Visby – a cozy little town chock-full of history
As I mentioned in a previous post, this summer we headed to Sweden and Gotland. First, we drove to Turku and hopped on the evening ferry to Stockholm. Viking Grace and Oscar á la carte offered a tasty dinner and a good night’s sleep. The ferry arrived in Stockholm early on Monday morning and we steered our car towards Nynäshamn, where we would catch the ferry to Gotland. We had several hours to kill in Nynäshamn before our scheduled departure, so we walked around the town center, drove along the coast line and had a lovely lunch in the harbor at Nynäs Rökeri. The ferry trip with Destination Gotland’s ferry to Visby took 3½ hours. Once we arrived in Visby we checked into our hotel, Clarion Hotel Wisby. I had originally booked a standard double room but later decided to upgrade to a superior double as the standard room seemed very small, and once I saw our room, I was happy I made the upgrade. The hotel is situated in a building where a hotel has been run within these walls since the mid-1800s and includes a carefully restored medieval alley and columns dating back to the 1200s. We stayed in the new part of the hotel opened in 2013 and had a lovely sea view. I must give props to the reception staff for thinking on their feet. When I was checking in and asked about parking, I was told that there was no parking available as it needed to be pre-booked. I had reserved parking and actually had an e-mail exchange about this with the hotel, but there had been some mix-up and they had not reserved a spot for us. This was solved by giving us the space of the hotel manager who was on vacation. After getting settled we headed out to have a first look at Visby and find a place for dinner. As most restaurants were full of people, we ended up at a pub called Black Sheep Arms. The pub was nice enough, but the food was nothing special.
The Hanseatic city of Visby is the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia and since 1995, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. The earliest history of Visby is uncertain, but it is known to have been a center of merchandise around 900 AD. It was inhabited as early as the Stone Age, probably because of the access to fresh water and a natural harbor. In 1361, Gotland was conquered by Valdemar IV of Denmark. In 1409, the island of Gotland was sold to Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As of 1470, the Hanseatic League rescinded Visby’s status as a Hanseatic town. Gotland was again taken into Sweden’s possession in 1645, by the Treaty of Brömsebro, after 300 years of Danish rule.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, which was good and of normal Scandinavian standard. Then, we headed out to explore the town. We decided to start by walking along the old town wall which is 3.4 km long and encircles the town center. The work on the ring wall was likely begun in the 12th century. Around 1300, it was rebuilt to reach its current height, acquiring the characteristic towers, although some towers were not constructed until the 15th century. While walking along the wall, we saw numerous old houses. The walk took us a few hours and then we explored some of the shops. After lunch we continued exploring the town (I will make a separate post about the food we ate). Eventually we returned to the hotel to put our feet up for a while and freshen up for dinner. Around dinner time we headed back out and explored some of the church ruins in Visby to work up an appetite. After dinner we retuned to the hotel to plan our adventures for the next day. Just as we entered the hotel it started pouring down, so we had excellent timing. As Visby is quite small, one day was plenty for exploring the town, so the following day we decided to head to other parts of Gotland.