– the medieval town where it all began
TEXT: SOFIA SCRATTON | PHOTOS © DESTINATION SIGTUNA
Sweden’s oldest town, the picturesque Sigtuna by lake Mälaren, was founded by King Erik the Victorious in 970 A.D. He had a vision for a Swedish kingdom with a modern European town as an international meeting place. Today, Sigtuna is a popular tourist destination that retains its medieval charm.
Located only 15 minutes’ drive from Sweden’s largest international airport, 48 kilometres from the capital city of Stockholm, and 37 kilometres from the famous university city, Uppsala, Sigtuna’s location is perfect for tourists. “This is where Sweden begins, both historically speaking and geographically, for those arriving at Arlanda airport,” says Anna Lakmaker, CEO at Destination Sigtuna. “Sigtuna is the fourth-largest hotel destination in Sweden, with 886,000 overnight stays per year. The area has a rich history and four beautiful castles – there is so much to do and see here, and it is all very accessible to visitors.”
Being the oldest town in Sweden, it has a particularly rich history. Within Sigtuna’s municipality there are 170 rune stones, more than anywhere else in the country. In the town itself, at least 20 rune stones can be read, with writings dating back to the tenth century.
The multiplicity of Sigtuna has four different castles for tourists to explore. Rosenberg’s Palace is a hidden gem, a royal palace built in the 1630s that contains some of Europe’s best-preserved empire interiors. The grounds and gardens are lovely for a picnic, or why not visit the palace café, open during the summer months, which also has an outdoor terrace?Wenngarn Castle, meanwhile, dates back to the 1600s and is open all year round. Steninge Castle was built by the famous architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, who also built the Royal Palace in Stockholm. The castle itself is not open to guests, but the old stone barn has been converted into a unique place to shop and eat. Skånelaholm manor house, which dates back to the 17th century, is situated by Lake Fysingen, and guests can explore the manor house exhibition wing in the summer months and visit the grounds all year round. It is always a good idea to check the respective castles’ opening times with the tourist office, however, before visiting.
For those who are looking for a more physically challenging holiday, Lake Mälaren offers many different activities. In the winter months, the lake freezes over and becomes a perfect place for ice skating. The annual ice-skating event, Sigtunarännet, takes place in February and starts and ends in Sigtuna. Participants can choose between two different distances: full distance (50 kilometres) and half distance (25 kilometres). Children can also partake and can choose between the Ice Cross Challenge (four kilometres) and the Treasure Hunt (two kilometres).
For shopping and dining, Sigtuna’s picturesque town centre has lots of individual boutiques, cafés and restaurants and has kept its old market town style. It is the perfect place to go for a wander and a bite to eat. Its close proximity to Arlanda airport also makes it an ideal destination for meet-ups and conferences, with many different hotel packages to choose from.
As a growing tourist destination, Sigtuna is working hard for sustainability and has been recognised as one of the most sustainable destinations in the world, even being named one of the Global Top 100. “Our hotels and businesses collaborate to make Sigtuna a sustainable tourist destination. We put competition aside and work together to reduce our carbon footprint,” explains Lakmaker. The town is also a certified Fairtrade City and has received the Ecologist Award for its work towards protecting the environment. Sigtuna’s commitment to sustainability can definitely be spotted around the town; for example, the number of electric cars has grown, and there is also an increasing demand for electric taxis from Arlanda airport.
Sigtuna is still a true meeting place – just like the old King Erik the Victorious dreamt of – and has managed to keep its medieval charm while working towards a sustainable future.