The principal town in Halland, HALMSTAD was once a grand walled city and an important Danish stronghold. Today, although most of the original buildings have disappeared, the town makes a pleasant enough stop on the long haul south from Gothenburg, thanks to the extensive – if rather crowded – beaches not far away, and a range of really good places to eat. Halmstad is also perfectly placed for a quick jaunt to the Mjellby Konstmuseum, which offers art lovers a chance to appreciate the work of the well-known (in Sweden, at least) Halmstad Group.
In 1619, the town’s castle was used by the Danish king Christian IV to entertain his Swedish counterpart, Gustav II Adolf; records show that there were seven solid days of festivities. The bonhomie, however, didn’t last much longer, and Christian was soon building great stone-and-earth fortifications around the city, all surrounded by a moat, with access afforded by four stone gateways. However, it was a fire soon after, rather than the Swedes, that all but destroyed the city; the only buildings to survive were the castle and the church. Undeterred, Christian took the opportunity to create a contemporary Renaissance town with a grid of straight streets; today the main street, Storgatan, still contains a number of impressive merchants’ houses from that time. After the final defeat of the Danes in 1645, Halmstad lost its military significance, and the walls were torn down. Today, just one of the great gateways, Norre Port, remains; the moat has been filled in and a road, Karl XIs vägen, runs directly above where the water would have been.