History, Churches and Rune Stones in Sigtuna, Sweden’s Oldest Town

Sigtuna, Sweden
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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.

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 (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.

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

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.

Ruined church in Sigtuna
One of many ruined churches in Sigtuna

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.

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

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? Read more about them here

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12 thoughts on “History, Churches and Rune Stones in Sigtuna, Sweden’s Oldest Town”

  1. Although Sigtuna is very small there certainly is a lot of history to explore. I’ve never been to Sweden but this town has inspired me to learn more.

  2. 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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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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