Uncover Sweden’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Sweden is recognised for many achievements. However, few people are aware that Sweden is in the top 25 list of countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In total, there are 15 sprinkled all over the country.
UNESCO has identified 15 World Heritage Sites in Sweden considered having outstanding value to humanity. These sites are in good company on a list that includes the pyramids of Egypt, China’s Great Wall, the Acropolis in Greece and some of the great cathedrals of the world.
Here’s a brief look at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sweden – from south to north.
Naval Port of Karlskrona (1998)
The Naval Port of Karlskrona is one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in the southern half of Sweden. This naval port, dating back to 1680, is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a European naval town. It contains one of the few dockyards in the world where it is still possible to see buildings and docks specifically designed for the construction of sailing warships. The site includes fortifications, the naval dockyard and harbour, the historic town itself and installations in the surrounding district.
There are plenty of places to stay in Karlskrona, and many accommodations come with a sea view. There’s no shortage of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from either. For tips in and around the city, see our Blekinge destination page.
Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland (2000)
Öland is a popular summer destination just off Sweden’s south east coast. During summer you might spot a member of the Swedish Royal family, who have their summer residence Solliden on the island. A vast limestone plateau dominates the southern part of Öland, where the climate is rather dry. Despite such physical constraints, people have been living here for 5,000 years, adapting their way of life to the island. This has resulted in a unique landscape and cultural tradition which still exists today. The island can be reached from Kalmar by a six-kilometre bridge. Discover more things to do on this idyllic island at our Öland destination page.
Hanseatic Town of Visby (1995)
Gotland, just north of Öland, and its main town of Visby is another popular summer island destination for Swedes. Dating back to the 12th century, Visby is a remarkably well-preserved Hanseatic town with many ruins and a medieval ring wall with original towers that encircle the city centre. The World Heritage Site of Visby is truly a highlight for people looking for history, culture and scenery.
There are so many excellent restaurants and cafés in Visby that it’s hard to choose where to eat! There are plenty of accommodations to choose from as well, but remember to book in advance, especially if you plan to visit in July. For a complete guide, see our Visby destination page.
Grimeton Radio Station, Varberg (2004)
Perhaps one of the more unusual sites on the list, is the Grimeton Radio Station in Varberg, on the west coast of Sweden. It was built in the early 1920s and its buildings, transmitter system and original steel towers are so well preserved that Grimeton was put on the list as an outstanding example of the development of telecommunications. The radio station is also the only surviving example of a major transmitting station using pre-electronic technology. You don’t have to be a radio buff to find this technological time warp fascinating.
Grimeton Radio Station is located 9.5 kilometres from Varberg town, in the beautiful province of Halland.
Rock Carvings in Tanum (1994)
The intriguing rock carvings in Tanum have landed on the World Heritage list as an outstanding example of Bronze Age art. There are an astonishing 1,500 known rock carving sites in western Sweden’s Bohuslän region, including the ones in Tanum, where inhabitants from the Bronze Age have carved images into the smooth rocks of the landscape. The Vitlycke carving, depicting a bridal couple, is among the most well-known of these carvings. Follow the well-marked six-kilometre path for a fascinating exploration of many more rock carvings.
Besides cultural heritage, Tanum and the surrounding region have a lot to offer regarding seafood and outdoor activities. Get the top tips at the Bohuslän destination page.
The Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm (1994)
The Woodland Cemetery ('Skogskyrkogården') is located just south of Stockholm city centre and surprised many people when it was selected for the UNESCO list in 1994. The committee chose the cemetery for its uniqueness and its early 20th century architecture and landscape design. At the Woodland Cemetery, architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz established a new form of cemetery that has since influenced burial sites around the world.
The Woodland Cemetery also has a Visitors Centre, complete with a shop and a café. For more Stockholm tips, visit our Stockholm destination page.
Royal Domain of Drottningholm (1991)
The Swedish Royal family residence of Drottningholm was the first site in Sweden to be listed by UNESCO, back in 1991. Drottningholm and its vast domain is a popular attraction, located only 10 kilometres west of Stockholm. In addition to the Royal Palace, Drottningholm contains well-preserved gardens from different periods, a Chinese Pavilion and Palace Theatre. The theatre is the only surviving 18th century theatre in the world with the original machinery and sets preserved, and it’s still used to this day. Drottningholm was selected for the UNESCO list as being representative of European architecture of that period.
For those who don’t have a picnic lunch to eat on the grounds of Drottningholm, there is Karamellan Restaurant and Cafe, situated near the castle entrance and the summer café by the Chinese Pavilion. And if you'd like to stay as a royal yourself, there are several castle hotels surrounding Stockholm.
Birka and Hovgården (1993)
For anyone familiar with Birka, located about 30 kilometres west of Stockholm on the small island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren, it comes as no surprise that the archaeological site landed on the World Heritage List. Birka and the related Hovgården complex was chosen as an exceptionally well-preserved testimony to the trade network established by the Vikings and is one of the most complete examples of a Viking trading settlement of the 8th-10th centuries. Birka is easily accessible by boat from Stockholm. Hovgården is situated on the neighbouring island of Adelsö and was once home to the royal residence that governed Birka.
Birka has a restaurant as well as a café. There are no tourist accommodations in Birka, but there is a guest harbour for visitors travelling with their own boat.
Engelsberg Ironworks (1993)
Heading north of Stockholm you’ll come to the Engelsberg Ironworks ('Engelsbergs bruk') in Ängelsberg. UNESCO selected it as an outstanding example of an influential European industrial complex of the 17th–19th centuries with important technological remains and buildings still intact. The site includes a blacksmith’s forge, a smelting house, lush gardens and a manor house built in 1746. A crafts shop and a café are open during the summer, making for an ideal day trip.
On our Västmanland destination page, you'll get plenty more travel tips in the region around Ängelsberg.
Mining Area of the Great Copper Mountain in Falun (2001)
Copper mining and production began in the Falun area in Dalarna as early as the 9th century and came to an end eleven centuries later (1992). The mining area had a profound influence on mining technology all over the world. Its authentic buildings, structures and associated equipment are on the World Heritage List as a well-preserved example of mining traditions and construction. Visitors can enter the Giant Pit mine, 67 metres underground, which dates back to the 1600s. There’s also a mining museum with an interactive journey and film covering the area’s mining history.
Dalarna county is sprinkled with cultural sites and nature experiences. See the Dalarna destination page for a complete guide.
Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland (2012)
Seven decorated farmhouses in Hälsingland, in northeast Sweden, are situated within 100 kilometres of each other. These richly decorated wooden farmhouses date back to the 1800s. They were put on the list due to their folk-art traditions and the way they reflect the wealth and social status of the ordinary farmers who built them. The interiors of the highly decorated houses include so-called Dalecarlian paintings, folk art that was made by artists from the neighbouring province of Dalarna. Most of the farmhouses are privately owned, but guided tours are available through the visitors’ centre and some offer B&B accommodations.
Read more about Hälsingland's cultural highlights and stunning scenery at our Hälsingland destination page.
The High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago (2000, 2006)
Sweden has many beautiful natural sites, but the High Coast is the only one on the Swedish list designated as a Natural World Heritage Site. The High Coast is situated on one side of the Gulf of Bothnia in the northern part of the Baltic Sea, while the Finnish Kvarken Archipelago is on the opposite side. The landscape is mainly the result of the last Ice Age, which created the world’s highest coastline, as well as thousands of low-lying islands, shallow bays and fields of boulders. It was chosen for the list due to its exceptional geological value and with its open sea, mountains and forests, it offers visitors plenty to explore.
The best thing about the High Coast? It has breathtaking views, affordable accommodations and plenty of restaurants but no crowds. Find out more at the High Coast destination page.
Church Town of Gammelstad, Luleå (1996)
The town of Luleå in northern Sweden began as a small church and trading place before growing into a city, which was moved in the 17th century. However, the old church town of Gammelstad remained intact and today it is the country’s largest and best-preserved church town, with more than 400 cottages, a medieval church and other historically valuable buildings. The typical red cottages were used by farmers from the surrounding areas as overnight accommodations when they attended church, parish meetings, markets and other activities. Take a guided tour or rent an audio guide to truly immerse yourself in 17th century Swedish life.
If you plan a visit to Gammelstad, it's well worth to stay a bit longer and explore Swedish Lapland, the land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights. For tips on things to do, see our Swedish Lapland destination page.
Laponian Area, Swedish Lapland 1996)
Laponia, also situated in Swedish Lapland, has been recognised as a World Heritage Site for both its culture and its nature. It's located in the Arctic Circle region of northern Sweden and is home to the Sami people, who herd their reindeer towards the mountains every summer. Laponia is the largest area of the world with an ancestral way of life based on the seasonal movement of livestock. It is also one of the last places in the world where such an ancestral way of life continues.
Stora Sjöfallet national park, with a hotel, apartments, camping and restaurant, is the only commercial accommodation in the UNESCO World Heritage site, so be prepared to camp or stay in a basic cabin and bring your own food. There are many more living and dining options in the Laponian towns of Jokkmokk, Gällivare and Jukkasjärvi.
Struve Geodetic Arc (2005)
The Struve Geodetic Arc in the north of Sweden is actually a chain of survey points that stretches from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries. The survey points were carried out between 1816 and 1855 under the direction of German astronomer Wilhelm von Struve to help determine the size and shape of the planet. Seven of the 265 measured landmarks or stations are located in Sweden and four of these (Kiruna, Pajala, Övertorneå and Haparanda) are part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll find accommodations and restaurants in Kiruna, Pajala, Övertorneå and Haparanda, where the Struve Geodetic Arc stations are located. Kiruna, the northernmost municipality in Sweden, is the largest centre of the four places.