Visby is one of the most remarkable towns in the Nordic countries. It is on the west coast of Sweden's largest island Gotland in the Baltic Sea with about 23,000 citizens. Visby is known for the city wall, the Cathedral and many church ruins. In 1995 the old city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
During the Swedish summer, from mid-June to mid-August, Visby is crowded. It is one of the best party cities in Sweden in the summer. Many Visby residents leave during these hectic months and let their apartments to visitors. During the rest of the year, the atmosphere is quite different.
- See also: Nordic history
Visby is on the western shore of Gotland, and is the only city on the island. The old city centre is encircled by a medieval city wall. The old city has an oblong shape along the shore, measuring some 2 km in length and half a km in breadth. It is often called "the city of roses and ruins": roses thrive on the limestone island, and the city is filled with medieval ruins.
Around 900 AD, Visby became a hub for trading in the Baltic Sea, and it eventually became a member of the Hanseatic League. During the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries the city prospered, and several churches as well as a major defensive wall were constructed. Visby's long period of decline began in 1361, when the Danish king Valdemar IV conquered Gotland and held Visby for ransom, threatening to pillage the city if he did not get three beer barrels filled with gold and silver. In the latter part of the 14th century Visby became a nest of a pirate organization called "The Victual Brothers". The Danes regained control over the island in 1409 and construction of the major fortification Wisborg started two years later. In 1525 the city was burnt by occupying Hanseatic troops. Much of the city was never re-built after this, and many of Visby's ruins stem from this event. In the 17th century, Gotland became a part of Sweden rather than Denmark. In order to prevent Wisborg from falling into Swedish hands the castle was destroyed by Danish troops. In the latter part of the 19th century the city started growing due to industrialization and an emerging tourist industry, and eventually came to develop beyond the old city walls.
As the Pippi Longstocking movies were shot in Visby, and the original Villa Villekulla can be visited in Kneippbyn in the city outskirts, it is a great destination for Astrid Lindgren tourism. The city was also the model for the fictional setting of the Japanese movie "Kiki's Delivery Service".
- 1 Gotlands Turistbyrå, Donnerska Huset, Donners Plats 1, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 09:00–17:00, Sa 10:00–16:00.
- 1 Visby Airport (VBY IATA) (is located some 4 km north of central Visby). There are flights all year to Visby from Stockholm (Stockholm-Bromma Airport and Stockholm-Arlanda Airport), Gothenburg, Ängelholm and Nyköping. During the summer you can usually fly to various destinations such as Oslo, Hamburg, Riga, Helsinki and Örebro.
2 Visby port is located in the south-western part of central Visby. From the Swedish mainland, Destination Gotland runs ferries from Nynäshamn and Oskarshamn to Visby. You can bring your car. In the summer some Baltic Sea cruises also include Visby.
There is a lively marina in Visby centre.
- Visby Marina, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Reception 08:00–21:00. 170–460 kr for normal yachts depending on length and width, 300 kr for yachts 11–14m (36–46 ft) < 4m; electricity 54 kr for 10A.
Visby is some 35 nautical miles from Öland or the Swedish coast, some 60 from the Stockholm archipelago (Landsort), so a full day of sailing. There is little shelter except from the mainland and Gotland itself. The coast of Gotland is exposed, with only some harbours.
The port of Visby is tight and busy in the summer. You are advised to check the ferry timetables and listen on VHF 16, and adjust arrival and departure accordingly. Be alert and apply good seamanship.
The 250 berths are distributed between the inner harbour, the north breakwater and the fishing harbour to the right of the entrance. There is often a boat meeting visitors to assist in finding a berth. There are quays also for big vessels. A few berths can be booked, but mostly you just show up and will find or be showed a berth. At the big events, check the situation beforehand.
The inner city (Old Town), which is located within the city walls, is small enough to be covered by foot. The rest of the city is easy to get around by bike and has plenty of good bike paths.
Visby is best enjoyed by foot, especially the Old Town, located within the city wall.
During the summer there are usually plenty of bike rentals, but they can be expensive, if you're staying for a longer period purchasing a used bike might be a cheaper option.
There are several bus lines going out to the rest of the island, check the timetable before heading out though.
During the summer cars are not allowed within the city walls. There are parking options free of charge, though a small parking fee is usually required in the city center.
Like the rest of Sweden, taxis can be expensive, and are best for short trips when you are unable to get around otherwise.
- Taxi Gotland, phone number: +46 498-200 200
- Taxi Kurir Gotland, phone number: +46 498-50 000
- Din Taxi Gotland, phone number: +46 498-20 70 70
By sightseeing train
There are a few sightseeing "trains" - practically a couple of trailers with seats and roofs pulled by a vehicle making tours around the old town with an audio guide playing through the speakers. Tours take about 30 minutes and tickets typically cost 65 kr/person.
Note that many of the town's attractions are only open during the summer months, usually until Aug 30th.
- City wall (Visby stadsmur, Ringmuren). Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, Visby's city wall stretches almost 3.5 km and stands 11 m high. Today, 36 towers and three main gates remain.
- 1 DBW's Botanical Gardens. Enter through the "Door of Love" to this picturesque garden of trees and ruins.
- 2 Klinten. Once the workers' quarter and now a popular spot to take in the view over the lower town, Klinten is an attractive maze of small, rose covered, homes.
- 3 Visborg Castle Ruins, Södra Slottsgränd 4. A major fortress built in the early 15th century. It was demolished by Danish forces in 1679 in when it became clear that Gotland would fall into Swedish hands.
- 4 Visby Cathedral (St. Maria church), Västra Kyrkogatan. Built in the early 13th century.
Church ruins in the Old Town
Visby once had many more churches, but most of them were destroyed in a major fire in 1525. Today the ruins of these remain as attractions.
- 5 St. Clemens ruins, Smedjegatan 3.
- 6 St. Gerturde ruins, S:ta Gertruds gränd 6.
- 7 St. Hans & St. Per ruins. The ruins of two connected churches
- 8 St.Katarina ruins (St. Karin ruins), Stora Torget 2.
- 9 St. Nicolaus ruins, Smedjegatan 19.
- 10 St. Olof ruins (located in the Botanical Gardens).
- 11 Gotlands Museum, Strandgatan 14. Museum of local history (Fornsalen), plus a science museum for children (Fenomenalen). 80-100 kr.
- 12 Gotlands Konstmuseum, S:t Hansgatan 21. Tu-Su 12:00-16:00. Entrance: 40-50 kr, or it's included in the fee for Gotlands Museum above. Art museum.
- 1 Fenomenalen Science Centre, Skeppsbron 4-6, ☎ . Th F 12:00-16:00, Sa Su 11:00-16:00. A children oriented theme park teaching natural sciences, technology and mathematics. 70 kr per person.
- 2 Kotteland, Langs väg 2, ☎ . 10:00-18:00 daily. A children's play land with ball pools, inflatables, trampolines, slides and laser tag. 100 kr per child.
- 3 Kneippbyn, Kneippbyn 11 (3 km south of central Visby). 12:00-17:00 during summer. A summer resort village containing a waterpark and an amusementpark with some 40 attractions, including the original "Villa Villekulla"-building from the "Pippi Longstocking" movies. 200-250 kr (Varies over the season).
- 4 Selma City Spa, Strandgatan 6, ☎ . M Su 11:00-18:00, Tu-Th 11:00-19:00, F Sa 11:00-20:00. A spa and massage centre. A day pass to the spa is 400 kr. A 50-minute treatment is 800 kr.
- The politicians' week, (Almedalsveckan) takes place in the Almedalen park in Visby, first week of July. All political parties and organizations meet for debates and seminars, most of it open to the public; mostly in Swedish, but some in English. Big media coverage.
- Stockholm week, (Stockholmsveckan) is a week of clubbing and partying in mid July when Visby is filled with youths, many of which come from the Swedish capital Stockholm.
- Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan), a large feast during a whole week in the beginning of August every year. Visitors dress in medieval clothes while visiting the medieval market or the jousting tournament. The feast is concentrated to Visby, but arrangements are held on all of Gotland. 2018 is the 35th anniversary. Visby is crowded during this week, and venues and connections are heavily booked.
There are only three ATMs in the old town and port area: one at Donners Plats just as you come up from the water front, one on Adelsgatan, and one on Stora Torget. The one on Stora Torget in the wall of the small grocery store with the hand-painted text saying "Uttagsautomat" is a minor sight in itself. Along the Östercentrum there are several others.
Most shops close at 17:00 on weekdays, 15:00 on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays.
Main shopping areas
- Adelsgatan This is the major shopping street, and by far the most touristy. Don't be discouraged though, it has plenty of interesting shops selling small trinkets and local handicraft. If you venture off this street you'll get to see the beautiful alleys and the smaller streets, which are less crowded, and there are smaller shops hidden here and there.
- Sankt Hans Quarter (Sankt Hansgatan) - some clothes and design shops
- Östercentrum (exit the old city through the Österport gate) Modern pedestrian shopping district with most of the usual European retail outlets, as well as banks, pharmacies, and fast food joints.
- 1 Akantus, S:t Hansplan, ☎ . Sells locally made handicrafts and antiques.
- 2 Antikvariat Drotten, S:t Hansgatan 29, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Off season: F 13:00-17:00, Sa 11:00-14:00; During season: M-F 11:00-17:00, Sa-Su 11:00-15:00. A cosy second hand book shop with a stock of some 40,000 books. While most books are in Swedish there is also a considerable English language section.
- 3 Gotlandssmycken, Strandgatan 32, ☎ . A jewelry store selling locally made wares, many of which are created from fossils.
- 4 Gute Art & Design, Hästgatan 10, ☎ . Sells locally produced furniture and carpentry.
- 5 Visby Glasblåseri, Mellangatan 56, ☎ . A glass studio selling hand made art glass and glassware.
- 6 Ödins Garveri, Tage Cervinsgata 3, ☎ . A tannery store specializing in products from the national symbol of Gotland - the lamb.
There are countless restaurants in Visby, especially during the summer, though the best cooked food is usually served at the year-round-establishments.
- 1 Bakfickan, Stora Torget 1, ☎ . M-F 11:00-22:00, Sa Su 12:00-22:00. Seafood. Mains 150-265 kr.
- 2 Bolaget, Stora Torget 6, ☎ . Off season: Tu-F 11:30-02:00, Sa Su 13:00-02:00: Summer 13:00-02:00 daily. At the sunniest place of the main square you find Bolaget. Try the great French food, or have a steak from the barbeque. Or, just enjoy a drink in the sun. Mains 200-310 kr.
- 3 Gamla Masters, Södra kyrkogatan 10, ☎ . 18:00-02:00 daily. Traditional Swedish cuisine and bar menu classics. Open every night with a great "living room atmosphere". Mains are 200-310 kr.
- 4 Isola Bella, Södra Kyrkogatan 20, ☎ . M-F 11:30-15:00 17:00-23:00, Sa Su 17:00-23:00. An Italian restaurant. Pizzas are 100-180 kr, other mains are 160-280 kr.
- 5 Kapitelhusgården, S:t Drottensgatan 8, ☎ . Late June to Mid Aug 17:00-01:00. Serves medieval cuisine in a medieval setting. Mains 160-230 kr. A "Taffel", i.e. a full medieval feast meal is 860-1000 kr.
- 6 Köpmannen II, Wallérs Plats 7, ☎ . 11:00-15:00 16:00-23:00 daily. Tasty pasta. Mains 180-280 kr.
- 7 Strykjärnet Visby Crêperie & Logi, Wallérs Plats 3, ☎ . 11:00-00:00 daily. Nice crêperie with world music on the stereo. Mains 90-245 kr.
- 8 Surfers, Södra kyrkogatan 1, ☎ . W-Su 18:00-23:00. Sichuan cuisine, with several smaller tapas-like dishes. It is also a great place to lounge and enjoy a few drinks. 90 kr per dish, you are likely to need at least two dishes to get a full meal.
Gotlandsdricke is a local type of beer. It is no longer legal to sell, but it's still legal to make it yourself so if you ask around you might be able to find someone who makes it. Back in the day, every farm had their own recipe. Saffranspannkaka is a local form of dessert pastry, or fika. It is made from rice, milk, egg, almonds and saffron, and is usually served with whipped cream and dewberry jam.
1 Kränku Te & Kaffe, S:t Hansplan 4, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. During season: 10:00-22:00 daily; Off season: M-F 10:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 12:00-16:00. A classical tea store offering some 100 different blends of tea and coffee in their store, out of which some 30 are their own produces. They also sell mugs, kettles, and other tea related products. Kränku's own blends of tea can also be found in many grocery stores around the island.
- 2 Bageriet, Stora Torget 7, ☎ . 11:00-02:00 daily. A day-time tapasbar and a night-time pub. During summer it has a nice outdoor seating area on the main square. As it is one of few Visby pubs which stay open throughout the year it is a favorite among locals. They are located next to Nunnan and have the same owner, but attract a younger clientele.
- 3 Black sheep arms, St Hansgatan 51, ☎ . M-Th 17:00-23:00, F Sa 17:00-01:00, Su 17:00-22:00. Traditional British pub.
- 4 Munkkällaren, Sankt Hansgatan 40, ☎ . W Th 18:00-01:00, F 17:00-03:00, Sa 18:00-03:00. They also have club nights.
- 5 Nunnan, Stora Torget 9, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. From 11:30 daily during summer; Sa Su 18:00-24:00 during winter. A restaurant and pub which offer Greek and Gutnish cuisine. They have a nice outdoor seating area on the main square and often hosts live music concerts. They are located next to Bageriet and have the same owner, but attract a more mature clientele.
- 6 Fiket Österport, Österväg 2, ☎ . M Tu 11:00-17:00, W-F 11:00-19:00, Sa 11:00-16:00. A cozy café.
- 7 Glassmagasinet, Skeppsbron 12, ☎ . The largest ice cream parlour in Sweden with over 300 flavors. 30 kr for a 1-scoop cone, 10 kr per additional scoop.
- 8 Hedbergs Bok & Musikkafé, Södra Kyrkogatan 4B, ☎ . M-Th 10:30-19:00, F Sa 10:30-17:00. Hedberg's Book & Music café is a cozy cafe which often hosts events such as poetry nights or jazz concerts.
- 9 Josbaren Visby, Hästgatan 4. Jun-Aug 08:00-17:00 daily. A smoothie and juice bar.
- 10 Siesta Konditori & Café, Österväg 5 (Exit the old town through the eastern gate, walk 100 m along the pedestrian street), ☎ . M-F 09:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-16:00. A typical Swedish bakery-cafe with fresh made cakes, sandwiches and beverages. In the summer you can enjoy your coffee in the backyard of the cafe as well, just watch out for the ubiquitous jackdaws that will grab a piece of any unattended food and drink. Coffee and sandwich 50 kr.
- 1 Clarion Hotel Wisby, Strandgatan 6, ☎ . 1170 kr per night for a double bed room.
- 2 Donners Hotell, Donners Plats 6, ☎ . 850 kr per night for a double bed room.
- 3 Kneippbyn Resort, Kneippbyn 15 (3 km South of the town wall), ☎ . Check-in: From 15:00, check-out: Until 11:00. A resort village containing a B&B, hotel, camping sites and cabins. The area is 150 m from the shore and also has a "Summer & Waterland" theme park. For a double per night B&B is 700 kr, camping 350 kr, cottage 1000 kr and hotel 1800 kr.
- 4 Mullbärsgårdens Bed & Breakfast, Strandgatan 27, ☎ . 720 kr for a double bed room.
- 5 Hotell Stenugnen, Korsgatan 4, ☎ . 900 kr per night for a double bed room.
- 6 Hotell Villa Borgen, Adelsgatan 9-11, ☎ . Nice rooms, breakfast and location. Good Wi-Fi. 990 kr per night for a double bed room.
- 7 Visby Fängelse Vandrarhem, Skeppsbron 1, ☎ . A former prison turned into a hostel. A two-bed "cell" is 400 kr off season, 900 kr during summer and 1500 kr during the politicians week.
- 8 Visby Strandby & Norderstrand, Snäckgärdsvägen 32 (800m north of the town wall), ☎ . Check-in: From 15:00, check-out: Until 11:00. One camping lot is about 300 kr, one two person cabin is about 700 kr.
- 2 Almedalsbiblioteket, Cramérgatan 5. Free Wi-Fi at the public library.
- 3 Café Amalia, Hästgatan 3. Free Wi-Fi for the cafe's customers.
- 4 Tidsfördriv, Hästgatan 12. Free Wi-Fi for the cafe's customers.
- Visit various small villages and other interesting places here on the Gotland island.
- The bigger cities Stockholm and Uppsala are reachable from here without too much effort.
- Ferries connect Visby with Oskarshamn on the coast of Småland.