The Legend of Leo

Leo is unlike any other lion in the world. In its glass box in the Upper Armoury, Gripsholm’s very own lion is perhaps more comical than impressive, with its close-set eyes and human-like teeth.

The king of beasts has long played an important role as a symbol of power, strength and courage. The Gothic lion became part of the new mythology surrounding royal power during the time of the Vasa sons. During Sweden’s time as a great power, the lion had a prominent place in heraldry, and kings and queens were portrayed with lions by their side. At the Royal Palace of Stockholm, the approach to Lejonbacken is guarded by two muscular bronze lions.

An 18th century lion with an uncertain history

The real life lion was also amongst the exotic animals that were sought-after in the royal houses of Europe. To give a lion as a gift was a meaningful gesture between sovereigns. Leo the lion was almost certainly one such gift, but no-one knows when he came to Sweden. The tale that has long been told about him is the stuff of legend. According to the legend, Leo was a gift from the Bey of Algiers to King Fredrik I, a gift in return for the ‘tax’ that Sweden paid to avoid the Barbary States’ piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. This lion however, was quickly donated on to the Elector of Saxony.

Nevertheless, he is still a royal lion from the 18th century, even if we don’t know much more. He is the star of Gripsholm that elicits every emotion from wide-eyed wonder to amused laughter.

Leo is both comical and surprising. Photo: Kate Gabor

Nowadays, Fredrik I’s lion with its bizarre expression is something of an online celebrity. Photo: Kungl. Hovstaterna/The Royal Court

Visit us

You can walk around Gripsholm Castle yourself, but taking a guided tour can make your visit extra special.

Read more

Dungeons, armouries, canons, a stuffed lion. Hundreds of portraits, following you with their eyes down the winding corridors... bring you...

Read more

Discover more at Gripsholm Castle

Gripsholm Castle boasts a unique collection of furniture and artwork spanning four centuries. Built in the 1500s it was part of a new sys...

Read more

Gripsholm Castle is home to the world's oldest national portrait gallery. This is also one of the world's largest portrait galleries, and...

Read more

Welcome to a boutique that is something out of the ordinary. The Royal Gift Shop is a unique present and souvenir shop offering products ...

Read more

A wander through the leafy castle park is like taking a walk through history. There have been many gardens over the ages here, and apples...

Read more

Since the 1600s the deer field has been a pasture land belonging to the Gripsholm Royal Farm. Today it is a nature reservation with hundr...

Read more

The palace gets its name from one of the personalities of medieval Sweden, Bo Jonsson Grip, by whom the first Castle was built in the sec...

Read more

Articles and movies

Leo is unlike any other lion in the world. In its glass box in the Upper Armoury, Gripsholm’s very own lion is perhaps more comical than ...

Buy ticket

Customer service

Opening hours: Closed

FAQ

  • Is it possible to hire rooms at the royal palaces for dinner functions/events?

    Strömsholm Palace: The dining room in the Stone Kitchen can be hired for dinner functions.

    The other palaces: Room hire is not possible.

  • Are audio guides available for the royal palaces?

    The Royal Palace of Stockholm: An audio guide in Swedish and English is available for the Bernadotte Apartments and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.

    The Chinese Pavilion: An audio guide is available in Swedish and English

    Audio guides are not available at present for the other palaces.

  • Can I get around by wheelchair/walking frame at the royal palaces?

    Circumstances differ at the various venues. Please look for more information under the heading "Visit us" for the venue you wish to visit or contact our reservations department on +46 (0)8-402 61 00.

  • What currency can I pay with?

    It is possible to pay with Swedish kronor (SEK), Euro and Dollar. For Euro and Dollar only bills are accepted and change is given in Swedish kronor. It is also possible to pay by credit card.

    At the Royal Stables you can pay with Swedish kronor and by debit card, but not with Euro and Dollar.

     

  • Can I take my bag into the royal palaces?

    Small bags are permitted at our visitor attractions. Rucksacks should be carried in your hand or on your front. Do not leave any bags unattended. Bags and cases with wheels are not permitted.

More FAQ