10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Gotland
Gotland is the summer vacation island of northeast Sweden. Indeed, it could rightfully stake a claim as the Long Island of the Baltic. Every year, thousands of holidaymakers flock here to enjoy the unspoilt landscape, pristine beaches, and festivals such as Medieval Week, which takes place each August. Visitors arrive either by sea or air at Visby, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island's only sizeable town, where roughly half the population of Gotland resides. The rest of the island is sparsely populated, although numbers do rocket during the summer season. Historically, Gotland generally attracted the more sedate visitor. Lately, however, a younger crowd has started to populate the shores, particularly during July and August. Regular flights from major Swedish cities have added to the seasonal influx; from Stockholm it's a mere 35-minute plane journey, or visitors could choose to take a three-hour ferry ride.
See also: Where to Stay in Gotland
Visitors traveling to Gotland by ferry arrive at the quaint medieval town of Visby ringed by 13th-century walls. In summertime, expect rose-draped cottages; turrets, towers, and spires; leafy bowers; serpentine cobblestone streets; and cute shops. Settle in at one of the many cafés and eateries and soak up the medieval surroundings. A speciality in Gotland is saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake smothered with red berries and dollops of cream. It's utterly delicious. Must-dos in Visby include strolling around town to see the many medieval sights and a walking tour along the two kilometer-long medieval city wall. See St. Mary's Cathedral (Visby Domkyrka) to admire some architectural features from the 13th century and visit the Gotland Museum for a dose of island history
2 Town Walls
The spectacular town walls are about three and a half kilometers long and were built of limestone in the latter part of the 13th century. Dotting the walls are 44 towers standing 15-20 meters high. Near the north-end stands the Maiden's Tower (Jungfrutornet), in which legend has it that the daughter of a Visby goldsmith was walled up alive for betraying the town to the Danes out of love for the Danish King Valdemar Atterdag. From here, the walls run east to the line of cliffs, turn south at the town's main gate, (Norderport), follow the edge of the cliffs to Söderport (South Gate), and finally veer west to end at the ruins of Visborg Castle overlooking the harbor. Regular walking tours in English are available, so check with the Tourist Office, details below.
Hours: Open daily in summer, restricted hours in winter
Address: Tourist Centre, Donnersplats 1, 62157 Visby, Gotland
3 St. Nicholas' Church
From Visby's Church of the Holy Ghost, a side street runs past the remains of the little 15th century chapel of St. Gertrude to the ruins of St. Nicholas's Church, the largest in Visby, in which the mystery play "Petrus de Dacia" is performed during the Visby Festival. Once part of a Dominican monastery, the church was built around 1230, and the Lübeckers destroyed it in 1525. Two beautiful rose windows adorn the gable end.
4 St. Mary's Cathedral
To the west along St. Hansgatan you'll find St. Mary's Cathedral (Sankta Maria Domkyrka), the only one of Visby's old churches, which is still in use. Built by German merchants and consecrated in 1225, it was much altered in later centuries (restored 1899-1907 and again in 1945). It has a massive square tower on the west front and two smaller towers at the east end. The south chapel commemorates Burgomaster Swerting, who was executed in 1350. The church contains a fine carved pulpit of walnut and ebony from Lübeck (1684) and a 13th century font of red Gotland marble.
Hours: Open Monday-Friday 8am-4pm, closed for lunch 12am-1pm
Address: Västra Kyrkogatan, 621 56 Visby, Gotland
5 Botanic Garden
On the northwest side of Visby, near Studentallén, lies the stunning beautifully maintained 150 year-old Botanic Garden (Botaniska Trädgården), at the south end of which are the ruins of the Romanesque church of St. Olof (ca. 1200). The garden is full of rose beds for which Visby, 'the town of rose and ruins', is renowned and which adorn many buildings throughout the summer. There's a full program during the summer months including outdoor jazz (a Swedish favorite), farmer's markets, classical recitals, guided tours, and children's activities.
Hours: Open daily all year
Address: Strandgatan 5, 621 57 Visby
6 Market Square (Stora Torget)
From Visby harbor, Hamngatan leads to Donnersplatsen, with Burmeister's House (Burmeisterska Hus), built in 1652 by a Lübeck merchant. It now houses a tourist information office. Diagonally opposite is the post office. Southeast of Donnersplatsen, the ruins of the churches of St. Per and St. Hans stand beside each other. During excavations in 1917 under St. Per, the older and smaller of the two churches, the foundations of three other older churches were found.
7 Museum of Antiquities
A must-see for visitors wishing to get to grips with the history and culture of Gotland, the museum was founded in 1875 and is the island's biggest tourist attraction. Permanent exhibitions include not only antiquities and artefacts dating back some 8,000 years from the Stone Age to Viking times but also natural history and art. Highlights include fossils unique to the shores of the Baltic, the world's biggest hoard of Viking silver, and priceless runic stones.
Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-4pm
Address: Strandgatan 14, Visby, Gotland
Admission: Adults SEK100, Students SEK80, Children free
8 Kneippbyn Amusement Park
If traveling with younger children this is one that visitors should consider, especially if the kids are fans of Pippi Longstocking. The park is home to a replica of Pippi's Villekulla Cottage, a gigantic water park suitable for all ages with 18 slides and 7 pools, a rollercoaster, go-carts, trampolines, and various rides. Accommodation ranges from camping to self-catering and hotel rooms. On summer evenings, concerts and activities are staged here for all ages. Within the resort, there's a café, restaurants, shops, tennis courts, and mini-golf among other attractions. Regular shuttle buses take visitors to and from Visby several times daily during peak season.
Hours: Seasonal opening
Address: Kneippbyn, Visby, Gotland
9 Editor's Pick Fårö
Farö is different from the rest of Gotland, even though it only takes seven minutes by ferry to cross the strait. The landscape is more barren and the sand on the beautiful bare beaches seems even finer. If paying a visit be sure to take in the incredible sea stacks at Langhammars and see Helgumannen fishing village. Tiny fields and buildings dot the landscape and many structures unique to the island are roofed with sedge, a tradition that's died out elsewhere. Farö's most famous resident was Swedish Film Director Ingmar Bergman who died at his home on the island in 2007. A free ferry runs between Fårösund to Broa continuously during summer, half-hourly otherwise.
10 Tofta Viking Village
For those who like Vikings, Tofta Viking Village is a huge draw. Construction of the village, which is 20 kilometers from Visby, started in 1989 and it's been under constant development ever since. Apart from historical events from Viking times and the Middle Ages a range of activities brings visitors into the world of the Vikings. Try some axe throwing, sports, games, and handicrafts. For dinner, visitors can dress up in Viking costumes and enjoy a Viking feast.
Hours: Seasonal Opening
Admission: Adults SEK120, Under 16s SEK 60, Children free, Families (2 adults, 2 children) SEK300
Address: Tofta Strand, 62266 Gotland
Where to Stay in Gotland for Sightseeing
We recommend these delightful hotels near the top attractions in Visby, Gotland's gateway town:
- Clarion Hotel Wisby: mid-range pricing, steps from the marina, spa with heated pool and sauna, mix of old and new.
- Hotel St. Clemens: charming 3-star hotel, family run, old town location, two beautiful gardens, medieval church ruins.
- Scandic Visby: affordable rates, near ferry terminal, wonderful free breakfast, outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, complimentary use of bikes.
- Hotell Slottsbacken: good-value boutique hotel, stylish decor, comfortable beds, complimentary tea and cookies.