Stockholm is the capital and largest city of Sweden, with nearly 2 million inhabitants within its vicinities.
Stockholm is not the oldest town in Sweden. As Sigtuna, Sweden's first capital, was sacked by pirates in 1187, the Swedes built up fortresses along the inlet of Mälaren, and Birger Jarl (Jarl is a title corresponding to British Earl) had a fortress built on an island later known as Gamla Stan. The first records of Stockholm were written in 1252 by Birger. As the land raised, the Stockholm straits became the only waterway between Mälaren and the Baltic Sea during the 15th century, replacing Uppsala as the effective capital. Since King Gustavus Vasa liberated Stockholm in 1523, Stockholm has remained Sweden's most important centre of commerce, though Gothenburg later became the largest international port. During the 17th century, Stockholm was the base of the Swedish Empire, with a land area twice the country's current size, nearly encircling the Baltic Sea. The city contains buildings from all ages since the 13th century. Like the rest of Sweden it was untouched by the World Wars, but particularly between 1955 and 1975, hundreds of old buildings in Norrmalm were demolished in a large-scale modernization process, encouraged by similar projects in other European cities. Since then, only infills and a few areas have been developed with new architecture in central Stockholm.