could not see beyond the fences, and with pain I felt that a public summer park had become transformed into a private one.’ (Jonas Carl Linnerhielm, Walks in June 1793.’
During the reign of Karl XIV, Djurgården became a more formal park with the result that many turned to northern Djurgården instead, and the spa at Ugglevik became a popular meeting-place.