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Kalmar Castle

Kalmar Castle

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Kalmar Castle or ‘Kalmar Slott’ is a medieval castle whose history dates back to the twelfth century. Originally only made up of a lone fortified tower, Kalmar Castle developed over time to become an imposing stronghold and castle.

In the sixteenth century Kalmar Castle was expanded and renovated in the hands of Kings Erik XIV and Johan III, monarchs of the House of Vasa, giving it a Renaissance feel it still has today.

Kalmar Castle played an important role in Swedish history and was the site at which the Union of Kalmar was signed in 1397. This unified of Denmark, Norway and Sweden under the rule of Erik of Pomerania and would endure until 1523.

Today, fully restored to its original glory, Kalmar Castle is a popular tourist attraction and is even a wedding venue.

Stronghold Heaven

Kalmar castle got its present appearance during the 16th century when the Wasa kings, Gustav, Erik XIV and Johan III, rebuilt the medieval caste into a grand palace. Even earlier the castle had played an important role in scandinavian politics, including being the meeting place for the signing of the Kalmarunion.

The Castle

Already by the 12th century a round defence tower and a harbor had been built in Kalmar, and a city grew up around the harbor. At the end of the 13th century the Swedish king, Magnus Ladulås, had a new castle built, with a concentric wall, round towers in the corners and two square gatehouses. The new castle was built in limestone. The city was expanded at the same time and got a ring wall with towers now the castle and the city were one connected defensive unit. The city with its ring wall became a concentric part of the castle because if an attacker was to have any chance of taking the castle he would have take the city first, because only from the city could the castle be attacked effectively the exception is in the winter when the moat froze.

The Kalmarunion

Extra taxes and disbanded soldiers were some of the reasons for general dissatisfaction with the Kalmar union which, during the 15th century, became stronger and stronger in Sweden. The second half of the 15th century was characterized by political anarchy and many union fights between Sweden and Denmark. The man who in the end would make the union stop and give Sweden self-government was king Gustav Eriksson Wasa.

The Wasa Time

When Gustav Wasa became the Swedish king in 1523, he found Kalmar castle decayed and badly damaged by war among other things the fortifications were out of date. Building contractors who knew what was needed to withstand the new fire weapons were engaged, but lack of money and materials meant that in the first twenty years of Gustav Wasa&rsquos reign only small progress was made. In 1540 a period of great rebuilding was started and, by the end of the 16th century, Kalmar castle had become a grand palace.
In 1542 the so called "Dacke feud" began. In 1543 Nils Dacke and his supporters besieged Kalmar castle and blocked the castle and the town from land and sea, but king Gustav Wasa succeeded in striking down the revolt.Gustav Wasa learned something from the Dacke feud and planned and started extensive fortification works for both the city and the castle.

The castle was provided with a new more powerful sand bank at the western part of the castle and a cannon tower these fortifications were mainly finished in the year of 1553. During the reign of Erik XIV and Johan III these fortifications were expanded with sand banks to the north and south of the castle. The castle&rsquos new fortifications were finished in 1610 with a sand bank and two cannon towers at the east of the castle.

Kalmar castle is from many angles a symbolic monument of the late 15th century in Sweden.

The Time of Great Power

The city was at the same time burned to the ground. The city and castle were rebuilt during the reign of Gustav II Adolf. There were plans to move the city away from the castle, and when the city was destroyed by fire the plans were carried out. The new city grew up on an island some km away from the castle, and had a strict ruled street net behind strong fortifications. The movement of the city took a very long time and the fortifications of the old city were still there at the end of 1670.

The Time of Decay

After Sweden&rsquos border with Denmark had been moved further south, Kalmar castle&rsquos time as a border outpost, "the key to the kingdom" was over and with that the castle&rsquos time of greatness. The medieval times&rsquo greatest fortress and the Wasas&rsquo grand palace during the 18th century was used as a grain storehouse and a prison. The decaying continued through the 19th century the cannon towers were mainly collapsed and on the sand banks there were cattle grazing. In 1852 a new prison was built in Kalmar and the castle&rsquos time as a prison was over as well. At this time they started to realize the castle&rsquos great historical value and the first restoration was started during the 1850s.
During the 20th century several sweeping restorations, combined with several investigations into the history of the building of the castle, have been carried out restore the castle to its former brilliance.

A historical monument of highest rank like Kalmar castle needs continual maintenance work to survive.

Uncovering Kalmar: not just a beautiful castle

It’s high season in Sweden now, but still one of the best times to explore the country on your own, from island to island and town to town. I wished I had more time to explore and drive, but let’s face it, I enjoy traveling by train just as much (just can’t stop everywhere I like.)

Kalmar is a small town surrounded by the waters of the Baltic sea, which makes it a perfect spot for sailing and, apparently for swimming and bird watching too. So, on our route through Smaland we set to Kalmar to see the stunning medieval castle (history buffs, you’ll enjoy it here) and find out what else the city has to offer. Which was a really good idea, certified by the Swedes, who have chosen this place as the best place for Summer (three years in a row).

We started our visit through the city from the Cathedral (which seems to be a perfect spot right in the middle of the old city). They say that the Cathedral of Kalmar still looks like it used to be when it was built in 1703. It’s one of the best preserved northern Europe Baroque churches. Highlight “northern Europe”, as you shouldn’t expect something like Santiago de Compostela, but an interesting meeting point and some very interesting details inside and outside.

The cathedral is surrounded by some of the major buildings in the city, like the town hall, and at the central street Storgatan, which crosses the town connecting the western door of Västerport and the shopping streets with the beach of Kattrumpan. Leaving the cathedral on our back and Storgatan to our left and right, we found the old wall that used to protect Kalmar (Outside there is the new harbour and a small shopping center, but that’s not what we came here for ) ).

There are many interesting buildings all around town, but the ones that caught our eye were the small seafarers’ houses around Södra Vallgatan and Östra Vallgatan. One floor and not wide, the door almost hidden. They have some very interesting things, like a ceramics cat on the window (used to tell the lover when the husband was home) or some mirrors to see what the neighbours were doing without being noticed….

Just a few steps from them, by the coast, is the Klapphuset, the public washing house where women used to wash their carpets and other fabrics (yes, in the Baltic sea). An interesting building (and the only of their kind that is left) and with a beautiful surroundings.

Back to the Cathedral area, through the most commercial and foodie side of Kalmar down town, we crossed the Västerport, the old west door to Kalmar and the wooden bridge of Ravelin, which was rebuilt in 1997. An interesting view towards the castle and the beautiful Kalmar park.

The castle, one of the most photogenic castles in the nordic countries, dates back to the XII century (although the building is from the XVI century, when it was rebuilt with a nordic renaissance style.) If you only come here for the pictures (or look forward to one of those beautiful night shots), they have marked the best spots for photography lovers so you can take a perfect shot of the castle.

But, don’t get me wrong, you should add a visit to the castle. Lots of interesting things happened here, from the signature of the Kalmar Union to the secret lives of the swedish kings, their servants and their lovers. Did you know there are two ghosts here too?

Plus, what they say is the most beautiful wedding spot in all Sweden: Kalmar Slottskyrka, the castle chapel. The XVI century chapel has an interesting nordic design where men and women used to seat apart from each other, and even prisoners had the right to attend the ceremonies here.

It was getting late when we finished our guided tour through the castle so we headed for dinner right here in the Castle (not just another museum restaurant), at the Thomas and Charlotta hall. I’ve told you about this wonderful dinner before: zero kilometre food with traditional swedish recipes with a modern twist. A perfect spot to end up a wonderful day exploring.

Where to sleep in Kalmar

For this trip we stayed at the Kalmar Stadshotell, right accross Kalmar Cathedral (yes, that couldn’t be better located to explore Kalmar on foot). It is a comfortable and modern hotel with a nice bar (just in case you don’t feel like walking 2 minutes to the restaurants and shops at the pedestrianized street).

Things to do near Kalmar:

Just about one hour away from Kalmar, we visited Glasriket, the land of crystal (Sweden is a must-go place for crystal artists and designers). Glasriket is the region of Smaland where crystal factories are located: There are about 13 factories and workshops, with brands like Kosta Boda and Orrefors.

We visited two of them: Målerås Glassworks and Glass Factory. Both worth a visit, although with different approaches to glass working. The first, with an amazing collection of glass sculptures, allows you to try to blow your own glass piece (try if you dare, it’s not easy). The second one, the home of artists from all around the world, where you can witness how they create their new pieces and also visit a museum with some of the most important and interesting pieces of glass created in Sweden. They both are also a great place to shop for crystal, with lower prices than the shops in Stockholm )

Also in the area, visit Vimmerby to connect to your inner child and meet Pippi Longbottoms. Or head to Vastervik to sail the islands of the Archipelago.

Disclosure: The trip was organized by Sweden Tourism together with Smaland, Kalmar and Vastervik Tourism offices and , along with a series of activities, accommodation and dining providers mentioned in our articles. As always, all posts are written according to my experience and opinion.

Kalmar Castle

Kalmar Castle is a legendary Swedish landmark whose history can be traced to as far as 800 years. It was originally built as protection against pirates and other enemies coming in from the sea. Tagged as “The Key to the Kingdom”, the castle played an essential part in Nordic politics. In 1397, it was the site of the signing of the Union of Kalmar wherein Sweden, Denmark, and Norway were united under one crown. In the 16th century, the fortress was transformed into a Renaissance Palace under the direction of the Wasa Kings Erik XIV and Johan III. Today, it stands as one of the best preserved renaissance castles in Europe. A visit to Kalmar is not complete without stopping by the castle.

For all those architecture buffs that are into castles, Kalmar Castle will not disappoint. The castle’s dungeon, secret passages, pepper pots, turrets, moat and drawbridge will surely transport one’s imagination to the times of knights and Vikings. Ancient warfare aficionados can reenact battles within and outside the walls, while those of a more romantic bent can imagine the daily life of past queens and princesses.

To complete the time travel experience, the castle regularly hosts dinners reminiscent of the 16th century. Authentic Renaissance style dishes are served. The plates and cutlery used are replicas of archeological finds originating from the said era. During the dinner, the matron of the house will guide participants throughout the meal on the time’s etiquette and customs and other historical information. This dinner is highly recommended as it satisfies both one’s curiosity and stomach. Kalmar Castle is also a very popular venue for weddings and wedding parties.

The well-preserved old world charm extends outside the Kalmar Castle into the city center. Cobblestone streets, stone buildings and ramparts are all over making walking or cycling around a very pleasant historical experience.

Kalmar Castle: Sweden’s Royal Hub

This moated castle is one of Europe’s great medieval experiences. The imposing exterior, anchored by stout watchtowers and cuddled by a lush park, houses a fine Renaissance palace interior. Built in the 12th century, the castle was enlarged and further fortified by the great King Gustav Vasa (r. 1523�), and lived in by two of his sons, Erik XIV and Johan III. In the 1570s, Johan III redecorated the castle in the trendy Renaissance style, giving it its present shape. Kalmar Castle remained a royal hub until 1658, when the Swedish frontier shifted south and the castle lost its strategic importance. Kalmar Castle was neglected, being used as a prison, distillery, and granary. Finally, in the mid-19th century, a newfound respect for history led to the castle's renovation.

Cost and Hours: 80 kr (sold in gift shop inside, or sometimes outside the gate in summer) July daily 10:00-18:00 Aug daily 10:00-17:00 May-June and Sept daily 10:00󈝼:00 April and Oct Sat–Sun 11:00󈝻:30, closed Mon-Fri Nov–March open only Sat–Sun 11:00󈝻:30 on second weekend of month tel. 0480/451-490 or 0480/451-491, www.kalmarslott.se.

Tours: If you can catch the 45-minute English tour, it's worthwhile to hear about the goofy medieval antics of Sweden’s kings (included in admission price, offered daily late June–mid-Aug usually at 11:30 and 14:30, reconfirm times by phone or on website). You can buy a too-thorough, 45-kr English guidebook or, for the highlights, follow my self-guided tour.

Self-Guided Tour: Approaching the castle, you’ll cross a wooden drawbridge. Peering into the grassy, filled-in moat, look for sunbathers, who enjoy soaking up rays while the ramparts protect them from cool winds. To play "king of the castle," you can scramble along these outer ramparts (included in castle ticket, or open and free when castle interior is closed).

In the central courtyard is the canopied Dolphin Well, a particularly fine work of Renaissance craftsmanship. If you haven't bought your ticket yet, buy one in the gift shop on the left. Then follow the well-marked, one-way tour route.

Near the gift shop, the models and drawings in the Governor's Quarters illustrate the evolution of the castle over time. Notice the bulky medieval shape of the towers, before they were capped by fancy Renaissance cupolas and the Old Town that once huddled in the not-protective-enough shadow of the castle. In the adjoining Prisoners' Tower, you can peer down into the dungeon pit. The room was later converted into a kitchen (notice the big fireplace), and the pit became a handy place to dump kitchen waste. Nearby, behind the WCs, the Women's Prison exhibit explains a grim 19th-century chapter of the castle's history.

Then you'll climb up the Queen's Staircase, up steps made of Catholic gravestones. While this might have simply been an economical way to recycle building materials, some speculate that it was a symbolic move in support of King Gustav Vasa's Reformation, after the king broke with the Pope in a Henry VIII–style power struggle.

At the top of the stairs, go through the wooden door into the Queen's Suite. The ornate Danish bed (captured from the Danes after a battle) is the only surviving original piece of furniture in the castle. The faces decorating the bed have had their noses chopped off, as superstitious castle-dwellers believed that potentially troublesome spirits dwelled in the noses. This bed could easily be disassembled ("like an Ikea bed," as my guide put it) and moved from place to place--handy for medieval kings and queens, who were forever traveling throughout their realm. Adjoining this room is a smaller servants' quarters, called the Maidens' Chambers.

Proceed into the Checkered Hall. Examine the incredibly detailed inlaid wall panels, which make use of 17 different types of wood--each a slightly different hue. Notice the unmistakably Renaissance aesthetic of this room, which strives to achieve symmetry and perspective. Door handles were left off so as not to break up the harmony. (When the queen wanted to go into the next room, she'd clap her hands to alert servants to open the doors for her.)

Speaking of which, continue into the dining room (a.k.a. Gray Hall, for the frescoes of Samson and Delilah high on the wall). The table is set for an Easter feast (based on an actual, detailed account by a German visitor to one particular Easter meal held here). For this holiday feast, the whole family was in town--including Gustav Vasa's two sons, Erik XIV and Johan III. The giant birds are for decoration, not for eating. Notice all the fish on the table. Since Erik's wife Katarzyna Jagiellonka was a Polish Catholic (their marriage united Sweden, Poland, and Lithuania into a grand empire), she was abstaining from meat during this holy time. Forks (which resembled the devil's pitchfork) were not used--just spoons, knives, and hands. At the adjacent table, peruse the dessert selection, with marzipan and expensive herbs and spices.

The door with the sun above it leads to the King's Chamber. Notice the elaborate lock on the door, installed by King Erik XIV because of constant squabbles about succession. The hunting scenes inside have been restored a bit too colorfully, but the picture of Hercules over the window is original--likely painted by Erik himself. Examine more of those elaborate inlaid panels. Peek into the little room (to the left of the fireplace, with a fine castle illustration embedded in its hidden door) to see the king's toilet. Also in here was a secret escape hatch the king could use in case of trouble. Perhaps King Erik XIV was right to be so paranoid he eventually died under mysterious circumstances, perhaps poisoned by his brother Johan III, who succeeded him as king.

Backtrack through the dining room and continue into the Golden Hall, with its gorgeously carved (and painstakingly restored) gilded ceiling. The entire ceiling is actually suspended from the true ceiling by chains. If you visually trace the ceiling, the room seems crooked--but it's actually an optical illusion to disguise the fact that it's not perfectly square. Find the portraits of the (dysfunctional) royal family whose tales enliven this place: Gustav Vasa, one of his wives, sons Erik XIV and Johan III, and Johan's son Sigismund.

Peek into Agda's Chamber, the bedroom of Erik's consort. The replica furniture re-creates how it looked when the king's kept woman lived here. Later, the same room was used for a different type of captivity: as a prison cell for female inmates.

Go to the top of the King's Staircase (also made of gravestones like the Queen’s Staircase, and topped by a pair of lions). The big door leads to the grand Green Hall, once used for banquets and now for concerts.

At the end of this hall, the chapel is one of Sweden's most popular wedding venues (up to four ceremonies each Saturday). As reflected by the language of the posted Bible quotations, the sexes sat separately: men, on the warmer right side, were more literate and could read Latin women, on the cooler left side, read Swedish. The fancy pews at the front were reserved for the king and queen.

At the far end, near the altar, a door leads to a stairwell with a model ship, donated by a thankful sailor who survived a storm. In the next room is Anita, the stuffed body of the last horse who served with the Swedish military (until 1937) beyond that you might find some temporary exhibits.

The rest of the castle complex includes the vast Burned Hall, which--true to its name--feels stripped-down and is not as richly decorated.

For all the details on Kalmar Castle, please see Rick Steves’ Scandinavia.

27 Famous Swedish Castles you Should Visit

1. Borgeby Castle

Built on the site of an older 11th-century fortress beside the River Kävlingeån, the present Borgeby Castle dates back to around 1550 though the gatehouse is older, this now containing the Norlind Art Museum.

The tower known as Börjes torn dates back to 1450, this once containing the private residential rooms of the Archbishop of Lund and originally connected to the main part of the castle by a wing though this does not exist today.

Where: Bjärred, Lomma, Skåne
10 th 15 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

2. Bogesund Castle

Built for Count Per Brahe the younger in 1640, Bogesund Castle remained in the Brahe family until 1739 at which point it changed hands several times, ending up in the hands of Nils von Lantingshausen who in 1774, reconstructed the castle in the Norman style.

Wood carvings, wallpaper, and other design features along with the addition of towers and a chapel can all be seen today, giving a good overview of the design styles of the 17 th , 18 th , and 19 th centuries.

Where: Vaxholm, Stockholm
17 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

3. Christinehof Castle

The current day Christinehof castle was built in the 18 th century as the residence of countess Christina Piper, owner of the nearby Andrarums ironworks.

Step inside to view the Countess’s Apartments and the elaborate 19th-century earth closet on a guided tour, learn about the Countess in the permanent exhibition, and afterwards, take a walk through the stunning eco-park.

Where: Brösarp, Tomelilla, Scania
18 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

4. Ekenas Castle

One of the best-preserved Renaissance castles in Sweden, Ekenas is a fairytale-like castle with 3 towers and moat that was built on top of a 14th-century Medieval fortress.

Enter the impressive interiors and see carpentry and furnishings from the 17 th , 18 th , and 19 th centuries as you learn about the history of Sweden at a time when the European power struggle was rife.

Where: Linköping, Östergötland
17 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

5. Ellinge Castle

A luxurious hotel, restaurant, and events venue today, Ellinge Castle, dates back to the 12 th century when a former Danish fortress, the seat of Scania, stood on the site.

The current day white-washed building dates from the 15 th – 18 th century when it was reconstructed as a manor house, the tower is a later 19th-century addition. Walk in the park to see the remains of the medieval moats whilst enjoying the views.

Where: Eslöv, Scania
12 th 15 th century
Open for visit:
Park open 24/7, Castle open for guests using the venues with guided tours also available for pre-booking. Check here for more information.

6. Gripsholm Castle

Referred to as Gustav Vasa’s castle as it was Gustav III who built this romantic red-brick castle beside lake Mälaren in 1537, it remained a Royal residence for the Swedish Royal Family until the 18th century.

Take a tour inside to see one of Europe’s best-preserved 18th-century theatres located in one of the castle towers, the 16th-century stateroom of Duke Karl, and admire the collection of portraits (the Swedish National Portrait Collection) and furniture spanning the 14th-18 th centuries.

Outside, delight in the views across the lake and enjoy walks in the Royal deer park.

Where: Mariefred, Södermanland
16 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

7. Gunnebo Castle

This grand country house with beautifully landscaped gardens dates from the 1700s. Built as a Summer Villa for the merchant John Hall, it is one of the most complete 18th-century estates in the whole of Scandinavia.

Enter the house on a guided tour and learn about the rise and fall of the wealthy Hall family before exploring the orangery, greenhouses, old and new kitchen gardens, formal gardens, and Gunnebo Farm where the youngsters can feed the cows and horses.

Where: Mölndal, Västra Götaland
18 th century
Open for visit:
See website for times of guided tours of the house during the Summer, park open all year.

8. Hjularod Castle

Surrounded by 1,200 hectares of fields, forest, and lakes, the beautiful red-bricked, the turreted castle of Hjularod has stood here since the 19th century on the site of an older 13th-century castle.

Known as ‘Wheel Red’ in English, the original castle was owned by the monastery until the reformation in 1536 with the present-day castle built by Chamberlain Hans Gustaf Toll in 1894.

Where: Harlösa, Eslöv, Scania
19 th century
Open for visit:
No, not open to the public

9. Kalmar Castle

Known as ‘the key to the kingdom’ due to its strategic position beside the current-day Swedish/Danish border, Kalmar Castle is an imposing sight with 800 years of history waiting to be discovered.

Standing on the remains of a medieval fortress, the Kalmar Castle that is seen today dates from the 16th century when it was rebuilt as a Renaissance palace for the Vasa Kings Gustav, Erik XIV, and Johan III.

Cross the wooden drawbridge and step inside on a guided tour to see the Governor’s Apartments and Grey Hall learning the history of the castle and its inhabitants as you move from room to room.

Where: Kalmar, Småland
16 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

10. Kronovalls Castle

Located in the middle of a beech forest, this fairytale-like castle dates back to the 1760s, the current building in its beautiful Baroque style dating from the 1890s when it was renovated.

Originally belonging to the Åkesson family, the castle is now a wine château with rooms named after grape varieties and decorated in the style of the 18 th -19 th century.

Where: Tomelilla, Scania
19 th century
Open for visit:
For hotel guests and during Summer wine/art festival. Check here for more information.

11. Lacko Castle

A castle has stood on Kållandsö island on Lake Vänern since 1298, the present-day Baroque-style castle with its 240 rooms built by Count Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie in 1615.

Step inside on a 40 minute guided tour to see the King’s Hall and the Counts Private Chambers before heading down to explore the kitchen, armoury, and dungeon at your own pace. Outside, as well as admiring the views overlooking the lake you can wander in the gardens and visit the chapel.

Where: Lidköping, Västergötland
17 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

12. Lofstad Castle

Also spelt Lövstad, the château that we see today dates back to the 1600s with visitors able to tour the period rooms in the home that once belonged to Miss Emilie Piper.

Remarkably well-preserved the rooms take visitors on a journey back in time to the1700’s-1900’s as they see the personal belongings of Miss Emilie, the last owner of the house, including her furniture, artworks, clothing, and other personal and household belongings.

Where: Norrköping, Östergötland
15 th / 17 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

13. Orebro Castle

Built on an island in the River Svartån, this castle was originally a small medieval fortress built by Jarl Birger. Expanded and used by historic members of the Swedish Royal Family including Gustav Vasa, Gustavus Adolphus, Charles IX, and Charles XIV John of Sweden, today visitors can tour the 700-year-old castle, exploring its rooms, cellar vaults, and towers as they learn about the nobles, prisoners and serving folk who have all lived and worked here.

Where: Örebro, Närke
14 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

14. Orenas Castle

Orenas Castle was built by a sugar beet pioneer named Carl Tranchell in 1914-1918 making it the newest castle in the country. During World War II Danish and Estonian refugees were houses at the castle but today it’s an upscale hotel and conference centre with restaurant.

Enjoying views across Öresund and the island of Ven, the interior of the castle today combines old with new for a comfortable stay in individually decorated rooms.

Where: Glumslöv, Landskrona, Scania
When: 20 th century
Open for visit:
Restaurant open to the public. Check here for more information.

15. Sofiero Castle

This beautiful country mansion is located within 15 hectares of landscaped parkland and is a former Summer residence for the Swedish Royal Family.

Originally a farm called Skabelycke, it was purchased in 1864 by Prince Oscar of Sweden and his wife Sophia of Nassau who built the castle in the Dutch Renaissance style, the famous rhododendron gardens being planted later by King Gustav VI Adolf and his wife Margareta.

Where: Helsingborg, Scania
When: 19 th century
Open for visit:
Yes, check here for more information.

16. Teleborg Castle

Built in 1900, this fairytale-like castle, inspired by the German knights’ castles of the Rhine Valley, is located on the edge of Lake Trummen.

It was built for Count Fredrik Bonde Björnö as a belated wedding present for his wife, Anna Koskull but sadly, the couple had both died within 20 years of the castle being finished.

However, the love story continues with the castle now being a hotel and wedding venue.

Where: Växjö, Kronoberg, Småland
When: 20 th century
Open for visit: Only via prior registration for groups of 10+ people. Check here for more information.

17. Tjoloholm Castle

Inspired by Tudor architecture along with Liberty & Co, this grand country house with sea views was completed in 1904 and is considered the leading Arts and Crafts property (including its formal garden) not just in the region but in the whole of Sweden.

Comprising of almost 30 buildings, visitors can take a guided tour to discover the details and history of the house, or spend the night as the castle also operates as a hotel/restaurant and event venue.

Where: Fjärås, Halland, Götaland
When: 20 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

18. Torup Castle

Built on the grounds of a medieval castle known as Askebacken, Torup Castle was built as a defence castle in 1537 and later renovated by Görvel Fadersdotter (Sparre), a notable female Swedish landowner, between 1602-1630.

Explore the interior of the 3-story red brick castle surrounded by a beech forest with a tour of the library, dining hall, and courtyard as you learn how it originally stood in the middle of an artificial lake.

Where: Svedala Scania
When: 16 th century
Open for visit: Yes.

19. Tosterup Castle

Dating back to the 1300s, Tosterup Castle with its tower from the 1400s and main building from the 1500s was restored in the 1760s at which point the tower became part of the main building.

Owned by a variety of noble families over the centuries including the Brahe’s Thott’s, and Krabbe’s, the castle is now the private residence of the Ehrensvärd family.

Where: Bollerup, Tomelilla, Scania
When: 15 th century
Open for visit: No, private residence.

20. Trolle-Ljungby Castle

Once belonging to the Danish politician, admiral, and country governor Jens Holgersen Ulfstand (who commissioned the Medieval manor Glimmingehus), the castle gets its present-day look from renovations that took place in 1621.

The castle was damaged by guerrilla fighters after it was caught up in the Swedish conquest of Scania from Denmark and the Scanian War of which bullet holes can still be seen on the tower door.

A number of businesses are housed on the estate today including an artisan brewery, farm shop, canoe centre, and holiday accommodation.

Where: Fjälkinge, Kristianstad, Scania
When: 17 th century
Open for visit: No, private residence. Castle gardens open check here for more information.

21. Trolleholm Castle

Operating as a monastic estate in the late Middle Ages when it was known as Katty Abbeville, and later, during the Renaissance period, built as a fortress known as Eriksholm, it didn’t get the name of Trollenholm until the 1700s.

Having seen many rebuilds and restorations carried out over the centuries, the fairytale-like Trollenholm Castle that stands today on 123,000 acres dates mostly from 1889 with subsequent work carried out in the 1950s and 1980s.

Where: Svalöv, Scania
When: 19th century
Open for visit: Garden open daily until dusk. Check here for more information.

22. Trollenas Castle

Owned by just 2 families since it was built in 1559, Trollenas Castle (originally Näs Castle) gets its present-day red-brick look from the 19th century when it was renovated in the French Renaissance style.

Now a wedding/event venue, wander in the castle grounds and visit Näs old church which dates back to Medieval times before taking a guided tour of the castle interiors to learn more on its history including hearing the fascinating legends and myths that the surround the building and the families who lived here.

Where: Eslöv, Scania
When: 19 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

23. Uppsala Castle

Constructed by King Gustav Vasa in the 1540s on the site of an older fortress, the Royal castle of Uppsala has played a vital role in the history of Sweden, the castle has witnessed the coronation of King Erin XIV in 1561, the murder of 5 members of the noble Sture family by Erik XIV in 1567, and the abdication of Queen Kristina in 1654.

Now housing 3 of the city’s top museums, take a guided tour to understand the art, architecture, and history of this royal castle before admiring the view from the castle roof walk.

Where: Uppsala, Uppland
When: 16 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

24. Vadstena Castle

Located on Vattern Lake, Vadstena Castle was built as a fortress by King Gustav Vasa to protect Stockholm from enemies.

In 1544 it got its Renaissance makeover, becoming a Royal residence for Magnus Duke of Östergötland (3rd son of King Gustav Vasa) and remaining a royal residence until 1716.

After this point the castle was used as a cereal warehouse, a houseboat factory, and a weaving factory, for this reason, Vadstena castle despite being very well preserved, is rather austere inside.

Where: Vadstena, Östergötland, Götaland
When: 16 th century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

25. Vittskoevle Castle

The largest castle in Scania, Vittskovle (Vittskoevle) castle is considered one of the best Renaissance castles not just in Sweden but all of the Nordic countries.

Built in 1553 by Jens Brahe as a defence castle, it sits on the foundations of older castles dating back to Medieval times. Now the private residence of the Stjernswärd family, visitors can enjoy the view of this picturesque castle from the 19th century English park.

Where: Vittskövle, Kristianstad, Scania
When: 16 th century
Open for visit: Park open 9 am -dusk

26. Vrams Gunnarstorp Castle

Founded in the 1400s and once belonging to the Bishop’s seat in Lund, the present-day Vrams Gunnsrstop castle dates back to 1633 when it was built by Jørgen Vind.

Surrounded by Beech forest, it became the family home of the Tornérhjelm’s in 1838 before being exchanged with the Berch family for Össjö Castle and 17 barrels of gold.

Where: Billesholm, Bjuv, Skåne
When: 17 th century & 19 th century
Open for visit: By appointment only. Check here for more information.

27. Wanas Castle

Dating back to Medieval times the present-day Wanas Castle, otherwise spelt Vanas Castle, was built in 1556 with some parts of the manor house dating back to the 1400s.

Today the castle estate is a family-friendly day out combining art, nature, and history all in one thanks to the castle art museum, restaurant, and boutique hotel housed in the18 th century barns, and sprawling sculpture park.

Where: Knislinge, Östra Göinge, Scania
When: 18 th century
Open for visit: Park open year-round 10 am -dusk. For guided tours check here.

Discover the fascinating history and architecture of Kalmar

To get a flavour of Kalmar – and quickly grasp why it’s held in such high regard among architecture aficionados – simply set off on a city stroll. The cobblestone streets of the Old Town are lined with well-preserved buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. This area is also home to the city’s crowning glory, Kalmar Castle, which started its days as a fortified tower in the 12th century before it was fashioned into a magnificent renaissance castle by King Gustav Vasa some four centuries later. Take it all in by joining a guided tour or catch an exhibition – and when it’s time to refuel, enjoy a delicious ‘fika’ at the Castle restaurant.

Kvarnholmen is one of Kalmar’s main islands, on which “the new” city was established in the mid-17th century, when it was shifted from what is now known as the Old Town. This unique neighbourhood – with its old city wall – is studded with historical buildings. Among the many highlights, keep an eye out for the 17th century buildings Castenska Gården and Kalmar Cathedral, designed in classical Baroque style by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder.

Head to Kalmar County Museum to delve deeper into the fascinating history of Kalmar and its surroundings. Highlights include parts of the centuries-old shipwreck Regalskeppet Kronan, which sank during battle in the 17th century – as you enter the museum, a couple of the mighty ship’s canons stand to attention to welcome you.

Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.

Quick lesson in Swedish history

If you find history lessons a bit boring and don't want to read a whole book or Wikipedia page about Swedish history, here is a short list with the most important events of the history of Sweden.

In the bottom of this page, you will find the top three “must know” take-away facts you should remember whenever you want to impress a Swede in a conversation about their country.


Vikings had their glory days in the time between 800-1050. They loved going on a cruise with their flat boats (advanced for their time) and checked in at other coastal towns without previous announcement and took anything they fancied: food, jewellery for their women at home, and blondes for themselves. In exchange they left chaos, humiliation and flat-pack furniture.
More about Swedish vikings.

Sweden, established in 1164

In 1164 Sweden, at that time it was known as Svea rike (kingdom of the Svea), was recognised as a catholic archbishopric with the seat in Uppsala (Old Uppsala). So, that's when the name Svea rike (today Sverige for Sweden) was officially named for the first time.

Second half of 13th century, Finland

Finland became a part of Sweden. Because Swedes wanted it to be this way. Finns not that much. Weapons, impressive boats and a Viking-like fighting spirit on the side of the Swedes might have contributed to convince the Finns to accept their defeat.

Kalmar union

The nations Denmark, Norway, Sweden were united during the Kalmar union. Kalmar is nice. Cozy. Worth visiting. (Find more Swedish towns worth visiting in my Sweden Travel Guide.) In order to live in a union that was considered calm they wanted a calm town to sign their contracts at. They found a town called “Calm”, but for some decision makers this wasn't calm enough. So they went to the town “Calmer” in modern writing: Kalmar.
(People who live in Kalmar despise me for making this silly joke.)

Stockholms bloodbath

The Danish king got a bit cocky during the Kalmar union. So, Swedish Aristocrats revolted against the Danes. Then, Danes killed them on stortorget, the central marketplace in Stockholm, at Stockholm bloodbath.
This event made many Swedes very upset, in particular this man …

Gustav Vasa 1523

1523: A guy called Gustav Vasa (who probably wished he had, but didn't have any connection to the hard bread producer Wasa) did three things pretty well:

  1. He liberated Sweden from Denmark by organising an uproar. (At that time, Sweden was sort of governed by the Danish king – in a bad way.)
  2. He protested against catholics. And thereby made all Swedes protestants.
  3. He was the initiator of the Vasaloppet (a long distance cross-country ski race) that he wasn't even aware of. I guess one can say he also was the first winner of it.

He is also considered modern Sweden's founding father. Cool dude. Everyone in Sweden seems to like him. You can find a massive statue of his in the Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet) in Stockholm.

He died in 1560.
(A fact you will probably have forgotten by the time you reach the end of this page.)

Gustaf II Adolf

(Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden)

Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, by Jacob Hoefnagel

Gustaf Adolf the Second, was kind of a battle hero. Most of his time he spent in wars with neighbouring countries, conquering them efficiently. Which lead to Sweden considering themselves as a “stormakt“, great power, during his time of reign. Countries he conquered (fully or partially) – have a look at the map below:

The development of Sweden and its empire from 1560 to 1815 (Wikipedia.org, Charles (Chhrls) Memnon335bc)

Gustaf Adolf died in the battle “Slaget vid Lützen” in Germany (which back then wasn't called Germany, yet), where he got shot.

He also had a daughter: Kristina. Kristina was a little special …


(Christina, Queen of Sweden)

Swedish queen Drottning Kristina portrait by Sébastien Bourdon (Wikipedia.org)

Kristina was a bit of a rebel. She didn't engage too much in war making, instead she turned catholic and moved to Rome, then she decided to not be queen anymore and only dedicated her time to catholic ideas. If there already were reality TV shows back then, she certainly would have been predestined to become one of the biggest stars.

1658: Treaty of Roskilde

Denmark hands some parts of modern day Sweden to the Swedes: the provinces Skåne (Scania), Blekinge, Halland, Bohuslän, in an act called Freden i Roskilde. Some of the Scanian inhabitants, until this day, consider themselves partly-Danish. Jokingly they say they will dig a ditch in order to detach their land from Sweden and rejoin Denmark. This digging has undergone several centuries and is expected to last at least a couple more. No need to pay another bridge passing fee anytime soon.

1766: Introduction of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act

As the first country in the world, Sweden introduces the freedom of the press act. Until today you can write anything you want as long as it isn't …

… defamation and insulting language and behaviour. If, for example, someone writes something that may be considered to be agitation against a population group, such as racist comments, or publishes images with elements of sexual violence, this may be regarded as a violation of the Freedom of the Press Act.

Finska kriget

As mentioned before Sweden “owned” Finland for a while. Then the Russians took it from them in the Finnish war. Sweden didn't really like it. In fact, they hated it. They thought to themselves “War sucks!” and took the decision to not have any wars anymore, ever.

You probably heard the saying before “ Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came“, didn't you? Well, that's exactly what Sweden does. “It's war (somewhere in the world), but we better not get involved too much.”
More about conflict avoidance and other Swedish stereotypes.


At one point in history, Swedes ran out of kings. Not good for a kingdom. So they started a casting which surprisingly was won by a French dude (one of Napoleon's most capable officers) who went by the last name of Bernadotte. He became king in 1818. Since then, the Swedish royal family is called “the Bernadottes“, more classy than Nilsson or Pettersson, isn't it?
Old name: Jean Bernadotte
New Name: Karl XIV Johan
More about the members of the Swedish royal family and what Swedes think about them.

Emigration 1850-1930

At that time, Sweden was a poor country with poor people. Farming in Sweden was difficult, particularly in the region of Småland due to large stones in the fields. Farmers heard about cheap land in the USA. Many of them emigrated. Particularly to the area around Minnesota. Author Vilhelm Moberg wrote a novel about this time in the series The Emigrants. To learn more about this, next time you travel to Växjö in Småland you should visit the museum Swedish Emigrant Institute.

World War I 1914-1918

World War II 1939-1945

Sweden remained neutral. Sort of.

Although there were no direct military involvements in the form of combat, Sweden contributed to Germany's production by the delivery of raw materials and other industrial products. When tides turned, Sweden supported the allied forces instead. Leading to no bombed cities or heavy casualties for more than 200 years.


Although regularly discussed, Sweden is not a member of the Nato. (Yet Nato-friendly.)
More basic facts about Sweden.

Assassination of the Prime Minister Olof Palme

The assassination of the popular Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, February 28, 1986, on Sveavägen in Stockholm, remains a mystery to this day. The murderer has never been found but the police came forward with a “potential(!) suspect” (being the “Scandiamannen“, Scandia man), in 2020, and rested further investigation. Since nothing has been fully confirmed yet, Swedes like to speculate who the actual assassin was, still, after several decades.

EU membership

Germany and France like to sell things to other countries. They also like to receive food and other vital goods from other countries, so their people don't suffer from food boredom. In order to combine these benefits the EU was created. So countries can make a good deal and trade with each other. Mercedes and Renaults in exchange for olives and capers. Swedes also wanted to have olives (and a summer house in Spain) and were willing to trade in some of their flat-pack furniture and Volvos.

Created Sep 23, 2002 | Updated Sep 23, 2002

Kalmar Castle is the most well-preserved Renaissance castle in northen Europe, and has played an important role in the history of Sweden since it first was built in the end of the 12th Century. The castle is positioned in the old, coastal city of Kalmar, in the east of Sweden.

From Tower to Palace

The original keep was built before 1250. In the 1280s new buildings were added following the most popular west European patterns and styles of the time. The stronghold had four round towers and one powerful gatetower 1 connected by a curtain wall. Several stone buildings were built inside the wall.

Later, the original keep was demolished, and a castle church was prepared in a newly constructed section south of the gatetower. In 1540, the Swedish King Gustav Vasa (1523-60) began several additions and rebuilding work. Among other elements, in 1545 the large imposing banks were constructed, beginning at the castle's west front and in the 1550s new residential quarters were added to the north.

Gustav Vasa's son, Erik XIV (1560-68) had several rooms prepared with the most magnificent decorations, including King Erik's Stateroom. Gustav Vasa's other sons, Johan III (1568-92) and Karl IX (1604-1611), completed the castle into more or less the form it has today when a new south sling with roof was added in 1569.

In 1570, the brothers Johan Baptista and Dominicus Pahr were associated with the construction work and because of them, more sculpted portals were added, along with the masterly sculpted well in the centre of the castle yard from 1577-78. Between the years 1600-1609, during Karl IX's reign, the banks were completed and, in 1634, a floor for the country governor was prepared.

Catastrophes and Sieges

The castle suffered heavy damage during the siege of Kalmar by the Danish in 1611, in which the city was invaded, and the castle fell to enemy assault. Following that, the castle's maintenance was somewhat meagre. In 1642, the castle was again badly damaged by a fire and heavy repair work began for King Karl XI's (1660-97) royal tour of the country.

Decay and Restoration

At the beginning of the 18th Century, the castle was demoted to a storage facility, royal armoury and prison, although the royal chapel was used on a regular basis. During 1776-87 a royal distillery was housed in the castle, and to accommodate those responsible for the work there some modern housing was prepared.

The restoration of the castle began in 1860-62 and is still ongoing. From 1873, the castle was used by Kalmar County Ancient Monuments Society for museum exhibitions. The next stage of restoration was proposed by Helgo Zetterwall and Carl Möller. It mainly involved the exterior of the structure, with the result that the gatetower was raised to its original 11th Century height.

Restoration in the last century was completed following antique principals, between 1914-41, under the supervision of Martin Olsson. Since this time further restoration work has continued steadily and continuously to this day.

The Union of Kalmar

Prior to the close of the 14th Century, the monarchy of Sweden had been growing steadily in power, which significantly reduced the power and influence of the aristocracy. While a council of the aristocracy was responsible for electing the monarch, this shift of power threatened their role. To put an end to the threat, the aristocracy dethroned the King and put in his place the ruler of their ally in the revolt, Albert of Mecklenburg, ruler of a principality in northern Germany. However, this alliance became impossible to maintain and the aristocrats overthrew Albert and the Danish Queen Margaret was installed in his place in 1389.

In 1397, Kalmar Castle, and the town as a whole, was the focus of one the most important political events of Scandinavian history - the foundation of the Union of Kalmar, which joined all of the Nordic countries under a common regent. The regent was Erik of Pomerania, a relative to Queen Margaret, and the Queen attempted to maintain influence over Erik in thanks to the Swedish aristocracy.

The Modern Castle

Today, Kalmar Castle is open to the public for guided tours, feasts and conferences. The castle is open daily from April to September, and on the second weekend of every other month.

Watch the video: Kalmar Slott Sweden Vacation Travel Video Guide (May 2022).