For a country that brought us ABBA, IKEA and Knäckebröd, it is a shame that Gotland Island doesn’t quite enjoy as much international recognition.
Nestled in the heart of the Baltic Sea, off the east coast of Sweden, this idyllic gem is where time appears to have stood still. Boasting medieval city walls and cobblestone streets that transport visitors back in history.
Its picturesque landscapes of rugged coastlines, pristine beaches, and lush meadows provide endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation. At the same time, Gotland is also a culinary haven, offering locally sourced ingredients, savory seafood and a thriving craft beverage scene.
As the largest island in Sweden and entirely surrounded by the Baltic Sea, Gotland is a captivating place rich in nature and tourist attractions and oozing a timeless charm. Plan to spend at least two to three days here to discover all the things to do in Gotland during your Swedish sojourn.
Map of Gotland
In this post, we'll cover:
Even though you are visiting an island, it is worth popping over to nearby Jungfrun Island – a small and mysterious island off the northeastern coast of Gotland.
Often referred to as Blue Maiden, this granite island stretches for one kilometre and rises majestically above the shimmering waters of the Kalmar Strait.
Its natural beauty is unparalleled, with its lush vegetation and rocky terrain creating a haven for nature lovers who come here for hiking and birdwatching opportunities.
If you don’t have a boat (or broomstick!), the best way to get here is by ferry. Local company M/S Solkust has summer sailings that give you 3.5 hours to explore the terrain.
According to ancient myth and folklore, this island was where witches liaised with the devil every Maundy Thursday. If you remove a stone from the island, you will apparently be cursed for life! So, consider that a warning.
13. Bunge Museum
Housed in a beautifully preserved 18th-century farmstead, the Bunge Museum is a quaint cultural institution that offers a fascinating glimpse into Gotland’s rich history and heritage.
This open-air museum provides an insight into how the island’s residents once lived. Visitors can explore diverse exhibitions, including displays of traditional farming practices, local craftsmanship and the island’s historical significance as a trading hub in the Baltic Sea region.
The museum’s well-preserved farmstead offers an immersive experience, giving guests a sense of what rural life was like in Gotland centuries ago.
One of the standout features of the Bunge Museum is its dedication to preserving the island’s unique dialect, folklore and cultural traditions. These efforts ensure that these aspects of Gotland’s heritage are celebrated and do not die out.
12. St. Nicolai Ruin
One of the most enduring landmarks on Gotland Island is the St. Nicolai Ruin. This medieval church ruin is a remarkable example of Gothic architecture – dating back to the early 13th century.
The church has been a prominent place of worship for centuries and has played a vital role in the spiritual life of Gotland’s residents. Unfortunately, much of it was damaged during conflicts between the 16th century and World War II and fell into disrepair. Today, the St. Nicolai Ruin showcases the haunting beauty of its Gothic architecture with its intricate stone carvings and towering archways, providing a poignant reminder of the island’s historical significance.
The historic church is still operational, often serving as a venue for weddings, christenings, cultural events and concerts.
11. Lummelunda Cave
If you are into fascinating geological formations, head to Lummelunda Cave – a stunning natural wonder that takes visitors on a fascinating subterranean journey.
One of the longest cavities in Sweden, this limestone cave is renowned for its stunning stalactites and stalagmites. To see them, you can go on a guided tour that winds through narrow passageways, revealing a surreal underground landscape illuminated by soft, eerie lighting.
The cave’s enchanting formations have been sculpted by water over thousands of years, creating breathtaking natural sculptures. You can marvel at massive columns, delicate crystal formations and the awe-inspiring Hall of Draperies, which features shimmering, curtain-like shapes hanging from the cave ceiling.
When open, a visit to Lummelunda Cave provides a unique opportunity to explore the hidden depths of Gotland and appreciate the mysterious beauty of the underground world.
10. Langhammars Sea Stack Field
Dubbed the ‘Swedish Easter Island’, Langhammars Sea Stack Field is another mesmerizing coastal geological wonder worth checking out.
This extraordinary natural site is renowned for its unique sea stacks – striking rock formations created by the relentless forces of wind and water.
It is a place of otherworldly beauty and natural diversity, creating a dramatic and photogenic landscape that attracts photographers and those interested in geology.
Visitors can explore this rocky wonderland by wandering through the labyrinthine formations and marveling at the shapes, colors, and textures of the rocks. (Try to avoid the temptation of touching them).
The area surrounding Langhammars Sea Stack Field is known for its rich flora and fauna, making it a haven for birdwatching and nature walks.
9. Botanical Garden, Visby
Serene, scenic and spectacular, exploring the Botanical Garden is one of the most relaxing things to do in Gotland.
Located in Strandgatan, the gardens opened in the 1850s as a living museum of greenery. It comprises several themed gardens, including rock, herb and alpine gardens – all meticulously curated to showcase the island’s unique flora.
Strolling along the meandering paths, you’ll discover aromatic herbs, vibrant flowers and a captivating collection of trees and shrubs. The garden is also home to several species of birds and butterflies.
Overall, the tranquil ambiance of the gardens makes it the perfect spot for a leisurely walk, a picnic, or to appreciate the island’s botanical diversity. If you need a change of pace from sightseeing, this place provides a delightful opportunity to take one.
8. Blue Lagoon
If the weather is warm enough and you fancy a swim, one of the best places to do this is at the Bla Lagunen, aka the Blue Lagoon.
You’ll find the lagoon over at the Bästeträsk Nature Reserve, in a former limestone quarry now filled with water. Although it might be a bit cold for some people, if you visit in the height of summer, you can enjoy a refreshing swim. One of the best times to do this is at sunset when the vibrant hues of dusk give the area an ethereal quality.
Aside from swimming in it, you can take a leisurely walk around the lagoon’s perimeter or enjoy a nice picnic beside it.
7. St. Karin Cathedral Ruins
In its heyday, the St. Karin Cathedral dominated the Gotland skyline. It was a grand structure, initially constructed in the 13th century, that showcased Gothic architecture and intricate stonework.
Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair over the centuries, and now only its ruins remain. Notwithstanding, the cathedral’s impressive arches, towering walls, and remnants of its former grandeur continue to attract visitors – offering a glimpse into Gotland’s rich religious heritage.
The church’s remnants are a haunting and beautiful reminder of Gotland’s historical significance, and visiting them allows travelers to connect with the island’s past.
Today, it hosts occasional music performances, while in winter, an artificial ice rink is constructed within its stone walls, providing a dramatic place to skate.
6. Högklint Nature Reserve
If you have an adventurous spirit, make a point of visiting Högklint Nature Reserve, just 5km to the south of Visby.
The reserve is known for its rugged limestone cliffs that rise dramatically from the Baltic Sea, providing sensational panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. On top of Högklint, the highest cliff in Gotland, you can partake in a 50-meter rappel.
Alternatively, if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, hiking trails wind through the coastal terrain, allowing visitors to explore the area’s pristine beauty, including sinkholes and caves.
Högklint is also rich in biodiversity, with various plant species thriving in this coastal environment, including rare and beautiful orchids. Birdwatchers should also appreciate the opportunity to spot a variety of seabirds and raptors.
5. St. Mary’s Cathedral
Visby Cathedral, formerly called Visby St. Mary’s Cathedral, is a magnificent religious landmark in Gotland.
Built in the 12th century by German traders, it is the only surviving medieval church in Gotland today. As an exemplary example of Gothic architecture, it features towering spires, intricate stonework, and impressive stained glass windows.
For years, it served as the principal place of worship on the island during the medieval era, highlighting Gotland’s significance as a bustling trading hub in the Baltic region.
The cathedral’s interior is captivating, featuring a beautifully crafted altarpiece and various medieval frescoes. It remains a place of worship and an important cultural heritage site, which also houses a museum that showcases religious artifacts and historical relics.
4. Gotland Museum
Founded in 1875, the Gotland Museum is a cultural institution that offers a captivating journey through the island’s rich history, archaeology, and heritage.
The museum’s collections span various topics, including archaeology, art, cultural history, and natural history, making it a must-visit destination for those interested in the island’s evolution.
Visitors can see silver hoards from the Viking Age, the famous Stone Age hedgehog girl and medieval armor used in the 1361 Danish invasion. They can also observe church sculptures, medieval manuscripts and picture stones they won’t see anywhere else. These stones feature intricate carvings that tell stories of the island’s past.
Additionally, the Gotland Museum boasts a natural history section showcasing the island’s beautiful, diverse and rare flora and fauna.
3. Bergman Center
If you are a fan of Ingmar Bergman, you’ll want to check out the Bergman Center.
This fabulous cultural institution resides on the island of Fårö as a dedication to the life and work of one of cinema’s greatest legends.
Providing a comprehensive and immersive experience for fans of the filmmaker, visitors can explore exhibitions that showcase Bergman’s films, scripts, personal memorabilia, and the island’s influence on his work.
The location itself, Fårö, was a significant setting for several of Bergman’s films, and the Bergman Center allows visitors to explore the island’s landscapes that shaped his cinematic vision.
Additionally, the center’s library and archive are valuable resources for scholars and cinephiles interested in the filmmaker’s legacy.
2. Visby City Wall
The Visby City Wall is a remarkable medieval fortification that encircles the town of Visby. This exceptionally well-preserved limestone city wall was constructed in the 13th century and stretched approximately 3.4 kilometers.
Today, it is a vivid testament to Gotland’s historical significance as a thriving Hanseatic trading port, still forming a protective barrier around the town.
The wall features numerous towers and gates, each with its own unique architectural characteristics, such as the iconic Visby Cathedral and Love Gate.
Tourists can explore the city wall’s battlements, climb its towers, and drink in spectacular panoramic views of the town and the Baltic Sea.
Try to visit at sunset, when the sky colours provide an extra dimension to your experience.
1. Walk around Visby’s Old Town
Undoubtedly, the main attraction in Gotland is the beautiful old town of Visby.
This incredibly well-preserved town features a warren of cobblestone streets and winding alleys where a new point of interest captures your attention at every turn.
Charming 12th-century buildings, medieval churches, and ancient city walls surround you, all warranting attention. The narrow lanes are lined with quaint houses adorned with colorful roses and picturesque gardens. While the aforementioned ringed wall encircling it creates an enchanting atmosphere.
Visby’s Old Town is also home to numerous historic landmarks, including St. Mary’s Cathedral, Almedalen Park and the Gotland Museum. So, it is worth making it your first port of call on the island when sightseeing.
You can also explore the fascinating history of the Hanseatic League and Gotland’s trading past while enjoying the town’s unique, romantic ambiance.
Where To Stay in Gotland
For most tourists, Visby, the island’s capital, represents the best place to stay. It provides an excellent base for exploring its cobblestone streets and city walls and indulging in the local cuisine.
Within Visby, the Kalk Hotel is a standout choice, nestled right in the heart of the old town. This charming boutique hotel offers 21 rooms uniquely decorated with Gotlandic limestone detailing and comfortable beds. They all provide tremendous views of the sea, city and the stunning Almedalen Park.
Alternatively, consider staying at the Hotel Breda Blick, which comprises a couple of quaint, century-old houses opposite the DBW’s Botanical Garden. Rooms are well appointed, and guests receive a complimentary buffet breakfast, which they can enjoy on a terrace. They also are a 5-minute walk from the Strandgärdet bus stop and the Visby City Wall.
If you prefer a quieter, more picturesque setting, the suburb of Ljugarn on the southeastern coast of Gotland is a delightful choice. Here, you can enjoy the serene countryside and beautiful beaches, and you are near natural wonders like Folhammar and Lummelunda Caves.
How to Get There
Overall, Gotland is a reasonably easy place to get to.
The most common way to do so is by one of the ferry services that operate regularly from the mainland cities of Nynäshamn, Oskarshamn and Västervik. Typically, the journey takes a few hours, and several companies can take you there.
If you prefer flying, Gotland has its own airport, Visby Airport (VBY), which offers flights from various cities in Sweden, especially in summer when tourism is at its peak. You can fly directly to the island from Stockholm, Gothenburg, or other major cities.
If you don’t have access to a car in Sweden, buses run from all over the country to the ferry terminal.
Best Time to Visit Gotland
From mid-June to mid-August is when most Swedes visit the wild isle, hotels and campsites are at their fullest and a lively vibe takes over everywhere. With temperatures averaging 18 to 21°C (64 to 70°F), you can sunbathe and swim in the sea before enjoying its exciting party scene later in the evening.
In August, its well-preserved medieval town Visby hosts exhilarating jousting competitions, sword fights and jester shows as part of the Medieval Week in Gotland. Stockholmsveckan – a week of wild parties – also attracts lots of people in July.
Outside of peak season, the number of holidaymakers drops considerably, though both May and September can still be nice months to visit. Much quieter and cheaper, they average 14 to 16°C (57 to 61°F) with swimming still possible in autumn. Many restaurants and cafes might have reduced opening hours before shutting completely in winter when Gotland is windy and cold and not much goes on.