This is the 6th and final part of Swedish Heritage Sunday, a weekly series here on Sophie’s World this winter. For the last chapter, I’ve a real treat for you. Read on.

Gotland – it’s all about Pippi Longstocking. And horses. Or, at least, if you have a young daughter, that’s what she will tell you. Delightful as they are, both the cheeky Pippi and the Gotland russ pony, this island has more on offer. Much, much more.

I only just discovered Gotland last summer and was instantly captivated, regretting all the years I’ve lived so close, yet have never been.

Gotland is a 3-hour ferry ride from the Swedish mainland. As I embark, I head for the little kiosk on board, looking for something with which to kill time. The book selection is limited, and mainly comprise books set in Gotland. Very clever. Leafing through a couple, I find one of Anna Jansson’s paperbacks. Soon I’m engrossed in the adventures of Maria Wern, a blond, beautiful and brave police officer who stumbles upon drug smugglers, kidnappers and brutal murders on the island. Perfect.

Arriving in Visby, the island capital, my first thought is that it seems inconceivable that horror and evil have a place in such a gorgeous, peaceful setting.

But of course it does. In fact, Visby is a perfect location for that particular Scandinavian brand of crime noir and I eagerly look for locations in the book: cafes, shops, the church, the medieval ramparts, cobbled, narrow streets…

I find lots, and amuse myself acting out various scenes in my mind. Wasn’t there a murder taking place in that little street there one dark, foggy night? Possibly by that door?

Of course the real Visby is just as enthralling. The ancient landscape is magical, and Visby has a most striking setting. The town centre is like a secret sanctuary hidden behind a 13th century city wall complete with ramparts and moats. I wander along the entire length of the wall (3.5 km), weaving in and out of Gothic gateways, discovering quirky little corners everywhere I turn.

As I come through the last gate, the afternoon sun bounces off the Baltic waters in that unique way you only see up here in the northern world, sparkling like a sea of diamonds. The photo doesn’t at all do this justice, but you might get an idea…

In the Viking Era, Visby played an important role, and during the centuries that followed, the town was one of the major Baltic centres of the Hanseatic League. Wandering around in town, I see lots of warehouses and merchants’ homes from this period.

I’m only on the island for one night (sadly inadequate) and limit my explorations to Visby. But next time, Gotland, next time… Stay tuned. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of this little photo essay.

Visby Gotland practicals

  • Gotland is perfect for biking. It’s rather flat; great for bringing quite small children along.
  • From Stockholm, there’s a frequent train service to Nynäshamn, where the daily (sometimes more often) ferry departs. There are also flights from various Swedish cities and neighbouring countries.
  • Accommodation comes in a variety of options: design hotels, family-run B&Bs, camping, and cottages for hire.
  • Public transport, i.e. busses, aren’t too frequent, so unless you’re biking, hiring a car is a good idea.
  • The small ferry port is a little ways from the town centre. You can take a bus, a taxi or walk.

unesco logo

The Hanseatic town of Visby is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites we have visited around the world.