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Photo: Graeme Richardson/Swedish Lapland

Destination

The Gammelstad Church Village in Luleå

Gammelstad Church Village charms with its 15th-century stone church, medieval streets, and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Church village?

Gammelstad, with its church and 424 wooden buildings and a total of 555 separate rooms, is the largest and best-preserved example of a 'church village' in Sweden.

Church villages, uniquely found in northern Scandinavia, grew in the north due to large parish areas and difficult geographical and weather conditions – factors that made it quite a trip for churchgoers to actually get to church. Solution? Build a village around the church where you could sleep overnight, meet other parishioners, and stay for weekly masses and church celebrations.

Open-air museum

The red cottages were traditionally used as intended up until the 1950s and now? The village is a living community and open-air museum. Some of the cottages are still used by churchgoers for major seasonal church celebrations.

To do

You can go on quaint lantern guided tours, visit a cottage, take a horse and sleigh ride, learn about traditional cooking, and try handicrafts such as butter churning, blacksmithery, bread baking and candle making.