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Visby

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The Hanseatic Town of Visby on the island of Gotland is a well-preserved early Hansa town.

The city flourished thanks to the German Hanseatic League: it was its main centre in the Baltic from the 12th to the 14th century. Together with Bruges and Talinn it is considered to be among the top 3 of Hanseatic towns.

Among the most notable historical remains are its medieval street plan, the 3.4-km long stone wall called "Ringmuren" that encircles the city, the merchant houses and romanesque churches.

Map

Community Reviews


Frederik Dawson - May 2012

Thanks to one low cost airline last-minute promotion that made me decided to visit Gotland where one of the World Heritage Sites - the Hanseatic Town of Visby, the island's capital, located. Since the visit was really unplanned, I did my best to see the city for one and a half days without knowledge or expectation, but turn out to be one of the best World Heritage Sites of Sweden I visited in this trip. Even with the promotion, our plane still had only 6 passengers! And when we landed on Visby Airport, there was no taxi at all, we tried to ask airport staffs, but no one knew how to call taxi! Luckily that one passenger called a taxi for us from a small phone box at the airport entrance. Finally our taxi arrived and took us to the town center. When our taxi reached the town, the view was quite stunning with high medieval town wall, towers and defensive gates.

After we got a place to sleep, the first place we went was Almedalen, which was a beautiful seaside park. I really liked this place and the view of the town was just amazing, from here I could see many church spires, town wall, and many styles of building architecture. The next place was the Gunpowder Tower which was a tower part of the town wall next to the sea. Then we went to see the Botanical Garden, the garden was lovely with many spring flowers, also many small alleys in this area were very pretty with cute houses. The beach promenade and the northern section of Visby wall were also worth detour, after that we saw many ruins of churches, the only still functioned was the Visby Cathedral; inside the cathedral especially the brass chandelier was quite lovely. The next day we saw the Visby Museum - Fornsalen, the museum had great collection of runic stones and many silver treasures. It also had exhibition about war and armor, we really surprised with the weight of armor that ancient solider had worn.

The rest of the day we explore the town center that full of many styles of buildings, Visby was a treasure box of northern European architectural styles, it was a great surprised to see many styles in such small town and harmoniously integrate in the townscape. We loved the goat statues, the symbol of Gotland that can be found in many places. We also enjoyed food and drink in Visby, the food quality was surprisingly high with interesting fusion of Mediterranean and local ingredients, Gotland blended tea was also nice and perfect for souvenir. We returned Stockholm and really missed our short but happy Gotland experience. Visby maybe not unique as it was quite similar to other Hansa towns; however, it was a great contrast to other Swedish tourist attractions in the mainland and made us felt rewording after explored the place.


John Booth - May 2010

I reached Visby in 3 hours by ferry from Oskarshamn, a short train + bus journey from Kalmar.

After entering the town through the Osterport, I spent a morning walking the streets of the old town visiting the various ruined 12th century churches, as well as the more interesting and undamaged Domkyrkan.

I found it a shame that Visby's waterfront was obscured by huge storage tanks.


Klaus Freisinger - July 2009

A few years ago I did a short cruise of the Baltic Sea, and I chose a particular cruise because it included Visby. I did spend a few hours walking through the historic streets, but unfortunately it was raining so heavily and the wind was blowing so strongly that it really was no fun at all. I did see the museum, which was definitely very interesting, but the rest I could hardly see (and it was the beginning of July!). Fortunately, on my second visit (by ferry from Nynäshamn), the weather was much better (also in July). So I could finally explore all the parts of Visby I had missed the first time around, in particular the very impressive city walls. If you are lucky with the weather, Visby is one of the finest historic cities in Northern Europe.


Christer Sundberg - September 2006

Having visited a dozen Hansa towns around the Baltic Sea you certainly get a fair share of de-ja-vu when strolling on the narrow streets of Visby. In this Hansaetic town on the island of Gotland located in the middle of the Baltic Sea, you can’t avoid feeling the presence of Lübeck, Riga, Danzig, Tallinn, Stralsund and Wismar and even Novgorod the Great in Russia. And it wasn’t actually until 1645 at the Treaty of Brömsebro, that the island became truly Swedish. Vikings, the Hansa and Denmark did their best to run the town and the island through the previous centuries.

The most notable objects in Visby is the 3,6 km long stone wall – Ringmuren – said to be the best preserved in its kind in Northern Europe. The wall with its many towers encircles the old town and protect the many cathedral ruins and the small merchant houses. Visby is also one of the most popular destinations for tourism in Sweden making it completely swamped with people between mid-June until mid-August. It is therefore my advice to try and avoid those months unless you are heavily into partying with the Swedes, something that also could be quite a fun experience…!

If you are hooked on Vikings, the island of Gotland is virtually littered with remains but an absolute must is to visit the small museum in Visby – Fornsalen – where you find an absolute brilliant collection of runic stone, truly the best of the best you can find; brilliantly decorated stones telling stories about wars, foreign travels and domestic dramas.

In my personal opinion, Visby is the cultural World Heritage Site most worth visiting in Sweden. Getting there, you can either catch the fast-ferrys from Nynäshamn or hop on one of the almost hourly planes from Stockholm. Allow at least two hotel nights to get the feel for this brilliant Hansa town and maybe stay on for a few extra days to discover the rest of the island.


Gatis

No doubts - this city deserves to be on the UNESCO list. It is very picturesque, and quite well preserved. In a way the city with its limestone cliffs, ruins of ancient churches and sea at the horizon resembles something from Southern Europe - but still very different.

I was impressed by the fortification wall.

If it happens for you to visit Sweden - do not forget Gotland and Visby - it is wirth a visit!


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Site Info

Full name: Hanseatic Town of Visby

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Visby

Connections

The site has 17 connections.

Architecture

Constructions

Geography

  • Baltic Sea 
  • Isostatic Rebound Visby's Almedalen area. In medieval times the area, just outside the city walls, was the city harbour. Due to the post-glacial rebound, the port over time grew too shallow and a new one had to be constructed further away from the city, where the sea is deeper. In the 19th century the area went by the name Gamle Hamn (Old Port). When the area was planted with elms in the 1870s, the name Almedalen was coined. (wiki)

History

  • Hanseatic League 
  • Teutonic Knights Granted to the Teutonic Knights on condition that they expelled the Victual Brothers. This they did in 1398 destroying Visby in the process. In 1409 they sold the island to Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Human Activity

  • Botanical Gardens Visby's Botanical Garden is within the city wall area, the inscribed zone.
  • Piracy Occupied by the Baltic Pirates "The Victual Brothers". They made it their HQ in the Baltic until they were attacked by the Teutonic Knights in 1398 when the city was destroyed.
  • Sea Ports 
  • Viking settlements "Excavations have indicated that there was a trading settlement in the early Viking Age on the site of Visby"

Individual People

  • Carl Linnaeus In 1741, he visited Visby which reminded him of Rome (where he had never been).

Religion and Belief

Timeline

  • Built in the 13th century "During the 13th centurv Visby changed from a simple Gotland village to an impressive international town, enclosed by a strong defensive wall, and increasingly divorced from its rural hinterland." (AB ev)

WHS Hotspots