3 DAYS IN BEAUTIFUL VISBY, GOTLAND
Since travel is much more limited this year, we’ve been taking some time to really explore Sweden, the country we’ve called home for the past two years. Gotland is a place that kept coming up as a place we just had to visit while talking with friends, and so after a bit of research, we booked a trip – and I’m so glad we did!
Located on the Island of Gotland, Visby is situated about 100 km east of mainland Sweden in the Baltic Sea. Settled during the Viking Age, merchants utilized Visby as a strategic point for trade within the Baltic Sea. Known as the best preserved North European walled town and example of a fortified commercial centre, Visby is the most complete of the early Hanseatic towns earning it a place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking down the cobblestone streets and along the city walls, it’s easy to imagine how life might have been all those years ago.
We had a lovely, relaxed three days in Visby soaking up all the sun and history, which I’m happy to share with you now. So here it is, my guide to the beautiful medieval town of Visby!
WHEN TO GO
Since the best parts of visiting Visby are outside – walking along the city walls, exploring old ruins, and admiring nature all around Gotland – the best time to visit with nice weather is late June through August. We went the third week of July, and the weather was perfect. We had sunny weather (22o C / 70oF) all day, with slightly chilly nights, so make sure to bring a sweater! Swedish weather in general is known to change without warning, and packing a raincoat for unforeseen (but brief) rain showers is smart as well!
A little tip – Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan) and Stockholm week (Stockholmsveckan) take place the first two weeks of July every year. Almedalen Week is a political festival that lasts about eight days. Stockholms Week is a week for partying while getting away from the city, and takes place every year around the second week of July. Visby and Gotland in general are popular destinations for Stockholmers, and especially so during Stockholms week. If you do choose to visit Visby at the beginning of July, just expect it to be more crowded than normal with increased hotel prices and restaurant waiting times!
HOW LONG TO VISIT
We had three whole days in Visby, and we felt that was plenty of time to experience the city + take a day trip a bit further away. Though it’s the biggest city on the island of Gotland, Visby is quite small and can easily be experienced in one – two days. After a busy few days in Stockholm, the goal of this trip was to relax and explore, and after two days of doing just that + a day trip of biking around the various nature reserves and neighborhoods, we felt that we had seen and done all that we wanted to!
WHERE TO STAY
We chose to stay at Hotell Gute, a cute little hotel right in the city centre. Due to staff reductions and the pandemic, this hotel was “unmanned”, meaning we had to pick up our hotel key from a sister hotel just 5 mins walk down the street. They gave us a special code along with our key to get in, and let us know they were available round the clock should we have any questions.
Even though Visby is quite small, we loved how central our hotel was. Located on the most beautiful street lined with roses and hollyhocks, we were minutes away from cafes, restaurants, ruins, and just a quick walk away from the beach where we spontaneously decided to take a dip in the sea!
HOW TO GET AROUND
The city of Visby is very pedestrian friendly and walkable. Cobblestone streets cover the city, and it can be a little hilly in places (though by the time you’re feeling out of breath the hill is over!). If you’re planning on taking a day trip away from the city, want to go further along the water, or explore the neighborhoods & nature reserves, I would suggest renting a bike. We used Gotlands Cykeluthyrning, and for 140 – 200 sek a day we were able to see more of the area. Something I love about Sweden is their amazing cycle paths, I always feel safe and it makes getting around so easy, while getting a little workout in!
A little tip on transportation – Visby can be accessed by ferry, cruise, or flight. Getting to the city by boat is simple, but coming by flight requires a little bit of planning. The airport is only about a 10 minute drive from the city centre, and you can get there by bus or taxi. We’re always trying to save money, so bussing it was for us 😉 Like most public transit in Sweden, bus tickets must be purchased through an app (kollektivtrafiken). Tickets can be purchased before you get on the bus, and there is wifi on board if you need it. Something else to note, the bus stop is about a 10 minute walk from the airport and pickup can be sporadic (especially in the summer). Don’t be surprised if your bus is late! The busses can be tracked via the app, and we used Google Maps to view the schedule.
WHAT TO DO IN VISBY
1. WALK ALONG THE CITY WALLS
Visby is the best preserved North European walled town and the most complete of the early Hanseatic towns. The medieval city walls are one of the reasons this beautiful city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Signs say that walking around the wall usually takes about 45 min but we took our time, and easily spent a few hours admiring the structure, climbing where we could, and admiring the views of the city.
2. EXPLORE THE RUINS
Of the nineteen ruined churches on the island of Gotland, twelve are located in Visby. After the reformation in 1572, the established Catholic churches in Visby were abandoned as the country became Lutheran. The ruins that were left behind are quite a sight to see. Climb the narrow staircases, admire the vaulted ceilings, and imagine what the city was like hundreds of years ago. Tip: Though the ruins can easily all be seen within a day, make sure to visit them in the morning or early afternoon, as many close around 3 pm.
3. RELAX AT THE BEACH
The perfect place to relax on a summer afternoon with a picnic or in the hammocks provided. If you’re feeling brave, take a dip in the Baltic Sea (I did, and it was COLD!).
4. BROWSE THE SHOPS
The city of Visby is filled with local shops including a glass blowing studio, pottery, and even a Pippi Longstocking-themed candy store. We didn’t end up buying anything except a sneaky bag of candy, but it’s a really nice place to window shop!
5. ADMIRE THE VIEWS
Because the city is so compact, it’s easy to get a view of everything from high up! Our favorite lookout was right behind the Visby Cathedral (a non-ruined church!). Walk up the steps, for a great unobstructed view of the city.
6. TAKE A DAY TRIP TO BRUCEBO
After two days, we felt that we had pretty much seen all that we wanted to and decided to take a trip to Brucebo Nature Reserve. Though it’s possible to take a bus, we decided to rent bikes and cycle along the water as far as we could. Cycling to the nature reserve took about 30 minutes, and I will warn you – there were some hills. But it was all worth it! Near the reserve is Själsö, the cutest cafe with arguably the best pastries in Sweden (in our opinion!). We stopped there for a breakfast sandwich and bun each before heading over to the nature reserve.
Walking along the paths around Brucebo took about 2 hours, but could definitely be cut down if you’re short on time. Make sure to look at a map so you don’t miss the path leading up to the cliff for a nice lookout point!
7. VISIT PIPPI LONGSTOCKING
After Brucebo, we weren’t ready to give up the bikes, so we headed towards Kneippbyn. Made famous by the house used to film Pippi Longstocking, this theme park is a really popular place for kids. We weren’t too interested in the water or theme park, but we did want to take a look at Villa Villekulla and play some mini golf.
If you aren’t interested in the theme park, there were many nature reserves and biking paths we passed along the way that would be a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
WHERE TO EAT
The days are long in the summer, and as we discovered this means people like to eat a bit later! As most places don’t take reservations and spaces can be limited, we found that getting dinner around 6 was early enough to beat the lines. Plus it left plenty of time to enjoy some ice cream later in the evening!
There are so many good places to eat in Visby – we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of international food! Here are a few of my recommendations:
Breakfast and lattes at Ett Rum För Resande Cafe: With a beautiful garden to sit and eat, this was the perfect place to start the day. Not to mention the tasty sourdough breakfast sandwiches!
The best fika at Själsö Bageri: I consider myself pretty experienced in the world of Swedish fika, and the cardamom, cinamon, and vanilla buns here are next level! We loved this cafe so much we came back twice in the same day!
Cozy lunch at H10: This came highly recommended, and it didn’t disappoint! I had the vegan salad, and MacKenzie had the raggmunk with bacon (basically an excuse to eat pancakes!).
Tasty tapas at Supper: arguably the most popular restaurant in Visby, make sure to get here early if you have less than four people in your party! The food was a bit on the expensive side, but very tasty. They recommend six dishes for two people, but we were happy sharing three and saving room for dessert!
Unexpected Sichuan food at Surfers: We were in Sichuan a few years ago, and were so excited when we saw this fun restaurant! True to their name, Surfers incorporates flavors from the Sichuan region of China, including the famous Sichuan peppers! Another location for sharing plates, we had four dishes between us. Make sure to have water on hand, this food can get spicy!
Sunny lunch at Bad Wolf BBQ: My boyfriend is a serious meat lover, and he absolutely loved the Cowboy Smoked burger. I had the quesadilla, and was pleasantly surprised as well. The owner was so nice, and we ended up chatting for a while. He lived in the US for twenty years and moved back to his home country of Sweden to open a restaurant inspired by his and his wife’s time in the American South. If MacKenzie had his way, we would have been back again for dinner!
A taste of Swedish ice cream at Gotlato: I have a new appreciation for flavors like saffron and liquorice since moving to Sweden, and in ice cream form they’re even better!
Ice cream with a view at Guteglass Bar: With flavors inspired by the Swedish summer on Gotland, this was our favorite ice cream stop! The view of the city nearby made for the perfect way to end a sunny, summer day.
Visby is a popular destination in the summer for internationals and Swedes alike – and for good reason! We had the best time exploring the city, and I hope these tips were helpful!
Have you been to Visby? Where else should we visit in Sweden? Let me know in the comments!