Travelling 200 nautical miles from Stockholm, we reached Visby, Sweden. Although near its country’s capital, this UNESCO heritage site couldn’t have felt further away. Located on Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, Visby is a scenic seaside city famed for its 12C walls.
Hopping off the shuttle bus, we strolled the promenade before basking in the breeze on some nearby hammocks.
DBW’s Botanical Gardens
Resuming our walk, we traced the walls 3 minutes North, to explore DBW’s Botanical Gardens. Featuring pools, pretty plants, century-old trees and a Japanese gazebo, the gardens made the perfect selfie spot.
Delighted, we headed back into the city to wander around its famed fortifications. Made with limestone and terracotta tiles, the walls include 27 large and nine small towers, testimony to Visby’s days as a trading tour de force.
Such was its success as centre of commerce that in the 12C all the merchant routes of the Baltic were channelled through Visby, which led to it becoming a 13C metropolis, with warehouses, churches and town halls.
War and piracy saw Visby fall as an international trade hub; however the city continued to develop with housing and warehouses added in the 18C, as well as schools, a hospital, and a prison added in the 19C.
Stopping to read the historical signs dotted around the walls, we found the route to St Mary’s Cathedral and followed the path over the hill, until we saw its spires.
St Mary’s Cathedral
With white towers, red tiles, and a Romanesque church style, St Mary’s Cathedral is an imposing sight. Winding our way down to its doors, we were met with the sweet soprano of mass as we entered its nave.
Our eyes followed the sound down the aisle to see chandeliers, a grand gothic alterpiece and pulpit complete with a female priest (a common sight in Sweden’s Lutheran churches). Pausing for a moment, we savoured the sound, before heading back outside.
Sankta Karin Church of the Ruin
Dazzled by daylight, we got our bearings and headed toward another sacred site, Sankta Karin Church of the Ruin.
With whalebone arches and skeletal columns, the ruins suggest the former glory of the church, which now stands in stark contrast to the rest of the town centre.
Built in 1233, the church was modified in the 13, 14 and 15 Centuries, but never truly completed. Instead it partially collapsed and fell into disuse in the 16C. Now its ruins literally support local businesses, such as a neighbouring café, with which it shares a wall.
Stortorget, Main Square
Inspired, we sought refreshment in a nearby pub, with a pint of Gotlands Bryggeri local beer. Enjoying its tangy taste, we plotted our previous steps on the map, and people-watched shoppers in the market square.
Before heading back to the bus, there was one final stop I wanted to make, The Gotland Museum. Intrigued by the promise of local art, I headed to the museum’s gallery section.
Upon entering I was greeted with scintillating ceramics, in both abstract art and functional fun pieces, like the petal-shaped plates of Charlotte Karisson’s work.
Moving up to the next floor, I was delighted with a double exposed photography collection, as well as a giant textile intestine installation. The medical themed work continued in the next room with glass-textile test-tube trinkets.
Taking stock of all I’d seen, I rejoined the group, to share my sight-seeing stories.