Gotland is an island of contrasts. A tour of the island progressively shows the changes in nature and architecture. Furthest north is Fårö, famous for its stone walls framing the open landscape, vast stretches of limestone stacks along the coast, lambgiftar (sheep shelters), beach sheds, and Ulla Hau nature reserve with its enormous sand dunes. Fårö has long attracted artists, authors, politicians and film directors with its special light and unique settings.
Gotland’s northern and western coasts feature rocky limestone cliffs and vast rubble beaches. From Djupvik and Klintehamn, you can visit Lilla Karlsö and Stora Karlsö, two fascinating islands with magnificent nature, unusual flora and rich birdlife. Stora Karlsö the world’s second-oldest nature reserve, has the Baltic’s leading bird sanctuary, with tens of thousands of guillemots and razorbills.
Eastern Gotland is renowned for its inviting sandy beaches, savannah-like landscapes, juniper-clad heaths and spectacular sunrises. Southern Gotland offers shady greenery and enchanting meadowland. Gotland’s southernmost point boasts the famous limestone stack, the Hoburg Man. Gotland has a lot of popular leisure activities including golf, fishing, sea kayaking and cycling, as well as theatre and concerts. Gotland offers a vast range of events, including several annual fixtures like the popular Medieval Week.
Visby – The Pearl of the Baltic Sea
Visby is Gotland’s capital, a pearl in the Baltic Sea that gained World Heritage status in 1995. For thousands of years, businessmen, landowners, Vikings, kings and noblemen have visited Visby. The city grew rich as a member of the Hanseatic League, and became one of the leading cities in the Baltic Region in the 12th and 13th centuries. The city’s medieval architecture was dominated by majestic stone buildings, of which almost 200 survive today either partially or fully intact. Merchants’ houses with elegant stepped gables and medieval façade decorations still stand proudly in various parts of the city. Visby is also noted for its many 17th and 18th century half-timber and thatched houses.
Visitors exploring Visby alone often start in Almedalen, once the city’s harbour. Almedalen is now a beautiful park with a duckpond where both tourists and residents enjoy the greenery. Visby’s city wall is approximately 3.4 km long and 11 metres high, and has three main gates. Thirty-six of its towers still stand, some open for public visits in summer. The walls started being built in the late 13th century to protect against foreign intruders, and to stress Visby’s independence from rural Gotland. Today, the walls are a cherished cultural treasure.
Past meets present
As an exciting contrast to the history and the old buildings Gotland is also a renowned place when it comes to culinary experiences and modern design. Good restaurants practically grow on trees, not only in Visby but in the countryside as well. Visby is even said to have the highest density of restaurants and taverns in all of Sweden.
The unique landscape and the tranquillity serve as a great source of inspiration for a number of prominent artists and artisans, local as well as international. However, the environment is also reflected in their actual products. They are often made out of local materials or designed to go with the unique Gotlandic landscape. Sheep’s wool, limestone and concrete sculptures are just a few characteristic examples of what you can find on the island of Gotland.