What to do in Visby!
Welcome to Gotland, Sweden’s largest island! I was here for five days in July celebrating my birthday and had an amazing time exploring the charming city of Visby.
Gotland was settled during the Viking Age and is still very reminiscent of a medieval town. At the time, Visby was a strategic point for trade within the Baltic Sea and a fortified commercial center. It is such an interesting and beautiful place to visit within Sweden.
Here is everything you need to know to plan your trip to Visby!
When to Go
Gotland is a summer island and most activities here take place outside, so go when the weather is best! Summer in Sweden is amazing so visit between late June and August. But remember, it always cools down at night in Sweden and the rain can come at any moment!
How to Get There
The main city on Gotland is Visby, and this was our home-base during our stay. You can get to Visby by either flight, cruise, or ferry. We opted for the ferry, which took ~3.5 hours to travel the 100km from Oskarshamn, and passes by the tip of Öland, a smaller island off the coast of Sweden. The ferry was smooth and convenient, with a restaurant, a pet area, a children play area, and some shopping onboard.
Hungry on board? No worries! There is a full restaurant with all of the Swedish classics. Pannkakor, anyone?
Tip! Be sure to pre-book your ferry ride!
What To Do in Visby
Walk Along the Walls
It is no surprise to find out that Visby is a UNESCO World Heritage Site when you see the medieval city walls. These ancient walls make Visby one of Northern Europe’s the best preserved walled towns.
If you are going to visit Visby you must take some time to walk along the walls. According to the signs posted, the entire walk takes about 45 minutes, but it is worth it to take your time and meander.
I was training for the Copenhagen Half Marathon during my stay in Gotland and it was great to start my morning with a run along the walls. I’d also recommend renting bikes so you can cycle along them!
Explore the Ruined Churches
There are 19 ruined churches in Gotland, and 12 in Visby. When the country became Lutheran after the 1572 reformation, the Catholic churches were abandoned. The arches are really something to see!
Tip! Go early to beat the crowds. This photo was taken at 10:00, when everyone else was still sleeping in!
Take a Dip in the Baltic
If you are going to be on an island (ö) you should to go for a swim, right? Just like when we were in Öland, we found the Baltic Sea to be pretty cold, but it can be nice to just put your feet in during a hot day.
Take a Stroll in the Botanical Garden of Visby
Since they opened in 1855, the botanical gardens have been a place to gather and celebrate in Visby. You can even get married here! The gardens are beautiful, right in the heart of town, and free to visit. And since Visby is known as the City of Roses, be sure to pass through the rose garden.
Tip! Check their site in advance for musical events held in the gardens!
Have a City Tour
We found a walking city tour with Aiden and really enjoyed it. Meet at the tourist information center at 11:00 and then follow along for an hour and a half. At the end, you pay what you want with card or Swish. It was really informative and fast moving. Aiden is a Scot who has lived in Gotland for the past 10 years. It was nice to support a local small business!
Enjoy all of the Roses
I learned on the city tour that roses were planted all over Visby to counter the smell of the fish. One street, Fiskargränd (in the picture above), was the start of it all. The fishermen lived here and it often had a foul stench of fish guts a few hundred years ago. So the fishermen planted roses all along the street, and the rest of Visby has embraced the idea too! Now, thankfully, it is just roses and no fish.
Also, a candy shop scene from the original 1969 Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking) movie was filmed on this street!
How Long To Stay
If you are just going to visit Visby, 2 full days should be perfect. But I would really recommend staying a little longer and visiting other parts of Gotland, as we did!
Where to Eat
- Café Gula Huset
- St. Hans – The saffron cake with Gotland Dew berries is a Gotlandic speciality!
Looking for tips about what to do outside of Visby? Read more here.
- Visby is the most complete of the early Hanseatic towns.
- Looking to bus around the island? Kollektivtrafiken is where you can buy tickets and check routes. Visby itself is very small and easy to walk.
- Lots of shops offering glass-blown items for sale!
- Plan the week you visit carefully! Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan) and Stockholm week (Stockholmsveckan) take place the first two weeks of July each year. Almedalsveckan is a political festival that lasts just over a week. And Stockholmers ditch the city for a week on the island during Stockholmsveckan. It wasn’t too crowded during our visit, but that probably has more to do with covid restrictions. It definitely helped that we booked all of our dinner reservations a month out and our hotels in May.
- We stayed at Hotel Gute, and our friends stayed at Hotel Kalk. We both had great experiences!
- Be sure to start your tour of the churches ruins in the morning, as most close around 15:00. But you can easily visit the 12 located in Visby within a day!
- You can easily rent bikes at many places or hotels in Gotland for about 150-200 SEK (~$15 USD) for the day.
- Great views offered if you go high up! I loved the red roofs.
Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!