Looking for a getaway? Visit Mariefred, one of the pearls in the region of Södermanland! This is one of the summer getaways that on a sunny summer day will look like something from a book. In addition to the fantastic view over Lake Mälaren, there is the old royal castle of Gripsholm, a castle almost untouched by time. With a population of only around 3700 inhabitants, this small town has quite a few surprises in store.
We visited this town together for the first time on a cloudy Saturday in June 2015. The tourist season had not yet begun and the threatening clouds kept the visitors away. Our most recent visit was in the summer of 2020. We have found Mariefred to be great for walking with many sights within easy reach on foot. So remember to bring comfy shoes and an umbrella just in case.
A Short History of Mariefred
Mariefred has its origin closely linked with the Gripsholm Castle. The name itself might be a bit newer. It is believed that the name Mariefred dates back to the Carthusian charterhouse (or monastery) Pax Mariae that was established in the 15th century. Prior to the charterhouse, the area was simply known as Gripsholm.
Gripsholm and Mariefred
The royal council and marshal Bo Jonson Grip was at his time one of the most important persons in Swedish politics. He began in the 1370s the construction of his castle, Gripsholm.
The Mariefred Charterhouse was established in the 1490s, a small urban area began to grow around the charterhouse and was known as Mariefred. The charterhouse was at the end of the century granted the whole of Gripsholm.
The prosperity of the monks would be short-lived in Mariefred. Gustav Vasa became king of Sweden in 1521 and he introduced the Reformation a few years later.
He came in the possession of Gripsholm in 1526 and the charterhouse was soon demolished. Gustav Vasa began the transformation of the old castle from the time of Bo Jonsson Grip and Gripsholm became a royal castle with a close connection with the nearby village of Mariefred.
Mariefred Developing into a Town
Mariefred received its town privileges in 1605 by King Karl IX, a son to Gustav Vasa. The town continued to grow even after three devastating fires in the 17th century.
Mariefred encountered some problems from the 19th century onwards. The small town was unable to join in the fast development of other towns. It would take time for Industrialization to reach Mariefred and once it did it would have a limited effect. Instead, the town adapted to the arrival of tourists with the steamboats at Lake Mälaren.
Things to Do and See
In our opinion, there are four main attractions in the town: Gripsholm Castle, the historical railway, the deer reserve, and Lake Mälaren. With that said, there is still so much more to explore.
The crown jewel in Mariefred is without doubt the Gripsholm Castle. It is really hard to miss once in town. Its location on a small islet offers a great view of Lake Mälaren as well as the town center. Its red bricks fit really well into the scenery.
A lot of Swedish castles are quite boring, reminding more of mansions than anything else. This one is one of those castles that will make you dream back to all the fairy tales you heard during childhood. The castle’s location on a small islet means that it isn’t surrounded by huge parks. The area around the castle, however, is very nice for a walk.
Have you been riding in an old train powered by a steam engine? The railway arrived in Mariefred in 1895 as a short added line from Läggesta. This line was active until the 1960s. A small narrow-gauge railway dates back to 1965 when the museum had recieved the old railway buildings in Mariefred as a gift and had rebuilt the railway to fit the older trains.
The narrow-gauge railway between Mariefred and Läggesta opened as a museum railway in 1968 and has since extended the line to the station in Taxinge. It is today possible to travel almost 12 kilometers along the railway in carriages drawn by steam-powered locomotives. The locomotives and carriages all date back to the period between 1890 and 1925.
Gripsholm Deer Field
Do you want to see fallow deers in large numbers? Gripsholm Deer Field is a nature reserve between Mariefred and Läggesta. The fields have been used for keeping deers since the 17th century.
A walk here will most certainly include the sight of the majestic animals. The walk around the reserve does take its time and there is the possibility to bring a picnic or have a barbecue. The paths are comfortable to walk on, meaning easy access for both young children and the elderly.
The Town Center
There is the town itself; one can easily pass a couple of hours admiring the small stores, galleries, and restaurants that are housed in old wooden buildings. The center of Mariefred has been spared two major events that have changed many towns through the years. The last major fire took place in the 17th century and the old wooden buildings were not destroyed to make room for new development. That means that there is still the old town feeling here, with the wooden houses lining the streets.
Lake Mälaren is the third-largest lake in Sweden. While in Mariefred there are few things that can compete with taking a stroll along the coast, and maybe even enjoy an ice cream en route.
How to Get to Mariefred
The driving distance to Mariefred from 5 major Swedish cities is according to Google Maps.
From Stockholm - 69 kilometers (50 min) From Gothenburg - 436 kilometers (4 h 55 min) From Malmö - 615 kilometers (6 h 30 min) From Linköping - 198 kilometers (2 h 7 min) From Kiruna - 1273 kilometers (14 h 41 min)
Car: Turn of E20 at Läggesta, between Södertälje and Strängnäs and continue the last kilometers towards Mariefred.
Train: From Stockholm take the train towards Eskilstuna, if going from Eskilstuna or Strängnäs take the train towards Stockholm. Get off at the station in Läggesta from where you can catch one of the local green buses going to Mariefred.
Ferry: During summertime, there are boats from Stockholm taking around 3h and 30 minutes.
Flights: There are several airports in this part of Sweden. Both Stockholm Skavsta Airport (NYO) and Stockholm-Västerås Airport (VST) are 77 kilometers away, in different directions. Both are bases for low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and WizzAir. Then there is the much larger Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, 105 kilometers away, that has a large number of domestic and international routes.
Read more about what to do and see at Strängnäs kommun – Turism >>
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden
This post was first published 2016-04-01 and was updated 2021-09-06