Image of a view of Visby

View from Visby.

Sweden - Visby

Visby is an old city on the west coast on the island of Gotland under Swedish territory. Visby has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage site, since 1995. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Scandinavia.

It is recognised that this city area may have had a population as far back as the Stone Age. It has access to fresh water and had a natural harbour, which supported inhabitation. The name of the city has been linked to meaning ‘sacrificial place’ and ‘city’. From this one may speculate that the city may have been a well-known site for sacrifices.

It is one of the tourist cities in the summer season and has gained a reputation as a ‘party city’ in summer. Thousands of Scandinavians travel to Visby in summer. It is at this time of the year that some local residents rent out their apartments, while the city becomes crowded. During all other times of the year the city is quite different with about its 23 000 inhabitants.

Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan) occurs every year in Visby during the first week of July.
Since 1984, Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan) is held in August from a Sunday to Sunday when people dress in medieval costumes. The events during this festival include jesters, music, a medieval market and theatre.

The main shopping street is Adelsgatan. Several tours of the ‘Old Town’ are conducted in the summer months.

Cars are prohibited from having access and being driven within the city walls during the summer months. The city wall is about 3 and a half kilometres while being 11 meters high with 36 towers and three main gates. This city wall is known as Ringmuren (the Ring Wall) and encircles the city with the old ruins of the church.

Image of The medieval citywall in Visby Sweden

The medieval citywall in Visby Sweden.

It was within the 12th century that the Visby Cathedral and the city wall were constructed. In the year of 1361, Visby was taken under Danish control by Valdemar IV of Denmark. Danish rule would last for about 300 years.

During the years of 1391, 1394 and 1398 pirates (the Victual Brothers) plundered the city. In the same year of 1398, Teutonic Knights sailed to Visby, took control after destroying the city and evicted the Victual Brothers. In the year 1909, Ulrich von Jungingen (a grand master of the Teutonic Knights) sold the island to Queen Margaret of Norway, Denmark and Sweden to ensure peace with the Kalmar Union of Scandinavia. However in the ensuring years the city was home to pirates, endured a feud, and was burnt (except the cathedral). In 1645 Visby was once again taken and ruled by Sweden. For a few months in 1808 Gotland was taken over by Russians but it soon was returned back to Sweden peacefully.

A ferry from Oskarshamn in Småland and Nynäshamn (close to Stockholm) reaches Visby in about three hours. The only way to reach this island is by ferry or aeroplane. The Visby Airport is located 5km north of the city. Once in the city of Visby it is easy to travel locally on foot or by bicycle along the designated bike paths. In summer plenty rental bicycles are available, yet if you are staying in the city for an extended period of time, it is cheaper to buy a second hand bicycle than to rent a bicycle.

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