Despite it's central location in the city of Stockholm, much of Långholmen’s countryside and many buildings of cultural and historical interest remain. The island is 1.4 km long and 400 metres wide at the widest point. It used to be narrower -hence the name. In olden times, the island consisted of meagre pasture between areas of bare rock.
There are traces of prehistoric settlements on the island. In the last century, a silver hoard of German coins minted in the 10th century was found. The coins had been placed there long before Stockholm was founded. The island is first mentioned in historical documents in the 15th century. These medieval documents relate that Sweden’s Council of State held a meeting in Långholmen in August 1435. Another significant historical event was that Gustav Vasa stationed his troops on the island before occupying the city in 1523. Långholmen belonged to the Crown until 1647, when Queen Christina donated the island to the City of Stockholm.
In 1622 a marine customs house was set up on the island, and this operated until 1857. Moored by the customs house were fast sailing yachts that could chase and bring back vessels that omitted to go through customs. The great expansion of shipping on Lake Mälaren in Sweden’s ‘Age of Greatness’ prompted the establishment at Pålsundet, in 1685, of a shipyard for building small craft.
In 1649 Jochum Ahlstedt, the wealthy brewer, leased parts of the island and began cultivating them. He built himself a majestic residence, Alstavik.
The residence was acquired by the state in 1724 and converted into a spinning-house, i.e. a penal institution for women. The prison activities were gradually extended, and came to dominate the island for 250 years. During the prison epoch, some large private buildings were also erected on the island. The waterfront was embellished during the latter half of the 19th century: large quantities of soil were laid on the rock, and 3,000 trees were planted.
In 1874 the central prison -the largest in Sweden, with more than 500 cells -was built. This was in use until 1975, and it was demolished in 1982. It was located in the open area in front of what is now our restaurant entrance. The old Crown Prison still stands, and is the present-day Långholmen Hotel. In the early 20th century, the City planned to make a park on the eastern side of the island, and some paths and planted areas were laid out.