The southeast Travel Guide

Although a less obvious target than the coastal cities and resorts of the southwest, Sweden’s southeast certainly repays a visit. The provinces of Sörmland, Östergötland, Småland and Blekinge boast impressive castles, ancient lakeside sites and numerous glassworks amid the forests of the so-called “Glass Kingdom”, while off the east coast, Sweden’s largest Baltic islands offer beautifully preserved medieval towns and fairytale landscapes. Train transport, especially between the towns close to the eastern shore of Lake Vättern and Stockholm, is good; speedy, regular services mean that you could see some places on a day-trip from Stockholm.

Blekinge is something of a poor relation to its neighbours in terms of tourism. Towns here put out an endless stream of glossy brochures touting their attractions, but in truth, even Swedes themselves admit the province remains the forgotten corner of the south – perfect if you’re looking for a quiet getaway. The neighbouring province of Småland encompasses a varied geography and some stridently different towns. Kalmar is a very likeable stop; a glorious historic fortress town, it deserves more time than its tag as a jumping-off point for the island of Öland suggests. Inland, great swathes of dense forest are rescued from monotony by the many glass factories that continue the county’s traditional industry, famous the world over for its design and quality, though today drowning in its own marketing hyperbole. In Växjö, the largest town in the southeast, two superb museums deal with the art of glass-making and the history of Swedish emigration: agricultural reforms that denied peasants access to common land, combined with a series of bad harvests, led to more than a million Swedes – a sixth of the population – emigrating to America between 1860 and 1930. At the northern edge of the province and perched on the southernmost tip of Lake Vättern, Jönköping is known as Sweden’s Jerusalem for its remarkable number of Free Churches; it’s also a great base for exploring the beautiful eastern shore of Vättern.

The idyllic pastoral landscape of Östergötland borders the eastern shores of the lake and reaches as far east as the Baltic. One of its highlights, and popular with domestic tourists, is the small lakeside town of Vadstena, its medieval streets dwarfed by austere monastic edifices, a Renaissance palace and an imposing abbey, brought into being by the zealous determination of Sweden’s first female saint, Birgitta. Just off the southeast coast lie Sweden’s two largest islands, Öland and Gotland: adjacent slithers of land with unusually temperate climates for their latitudes. They were domestic tourist havens for years, but now an increasing number of foreigners are discovering their charms – lots of summer sun, delectable beaches and some impressive historic (and prehistoric) sights. Öland – the smaller island and closer to the mainland – has a mix of shady forests and flowering meadows that make it a tranquil spot for a few days’ exploration. Gotland’s well-known highlight is its Hanseatic medieval capital, Visby, a city pervaded by a carnival atmosphere in summer when ferry-loads of young Swedes come to sunbathe and party. The rest of the island, however, is little visited by tourists, and all the more magical for that.

Arbetets museum

West along the river on your right is the exceptionally well-presented

Arbetets museum

, housed in a triangular, yellow-stuccoed factory built in 1917. Known as

Strykjärnet

(“the iron”) – though its shape and colour are more reminiscent of a wedge of cheese – the building was described by Carl Milles as Europe’s most beautiful factory. The museum has seven floors of exhibitions on living conditions, workers’ rights and day-to-day life in the mills. The most poignant (and the only permanent exhibit) tells the story of Alva Carlsson, who worked in the building for 35 years – a fascinating insight into working-class culture and the role of Swedish women in the first half of the twentieth century.

DeGeerhallen

To the west of Gamlatorget lies the modern and stylish riverside DeGeerhallen, a concert hall surrounded by trees and providing a lovely setting for the café, Kråkholmen. It’s worth stepping inside for a moment, as the concert hall’s apparent modernity belies the fact that this was once one of De Geer’s paper factories, though little remains now of its former incarnation.

Gränna

Forty kilometres north of Jönköping, the lakeside town of GRÄNNA is associated with the unlikely combination of pears and a gung-ho nineteenth-century Swedish balloonist. In late spring, the hills around Gränna are a confetti of pear blossom, Per Brahe (see below) having encouraged the planting of pear orchards hereabouts; the Gränna pear is one of the best-known varieties in the country today. Approaching from the south, the beautiful Gränna Valley sweeps down to your left, with the hills to the right, most notably the crest of Grännaberget, which provides a majestic foil to some superb views over Lake Vättern and its island, Visingsö. On a hot summer’s day, the trip here from Jönköping has something of the atmosphere of the French Riviera, evoked in particular by the winding roads, red-tiled roofs and the profusion of flowers in the old cottage gardens – not to mention the equal profusion of Porsche and Mercedes cars.

Per Brahe, one of Sweden’s first counts, built the town in the mid-seventeenth century, using the symmetry, regularity and spaciousness of planning that he had learnt while governor of Finland. The charming main street, Brahegatan, was subsequently widened and remodelled, allowing the houses fronting it to have gardens, while the other main roads were designed so Brahe could look straight down them as he stood at the windows of his now-ruined castle, Brahehus. The gardens along Brahegatan remain mostly intact, and until the 1920s, there were no additions to the original street layout. Even now, there’s very much a village feel to the little town.

Grännaberget café

  • Grännaberget
  • May–Aug daily 10am–9pm
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    0390 101 09

True, it’s a bit of a climb (243 steep steps, to be precise) but there’s a view from Kaffestugan Grännaberget which should not be missed: from the sloping main square, walk over to the church then south for 100m to the junction with Parkgränd and the wooden steps in the hillside to your left. Outside seating affords a fabulous vista over the lake. Better still, you can explore inside a range of ancient grass- and thatch-roofed buildings brought from the surrounding areas.

Jönköping

Perched at the southernmost tip of Lake Vättern, northwest of Växjö along Route 30, JÖNKÖPING (pronounced “yurn-shurping”) makes a pleasant place to break your journey. One of the oldest medieval trading centres in the country, having won its town charter in 1284, the town is today famous for being the home of the matchstick, the nineteenth-century manufacture and worldwide distribution of which made Jönköping a wealthy place. It's also remarkable for the sheer number of Free Churches – over twenty in the immediate vicinity – leading the town to be dubbed "Sweden's Jerusalem". As the traditional Church watches its congregations diminish, people are turning instead to these independent and fundamentalist churches.

Astrid Lindgren – creator of Pippi Longstocking

Some 120km east of Jönköping, and reachable on Routes 31 and 33, is VIMMERBY, near where one of Sweden’s most popular children’s authors, Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002), was born. Her most endearing character, Pippi Longstocking (in Swedish, Pippi Långstrump), burst upon the world in 1945. Pippi had red hair and long thin legs on which she wore non-matching stockings. Wealthy and energetic, she could do as she pleased, and her adventures appealed hugely to children everywhere.

Lindgren’s eighty books have, in total, sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and her face has appeared on a Swedish 6kr stamp. Yet her writing wasn’t simply about lighthearted adventures: her cleverly conceived tale, Bröderna Lejonhjärta (“The Lionheart Brothers”), tries to explain the concept of death to children. In later years, she became a Swedish Brigitte Bardot figure, campaigning on animal-rights issues, and she was also involved with children’s rights. Following her death in 2002 in Stockholm, she was buried in the family grave in Vimmerby cemetery.

Today, Vimmerby is home to Astrid Lindgren’s Värld (June–­Aug daily 10am–6pm; 335kr, children under 13 225kr; walv.se/en), a theme park where actors take on the roles of her most famous characters. Trains to Vimmerby run from Kalmar.

Kalmar

Delightful, breezy KALMAR, set on a huddle of islands at the southeastern edge of Småland province, has treasures enough to make it one of southern Sweden’s most delightful towns. Chief among its highlights are the Länsmuseum, home to an exhibition on the sunken warship, the Kronan, and an exquisite fourteenth-century castle, Scandinavia’s finest preserved Renaissance palace. The town is also perfectly sited for reaching the Baltic island of Öland, which is just 6km away across the connecting bridge, or a short hop on a foot passenger ferry.

Kalmar Slott and around

Beautifully set on its own island, just south of Stadsparken, is the castle, Kalmar Slott. Unlike many other southern Swedish castles, this one is straight out of a storybook, boasting turrets, ramparts, a moat and drawbridge and a dungeon. The fully furnished interior – reached by crossing an authentically reconstructed wooden drawbridge and going through a stone-arched tunnel beyond the grassy ramparts – is great fun for a wander. Among the many highlights are the King’s Chamber with its coffered ceiling, the Queen’s Suite and the Golden Room. The tour guides will tell you that the castle is rattling with ghosts, but for more tangible evidence of life during the Vasa period, the kitchen fireplace is good enough; it was built to accommodate the simultaneous roasting of three cows. There’s a splendidly minimalist café just inside the walls, dominated by a wonderfully evocative oil painting of a moody chamber interior.

Brief history

Kalmar Slott’s foundations were probably laid in the twelfth century; a century later, it became the best-defended castle in Sweden under King Magnus Ladulås. If the castle doesn’t appear to be defending anything in particular today, that’s because a devastating fire in the 1640s laid waste to Gamla Stan, after which Kalmar was moved to its present site on Kvarnholmen.

The most significant event to take place within the castle’s walls was when the Danish Queen Margareta instigated the Union of Kalmar in 1397, which made her ruler over all Scandinavia; given the level of hatred between the Swedes and Danes, the union didn’t stand much chance of long-term success. The castle was subject to eleven sieges as the two rival nations took power in turn; surprisingly, it remained almost unscathed. By the time Gustav Vasa became king of Sweden in 1523, Kalmar Slott was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and so the king set about rebuilding it, while his sons, who later became Eric XIV and Johan III, took care of decorating the interior. The result, a fine Renaissance palace, is still preserved in fantastic detail today.

The King’s Chamber

The King’s Chamber (King Eric’s bedroom) is the most visually exciting room in the castle – the wall frieze is a riot of vividly painted animals and shows a wild boar attacking Eric and another man saving him. Eric apparently suffered from paranoia, believing his younger brother Johan wanted to kill him. To this end, he had a secret door, which you can see cut into the extravagantly inlaid wall panels, with escape routes to the roof in the event of fraternal attack. Eric’s suspicions may have been justified – Johan is widely believed to have poisoned him with arsenic in 1569.

The Queen’s Suite

Eric's oak bed, originally in the King’s Chamber, now resides in the Queen’s Suite, which is otherwise surprisingly void of furniture. It is the only surviving piece of furniture from the castle and was originally stolen from Denmark. It is curiously decorated with carved faces on the posts, but all their noses have been chopped off – the king believed that the nose contained the soul and didn’t want the avenging souls of the rightful owners coming to haunt him.

The Golden Room

Adjoining the Queen’s Suite is the Golden Room, which should have been Johan’s bedroom, although sibling hatred meant he didn’t sleep here while Eric lived. The room has a magnificent ceiling and a couple of huge and intriguing portraits: though Gustav Vasa was already of an advanced age when his was painted, but he appears young-looking, with unseemly muscular legs – the royal artist had been ordered to seek out the soldier with the best legs and paint those, before attempting a sympathetic portrayal of Vasa’s face. The portrait next to his is of Queen Margareta, her ghostly white countenance achieved in real life through the daily application of lead and arsenic. Isolated on another wall is King Eric’s portrait, hung much higher up than the others: his family believed that the mental illness from which he supposedly suffered could be caught by looking into his eyes – even images of them.

Karlskrona

The only real place of interest in Blekinge is the handsome town of KARLSKRONA, the provincial capital, which really is something special and merits, say, a day or so of your time. Set on the largest link in a chain of breezy islands, this fine example of Baroque exuberance is unique in southern Sweden.

Brief history

Karlskrona was founded by Karl XI in 1680 as the new based for the Swedish Baltic fleet (the seas here are ice-free in winter). Architects from across the vcountry had drawn up plans for the town’s grid of wide avenues and grand buildings which were to provide the classical purity and Baroque splendour commensurate with a town destined to become Sweden’s second city. Built to accommodate the king’s naval parades, Karlskrona’s original layout has survived intact, a fact which has earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, despite the anonymous blocks plonked between the town’s splendid churches.

Today, cadets in uniform still career around its streets, many of which are named after Swedish admirals and battleships; the town’s biggest museum is, unsurprisingly, dedicated to maritime history.

A beggar’s tale

Outside the entrance to Kungliga Amiralitetskyrkan, take a look at one of the city’s best-known landmarks: the wooden statue of Rosenbom, around which hangs a sorrowful tale. Mats Rosenbom, one of the first settlers on Trossö island, lived nearby with his family and earned his keep in the shipyard. However, after a fever killed six of his children and left him and his wife too ill to work, he applied for, and was granted, a beggar’s licence. One New Year’s Eve, while begging at the homes of leading townspeople, he became somewhat drunk from the festive wine on offer and forgot to raise his hat to thank the wealthy German figurehead carver, Fritz Kolbe. When admonished for this, Rosenbom retorted, “If you want thanks for your crumbs to the poor, you can take my hat off yourself!” Enraged, Kolbe struck him between the eyes and sent him away, but the beggar, unable to make it home, froze stiff and died in a snowdrift by the church. Next morning, Kolbe found the beggar and, filled with remorse, carved a figure of Rosenbom which stands at the spot where he died. It’s designed so that you have to raise his hat yourself to give some money.

Kolmårdens Djurpark

If you’ve only got time for one excursion from Norrköping, make it to

Kolmårdens Djurpark

, a safari park, zoo and dolphinarium that is one of Sweden’s biggest attractions. Just 28km northeast of Norrköping and accessible by frequent buses, it’s understandably popular with children, for whom there’s a special section, and if your views on zoos are negative, it’s just about possible to be convinced that this one is different. There are no cages; instead, sunken enclosures, rock barriers and moats prevent the animals from feasting on their captors as you glide silently over their heads in a cable car. Check out the dolphin shows (generally between one and four a day) and the working farm. There’s a youth hostel on site, or you can camp five miles away.

Tropicarium

The adjacent Tropicarium contains Sweden’s largest collection of tropical plants and animals, spread out over two square kilometres. The interior really is extremely realistic, even featuring a mock-up of an alligator swamp which receives rain and thunderstorms every hour. The most popular attraction is the shark aquarium, with three different species of shark and hundreds of other tropical fish.

Konsthall

Immediately behind the castle, the Konsthall has a surprisingly spacious series of galleries, located in a former bank, exhibiting temporary collections of contemporary international art, spread over the ground floor and in the basement in the old vaults.

Konstmuseum

At the southernmost tip of Drottninggatan, Norrköping’s

Konstmuseum

holds some of the country’s best-known modernist works. Founded by a local snuff manufacturer at the turn of the twentieth century, the galleries offer a fine, well-balanced progression from seventeenth-century Baroque through to twentieth-century work. As you head back north from the art museum, the bunker-like concrete building to the right at Södra Promenaden 105 is the town

library

; more user-friendly than most, it has a range of newspapers from all over the world.

Naturens hus

From Wadköping, it’s a pleasant cycle ride of around five to ten minutes along the banks of the Svartån River to one of Örebro’s best out-of-town destinations:

Naturens hus nature centre

. The building’s harmonious design and building materials (stone and glass) blend effortlessly into the natural surroundings and it’s a great spot to enjoy views out over the lake, Hjälmaren. Inside you’ll find information about the wildlife around the lake as well as a good café.

Norrköping and around

Although ranking only as Sweden’s tenth largest city, enjoyable NORRKÖPING punches well above its weight. It’s the town’s striking industrial heritage that draws people here – the old mills clustered around the Motala River, together with a general youthful air, make for an appealing diversion. The last big mill closed its doors in the early 1990s, but Norrköping retains one of Europe’s best-preserved industrial landscapes, with handsome red-brick and stuccoed mills reflecting in the waters of its river. Based here, you could easily visit the Kolmården Djurpark, Sweden’s premier zoo and safari park, as a day-trip or head out for amongst the myriad of islands and islets that make up the Östergötland archipelago.

Öland

Linked to mainland Sweden by a 6km-long bridge, the island of ÖLAND, with its unspoilt beaches, mysterious forests, pretty meadows and wooden cottages, has been drawing Swedes in droves for over a century. Although it’s a popular destination in summer and holiday traffic can clog the road from the bridge north to the main town Borgholm, this long, splinter-shaped island retains a very likeable old-fashioned holiday atmosphere. The bathing opportunities are among the best in Sweden, and the island’s attractions include numerous ruined castles, Bronze and Iron Age burial cairns, runic stones and forts, all set amid rich and varied fauna and flora and striking geography. Labyrinthine walking trails and bicycle routes wend their way past more than four hundred old wooden windmills, which give Öland a peculiarly Dutch air. The island is perfect for camping, and while you can pitch your tent anywhere under the rules of Allemansrätten, there are plenty of official sites. Almost all are open only between May and September, and are scattered the length of the island; for more details, visit w camping-oland.com.

Brief history

From the mid-sixteenth century until 1801, Öland was a royal hunting ground, ruled with scant regard for its native population. Peasants were forbidden from chopping wood, owning dogs or weapons and selling their produce on the open market. While protected wild animals did their worst to the farmers’ fields, Kalmar’s tradesmen exploited the restrictions on the islanders’ trade to force them to sell at low prices. Danish attacks on Öland (and a ten-month occupation in 1612) made matters worse, with seven hundred farms being destroyed. A succession of disastrous harvests in the mid-nineteenth century was the last straw, causing a quarter of the population to pack their bags for a new life in America. In the twentieth century, mainland Sweden became the new magnet for Öland’s young and, by 1970, the island’s inhabitants had declined to just twenty thousand, around five thousand less than today’s total.

Öland's geology and flora

Öland’s geology varies dramatically due to the crushing movement of ice during the last Ice Age, and the effects of the subsequent melting process, which took place 10,000 years ago. To the south is a massive limestone plain known as alvaret; indeed, limestone has been used here for thousands of years to build runic monuments, dry-stone walls and churches. The northern coastline is craggy and irregular, peppered with dramatic-looking raukar – stone stacks, weathered by the waves into jagged shapes.

Among the island’s flora are plants that are rare in the region, such as the delicate rock rose and the cream-coloured wool-butter flower, both native to Southeast Asia and found in southern Öland. Further north are the twisted, misshapen pines and oaks of the romantically named trollskogen (trolls’ forest).

Örebro Castle

The town’s first defensive fort was built after a band of German merchants settled here in the thirteenth century, attracted by rich iron ore deposits. It was enlarged in the fourteenth century by King Magnus Eriksson, who lived here; Gustav Vasa’s son Karl IX added fortifications and then, following in the footsteps of Vasa’s other sons, turned it into a splendid Renaissance castle, raising all the walls to the height of the medieval towers and plastering them in cream-coloured stucco. When the Danes were no longer a threat, the town lost its importance, and Örebro Castle fell into disuse and subsequently became a storehouse and a jail. In the old prison on the fourth floor, you can see words scratched into the walls by Russian prisoners of war. Another room was used to hold suspected witches and was well furnished by King Karl as a torture chamber; at the time, fear of witchcraft was reaching fever pitch, and over four hundred women lost their heads here having survived attempts to drown them in the nearby river. Naturally, the castle is said to be riddled with ghosts, ranging from that of King Magnus Eriksson’s wife Blanche (also known as Blanka in Swedish and said to be in torment for having murdered her son) to Engelbrekt, who had his head lopped off two years after he stormed the castle in 1434 and led a riot on behalf of farmers oppressed by harsh taxes.

The fairytale exterior you see today is the result of renovation in the 1890s. Influenced by contemporary National Romanticism, the architects carefully restored the castle to reflect both medieval and Renaissance grandeur. The same cannot be said for the interior, where the valiant guides face a real challenge: there’s no original furniture left, and many of the rooms are used for conferences, hence the emphasis on the building being a “living castle”. Among the few features of interest are some fine doors and floors, dating from as recently as the 1920s, the inlays depicting historical events at Örebro; and, in the main state room, a large family portrait of Karl XI and his family, their eyes all popping out as a result of using arsenic to whiten their faces.

Stadsmuseum

The excellent

Stadsmuseum

is set in an interconnecting (and confusing) network of old industrial properties. The most rewarding of its permanent exhibitions is a street showing various trades from the nineteenth century: there are workshops of a milliner, confectioner, chimney sweep and, in a back yard, a carriage maker. All are cleverly designed and well worth a wander.

Stadsparken

From the Konsthall, it’s a pleasant stroll east along the waterside Olaigatan, crossing the Svartån River over Hamnbron bridge, to continue east along Kanalvägen to Örebro’s stunning Stadspark, one of the most beautiful town parks in the country. Sunbathing locals flock here to picnic amid the park’s most exceptional feature – the colour-coded border walks, each section bursting with a rainbow of flowers separated by tone.

St Nicolai kyrka

Just a few hundred metres south of the castle, St Nicolai kyrka, at the top of the very oblong Stortorget, dates from 1260. Extensive restoration in the 1860s robbed it of most of its medieval character, though recent renovations have tried to undo the damage. It was here in 1810 that the relatively unknown figure of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Napoleon’s marshal, was elected successor to the Swedish throne. The descendants of the new King Karl Johan, who never spoke a word of Swedish, are the current royal family. Engelbrekt was also supposed to be buried here after his execution, but when his coffin was exhumed in the eighteenth century, it was empty, and his bones have never been recovered.

The Grenna Kulturgård: Andrée Expedition Polarcenter

Within the Grenna Kulturgård on Brahegatan is the fascinating Polarcenter, dedicated to Salomon August Andrée, the Gränna-born balloonist who led a doomed attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon in 1897. Born at Brahegatan 37, Andrée was fired by the European obsession of the day to explore and conquer unknown areas; with no real way of directing his balloon, however, his trip was destined for disaster from the start. After a flight lasting only three days, during which time it flew more than 800km in different directions, the balloon made a forced landing on ice just 470km from its departure point. The crew of three attempted to walk to civilization, but the movement of the ice floes meant they made no progress; after six weeks’ trekking, they set up camp on a floe drifting rapidly southwards. Sadly, the ice cracked and their shelter collapsed, and with it their hopes. Finally they died from the effects of cold, starvation and trichinosis, caught after they ate the raw meat of a polar bear they had managed to spear. It would be another 33 years before their frozen bodies and their equipment were discovered by a Norwegian sailing ship. They were reburied in Stockholm at a funeral attended by a crowd of forty thousand. The museum exhibition poignantly includes a diary kept by one of the crew and film taken by the team, which makes for pitiful viewing: the men are seen with the polar bear they’d hunted, and other sequences show the three hopelessly pulling their sledges across the ice sheets.

The newly renovated museum has extended its remit to cover exploration of the polar region in general, with exhibitions centring on the Arctic and Antarctic historical expeditions, using Andrée as a springboard to a wider picture.

Vadstena

With its beautiful lakeside setting, VADSTENA, which once served as a royal seat and important monastic centre, is a fine place for a day or two’s stay. Sixty kilometres north of Gränna, the town’s main attraction is its moated castle, designed in the sixteenth century by Gustav Vasa as part of his defensive ring protecting the Swedish heartland around Stockholm. The cobbled, twisting streets, lined with cottages covered in climbing roses, also contain an impressive fourteenth-century abbey, whose existence is the result of the passionate work of Birgitta, Sweden’s first female saint.

While Vadstena boasts numerous ancient sites and buildings, each with an information plate (in English), the two outstanding attractions here are the castle and the abbey. Vadstena is also made for romantic evening strolls, with wonderful lakeside sunsets and attractive streets of irregularly shaped houses.

Klosterkyrkan

St Birgitta specified that the Klosterkyrkan, easily reached by walking towards the lake from the castle, should be “of plain construction, humble and strong”. Wide, grey and sombre, the lakeside abbey, consecrated in 1430, certainly fulfils her criteria from the outside; inside it has been embellished with a celebrated collection of medieval artwork. More memorable than the crypt containing the tombs of various royals is the statue of Birgitta, now devoid of the hands “in a state of ecstasy” – as the description puts it. To the right, the poignant “Door of Grace and Honour” was where each Birgittine nun entered the abbey after being professed – the next time they would use the door would be on the day of their funeral. Birgitta’s bones are encased in a red velvet box, decorated with silver and gilt medallions, in a glass case down stone steps in the monks’ choir stalls.

The altarpiece here is worth a glance, too: another handless Birgitta, looking rather less than ecstatic, is portrayed dictating her revelations to a band of monks, nuns and acolytes, while around her, representations of hell and purgatory depict finely sculpted faces of woe disappearing into the bloody mouth of what looks like a hippopotamus. Other than Birgitta’s, a tomb to note inside the abbey is that of Gustav Vasa’s mentally retarded son Magnus. His grand, raised tomb is flanked at each corner by obese, glum-faced cherubs, but the most impressive feature is the remarkably lifelike hands raised in prayer on the likeness of Magnus on the top.

St Birgitta

Birgitta (1303–73) came to the village of Vadstena as a lady-in-waiting to King Magnus Eriksson and his wife, Blanche of Namur, who lived at Bjälbo Palace. Married at 13, she gave birth to eight children, and had the first of her many visions while living at the palace. Such was the force of her personality, she persuaded her royal employers (to whom she was vaguely related) to give her the palace in order to start a convent and a monastery. To obtain papal approval for the monastery, she set off for Rome in 1349, but the times were against her – the pope was in Avignon, France. She spent the next twelve years in Rome, having more visions, pressing for his return but dying before she could return to Vadstena. She was canonized in 1391, a final vision having already told her this would be the case. Her daughter, Katarina, carried on her work and brought about the building of the monastery and abbey; she too became a saint and her remains lie in the same coffin as her mother’s.

Visualiseringscenter

Just to the west of Bergsbron, beyond Arbetetsmuseum, you’ll find Norrköping’s new pride and joy: the

Visualiseringscenter

. The centre’s rather worthy aim is to explain, predominantly to younger visitors, how various visual techniques are used in science today, in areas ranging from weather forecasts to postmortems. However, it’s the massive dome-shaped

cinema

which really makes a visit here worthwhile, showing a range of breathtaking 3D films.

Wadköping

At the far end of the river stands an open-air museum,

Wadköping

. An entire village of centuries-old wooden cottages and shops were brought to the site in the 1950s when urban planning was threatening the historical dwellings with demolition. A local man, Bertil Waldén, campaigned to save the better ones, and relocated them here at Wadköping on the banks of the river. The extremely pretty little “high street” is flanked with low eighteenth-century buildings on one side, and on the other with taller houses from after the town fire of 1854. Some of the cottages are now lived in again and there’s a very good

café

.

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Rough Guides Editors
8/29/2020
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