There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Sweden to visit and among the very best are Kalmar Castle, Drottningholm Palace and the fascinating Vasa Museum. Other popular sites tend to include Visby, Gamla Stan and Gamla Uppsala.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Swedish cultural locations and monuments, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Sweden, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Sweden?
Drottningholm Palace is a well-preserved royal palace in Sweden, renowned as the “Versailles of Scandinavia”. Since 1981, Drottningholm has been the home of the current royal family. Parts of the Palace are open to the public and fifty minute guided tours of Drottningholm Palace are included in the ticket price.
Amongst the highlights are its restored eighteenth century theatre (the work of Louisa-Ulrika), its gardens and the Chinese pavilion gifted to Gustav III in 1769. In 1991, Drottningholm Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Kalmar Castle is a medieval fortress whose history dates back to the twelfth century. Originally only made up of a lone fortified tower, Kalmar Castle developed over time to become an imposing stronghold and castle.
It played an important role in Swedish history and was the site at which the Union of Kalmar was signed in 1397. This unified of Denmark, Norway and Sweden under the rule of Erik of Pomerania and would endure until 1523. Today, fully restored to its original glory, Kalmar Castle is a popular tourist attraction and is even a wedding venue.
The Vasa Museum in Stockholm offers a detailed insight into the 17th century Vasa ship, which sank on its maiden voyage, but which was recovered and is now the only surviving ship of its era.
The Vasa was a warship built during the reign of king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. On 10 August 1628, the ship took its maiden voyage before crowds of spectators and with over 150 passengers. However, minutes into the journey, it began to sway violently before it finally tipped over and tragically sank. The conclusion of all of the inquiries was that the ship sank as it was badly proportioned.
The Vasa Museum now displays the ship in its purpose built building together with several detailed exhibitions, both about the Vasa itself and its passengers and about Sweden’s maritime history. Audio guides are available and can even be downloaded online and guided tours also take place.
Visby has historically been a thriving trading port and town and was part of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trade alliance originating in Lubeck in Germany.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of Visby’s importance in commercial terms is its imposing stone fortifications. Dating back to the thirteenth century, the 3.6km wall with its fifty towers and which surrounds Visby was erected to protect the town from pirates and other threats from the sea. Visby’s city walls still dominate the town today and the area within the defensive walls has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, containing several medieval buildings.
Gamla Stan, literally meaning “Old Town” is the historical quarter of Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm. The area is made up of a network of cobbled streets, North-Germanic architecture and beautiful open plazas, most notable of which is Stortorget.
The old town is the site of centuries of history and contains numerous significant attractions, not least of which is Stockholm’s Saint Eric’s cathedral. Another stunning site is the beautiful medieval church of Riddarholmen, one of Stockholms oldest buildings and the burial place of Swedish monarchs. The best way to enjoy Gamla Stan is just by walking around and exploring.
Hallwyl Museum is a 19th century palace and the former home of the the Count and Countess von Hallwyl, who formed part of one of Europe’s oldest families. The Hallwyl Museum was created as a result of the Countess’s passion for collecting antiques and works of art.
Today, the Hallwyl Museum holds a diverse collection ranging from 19th and early 20th century household objects to paintings by great masters such as Pieter Faes. Guided tours are available as are audio guides, which you can download online to your MP3 player.
Although not one of the most well known attractions in Stockholm, the Hallwyl Museum does offer an interesting insight into life in early 20th century Stockholm.
Riddarholm Church is one of Stockholm’s oldest buildings, with parts of this imposing historic structure having been built in 1270 and completed in around 1300. Ever since King Magnus Ladulås, who died in 1290, was buried there, Riddarholm Church has been the site in which most of Sweden’s royal family have been laid to rest.
Amongst those found at Riddarholm Church are Karl Knutsson Bonde, Gustav II Adolf, Adolf Fredrik, Gustaf III, Gustav IV Adolf and Karl XIII. Some of their tombs and burial chambers are open to the public, whilst others are closed. A particular highlight of the church is the Bernadotte Chapel, with its beautifully ornate decoration.
The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm offers a comprehensive series of exhibitions for the period spanning from the Stone Age to the Medieval period. From prehistoric artifacts to Viking displays and beyond, the Swedish History Museum offers an insight into ten thousand years of history.
The museum offers audio guides in English, Swedish, French, German and Spanish, although these are on a first come first serve basis. These are not adapted for children, but the history trails in the Viking section are perfect for kids to follow.
Stockholm Cathedral is a pretty medieval building known as the “Storkyrkan” or “Great Church”. A Lutheran church since 1527, the cathedral has been the site of several royal occasions including the 19th century coronation of Oscar II and the 2010 wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. There are guided tours on Tuesdays at 11am except in the summer season.
Gamla Uppsala is a famous ancient burial site in Sweden which includes hundreds of ancient graves, most notably the three large burials known as The Royal Mounds. The site is one of Sweden’s most important ancient places and is a popular tourist attraction.
Visitors can explore the area and visit the Royal Mounds as well as accessing a wealth of information in the Gamla Uppsala Museum, which also contains a range of artefacts from the area. Also nearby is the Disagården Open Air Museum – which recreates life on a 19th-century farm.