UNESCO Sites in Sweden

UNESCO Sites in Sweden

Preserving the best of a country’s cultural and natural sites, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) ensures that the nation’s history lives on and tales of its past can continue to be told. In the case of Sweden, this story is overwhelmingly cultural, with 13 out of its 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites falling into the culture category. Formally the Kingdom of Sweden, the Scandinavian nation has a long and illustrious history which dates back to prehistoric times and is perhaps most renowned for its period of Viking rule. Spread across thousands of coastal islands and interlinked inland lakes, Sweden’s UNESCO Sites are woven into the fabric of this complex and captivating Nordic country. If the land of ABBA, meatballs and minimalist design has caught your eye, then read on for our list of the best UNESCO Sites in Sweden…

  1. Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland
  2. The High Coast & Kvarken Archipelago
  3. Hanseatic Town of Visby
  4. Grimeton Radio Station, Varberg
  5. Rock Carvings in Tanum


Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland

Sitting pretty in northeast Sweden, the seven wooden farmhouses of Hälsingland represent the pinnacle of a regional timber building tradition, hailing from the Middle Ages. During the 19th century, farmers used their wealth to build elaborately decorated farmhouses which could reflect their prosperity, often kitting them out with suites of rooms reserved for special occasions. Situated within 60 miles of one another, their ornately painted interiors showcase a fusion of Dalecarlian folk art (from Dalarna), Baroque and Rococo art styles. While most of the houses remain privately owned, a few are open to the public and one is available to stay in if you really wish to immerse yourself in this long-standing cultural tradition.


The High Coast & Kvarken Archipelago

The only natural feature to grace the list of UNESCO Sites in Sweden, the Kvarken Archipelago and the High Coast are located in the Gulf of Bothnia, a northern section of the Baltic Sea. Technically, this accolade is shared with Finland, as the Kvarken Archipelago (a chain of 5,600 islands) belongs to Sweden’s Nordic neighbour. The High Coast, however, is entirely Swedish and emerged during the last Ice Age, sculpted by the combined processes of glacial retreat, glaciation and the advent of new land. One for the keen geographers and budding geologists among us, the site offers outstanding opportunities for analysing the processes that have formed the glaciated areas of the Earth’s surface. Today, the region boasts everything from boutique hotels and cosy cabins to inviting pubs and local restaurants, set among the stunning natural scenery.


Hanseatic Town of Visby

A popular summer holiday destination for Swedes, the town of Visby sits on the island of Gotland, around 60 miles east of the mainland. The settlement was established by the Vikings and reached its zenith during the 12th and 13th centuries, becoming a dominant trading post and the centre of the Hanseatic League (a medieval commercial confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central and Northern Europe). Visby’s medieval architecture and urban design is remarkably well-maintained, touted by UNESCO as the best-preserved fortified commercial city in northern Europe. Explore the surviving medieval street pattern, stay in a Romanesque-style townhouse and visit crumbling church ruins for a healthy dose of Swedish Hanseatic history.


Grimeton Radio Station, Varberg

One of the more unusual UNESCO Sites in Sweden, Grimeton Radio Station can be found in Varberg, on Sweden’s west coast. Constructed in the early 1920s, the compound is a monument to early wireless transatlantic communication, and its buildings, transmitter system and original steel towers remain intact. Even more impressive is the fact that Grimeton is the only surviving transmitting station which used pre-electronic technology and is still fully operational. You don’t have to be an engineer or electronics fanatic to appreciate this technological time warp. However, if visiting a radio station isn’t high on your list of travel priorities, the nearby town of Varberg is equipped with some luxury hotels and the highest concentration of spas in the country (another credible reason to visit this region).


Rock Carvings in Tanum

Stockholm is blessed with some wonderful art museums, showcasing everything from modern art to Renaissance masters. Yet, look slightly further afield to the Tanum Municipality – in the north of Sweden’s Bohuslän province – and you’ll find some outstanding examples of Bronze Age art, in the form of rock carvings. Featuring varied motifs - including depictions of animals, humans, weapons and boats - there are at least 1,500 known carving sites across the region, with the artworks providing an insight into the beliefs and culture of people during the European Bronze Age. A well-marked path winds its way across the landscape for almost four miles, offering an easy way to gaze at the prolific rock carvings.

Written by Luisa Watts