Karlskrona: Travel back in time with this Swedish dual UNESCO heritage town
By Celina Tran | Photos: Andreas Blomlö
Look to an archipelago in the very south of Sweden, and you’ll find a naval town like no other. Founded by King Karl XI in 1680, the city of Karlskrona is built on hundreds of years of history, culture, and traditions. Today, visitors to Karlskrona – a unique example of a baroque city – can dive into the past, with history still lingering in every cobble and crook.
Nestled on the tip of an archipelago, the inhabitants of Karlskrona enjoy the soft murmurs of the sea every single day. But though there’s nothing quite as phenomenal as watching the sun settle against the endless blue horizon, Karlskrona has plenty of other captivating experiences – whether you’re drawn to the calm of the water, history, or authentic Swedish city life, Karlskrona has it all.
“Karlskrona sits on an unexploited archipelago, with easy access to both a city culture and peaceful nature,” says Karin Löwenadler, marketing manager at Visit Karlskrona. “Nowhere else in the world can you paddle around a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve while enjoying the amazing fortifications and buildings of a World Heritage city.”
With both the naval port and Karlskrona itself listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, the area’s nautical past still very much defines the town which, today, serves as the country’s largest naval base. But while the town is proud of its heritage, it is also a town in continuous development. “As a part of the modern world, we’re continuing to develop and expand, especially within marine technology,” explains Löwenadler.
A city steeped in history
The city of Karlskrona was founded, in 1680, when King Karl XI discovered how the archipelago protected the area. And, not only did the city provide a secure space, highly convenient for when the king was fighting the Russians or Danes, but it also had exceptionally good weather conditions, allowing ships in and out throughout the year.
“As a city originally built on 33 islands in the middle of the sea, the nautical culture is a big part of our heritage. We often encourage people to visit the naval museum to learn more about our local area as well as the rest of Swedish naval history,” says Löwenadler.
Once supposed to be the new capital of Sweden, Karlskrona was carefully planned and built, with both large parade streets and cosy alleys. Today, its beautiful, old buildings and architectural landmarks make it a highly appealing destination, both historically and aesthetically.
“If you want to make a small excursion, Drottningskär Citadel on the archipelago island Aspö is also an exciting and beautiful place to visit,” says Löwenadler. “The island is easily accessed by ferry – during the summer, I recommend bringing your bike. You will also find an interesting museum, the Museum of Mobile Coastal Artillery, on the island, as well as a unique hotel in the old pilot tower.”
Though Karlskrona is full of historical buildings and sights to see, many people enjoy just walking along the water and taking in the peaceful surroundings and beautiful sights. The summer or milder seasons also offer visitors the chance to enjoy a local meal on the pier or by the sea.
“The naval museum has a restaurant on the pier that serves typical Karlskronian food,” says Löwenadler. “The local restaurants and cafés offer a range of tastes. Karlskrona is particularly known for the many local ice cream parlours.”
In addition to cafés and restaurants, there is an array of fun, unique shops and niche museums, like a porcelain museum and a car museum. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Löwenadler recommends island hopping to see everything that Karlskrona has to offer.
“In the summers, numerous archipelago boats are offering different tours. It’s a great way to explore the area,” she says. “Watching the sun set on the water is magical. Nothing can beat the beautiful archipelago surrounding Karlskrona.”
While Karlskrona has plenty of things to do for everyone, the city also offers easy access to many other wonderful destinations.
“In particular, I really like this tiny village nearby called Kristianopel, a true hidden gem. Kristianopel, which is one of the most sun safe places in Sweden, is a true hideaway!” Löwenadler says.
“There are small shops, restaurants and a popular café. To stroll around among the small wooden houses, where the heavy scent of roses from the gardens mixes with the fresh breeze from the sea is the best way to experience Kristianopel. The village church turns 400 years old in 2024, and this will, of course, be celebrated in a big way.” says Löwenadler and finishes: “If you want to see the village a bit from above, you can walk around parts of the village on the mighty, old city wall. The view is fantastic!”
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email