The Hanseatic city on Gotland
Many cruise ships that start in northern Germany and are about to cross the Baltic Sea (e.g. on the trip to St. Petersburg or the Baltic States) stop in the southern Swedish city of Visby. Visby has around 23,000 inhabitants and is located on the west coast of the island of Gotland. Visby can also be reached by ferry from mainland Sweden. Visby is worthwhile for a day or more! The medieval old town is very well preserved and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In earlier centuries Visby was a Hanseatic city and an important trading base between northern Germany, Scandinavia and Russia.
The old town and the Gotland Museum
The impressive medieval city wall of Visby (built 1250-1288) is three and a half kilometers long, and 27 watchtowers of the original 29 have been preserved (that’s a record!). If you stroll through the alleys of the old town, you will find numerous pretty photo motifs: There is the powder tower from the 12th century, the church “St. Karin” and the cathedral church “Sankta Maria”. The church “St. Karin” was destroyed in a war between Swedes and Danes in the 16th century and has been a romantic ruin ever since. The cathedral was built in the 12th century in Romanesque style and has a beautiful baroque interior. In the Gotland Museum, visitors can learn about the history of the island, which was inhabited since prehistoric times.
Shopping and trips
Handicrafts (ceramics), lambskins and sweets are popular souvenirs from Visby. There is a large selection in the pretty little shops in the old town! Perhaps there is still time for a stroll through the parks of Visby, the “Almedalen” and the botanical garden. And in the amusement park “Kneippbyn” – located just outside Visby – visitors can take a trip back in time to their childhood: there you can visit the “Villa Kunterbunt”, which appears in the film adaptations of the “Pippi Longstocking” novels. Hikes along the west coast of Gotland lead to fishing villages, secluded cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches.
The outstanding marvel of Sweden
The Göta Canal meanders through Västergötland and Östergötland and was built 200 years ago. The canal is the largest construction project in Sweden. In the years of its construction, nearly 60,000 people worked literally digging the 87 km stretch with a spade and shovel. The leader of this gigantic project was the engineer Baltzar von Platen, who had recognized the importance of a transport route for goods traffic from the Baltic Sea to the Kattegat. While the Göta Canal played a decisive role in this function in the 19th century, the structure later lost its importance due to strong competition from rail and truck traffic.
The blue ribbon of Sweden
Nowadays the canal is one of the most famous Swedish tourist attractions. The waterway, the guest harbors, museums and sights attract three million tourists every year.
For a hundred years, three steamships have been cruising leisurely across the country by water. If you are looking for relaxation and tranquility and at the same time want to see a lot of Sweden’s beautiful nature, you can take part in multi-day cruises between Stockholm and Gothenburg. Day trips are also possible with other ships, but these should be booked in advance. In the summer months there are also many recreational boats that can also be rented on the canal.
The Göta Canal leads through deep forests, pretty towns and yellow fields. The height differences determined by the landscape are overcome by locks. They are what make the Göta Canal so fascinating and are popular excursion destinations for visitors. Tourists can experience the fascinating spectacle of the lock in the cozy restaurants and cafés directly at the locks. The Berg lock staircase with its seven locks is particularly impressive. Here the Göta Canal overcomes almost 20 meters in altitude with the help of seven locks. The lock staircase is also interesting for those visitors who just want to watch the hustle and bustle on the canal and around the locks and have a cozy coffee. There is also an ice bar, a pretty café and a mini golf course.
A major attraction in Sweden
Mariefred is located west of Stockholm and is a town with narrow streets, neat wooden houses and an idyllic atmosphere. Visitors will find cozy cafés, galleries and many small shops here. The location on Mälaren, Sweden’s third largest lake, is also very beautiful. The most famous sight of the city is Gripsholm Castle, which is clearly visible on the banks of the Mälaren. The castle is known to German-speaking visitors through Kurt Tucholsky’s romance novel of the same name from 1931, which has also been filmed several times. But even without the world-famous writer and his story from the 30s, the beautiful complex meets all the requirements to be considered one of the most impressive sights in Northern Europe: an idyllic location, bright red and shimmering brick walls, four huge round towers and an exciting story. Gripsholm is still used by the Swedish royal family today. In 2001 King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia celebrated their silver wedding anniversary there.
Exciting tours, portraits and a prison tower
There is a state portrait collection in the castle, for which the National Museum in Stockholm is responsible. The imposing collection includes almost 4,500 paintings from the late 15th century to the present day. More portraits of famous Swedes are added every year. For example, there are portraits of Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA with an Allen key, and of Benny Andersson, the famous ABBA singer. The works from the 19th to the 21st century hang on the third floor of the mighty castle.
During the summer months, visitors have the opportunity to explore Gripsholm Castle on their own. If you want, you can of course also take part in a guided tour, which is offered all year round in German. Particularly noteworthy are the guided tours through the creepy prison tower. In the summer there are sometimes interesting guided tours for children.
A large selection of books, postcards, toys and souvenirs can be found in the castle’s boutique. More exclusive items such as glass, textiles, porcelain and other items based on models from the royal art collection are also offered here.