Kalmar gets its name from the word "kalm" a collection of stones, something found in large quantities on both the land and waters around Kalmar. It is first mentioned in writings from the beginning of the 13th century, though archaeological evidence of a city wall, monastery, Church and courthouse from the 12th Century show it was thriving community.

Kalmar

Kalmar

Kalmar gets its name from the word "kalm" a collection of stones, something found in large quantities on both the land and waters around Kalmar. It is first mentioned in writings from the beginning of the 13th century, though archaeological evidence of a city wall, monastery, Church and courthouse from the 12th Century show it was thriving community.

For some reason, the drive into Kalmar looks a great deal like the same drive into Växjö. The buildings, broad main street and slowly appearing town are very similar, though once you reach the waterfront, it is a very different sight.

Between the 12-16th century, the population was 2-3000 people, making it one of Sweden's largest towns after Stockholm, though small compared to many European cities of the time. Its southern location and accessible port gave Kalmar strong international links, mainly to Germany and German was as common to hear on the streets as Swedish.


Sights & Culture

Kalmar Slott

Kalmar Slott is the best-preserved renaissance castle in the Nordic region. Initially erected during the 13th century, the ring wall and moated location made it one of the most significant defensive fortifications of its time.

Kalmar Slott & Moat
Kalmar Slott & Moat

The castle was the site for the signing of the Kalmar Union on 17 June 1397, establishing a union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, with Eric of Pomerania crowned King.

In 1544, King Gustav I undertook a modernisation plan to improve Sweden's defences, and his sons Eric XIV and John III transformed Kalmar Slott into the magnificent renaissance castle we see today.

Kalmar Slott from across the water
Kalmar Slott from across the water

In the 16th century as part of the modernisation, the main gate was relocated to the Western Wall. The crest of the house of Vasa was placed above the entrances to demonstrate their ownership. Everything was made by the stonemason Roland Mackle of Öland in 1568.

Secrets of the castle are still being revealed, as recently as 2015, a burial chamber was unearthed north of the Kings Chamber Tower containing ten individuals from the late 15th century. In 2013 numerous bodies were found in Kalmarsund Park from the battles of 1611.

The dungeon was in use until 1572 and was the prison and namesake for the Prisoners Tower. A manual elevator took them down, and their only access to the outside was the latrine channel that brought air in and sewage out. It is a dark and dismal place.

The Women's Prison is comparatively nicer, though the punishments, illustrated by stark black and white photography on the walls are stranger. Arguing women could be bound together. Dunk tanks, whippings and carrying heavy stones were all collective punishments for women who broke the law or social norms.

Illustrations of women's punishments in Kalmar
Illustrations of women's punishments in Kalmar

As you explore, you will find the Queen's Room, with dresses, jewellery and information on the queens and princesses who lived in the castle.

A room dedicated to Gustav I Vasa, who died in 1560 illustrates his successes against the Danes and his campaign of taxation on the churches and confiscation of land from the Catholic Church, the money spent on improving the defences of Sweden, including the modernisation of Kalmar Castle. Gustav, I was a fierce leader and quelled no less than five uprisings during his reign. Due to his ruthless campaigns against the Church, filling the Royal treasury at the expense of Parish Churches, the most significant Scandinavian peasant uprising in history occurred. Lead by Nils Dacke; the revolution was crushed against the walls of Kalmar Castle.

In the 16th Century, Astrology was prevalent, even amongst famous religious figures like Martin Luther. Despite the mysticism, astronomers continued to map the night sky and Nordic astronomer Tycho Brahe discovered a new star in the constellation of Cassiopeia, and astrologers naturally took this as an ominous sign. In addition to the stars, Sweden was mapping the world, and the castle has a fantastic map room, with Olaus Magnus, clergyman, diplomat, cartographer and humanist, he was one-time Archbishop in Exile of Sweden due to Gustav I's break with Rome. From Venice, in 1539 he publishes Carta Marina, a map of Scandinavia, the Baltic regions and Britain. It is richly decorated and was a nine-part wood-engraving. Only two copies survive to this day.

On the second floor lies the Queen's suite, with a surprisingly small bed. It is currently a single large room, but when in use it was divided by a wall into two. The ceiling friezes illustrate the divide.

Following the Queens Suite is the Checkered Hall, which served as the Queen's reception room, with beautiful intarsia panelling, containing seventeen types of wood.

In a single tower sits the King's chamber. Built by German masters, it is impressive and cosy compared to many of the large drafty rooms and has a very masculine decor.

The Golden hall takes its name from the gold leave ceiling, finished in 1576 and with little restoration since. At one time, a door leads to a luxurious summer palace, though that is no longer in existence.

The Grey Hall is more intimate and was renovated by Johan III. The information known about this room comes from the diary of a German traveller who had the honour of standing to watch the royal dinner in this room in 1586.

The Grey Hall
The Grey Hall

The second floor also houses the Chapel, which is still in use and recently renovated in 1970 by restoring the stencilled patterns on the walls.

Castle Chapel
Castle Chapel

In the basement are the Hidden Treasures, a small exhibition of items found during archaeological works. The cellar is chill compared to the rest of the castle, making it ideal for storage. In two archways converted to display units, you can see rune-stones and stone carvings.

Rune-stone, part of the Hidden Treasures
Rune-stone, part of the Hidden Treasures

A single room would not be enough to cover his accomplishments.

Helmet of King Gustav I Vasa
Helmet of King Gustav I Vasa

So King Gustav I Vasa has his exhibit showcasing more about him, including his personalised helmet with hipster moustache.


Klapphuset

The Washhouse is a strange place. A small wooden building standing on stilts on the edge of the water.

Klapphuset
Klapphuset

It was built in the early 19th century and is still in use today for washing carpets. Inside, down a short flight of steps, two pools are available with a series of wooden buckets allowing people to wash with the ocean water. Occasional fish swim past.


Stortorget

In the centre of Kalmar, Stortorget is easy to find. A wide-open space with the Cathedral on one side, it occasionally has market stalls.


Kalmar Domkyrka

Called "Sweden's most beautiful baroque building" it was designed and built by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, who's son architected Fredrikskyrka in Karlskrona.

Kalmar Domkyrka
Kalmar Domkyrka

It took an incredible 43 years to build and was inaugurated in 1682. It has four corner towers, which are gold plated (eldsurnor) and is a remarkable building in excellent condition.


Union Monument

Union Monument
Union Monument

The monument is a sculpture by artist Roj Friberg in celebration of Kalmar Union's 600th anniversary in 1997. Representative figures for Sweden, Denmark and Norway, can be seen as well as Queen Margareta and Erik of Pomerania.


Gamla Vattentorn

Gamla Vattentorn
Gamla Vattentorn

Once the old water tower designed by Hans Hedlund in 1900, it is now converted to 11 modern flats offering unique apartments and remarkable 360 views around Kalmar, including the prison it faces.

Hare at Gamla Vattentorn
Hare at Gamla Vattentorn

In the shadow of the tower, hares can often be found.


Västerport

Once merely the Western Gate to the city of Kalmar, it is now Västerport Relax, a spa and bar using the rooms in the city walls.

Västerport
Västerport

The gate leads you to a bridge over the water and towards the Kriminalvårdsanstalten.


Kriminalvårdsanstalten Kalmar

Kriminalvårdsanstalten
Kriminalvårdsanstalten

Built in 1852, the city prison is one of the oldest prisons in Sweden still in use. Formidable looking, with small windows and barbed wire surrounding it, it is strangely out of place facing the spa, luxury apartments and sitting on a lovely waterfront location.


Tripp Trapp Trull

Tripp Trapp Trull
Tripp Trapp Trull

Built in the 17th century these buildings were home to artisans with small workshops. The name "Tripp Trapp Trull" is a Swedish phrase without a precise English translation and refers to

"three objects or creatures of a similar kind that are in a row in order of magnitude."

There is no formal consensus on whether Tripp or Trull is largest and therefore, whether the objects should be ascending or descending.

In this case, it is a precise match for the three houses of increasing size next to each other.


Larmtorget

Larmtorget or Noise Square is home to the outdoor stage of Kalmar and is a wide-open space surrounded by bars. Quiet during the Corona period, it would no doubt be a lively place.


Kalmar Nyckel Minnesmärke

A memorial facing the ocean to the sailing ship, Kalmar Nyckel and celebrating the ships first voyage to North America.

Kalmar Nyckel Minnesmärke
Kalmar Nyckel Minnesmärke

The monument was erected in 2013, 375 years after the vessels first voyage to North America, carrying Swedish settlers to their new home in the New World.


Gamla Torget

The old Market Square was one of the most significant locations during the middle ages. Not far from the castle entrance, it is a long way out of what is now the city centre. A fire in 1647 destroyed much of Gamla Torget, and the rulers decided to move the city to its current location on Kvarnholmen.

Gamla Torget
Gamla Torget

Gamla Torget was home to the City Hall and St. Nicolaus Church, one of the largest in Sweden during the middle ages, though only archaeological ruins remain today. Though the oldest buildings are gone, well-preserved 18th and 19th-century houses are still in place along with cobbled streets to explore.


Museums & Galleries

Kalmar Konstmuseum

Kalmar Art Museums is a gloss black building tucked away in the Slottets Park. It is a very different style to the traditional buildings around it, including the castle. The collection is excellent, and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the acquisitions and happy to share their expertise.

Kalmar Konstmuseum
Kalmar Konstmuseum

On the ground floor, spilling out past the stairs is a scarf, a long scarf stretching to the roof and back multiple times. This carefully knitted work called "Madejas contra la violencia sexista (the Ball against gender-related violence)" was started by Basque women and is slowly making the rounds of European Art Museums and is currently five kilometres long. It is a protest against gender violence, intended to become large enough through peoples contributions to wrap around the European Union building in Brussels. The man on reception was knitting his contribution while I arrived.

Kalmar Konstmuseum Exhibits
Kalmar Konstmuseum Exhibits

The second floor is "Rabbit hole", showing the work of Hanna Hansdotter. Mostly working in blown glass, she makes strange organic shapes in vibrant colours. A few wood sculptures scattered around the space give contrast to the glassworks. Working both creatively and with the industrial process, her work is a modern blending of ideas.

On the third floor is The Algerian Novel. Three films, 15, 34 and 45 mins long showing in a small room with couches, the first short film on the largest screen and with speakers, the other two on smaller screens with headphones. Its primary narrative is about a kiosk selling historical photos, sometimes of people excluded from history. A common refrain is "It was better before." As the movies progress, it moves into interviews on feminism and freedom in Algeria.

The top floor is "Table of content" by Åsa Norberg and Jennie Sundén, which explores the methods and skills of local arts and crafts. It is a form of abstract still life. A set of specific creations, each with their approach and interpretation fill the space.

The Flux: Plates with patterns from designarkivet.

The Flax: A take on the modern rebellion of story. The mirror fragments make the wall look like see-through rather than showing a reflection, a trick of the eyes.

The Stack: Inspired by Ikea's Lövet the first flatpack. The Stack is a series of cardboard copies of the Lövat shapes, with prints of other packing material on their surface.

The Rock: Shadow objects of made asphalt. They are the dark crumbling inside of containers whose shape they hold

The Block: Turning the words into sound wave representations, but retaining the readability.


Parks & Gardens

Kalmar Slottet Park

Kalmar Slottet Park
Kalmar Slottet Park

A long narrow park leading from the railway station to the castle, the park is filled with flowers, greenery and the occasional modern sculpture from the Art Museum. A small pond is a home to fish and ducks.


Kattrumpan

A popular bathing spot in the city, with sandy beach, a jetty and a children's play area, its location against the city walls keeps it well protected from the wind. Expect a lot of other people joining you at this spot if the weather is good.


Tjärhovet Utkiksplats

The Tjärhovet lookout spot is easy to miss. Just past a cafe and inside an industrial area, a small wooden building with benches and a roof sits on the water's edge. The hut gives keen birdwatchers a sheltered place to gaze out over the water and take in the hundreds of birds in the air, land and water nearby.

Birds of Tjärhovet Utkiksplats
Birds of Tjärhovet Utkiksplats
Tjärhovet Utkiksplats
Tjärhovet Utkiksplats

One item of note, easily seen from the lookout is the small island fortress just off the coast, home to many nesting birds.


Gamla Kyrkogården

In use from the 13th century, when the Church was destroyed and later rebuilt in Kvarnholmen, the cemetery remained in place and services are even now occasionally held in its grounds. It was still in use as a cemetery until the 19th century.

Gamla Kyrkogården
Gamla Kyrkogården

The oldest surviving tombstone is from the 14th century and a statue of St Kristoffer, patron saint of Travellers, is still visible. St Kristoffer was a vital saint to Kalmar, a busy international trading port.


Södra Kyrkogården

Södra Kyrkogården
Södra Kyrkogården

The Southern Cemetery, running along the water facing the castle was constructed in 1863 and holds 10,800 graves. A chapel sits in the centre of the grounds, and a few plots are still available for use.


Restaurants & Bars

Kaffe Triberg

Facing Espresso house, Kaffe Triberg has a limited online presence but serves delicious coffee.

Latte Art at Kaffe Triborg
Latte Art at Kaffe Triborg

You sit on wooden benches, and there is a great deal of concrete in the construction.


Kalmar Slott Cafe

A blending of medieval and hipster, this cafe in the castle offers food and refreshments at reasonable prices.

Lunch at Kalmar Slott Cafe
Lunch at Kalmar Slott Cafe

Lunch is a typical Swedish approach of a limited menu of regularly changing items. The food was tasty, and the service was excellent.


Öland

Öland has been inhabited since 8,000 BCE by Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, who crossed the ice that sometimes forms on the Kalmar Straight. It feels old, but tamed in a way much of Sweden does not. Its smaller landmass and heavily farmed spaces make it feel a little like the English countryside. Still, then occasionally you travel past standing stones in a farmers field, giving you a brief glimpse into its uniquely Scandinavian history.

There is a preponderance of old windmills, once as many as two thousand, only 350 remain on the island but driving around, you'd be surprised it is so few.

At its broadest, Öland is only 16 kilometres, though it is 137 kilometres long. Two main roads run up the coasts, merging into a single route for the final spire of northern land.

During my visit it was Midsommar, and men and women were out in force collecting wildflowers during the morning before driving around the islands on tractors with their family laying out on a trailer behind them. From time to time, I'd pass a family picnicking on the grass with one girl wearing the flower crown.


Sights & Culture

Villages

Borg

Borg is a tiny village or hamlet but home to Saint Knute's Chapel and Gråborg, one of the largest strongholds in the Nordics. First written about in 1371, the hamlet is more a working farmstead, a strange mixture of old and new with ancient stones, warped boards and more modern materials blended together. Even after all this time, they form a traditional Öland row village, cattle-sheds along the main village road. Since 1810, when the farmland was divided between two farmers, it has taken on its current appearance.

Borg
Borg

Since 1945, the village of Borg has been owned by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. The area is farmed by the local farmer-supervisor.

A series of hikes can be taken from a short kilometre or two to see Gråborg and St. Knutes Chapel out to 25-kilometre walks around the local spots like Noah's Ark.

A small shop and cafe are right by the car park offering handicrafts, and guest toilets are on the border of the car park.


Stora Rörs

A small harbour on the west coast of Öland with an excellent bakery and cafe called Mormor's as well as a small shop offering local produce. Lovely views over the water and a small sandy beach. Many more modest and less showy boats are moored here.


Borgholm

Despite its tiny population of just over three thousand residents, Borgholm is still considered a city due to its historical importance to Sweden, which would typically require a minimum of 10,000 to be a city.

Borgholms Torg
Borgholms Torg

The city is one of the most popular summer vacation spots, and the harbour is filled with incredible yachts. Restaurants are scattered through the city and in the main square a helpful map highlights which restaurants are open all year round and which are only open for the summer season.

Borgholm
Borgholm

On Sweden's Riviera, the yuppie styled wealthy swedes are in abundance, but so are obvious holidaymakers in Hawaiian shirts and some locals in more simple attire. Its a blending of wealth, wishfulness and work that is perhaps uniquely Swedish.

Borgholms Holm
Borgholms Holm

A strange mix of cars passes through Borgholm, with the occasional Lamborghini following a beat-up, rusty clunker.

Borgholms Kyrka
Borgholms Kyrka

The church is a colourful central building and easy to navigate by.


Chapels & Churches


Sankt Knuts Chapel

Construction of Saint Knutes chapel begun in the late 12th century and it saw a few hundred years of service before being abandoned in 1527 with the Swedish Reformation. It was named for one of the two Danish Saint's named Canute.

Sankt Knuts Chapel
Sankt Knuts Chapel

During the chapels operation, Gråborg was likely used as a trading station, explaining it's higher than the usual number of gates.

Sankt Knuts Chapel Archway
Sankt Knuts Chapel Archway

The Chapel is relatively small, but the ruins remain in good condition, with a substantial archway and a single tall wall remaining.


Sankta Britas Kapell

All that remain of the Chapel is the foundations and the eastern gable. The western gable collapsed during a storm in 1914. It was first mentioned in 1515, though its construction style can be dated to the 13th century.

Sankta Britas Kapell
Sankta Britas Kapell

It is one of the larger medieval churches in Öland and was likely named for the Irish Saint Brigida. The Chapel had a high roof covered by monk and nun tile, a rather unusual detail for the time because of its costliness.

Sankta Britas Kapell
Sankta Britas Kapell

Through its remaining window, you can see the nearby Kapelluddens Fyr or Kapelluddens Lighthouse. Its location on the sheltered coast has to lead to many visitors seeing it and spending time on the beach.


Sankt Johannes Kapell

Easily accessed by a lay-by on the road to Lange Jan, the Chapel was built by merchants in the 13th century, and only traces remain, though a small model of the building can be seen.

Connected initially to Kyrkhamn, the merchants who constructed the Chapel brought their own priest and the building was both Chapel and closely guarded warehouse.

Sankt Johannes Kapell
Sankt Johannes Kapell

In the 1780s what stones remained of the Chapel were used in the construction of Långe Jan lighthouse.


Forts & Castles


Gråborg

Gråborg is the largest of the 15 strongholds on Öland and one of the largest in the Nordic region. It was in use since 300 AD, and its location in the centre of the island is a prosperous area lead it its prominence as a trading point. The locals were experts in cattle rearing and leatherworking, with their goods being exported to the roman empire for their soldiers.

Gråborg
Gråborg

The stronghold was restored towards the end of the 12th century, and effort was made to reinforce the wall. It is speculated Gråborg was a fortified trading site, essential to Denmark, Sweden and Slavik nations. Relatively few military finds from this period are thought to indicate it had a peaceful rather than wartime presence.

The northwest archway gate from the 13th century is the only gate remaining, with other entrances being just gaps in the walls. The walls were up to ten meters high, though they currently are only 4-7 meters tall. They are made of stacked flat stones rather than rock or brick.

Gråborg Gate
Gråborg Gate

The tumbles or rocks and high grasses and flowers in the protected interior have proved to be a boon for birds, with songbirds filling the interior, flying and singing as you explore.

Gråborg Interior
Gråborg Interior

On the ground, there are a few channels, which may have been water or more likely pathways. Very little to indicate the streets and buildings remain in Gråborg.


Ismantorps Fornborg

Built sometime in 2-300 CE and used until 600 CE, the nine entrances cause historians to think it was designed according to the nine worlds of Nordic myth and its setup shows evident Roman influence to its fortification.

Ismantorps Fornborg
Ismantorps Fornborg

Situated approximately ten kilometres from Gråborg in Mittlandsskogen (the midland forest), there is a small parking lot a short walk away from the meadow where you can find Ismantorps. Even now, the wood does not reach the walls, but stands back, like a nervous army from the walls of Ismantorps Fortress.

Ismantorps Fornborg
Ismantorps Fornborg

Inside the walls, 95 foundations, of which 88 are visible for buildings, sat closely together, in an almost claustrophobic layout. Towards the rear, a larger courtyard space can be found. The walls are now only 4 meters high but are estimated to have reached 8-9 meters at their peak. The ruins are in a better condition than Gråborg (excluding the entrance archway of Gråborg), which much more visible shape to the interior. You can walk between the foundation stones in the spaces that would have been streets.

Ismantorps Fornborg Interior walls
Ismantorps Fornborg Interior walls

Excavations of the site have found few artefacts and no cultural layer leading to the assumption that it was not a long term settlement, unlike Gråborg. The find of a single silver Arabic coin makes the case the site was still visited, if not heavily in the Viking age.

Ismantorps Fornborg exterior walls
Ismantorps Fornborg exterior walls

After a rainfall, the air of the fortress ruins is rich with the smell of loam and flowers and dusty stone.


Sandby Borg

Sandby Borg is unusual in Öland in that it is situated by the coast, in this case, the east coast in a natural harbour of flat stone.

Sandby Beach
Sandby Beach

It is possible to see that the outside of Sandby Borg is constructed of two concentrically built walls, a lower exterior and higher interior wall. The scattering of stones in a circle on the landward side of the fort is thought to show that the fortress was used more for defence from land than sea.

Sandby Borg
Sandby Borg

53 houses were found in the Borg, but all are gone. The stones carried off over the centuries for building. Archaeological work is ongoing at Sandby Borg, and numerous caches of ornaments including rings, beads and silver buckles have been found. Additionally, the skeletons of thirty people were found in an excavation, left where they fell in a violent slaughter. Children and the elderly did not escape the massacre, and valuable items were left behind, never to be taken, likely the end of Sandby Borg as a fortress.

The beach is a nice one, with good sand and long flat rocks reaching out into the sea like a shelf. RV and car parking is easily accessed in a fenced-off area with two drop toilets.


Eketorp Borg

Archaeologists, stonemasons and carpenters worked together to recreate Eketorp as authentically as possible after its excavation.

Eketorp Borg
Eketorp Borg

The fortress was built in the fourth century and was in use until the middle of the thirteenth. For three hundred years, Eketorp was a fortified farming community, where 150-200 farmers and their families lived behind the high stone walls with their livestock. It was abandoned in the eighth century and deteriorated for almost five hundred years. In the twelfth century, it was restored with internal wooden buildings as a cavalry garrison for the soldiers and their families.

Eketorp Borg Interior
Eketorp Borg Interior

The museum and the visitors centre were both designed by architect Jan Gezelius and are a study in opposites,. The modern rectangular Scandi modern visitors centre is a stark contrast to the example of experimental archaeology that is the museum in the centre of Eketorp Borg, built of historic limestone walls and thatched roof.

Eketorp Borg Interior
Eketorp Borg Interior

Wandering through the museum and visitor centre, people in period costume are happy to explain the history to a visitor.

Despite looking like stacked stone, the walls are actually cavity walls, with two outer layers and a central section filled with smaller limestone and mortar. The reconstruction used limestone from the lime kiln at Borgholm Fortress.

Just outside the fortress, the remains of Offerdammen sacrifice pond can be visited. Nothing remains but the water where sacrifices were given. Still, archaeologists also believe this marshy land helped choose the site for Eketorp due to providing a measure of protection from attack from that direction.

Offerdammen Sacrificial Pond
Offerdammen Sacrificial Pond

Eketorp is worth visiting after you have seen Gråborg, Sandby or Ismantorps, as its 'more complete' state overshadows the ruins which would perhaps be disappointing if seen after. In context, you get a much better sense of the scale of these fortresses and how people would have lived moving from ruins to reconstruction.


Borgholms Slott

Standing on the 30-meter high precipice of Landborgen Borgholms Castle benefits from the natural protection of the cliff and its view over the ocean and Borgholm harbour. First mentioned in writings in 1281, the oldest section of the castle is a round defensive tower of stone overlooking Kalmarsund and allowing the soldiers to notify with a signal fire the nearby troops and their allies in Kalmar Castle across the water.

Borgholms Slott
Borgholms Slott

Borgholm was one of the first castles built by a Swedish monarch rather than by Danes or Germans, though both occasionally occupied the castle over Ölands troubled history. In 1397, with the signing of the Kalmar Union, uniting Sweden, Denmark and Norway in a theoretically united Scandinavia, that instead continued as a full conflict region.

Borgholms Slott Interior
Borgholms Slott Interior

From 1572-92 King Johan III transformed the castle from a fortification into a renaissance castle. Four wings were erected around an inner courtyard, and the central tower was raised. Additional towers were added on the corners, and the new Royal Palace was constructed in the old yard, next to the surviving medieval Royal Palace. Facing inland, bastions offered strong defence and Borgholm, and Kalmar castles have the most formidable still standing in Sweden.

Borgholms Slott Courtyard
Borgholms Slott Courtyard

The Kalmar war of 1611-13 saw the castle take substantial damage, and a desire from King Karl X Gustav to create a Baroque palace was never fulfilled. With the Peace of Roskilde in 1658, the shifting border of Sweden reduced Öland and Borgholms strategic importance. In the 18th century, it was abandoned, and in 1806 it was gutted by a fire. At the end of the 19th century, the ongoing work of preserving the castle began.

Midsommar at Borgholms Slott
Midsommar at Borgholms Slott

There are a lot of ruins to explore, despite the damage and fire. A small museum inside the castle gives history, and there is a chance to walk the walls and explore the spaces of the castle.

View from Borgholms Slott
View from Borgholms Slott

From the second and third floors, views over the water are excellent.

Graffiti at Borgholm Slott
Graffiti at Borgholm Slott

One wall has been preserved for its historical (and not so historic) graffiti.


Sollidens Slott

The summer residence of the Swedish Royal family, Sollidens is a short walk through Ludnet nature reserve at the foot of Borgholms Slott. The manor was built in 1906 by Queen Victoria, inspired by Italian homes and gardens.

Sollidens Slott
Sollidens Slott

The manor offers beautiful grounds to explore with cultivated flower beds as well as wilder areas. A short set of steps or longer ramp takes you down to the lower gardens.

Sollidens Slott Grounds
Sollidens Slott Grounds

Three nationalities inspired the grounds. A geometrically planned Italian garden, it is a riot of colours. An English park with wide-open lawns allows for lazy summer walks. Finally, a Dutch Garden, a gift from Queen Wilhelmina and laid by Dutch gardeners in 1926, the scents of the roses can be overwhelming in summer.

Rose Garden at Sollidens Slott
Rose Garden at Sollidens Slott

Throughout the gardens, rockeries with plants native to Öland can be found, delighting more knowledgeable visitors. The Pavilion offers small exhibitions, which change regularly, currently on the royal family and along one pathway, you find the pumpkin cottage.

Pumpkin Cottage
Pumpkin Cottage

Down a hidden path, a series of musical instruments can be found, allowing visitors to create music from the mysterious woods.

Just before the Dutch garden, laid out in 'rooms' where the children's birdhouse finalists, showcasing submissions from Ölands schoolchildren.


Windmills & Lighthouses


Långe Erik Fyrhus

At the very northern tip of Öland stands Långe Erik lighthouse. A short walk from the car park over a bridge brings you to the small park and beach of Tall Erik. A short trail goes all the way around the island, which is mostly ringed with pebble beaches.

Långe Erik Fyrhus Beach
Långe Erik Fyrhus Beach

The northernmost point looks across into Trollskogen nature reserve, as the top of Öland forms the pincer shape of the land.

Långe Erik Fyrhus
Långe Erik Fyrhus

The lighthouse was built in 1845 and has 138 steps to the top. For a time, there was even a school on the island for the children of the lighthouse keepers. It was automated in 1976 and had only a metrological observer in residence.

Långe Erik Fyrhus Beach
Långe Erik Fyrhus Beach

While not the bird sanctuary of Långe Jan, around Långe Erik there are still a large number of birds to see.


Långe Jan Fyrhus

At the very southern tip of Öland stands Långe Jan Fyrhus. Built in 1785, likely by Russian prisoners of war, it is Sweden's tallest lighthouse at 41.6 meters, almost 10 meters higher than Långe Erik in the north. The stone came from Sankt Johannes Kapell and was formerly an open fire lighthouse.

Långe Jan Fyrhus
Långe Jan Fyrhus

Over the years it has been upgraded to now have a modern lamp.


Lerkaka Kvarnar

Lerkaka Kvarnar
Lerkaka Kvarnar

In the 19th century, approximately 2000 windmills of similar design could be seen on Öland. Now only around 350 remain.

Lerkaka Kvarnar
Lerkaka Kvarnar

Widely regarded as the most aesthetically pleasing row of windmills remaining they are all in reasonably good condition of unpainted dark wood. At the back, a strange almost unmodified log of wood pokes out of the building.

Lerkaka Kvarnar
Lerkaka Kvarnar

The name Lerkaka may refer to the sticky soil, and references to this name date back to 1467.

Lerkaka Kvarnar Modern Windmills
Lerkaka Kvarnar Modern Windmills

Whether by luck or design, facing the traditional windmills, over the road and past the rune-stone, there are a matching number of modern windmills mirroring the Larkaka Kvarnar.


Modern Windmills

While Öland is known for its historic windmills and where-ever you drive you will see them by the sides of the road in various states of repair, Öland is still an island of windmills.

Modern Windmills of Öland
Modern Windmills of Öland

Tall modern windmills dot the landscape, towering far higher than their old wooden cousins.


Runestones & Ruins

Öland is old, people have lived on this island for thousands of years, and the locals have kept many of the ruins and rune-stones in good order. Some have been reduced down to scattered stones as the rock was carted away for building, but a surprising number still remain.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_runic_inscriptions_on_Öland


Jacktstenen

Jacktstenen at Borgholm Slott
Jacktstenen at Borgholm Slott

At the top of a cairn in the grounds of Bergholms Slott stands the Hunt Stone, a memorial for King Kark XV by his hunting club and 'the people of Öland" and was a product of the National Romantic period of 1826-72 hearkening back to the dramatic Viking age.


Odens Flisor

Not far from Noah's Ark and Ronnerum stands the triple rune-stone of Odin's Splinters. They are part of a grave from the late iron age and form part of the worship of the Æsir.

Odens Flisor
Odens Flisor

The legend of these stones holds the cracks in them are from Odin's sword when he drove his sword through them to tether Sleipnir, his eight-footed steed.


Gettlinge Gravfält

Gettlinge Gravfält
Gettlinge Gravfält

One of the largest gravesites in Öland at almost two kilometres long, it has approximately 250 graves, with 200 remaining. The tombs date from the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the most significant sight is the 30 meters long stone ship.

Gettlinge Gravfält
Gettlinge Gravfält

Next to the ship stand two limestone blocks. The site was in use for two thousand years starting in 1,000 BCE.


Rönnerums Fornby

On one of Ölands many walking trails, Rönnerums Fornby is hard to reach by car. Its location was not on google maps (until it was submitted by Tog's Trek) and the long gravel road is overgrown with grass and plants.

Once you arrive at the end fo the road, there is plenty of space for parking, and climbing over the turnstile take you into the field, a short walk and you see the signpost for Rönnerums Fornby, an Iron Age village.

Rönnerums Fornby
Rönnerums Fornby

The village consists of ten foundations of stones, now heavily overgrown. Seven are close together making two farms, and the remaining three are a third farm to the north. The initial excavation was in 1928 of the south-easternmost farm. The floor was natural sand, and an oval fire-pit was the hearth—the village dates from 200-500 CE.

Not as impressive as many of the other archaeological sites on Öland, it is still worth a visit.


Öl 1 - Karlevistenen

The Karlevi Rune-stone is remarkable for several reasons. Dated to the late tenth century, it is a cylinder shape rather than the more common flat stone, with inscriptions all the way around.

Öl 1 - Karlevistenen
Öl 1 - Karlevistenen

The front is the oldest record of a stanza of skaldic verse in the world and composed in dróttkvætt, the Lordly Meter.

"Hidden lies the one
whom followed (most know that
the greatest deeds,
Þrud's warrior of battles
in this mound.
Never will a more honest
hard-fighting 'wagon-Viðurr' upon
Endill's expanses rule the land in Denmark."

On the reverse of the stone, it is written

"In nomin[e] (?) Ie[su] (?)"

which may mean "In the name of Jesus, particularly likely given the small carved cross on the stone.


Öl 37 - Lerkake Runsten

Öl 37 - Lerkake Runsten
Öl 37 - Lerkake Runsten

Facing the Larkake Windmill row is the Lerkake Rune-stone. Standing proud in a field, backed by a short stone wall, the inscription can still be read.

Öl 37 - Lerkake Runsten
Öl 37 - Lerkake Runsten
" Olof and Gammal and Saxe erected this stone after Unn, his father. Geirvi left his husband here (do) this memorial service. Olof at miomu; Unn owned half the village here . "

Öl 39 - Övra Bägby Runstenar

A limestone rune-stone set in a garden down a residential road, it is on the south side of the creek with Öl 40 on the north. They were both found in a bridge and moved to their current location in 1634. The inscription was colourised in 1987 and reads:

Öl 39 - Övra Bägby Runstenar
Öl 39 - Övra Bägby Runstenar
"Sven did (this) after his father Vikar; the only son raised the stone itself."

Öl 40 - Övra Bägby Runstenar

On the north of the creek the Övra Bägby rune-stone 40 is also limestone, but of a squarer, more short cut that its neighbour. The carved loop forms a ring, surrounded by a snake at the bottom. It was colourised twice in 1987 and 2004. The inscription reads:

Öl 40 - Övra Bägby Runstenar
Öl 40 - Övra Bägby Runstenar
"Gudbrand and Sven erected this stone after their good brothers Asvald and Helge."

Noah's Ark

From the late bronze age (1100-500 BCE), all of the stones in this magnificent ships setting remain. All around it in Karum's reserve are stones and standing stones. A number marking gravesites, some of which have been investigated, and contained personal items and weapons.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark

The ship setting is long and thin, it almost looks like a map of Öland. There are on one site a pair of rune-stones with no runes visible.

Noah's Ark Ship Setting
Noah's Ark Ship Setting

As you explore the reserve, there are also a series of stone circle graves.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark

In terms of the nature reserve, it consists of sparse shrubs with the occasional scattered trees. Much less vibrant than most of Öland.


Museums & Galleries

Ölands Museum Himmelsberga

Ölands Museum Himmelsberga
Ölands Museum Himmelsberga

If there is one thing Sweden loves, it is an open-air museum of historic buildings, and Öland is no different. The Ölands Museum Himmelsberga is an extensive collecting of farm buildings, painted in Fala red. A small shop offers local wares, and a traditional windmill takes proud place in the centre of an open field.

Animals of Ölands Museum Himmelsberga
Animals of Ölands Museum Himmelsberga

There is a small petting zoo with pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits.

Midsommar at Ölands Museum Himmelsberga
Midsommar at Ölands Museum Himmelsberga

In a rear field, a broken rune-stone a may-poll and Swedish flag stood ready for later Midsommar celebrations.

Courtyard at Ölands Museum Himmelsberga
Courtyard at Ölands Museum Himmelsberga

There are several courtyards with bards, houses and working machines to explore in the outdoor museum, as well as a restaurant offering a good selection of food and drinks.


VIDA Art Museum

VIDA Art Museum
VIDA Art Museum

VIDA Art Museum is just off the main road on the way to Borgholm and is almost offensively modern in design compared to the rest of Öland.

Bertil Vallien at VIDA
Bertil Vallien at VIDA

While I was there, there was an exhibition from Bertil Vallien, who works in heavy glass and steel. There is a robust Christian symbolism to his work as well as a series of geometric shapes.

Olle Ljungström at VIDA
Olle Ljungström at VIDA

In the central gallery, Photographer Olle Ljungström's work was displayed. Two collections are shown. The first are images from his time in Afghanistan, influential works of a chaotic period. The second is more personal images from his Holga medium format film camera.

Katrina Westman at VIDA
Katrina Westman at VIDA

Katrina Westman's work is downstairs below the cafe, made of sensuous oil colours on the canvas, it has an organic look, despite its abstraction.


Parks & Gardens

Lugnet

Behind Bergholms Slott and acting as a pathway to Sollidens Slott lies the nature reserve of Lugnet. The steep slope that in history protected the castle has been devastated by Dutch Elm disease, the remains home to insects.

Lugnet Park
Lugnet Park

Only a kilometre of the path from Bergholm to Sollidens it is still an excellent way to go between the two venues.


Ottenby birding station

In the south of Öland, the nature reserve where you can find Långe Jan is also home to the Ottenby birding station. Thousands of birds nest or visit the southern tip of Öland.


Byrums Raukar

Byrums Raukar
Byrums Raukar

A small spot on a sandy beach turns into Byrums Raukar or Byrum's Stacks. Carved over millions of years by the tides of the sea they are small, but incredible formations. They look almost like micro-fjords.

Byrums Raukar
Byrums Raukar

There is a lot of moss in the water, and small shallow pools form. Reaching out, shallow flat shelves of rock can be seen in the water.


Kapelludden

Kapelludden
Kapelludden

A small beach with huts and a toilet.

Saint Britas Church and Kapelluddens Lighthouse from Kappeludden
Saint Britas Church and Kapelluddens Lighthouse from Kappeludden

It is also home to Saint Britas Church and Kapelluddens Lighthouse.


Ställplats Ölandsbron

Officially a parking lot, Ställplats Ölandsbron gives a lovely view of the water with the long bridge in sight.

Ställplats Ölandsbron
Ställplats Ölandsbron

Its also got a small nature reserve and fire put just off to one side.


Restaurants & Bars

Mormors

A lovely wood cafe on the west coast halfway between the bridge and Borgholm, Mormors offers a range of hot drinks and homemade food and baked goods.

Mormors
Mormors

A small outdoor courtyard allows for views of the ocean.


Kaffetorpet

Kaffetorpet
Kaffetorpet

An elegant cafe just outside Sollidens Slott and facing small gourmet stores, Kaffetorpet is an ideal spot for refreshment after walking through the nature reserve separating Borgholm and Solliden Slotts.


Systrarna på Höjden

Systrarna på Höjden
Systrarna på Höjden

A cafe, restaurant and ice cream parlour set on the grass facing Borgholm Slott, the food is excellent and quickly served, and the ice cream choices are a treat in the warm summer sun.


Lilla Hamnkontoret

The cute outdoor bar on the waterfront in Borgholm is a great place to stop for refreshment.