Oskarshamn is a town in the historical province of Småland along the eastern coast of Sweden. This was originally a fishing village known as Döderhultsvik but has since grown into an important industrial center with one of Sweden’s larger harbors. Its access to the Baltic Sea and its close vicinity to the two largest islands in Sweden have further established the importance of the town. It is today well-known for having a ferry connection to Visby on the island of Gotland. There is also a seasonal ferry to Byxelkrok on the island of Öland.
Oskarshamn has a population of around 18.900 and two important employers are Scania and the shipyard Oskarshamnsvarvet. It is also known for the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant, which is actually located 30 kilometers north of the town.
Our Impression of Oskarshamn
Oskarshamn is sometimes forgotten when we consider the nice towns in Sweden for a summer visit. Needless to say, this is a town that wakes up during the summer months, like many places in Sweden. The many ferries make sure that there are plenty of tourists passing through the town. The question is how many make sure to take the opportunity to enjoy what it has to offer. Walking along the pedestrian streets and especially when reaching the waterfront is a nice experience.
Taking a ferry from Oskarshamn offers probably the best experience. Seeing the Baltic Sea opening up in front of you, with some of the most famous Swedish islands. Almost immediately it is possible to see across the strait to the island of Öland. In addition, the island of Blå Jungfrun also soon becomes visible The island is today a national park and is also known as Blåkulla. Blåkulla is where the legends tell us that the witches fly on their brooms on Maundy Thursday.
A Short History of Oskarshamn
The history of Oskarshamn begins with the fishing village of Döderhultsvik. The first known mention of Döderhultsvik dates back to 1604 and in 1646 the fishing village became a market town. The market town was, however, controlled by the merchants in Kalmar. Döderhultsvik did initially not survive long as a market town, it was burned down by Danish forces in 1677. After reconstruction, it continued to struggle as a market town without its own merchants.
Döderhultsvik was fighting for decades during the 18th and 19th centuries to get its own town privileges. It would take until 1856 before these were granted by the Swedish king Oscar I. The new town was named Oskarshamn, after the king. So this is the king’s harbor.
The population would come to explode during the second half of the 19th century. So did eventually naval trade and industrialization. The shipyards became an important part of the economic life of Oskarshamn, both in regard to income but also employment. The harbor had a shared focus between goods and passenger traffic. It is the reason for the increase in tourism during the 20th century when steamships connected Oskarshamn with towns like Stockholm, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Lübeck, Hamburg, and London.
Things to Do and See
Oskarshamn has a fairly large city center with restaurants, cafés, and the occasional shopping possibility. Its position with a larger passenger harbor offers the possibility either to catch a ferry to one of the two largest islands in Sweden, Gotland or Öland. But one can also visit the mythical island of Blå Jungfrun. It is the Baltic Sea that is the main attraction, but there are also a few more local sights of interest.
Oskarshamn Culture Center
Oskarshamn Culture Center houses the library as well as an art gallery and two museums. The museums are the Döderhultarmuseet and Sjöfartsmuseet. These tell the story of the artist known as Dödarhultarn and about the local naval history of the area.
Döderhultarn was a man born in 1868 in what was then the Döderhult Parish. He was an artist that was active in Oskarshamn and became known for his wooden figurines. The figurines were traded and spread to several parts of Europe. The museum includes an exhibition of around 200 of the creations. His real name was actually Axel Robert Petersson. He lived until 1925.
Sjöfartsmuseet, the local naval museum, tells the naval history of Oskarshamn and its importance to the development of the town. The exhibitions include crafts, ship models, and equipment connected with the naval trade.
Furthest into the bay, right next to the center is the marina or guest harbor. It is right next to a large square that is used as temporary parking for motorhomes for most of the time. It is, however, occasionally used for events such as concerts.
Oskarshamns Stadspark is the public park in the heart of the town. It was established in 1862 and is bordered by the church on one side and the harbor on another. There are viewpoints towards the harbor, including Långa Soffan (see below). The park includes many fields for play and relaxation as well as sculptures and flower beds.
Oskarshamns stadskyrka, as it is known in Swedish, is the main church for the town. It was completed in 1876 and is today the center for Oskarshamn Congregation, a congregation that is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden.
How can a park bench be one of the main sights in a town? If it measures 72 meters in length and offers a view of the harbor, then you probably know why. The name Långa Soffan can be translated to “the Long Sofa” in English. It was built in 1867 and still claims to be the longest sofa in the world.
IK Oskarshamn & Be-Ge Hockey Center
IK Oskarshamn is the local ice hockey team currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League. SHL is the top-tier league in Sweden and the team is currently playing its fourth season at this level after their advance in 2019. It had prior to that played 23 seasons in the second-tier league Hockeyallsvenskan.
IK Oskarshamn plays their home games at Be-Ge Hockey Center. It was built already in 1974 and was renovated in 2005 and is since a part of an arena complex known as Arena Oskarshamn. The name Be-Ge Hockey Center was established in 2015.
How to Get to Oskarshamn
- Flights: The closest airport is Oskarshamn Airport (OSK) 11 kilometers away.
- Car: Oskarshamn is on road E22 between Västervik and Kalmar.
- Bus: Buses from Kalmar Länstrafik connect Oskarshamn with the surrounding region.
- Train: The closest railway station is in nearby Västervik.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
- Stockholm – 340 kilometers (3 h 57 min)
- Gothenburg – 316 kilometers (3 h 54 min)
- Malmö – 345 kilometers (3 h 59 min)
- Linköping – 164 kilometers (2 h 12 min)
- Kiruna – 1571 kilometers (18 h 15 min)