Looking for things to do in Gotland? Gotland is one of Sweden’s most popular destinations during summer and attracts almost a million visitors each year. Gotland is a beautiful island that’s popular among nature lovers, photographers, families, couples, and party people. There’s everything from fun clubs and beautiful landscapes to cozy cafés and fun activities in Gotland. Here are my best tips for things to do in Gotland as a tourist:
Visit Historic Visby
Visitors traveling to Gotland by ferry arrive at the quaint medieval town of Visby. Ringed by 13th-century walls, it’s one of the most picturesque, postcard-perfect towns in Scandinavia. In the summertime, expect to be greeted by quaint rose-draped cottages, old turrets and towers, and countless church spires. Add to this the town’s leafy bowers, its serpentine cobblestone streets, and cute shops, and you’ll never want to leave.
Settle in at one of the many cafés and eateries and soak up the medieval surroundings. A specialty in Gotland is Saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake smothered with red berries and dollops of cream. It’s utterly delicious. Other popular things to do in Visby include strolling around town to see the many medieval sights and a walking tour along the 3.5-kilometer-long medieval city walls.
Wandering the old town
While there is no shortage of things to keep you occupied within Visby, one of our favorite activities was just aimlessly wandering the maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets and just stumbling on beautiful things. Roaming around just before evening fell when the sun cast a golden light on everything around was especially nice.
It seems that every time you turn another corner, there’s some other spectacular sight greeting you, whether it be the crumbling walls of an ancient church, the majestic spires of a cathedral, or some flamboyantly colored doors of the charismatic houses that line the streets.
Jump into the Blue Lagoon
This former limestone quarry in Fleringe on Gotland’s northern rocky coast has stunning deep blue waters. Its color is more vibrant than most Swedish lakes and it tends to trap the heat in too, so your dip shouldn’t be too chilly.
Churches and windmills
Churches used to be a sign of wealth in Swedish towns and cities – and Gotland is overflowing with them. In fact, the has more churches per capita than any other part of the Nordic Nation. The majority date back to the Middle Ages, between 1100 and 1300. There are also plenty of historic windmills and farms to check out on Gotland – be warned your camera’s memory card or mobile phone will soon be bursting with snaps of stunning historic architecture.
Pretend you’re on a safari
A recent tourist campaign for Gotland called it “the world on one island” and there is certainly a huge variety of stunning landforms, wildlife, and sights to explore. You won’t see any zebras, but you might just spot a Russ (Gotland Pony) – the only indigenous horse breed in Sweden. There’s a reserve on Lojsta Heath where around 80 of the animals wander freely.
DBW’s Botanical Garden (Botaniska Trädgården)
On the northwest side of Visby, a short stroll from the town walls and the sea lies the beautiful 150-year-old DBW’s Botanical Garden (Botaniska Trädgården), established in 1855. History mingles with nature at the garden’s south end, where the ivy-cloaked ruins of the Romanesque St. Olof’s Church (ca. 1200) stand.
The garden is full of rose beds for which Visby, known in Sweden as “the town of roses and ruins,” is renowned (rose blooms adorn many of the town’s buildings throughout the summer). Apple, fig, walnut, mulberry, and magnolia trees thrive here in Visby’s relatively mild climate, as well as magnificent giant redwoods and Chinese sequoia.
The garden’s busy summer program includes outdoor jazz (a Swedish favorite), farmers’ markets, classical recitals, guided tours, and children’s activities. Entry is free, and English-language guided tours are available.
Address: Strandgatan, 621 55, Visby
Take a Hike in Högklint Nature Reserve
Located about 10 kilometers south of Visby, Högklint Nature Reserve (Hogklint Naturreservat) is a wonderful spot for a hike as you soak up breathtaking views of Visby, the beautiful blue Baltic Sea, and the rocky west coast from Gotland’s highest sea cliffs. You can follow a short hike along the rugged cliffs to a path that winds down to some shallow sea caves and the pebbly beach below.
If you continue south, you’ll end up at Ygne, a small fishing village. Climbers like to scale the knobby rock formations jutting along the coast. Sunset is a particularly beautiful time to visit, but take extra care walking along the steep cliffs as there are no guardrails. Many visitors like to rent a bike in Visby and cycle out here with a picnic, although biking up the hills can be a challenge.