Kalmar is one of the more historically important cities in Sweden. Its location along the coast of the Baltic Sea in southwestern Sweden was important at a time when the border with Denmark was a bit closer than today. Kalmar is a part of the historical province of Småland and it is the seat of Kalmar County. The city is home to about 42.000 inhabitants as well as to the longest bridge completely within Swedish borders, the Öland Bridge.
Our Impression of Kalmar
Kalmar is one of the main historical cities in Sweden and a must-see at least once. When you stand at the waterfront and look out towards the castle it really is an impressive sight. Even more so when you move a bit further north along the coast and see the Öland Bridge disappearing in the distance. Maybe you are lucky to be able to see the island of Öland in the distance. We can really recommend spending some time here. Enjoy the city and its many historical areas. Take in the festive summer atmosphere. Or just find your secluded spot along the coast.
A Short History of Kalmar
Welcome to one of the oldest towns in Sweden. During the Middle Ages, this town played an important role in the defense of Sweden and the country’s international trade. Kalmar was during the 13th century a member of the Hanseatic League, one of the most powerful trade confederations around the Baltic Sea at this time.
The city is probably best known for being the location where the Kalmar Union was formed in 1397. This was the Union between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that was led by Queen Margaret I of Denmark. Considering the possessions of these countries at the time, the union covered an area that today also would have included Finland, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Orkney, and Shetland. Also smaller parts of what is today Germany and Russia were at the time included. It would take until 1523 before Sweden broke free from the union.
Danish forces destroyed large parts of Kalmar in 1611 and a few decades later in 1647, the town was devastated by a large fire. These events led to the move of the town to what is known as Kvarnholmen. It then became a fortified town with bastions and walls. Kalmar’s importance did, however, decrease with the conquest of Blekinge and Skåne later in the century. The base for the Swedish navy was eventually moved to Karlskrona in 1689.
The city wall was decommissioned in the 19th century and the walls were eventually demolished in the 1860s. It was also in the 19th century that the city started to grow outside of the former walls. It was also in the 1870s that the railway arrived in Kalmar and the industrialization of the area began.
One of the city’s main landmarks was inaugurated in 1972. This is the Öland Bridge, a bridge connecting the island of Öland with mainland Sweden. The bridge was the longest bridge in Europe until the completion of Vasco da Gama Bridge in Portugal in 1998. The 6,072 meters were a lot longer than the previous record holder, the Zeeland Bridge which is 5,022 meters long. The Öland Bridge is today the second longest in Sweden, just after the 7,845 meter-long Öresund Bridge to Copenhagen and Denmark.
Things to Do and See
Kalmar is a city with a long history and there are an almost indefinite number of sights telling a different part of this long story. The castle, the cathedral, and several more old buildings provide an impressive atmosphere when the old meets the new. Add to this all the events that take place here during the summer. This is a city that really wakes up when the temperature rises during the summer and tourists are flocking to enjoy everything that Kalmar has to offer.
Kalmar Castle is probably the most prominent building in the area. It is a medieval castle dating back to the 12th century. The number of historical events that have taken place here is too many to mention in this post, but the most significant is probably the founding of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway.
The Öland Bridge is the longest fully domestic bridge in Sweden. It connects Kalmar on the mainland with Öland, the second-largest island in Sweden. It measures 6.072 meters and was for about 26 years after its completion in 1972 the longest bridge in Europe.
Stadsparken is the city park right next to the castle. The part was founded already in the 1870s and in 1985 it was crowned the most beautiful city park in Sweden.
Kalmar Cathedral was completed in 1703 after decades of work. Construction had begun more than 40 years earlier in 1660. It is a Baroque church that is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden.
Kalmar Old Water Tower
The old water tower is the tallest building on the central island of Kvarnholmen. It reaches a height of 65 meters and was built at the end of the 19th century. The water tower was in use up until 1972 when it was replaced. It found a new use in 1983 when it was rebuilt and is today home to eleven apartments over 15 floors.
Kalmar County Museum
Kalmar County Museum tells its visitors about the region’s history and culture. It includes a large exhibit about the warship Kronan of the Swedish Navy, which sank in 1676 during the Battle of Öland. Another permanent exhibit is about Jenny Nyström, a Swedish artist who is most famous for her establishment of the Swedish image of Santa Claus with her illustration for Christmas cards.
Kalmar FF & Guldfågeln Arena
Kalmar FF is a soccer team founded in 1910 and as of 2023, it plays in Sweden’s first-tier league Allsvenskan. The team became Swedish champions for the first and only time in 2008 and has until today played 35 seasons in the top league.
The team has its base at Guldfågeln Arena, which was completed in 2011. It takes 12.182 spectators during soccer games, which makes it the 13th largest in Sweden.
IFK Kalmar & Gröndals IP
The city is also home to the women’s soccer team IFK Kalmar which was founded in 1970. The team will as of the 2023 season be making its third season in the Swedish top-tier league Damallsvenskan. The team has its base at Gröndals IP, an arena with a capacity of 3.000 spectators.
How to Get to Kalmar
- Flights: The closest airport is Kalmar Öland Airport (KLR) 6 kilometers away.
- Car: Kalmar is along the highway E22 between Mönserås and Karlskrona.
- Bus: Buses from Kalmar Länstrafik connect Kalmar with the surrounding region.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
- Stockholm – 413 kilometers (4 h 34 min)
- Gothenburg – 339 kilometers (3 h 59 min)
- Malmö – 281 kilometers (3 h 6 min)
- Linköping – 237 kilometers (2 h 55 min)
- Kiruna – 1644 kilometers (18 h 34 min)