It’s high season in Sweden now, but still one of the best times to explore the country on your own, from island to island and town to town. I wished I had more time to explore and drive, but let’s face it, I enjoy traveling by train just as much (just can’t stop everywhere I like.)
Kalmar is a small town surrounded by the waters of the Baltic sea, which makes it a perfect spot for sailing and, apparently for swimming and bird watching too. So, on our route through Smaland we set to Kalmar to see the stunning medieval castle (history buffs, you’ll enjoy it here) and find out what else the city has to offer. Which was a really good idea, certified by the Swedes, who have chosen this place as the best place for Summer (three years in a row).
We started our visit through the city from the Cathedral (which seems to be a perfect spot right in the middle of the old city). They say that the Cathedral of Kalmar still looks like it used to be when it was built in 1703. It’s one of the best preserved northern Europe Baroque churches. Highlight “northern Europe”, as you shouldn’t expect something like Santiago de Compostela, but an interesting meeting point and some very interesting details inside and outside.
The cathedral is surrounded by some of the major buildings in the city, like the town hall, and at the central street Storgatan, which crosses the town connecting the western door of Västerport and the shopping streets with the beach of Kattrumpan. Leaving the cathedral on our back and Storgatan to our left and right, we found the old wall that used to protect Kalmar (Outside there is the new harbour and a small shopping center, but that’s not what we came here for ;) ).
There are many interesting buildings all around town, but the ones that caught our eye were the small seafarers’ houses around Södra Vallgatan and Östra Vallgatan. One floor and not wide, the door almost hidden. They have some very interesting things, like a ceramics cat on the window (used to tell the lover when the husband was home) or some mirrors to see what the neighbours were doing without being noticed….
Just a few steps from them, by the coast, is the Klapphuset, the public washing house where women used to wash their carpets and other fabrics (yes, in the Baltic sea). An interesting building (and the only of their kind that is left) and with a beautiful surroundings.
Back to the Cathedral area, through the most commercial and foodie side of Kalmar down town, we crossed the Västerport, the old west door to Kalmar and the wooden bridge of Ravelin, which was rebuilt in 1997. An interesting view towards the castle and the beautiful Kalmar park.
The castle, one of the most photogenic castles in the nordic countries, dates back to the XII century (although the building is from the XVI century, when it was rebuilt with a nordic renaissance style.) If you only come here for the pictures (or look forward to one of those beautiful night shots), they have marked the best spots for photography lovers so you can take a perfect shot of the castle.
But, don’t get me wrong, you should add a visit to the castle. Lots of interesting things happened here, from the signature of the Kalmar Union to the secret lives of the swedish kings, their servants and their lovers. Did you know there are two ghosts here too?
Plus, what they say is the most beautiful wedding spot in all Sweden: Kalmar Slottskyrka, the castle chapel. The XVI century chapel has an interesting nordic design where men and women used to seat apart from each other, and even prisoners had the right to attend the ceremonies here.
It was getting late when we finished our guided tour through the castle so we headed for dinner right here in the Castle (not just another museum restaurant), at the Thomas and Charlotta hall. I’ve told you about this wonderful dinner before: zero kilometre food with traditional swedish recipes with a modern twist. A perfect spot to end up a wonderful day exploring.
Where to sleep in Kalmar
For this trip we stayed at the Kalmar Stadshotell, right accross Kalmar Cathedral (yes, that couldn’t be better located to explore Kalmar on foot). It is a comfortable and modern hotel with a nice bar (just in case you don’t feel like walking 2 minutes to the restaurants and shops at the pedestrianized street).
Things to do near Kalmar:
Just about one hour away from Kalmar, we visited Glasriket, the land of crystal (Sweden is a must-go place for crystal artists and designers). Glasriket is the region of Smaland where crystal factories are located: There are about 13 factories and workshops, with brands like Kosta Boda and Orrefors.
We visited two of them: Målerås Glassworks and Glass Factory. Both worth a visit, although with different approaches to glass working. The first, with an amazing collection of glass sculptures, allows you to try to blow your own glass piece (try if you dare, it’s not easy). The second one, the home of artists from all around the world, where you can witness how they create their new pieces and also visit a museum with some of the most important and interesting pieces of glass created in Sweden. They both are also a great place to shop for crystal, with lower prices than the shops in Stockholm ;)
Also in the area, visit Vimmerby to connect to your inner child and meet Pippi Longbottoms. Or head to Vastervik to sail the islands of the Archipelago.
Disclosure: The trip was organized by Sweden Tourism together with Smaland, Kalmar and Vastervik Tourism offices and , along with a series of activities, accommodation and dining providers mentioned in our articles. As always, all posts are written according to my experience and opinion.