Visby

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.

Visby city view

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.

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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”.

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