About 50km northwest of Gothenburg, the island town of MARSTRAND buzzes with activity in the summer, as holiday-makers come to sail, bathe or take one of the highly entertaining historical tours around its impressive castle, Carlstens fästning. With ornate wooden buildings lining the bustling harbour, Marstrand is a delightful place to visit and, as an easy day-trip from Gothenburg, it shouldn’t be missed.
The town’s colourful history – as so often in western Sweden – mainly revolves around fish. Founded under Norwegian rule in the thirteenth century, it achieved remarkable prosperity through herring fishing during the following century, when the ruling king, Håkon of Norway, obtained permission from the pope to allow fishing in the town even on holy days. Rich herring pickings, however, eventually led to greed and corruption, and Marstrand became known as the most immoral town in Scandinavia. The murder of a cleric in 1586 was seen as an omen: soon after, the whole town burned to the ground and the herring mysteriously disappeared from its waters. The fish and Marstrand’s prosperity partially returned until in the 1770s, but the town fell behind Gothenburg in importance, and by the 1820s, the old herring salting-houses had been converted into bathhouses as Marstrand reinvented itself as a fashionable bathing resort.