The Naval Museum in Karlskrona is Sweden’s national museum for the history of the Swedish Navy, from 1522 to today. The museum tells the story of the Swedish Navy, its historic battles as well as present times, and the human side of war.

In 2022, nearly 240,000 people visited the Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona, one of the most visited museums in southern Sweden. “The exhibitions cover 500 years of Swedish naval defence, the world heritage naval city of Karlskrona, shipbuilding, the last decade of the Cold War, ship models, life on board and much more,” says Mats Persson, museum director. “You can explore on your own, go on a tour or listen to a lecture.”

Its logical that the Naval Museum is located in Karlskrona. The city was founded in 1680, when King Karl XI decided to build Sweden’s new naval base here. The architecture and the city plan impressed UNESCO, and the city was designated World Heritage status in 1998. Karlskrona is considered an exceptionally well-preserved example of a European naval town, home to one of the few remaining dockyards where it is still possible to see buildings and docks specifically designed for the construction of sailing warships. “Wherever you go, you can see evidence of the navy,” says Persson. “The Swedish Navy still has its base here.”

Since 1997, the Naval Museum has been located on the island Stumholmen, which used to be the navy’s territory with no public access. The Government recently declared Stumholmen a state listed building to guarantee its long-term preservation and high-quality maintenance, and to ensure that the public can continue to experience and learn about its history.

Board a real submarine

At the heart of the museum is the Model Chamber dating back to 1752 with old ship models, smart designs and beautiful decorations. The Figurehead Hall displays perhaps the world’s finest collection of figureheads, with several-metre-high wooden sculptures that once sat in the bows of Swedish warships. Meanwhile, Surface Tension is an exhibition about the last decade of the Cold War from the Swedish Navy’s perspective, which also shows the contrasts between the military and civil society.

One of the highlights at the museum is the Submarine Hall. “You can get up close with a real submarine from the Cold War, NMS Neptun,” says Persson. “Few museums in the world have a submarine in original condition that you can actually enter and explore. Apart from the ship Vasa in Stockholm, this is the biggest built-in museum piece in Sweden.” Visitors can also see the Swedish Navy’s very first submarine Hajen (The Shark) from 1904.

Moored at the quay outside are the museum’s ships: the minesweeper Bremön, the full-rigger Jarramas, the missile ship Västervik and the motor torpedo boat T38, as well as sloops, longboats and other small boats. During summer, curious visitors can board some of the vessels.

The Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona: Historic battles and present times displayed at naval museum

Photo: Marinmuseum/ The Naval Museum/SMTM

Meanwhile in Ukraine

Last year, the Naval Museum acknowledged the 500-year anniversary of the Swedish Navy. In 2023, the museum’s theme is our present times. This milestone has been marked with the photo exhibition Meanwhile in Ukraine, currently on loan from the Swedish Army Museum in Stockholm.

Meanwhile in Ukraine is on display outside the Naval Museum until June 2023. It features images by photographer Olena Shovkoplias, who on 8 March 2022 documented the war in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. “The photos shed light on an ongoing conflict and show that each war is both unique and universal,” says Persson. “The images depict how the inhabitants prepared for the Russian attacks, how they organised themselves, and the devastation that followed.”

The Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona: Historic battles and present times displayed at naval museum

Meanwhile in Ukraine, with images by photographer Olena Shovkoplias. Photo: Jakob Hedlund, Marinmuseum/The Naval Museum/SMTM

Apart from the exhibitions, there are plenty of activities tailored specifically for children. The Sailor’s Workshop has educational activities for kids aged from six to 12 years, and Dunder’s Deck is an imaginative play area inspired by ship interiors.

Did you know that in the past, some of the ships actually had pets? The most famous were the ship dogs. Nicke was the most renowned ship dog and lived on board the ship Queen Victoria in the 1940s. The Naval Museum has its own ship dog too. Keep an eye out for Pricken (The Dot) at the museum – he’ll let you know where there are fun activities for children.

The Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona: Historic battles and present times displayed at naval museum

Left: Photo: Hanna Marcolin, Marinmuseum/ The Naval Museum/SMTM. Right: Photo: Marinmuseum/ The Naval Museum/SMTM

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