Searching for Garbo

Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm - final resting place of Greta Garbo

After a summery visit to the wonderful island of Gotland, I had a few hours to spare while waiting for a train from Stockholm. On an impulse, I decided to search out the most famous Swede of all, the elusive Greta Garbo. Although she spent most of her adult life in the USA, and the final 40 – 50 years living as a bit of a recluse in New York, Greta wanted to return home in the end. She is buried at Skogskyrkogården, just a wee bit south of Stockholm.

Not only is Skogskyrkogården Gretas final resting place. It’s also one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Stockholm area. I was hitting two nails with one swing here. (In reality, I often don’t even hit one nail with one swing, but it sounds much better than the appalling expression killing two birds with one stone, doesn’t it? Also, I thought it an appropriate metaphor in the land of IKEA. But I digress).

Nature has done well at Skogskyrkogården, helped by landscape architects. That tongue-twister of a compounded name simply means Forest Cemetery, or Woodland Cemetery, and it is just that: a large expanse of forest, lots of space, tranquil, green, with tall firs – a pleasant place to linger and communicate with loved ones long gone.


As UNESCO sites go, though, Skogskyrkogården is, well, nothing special, I think. UNESCO awarded the status in 1994, declaring it

an outstanding example of integration of architecture and landscape.

Resurrection statue at Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm




Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm

Visitor centre



Perhaps it’s because I’m not sufficiently attracted to this very strict functionalist architecture. I would no doubt have benefitted from having a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide rather than roaming about on my own. (Tours are offered, by the way, every Sunday in summer – costing 100 SEK and taking about 2 hours).

And Garbo?

After getting lost once or twice – which I’m wont to do – I finally found her grave. It’s a pretty stone, with her signature in gold. That’s all. No pictures, no words, no dates, just Greta Garbo. Simple. Elegant.

As I stood there, camera at the ready, I hesitated… Lift camera, zoom, shoot… easy as pie. Yet, my hand refused to cooperate. Remembering her most famous line, I slowly lowered my trusty old Nikon. Contrary to popular belief, they weren’t I want to be alone, but rather I want to be let alone – a world of difference, according to Greta. And in the end, that’s what I did. Let her alone. It felt right.

unesco logo

Skogskyrkogården is UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.



28 Responses to “Searching for Garbo”

  1. Janice Mucalov 8 November 2012 0654 #

    Greta Garbo is one of our favorite all-time actresses. A simple but elegant gravestone suits her… It’s nice you let her alone…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 0749 #

      Yes, I thought it a very fitting stone as well.

  2. [email protected] 8 November 2012 0805 #

    So peaceful with all the beautiful trees and such a perfect resting place for Garbo. It’s lovely that you left her in peace.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 1113 #

      Only right she is buried at a World Heritage site, isn’t it…

  3. Muza-chan 8 November 2012 1029 #

    Very beautiful place, I love those trees 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 1114 #

      Really nice how trees are everywhere here.

  4. ItalianNotes 8 November 2012 1216 #

    I didn’t know Stockholm had three World Heritage sites, so now I’m mad at myself for never having visited to Skogskyrkogården. I really must improve my research of nearby destinations.)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1257 #

      It’s easy to forget the neighbourhood 🙂
      Apart form Skogskyrkogården, there’s Drottningholm Palace and the archaeological site Birka.

  5. Susan From Travel Universally 8 November 2012 1313 #

    I had read about Garbo.. she was one of the most beautiful actresses. I am quite amazed to know that Her Grave stone is simple and elegant. That’s so nice to show the purity of her.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1258 #

      She really was an intriguing personality. And of course very beautiful.

  6. Jackie Smith 8 November 2012 1444 #

    Your post is so beautifully written Sophie that the closing gave me a shiver. I could feel myself there, doing the same thing. I love posts that both give me new information and touch my emotions – your swing at the nail did both!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1258 #

      Thanks, Jackie 🙂

  7. Leigh 8 November 2012 1546 #

    I wish more famous people would embrace simple but elegant. It looks like you used your time well Sophie – and the more posts I read of yours suggest this is how you work. Ahh to be able to flit from one country to another with ease….

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1259 #

      Much easier to flit between countries in Europe than in America 🙂

  8. Natasha von Geldern 8 November 2012 2218 #

    Well good for you – I’m not sure I could have been so restrained 🙂 Not sure about it being a world heritage site, except for GG’s presence of course.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1300 #

      True, that’s almost a good enough reason in itself…

  9. Cathy Sweeney 8 November 2012 2356 #

    Even when I was a teenager, I was interested in Garbo and I’ve always had an admiration for her and her persona. I would love to visit Skogskyrkogården, but I don’t know if I could refrain from taking a photo. I give you much credit.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #

      Not so much refraining, as being influenced by.. I don’t know what.

  10. Nancie 9 November 2012 0147 #

    You have great restraint, and I understand why you didn’t take the photo. I would have 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #


  11. Lisa 9 November 2012 0154 #

    I love your “hit two nails with one swing” metaphor – much kinder and gentler than the alternative! It’s nice to know that Ms. Garbo has a peaceful resting place – I would hope that I would be able to exercise the same restraint and refrain from taking a photo of her gravesite. It must be awful to be hounded in life to the point that one just wants to be let alone.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #

      Yes, fame is probably much too costly for many.

  12. Debbie @ European Travelista 9 November 2012 0508 #

    Guess I really never where Greta Garbo was from! Interesting that this was selected to be part of the UNESCO sites. Most of them are not of the ho-hum variety!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1302 #

      I think many just associate her with Hollywood (and perhaps New York).

  13. Andrew Graeme Gould 11 November 2012 1407 #

    This is quite out of the ordinary, Sophie, and that’s what makes it so interesting!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 November 2012 1614 #

      Thank you 🙂

  14. InsideJourneys 13 November 2012 1949 #

    Simple and elegant. A class act, she was for sure.

  15. Jenna 26 November 2012 1536 #

    That’s a beautiful conclusion to your story, and personally gratifying because it gives me some context for my first trip to Stockholm next month. Thanks 🙂

Leave a Reply