History, Churches and Rune Stones in Sigtuna, The Oldest Town in Sweden

Sigtuna, Sweden
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Less than 50 km from Stockholm, Sigtuna is ideal for a day trip from the capital. It is the oldest town in Sweden, 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, including old houses, historic churches, and lots of rune stones.

Sigtuna, Sweden
Old wooden houses of Sigtuna

What to See in Sigtuna

Sigtuna is on the edge of Lake Mälaren, in the inner Stockholm archipelago. I started my exploration by strolling through the lakeside park, noting the modern stone labyrinth and rune stone by the water. Then I walked down Stora gatan, the historic main street, past the tiny town hall and towards the museum with its displays of Sigtuna’s history.

Stone labyrinth in Sigtuna
A modern stone labyrinth in the lakeside park

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.

Old house in Sigtuna
The centre of Sigtuna is full of old buildings

Churches and Rune Stones

Sigtuna was founded as a royal and commercial city, but it was also an early centre of Christianity. A highlight of my 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.

Ruined church in Sigtuna
One of many ruined churches in Sigtuna

The only 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.

Rune stone in Sigtuna
A rune stone sits by an old Viking road

Then there are the Viking rune stones. I picked up a leaflet in the tourist office on Stora gatan and followed the Sigtuna Rune Stone Walk. This took me around the town centre and along the Procession Road. But what are rune stones and what were they for? Read more about them here

How to Get to Sigtuna from Stockholm

I travelled by pendolino train as far as Mastra, and then took the bus to Sigtuna (I used my Stockholm SL travel card for the whole journey). In the summer you can also travel by boat from central Stockholm.

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11 thoughts on “History, Churches and Rune Stones in Sigtuna, The Oldest Town in Sweden”

  1. I have visited Sigtuna and need to find historical information about the town c. 1000 AD.
    I wrote an enovel “Dance of the Hummingbirds” that begins in SW America but draws in Birka, Sweden. Now I’m writing the sequel and the requisite migration of the people to Sigtuna because of the sea level changes.
    Any source help is appreciated. Thank you for this lovely tour. Brought back memories of my visit.

    1. Hi Linda, most of my information was picked up in Sigtuna itself (from the museum and the various information boards around the town) so I probably don’t have anything you haven’t already seen. The rune stones would have some information about the people who lived there but I don’t have any extra information about the town itself. But good luck with the novel and the research!

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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