Swedish Heritage Sunday: Hanseatic Visby, Gotland

2014-07-25T09:19:42+00:009 February 2014|Islands, Sweden, UNESCO World Heritage|

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.

iPhone des 2011 - jun 2012 325

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…

Visby street

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?

Visby Gotland

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.

Medieval city wall, Visby Gotland

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.

Hanseatic Visby Gotland Hanseatic Visby Gotland

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 cat Visby cat II

Houses by the medieval city walls, Visby Gotland

Visby street

Pram, Visby Gotland

Visby street

Visby Gotland

Visby Gotland practicals

Biking in Gotland

  • 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 come 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.

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  1. Maria 9 February 2014 at 2056 - Reply

    Gorgeous location and love the creative play with the baby pram

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 February 2014 at 1340 - Reply

      All sorts of creative decorations in Visby 🙂

  2. Muza-chan 10 February 2014 at 0730 - Reply

    Beautiful 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 February 2014 at 1612 - Reply

      It really is a gorgeous island.

  3. Marcia 10 February 2014 at 1500 - Reply

    Gotland sounds like a delightful place, Sophie. You picked the perfect book to help send your imagination flying but even without it, I’m sure those buildings would have helped you conjure up all kinds of stories. Thanks for the tour and the intro to Gotland. Have a great week!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 February 2014 at 1613 - Reply

      I’m often drawn to visit places after reading a book. Just by chance here 🙂

  4. Corinne 10 February 2014 at 1735 - Reply

    What a gorgeous little place. Did you see Pippi…one of my favorite stories from my childhood.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 February 2014 at 1614 - Reply

      No, I didn’t see Pippi. Loved her as a child, too, so next time I’ll stop by her rambling old house, Ville Villekulla.

  5. Lisa Goodmurphy 12 February 2014 at 1955 - Reply

    Gotland looks lovely but you had me at Pippi Longstocking! Pippi was one of my favourite characters when I was a young girl and I think that I was excited as my girls were to visit Junibacken in Stockholm! I would love to go back to Sweden and see more of the country.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 February 2014 at 1615 - Reply

      The ultimate feminist, isn’t she. There’s a whole Pippi village on Gotland.

  6. Mette 12 February 2014 at 2030 - Reply

    I can see why some of former colleagues have retired to Visby. Looks so tranquil and beautiful like most other Swedish crime series locations:)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 13 February 2014 at 1616 - Reply

      Yes, what is it about those crime locations… just like the English ones, so peaceful and idyllic and murderous…

  7. Victor Tribunsky 14 February 2014 at 1056 - Reply

    A very, very long time ago, here was a great battle of Visby citizens with aggressors, if I am not mistaken.

  8. Mary @ Green Global Travel 18 February 2014 at 0759 - Reply

    Gotland looks gorgeous! I love all of the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Abi 20 February 2014 at 1915 - Reply

    Such beautiful, rich colours in these photos. Hope to get there one day…

  10. Stephanie - The Travel Chica 21 February 2014 at 0406 - Reply

    Looks like a pretty town to wander.

  11. John Smeeth 23 February 2014 at 0759 - Reply

    so so lovely photos…. great collection … keep posting….

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