If you can only swing a single museum while in Stockholm, this testimony to the folly of kings should be it. The Vasa is a 17th-century warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 after a 3-kilometer journey. (Because of the precariousness of speaking your mind at the time, nobody had dared to contradict the king when he rushed the ship through production to get it ready for war on Poland.) After the disaster, the Vasa spent 333 years at the bottom of Stockholm harbor before it was salvaged in 1961. This museum was built around it and the ship is today Scandinavia's most visited.

Not surprising, as this is the world's oldest and most complete identified ship. Happily, some 97% of the ship's 700 original decorative sculptures were found. All were restored and they are now back onboard the exquisite ship, whose exterior is ornamented with dozens of baroque carvings. They include lion masks, fish-shape bodies, grotesque replicas of human faces, and other carvings, some with traces of their original gilt and paint.

For those who want to walk through the ship—and who doesn't?—a full-scale model of half of the Vasa's upper gun deck has been built, together with the steering compartment and the the admiral's cabin. Visitors stroll through past appallingly primitive medical equipment, preserved clothes, and a backgammon board, getting an idea of what life would have been like at sea during this era. Captioned exhibits describe the almost unimaginable hardships the aveerage soldier and sailor would have faced.

Free tours are conducted at widely varying schedules depending on the season.