Less than 50 km from Stockholm, Sigtuna is ideal for a day trip from the capital. It is Sweden’s oldest town, founded in AD 980, and until the 13th century it was one of the most important cities in the country. Today it is small, and its importance has waned, but there is still plenty for visitors to see and do.
What to See in Sigtuna
Sigtuna is on the edge of Lake Mälaren, in the inner Stockholm archipelago (in the summer you can even arrive by boat from central Stockholm). We started our exploration by strolling through the lakeside park, noting the modern stone labyrinth and rune stone by the water. Then we walked down Stora gatan, the historic main street, past the tiny town hall and towards the museum with its displays of Sigtuna’s history.
It is this street that attracts tourists, with its old wooden shops and houses painted in different colours. The very early buildings are long gone, most of the current ones dating from the 18th century or later. However it was fascinating to stop and read the numerous information plaques showing the history of the buildings and the people who lived and worked in them.
Churches and Rune Stones
But the highlight of our visit was the old churches and the rune stones, reminders of a time when Sigtuna was a much more substantial and significant place. Parallel to Stora gatan is the “Procession Road”, built in the 12th century for religious processions, and home to several churches. Most of these churches fell into disuse after the Reformation but you can still see the ruins.
Theronly church that survived was St Mary’s. This was originally a monastic foundation but at the time of the Reformation the monastery was destroyed and St Mary’s became a parish church. Look out for the 14th century wall paintings and the font, which is older than the church itself. Just outside the churchyard you can see the monastery herb garden.
Then there are the Viking rune stones. We picked up a leaflet in the tourist office on Stora gatan and followed the Sigtuna Rune Stone Walk. This took us around the town centre and along the Procession Road. But what are rune stones and what were they for? You’ll have to wait until next week’s post to learn more…