Östersund is the main town in the province of Jämtland and it is famous for outdoor winter activities, especially skiing. This is a connection point for many people heading to the larger alpine skiing resorts around Åre. However, the town itself also functions a center for other winter activities.
Östersund has a population of around 52.000, making it the largest locality in Jämtland and the 22nd largest in Sweden. Of the localities in the traditional land of Norrland, Östersund is the forth largest after Umeå, Gävle, and Sundsvall.
A Short History of Östersund
The province of Jämtland became a part of Sweden in 1645 after the Treaty of Brömsebro. It had earlier been a part of Norway, which in turn was governed from Copenhagen as a part of the union with Denmark. A town in Jämtland played an important role in the Swedish attempts to influence the region after the conquest. At this point Jämtland still kept strong ties with the province of Trøndelag in Norway.
Östersund was founded in 1786 by the Swedish king Gustav III. The area was a part of the village Odensala in Brunflo Parish. There wasn’t much at this location originally, except for a road and the bridge across to Frösön. It was Frösön that had been Jämtland’s major settlement until this point.
Östersund grew slowly and had in 1820 only about 400 inhabitants. Frösön continued to be the larger of the two until the the railroad arrived in Östersund in 1879 and the town got connections with Sundsvall and Trondheim three years later. This was the starting point of the urban development in Jämtland and Östersund. There were even proposals at this time to make Östersund the capital of the union between Sweden and Norway. Sweden had forced Norway into a union in 1814. The union was peacefully dissolved in 1905.
Östersund became an important garrison town in the end of the 19th century and it developed further during the beginning of the 20 century. The development did not include any major industrialization. The local government wanted to keep the clean air, the nature and the local cultural history.
Things to Do and See in Östersund
Outdoor activities are, of course, limitless in and around Östersund. Such activities include fishing, hiking and skiing, just to mention a few. Below we write about a few of the other sights of interest.
Jamtli is the local heritage museum, covering the cultural history of all of Jämtland. It is located a short distance north of the center and it includes both indoor museums as well as a larger open-air museum.
Storsjöodjuret is the sea monster believed in Swedish folklore to live in the lake Storsjön. Östersund is located at the shore of this very lake and statues of the monster can be found along the streets of Östersund, making a sightseeing walk with kids a lot easier. How about finding them all?
St: Olavsleden is a walking trail that stretches 564 kilometers between Selånger outside of Sundsvall and Trondheim in Norway. Parts of the trail passes by Östersund, providing the possibility to walk a shorter distance. The trail, or pilgrim way, originates with sagas of the king Olof Haraldsson from Norway. The story goes that the king took the route upon his return to Norway after a few years of exile in Novgorod.
Tysjöarna is a nature reserve just north of Östersund. The area consists of bogs, a kind of wetland. The environment is unusual and the area contains several rare plant and animal species. There are also three bird watching towers within the reserve.
Ahlbergshallen – Östersunds Stadsmuseum
Ahlbergshallen is the building that was once home to the city’s old library. The building was completed in 1912 and is today housing and exhibition hall as well as the city museum.
This is the main street through the center of Östersund, mostly just for pedestrians. It is also Östersund’s historical center with many buildings from the 1800’s. Two such buildings are Buntmakaren at Storgatan 19, a building from the 1840’s, and Smithens gård at Storgatan 23. Along the street you will also find several shops and restaurants.
Frösön is the more historical center of Jämtland and it has several more sights. It is located right across the strait from the center of Östersund.
Östersund FK at Jämtkraft Arena
The football club Östersund FK became famous a few years back when they surprised many in the UEFA Europa League in 2017-18. They won against Galatasaray (Turkey), Fola Esch (Netherlands) and PAOK (Greece) in the qualifications. In the group stage they finished second in a group with Athletic Bilbao (Spain), Hertha BSC (Germany), and Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine). They eventually lost against Arsenal in the round of 32, after loosing 0-3 at home at a snowy Jämtkraft Arena and actually winning 2-1 at Emirates Stadium, London.
As of 2020, the team plays in Allsvenskan, the Swedish 1st tier league. However, there have been several controversies in regards to the teams finances in recent years.
Jämtkraft Arena is the 23rd largest arena for football in Sweden and it has a capacity of 8466 spectators. It was completed in 2007, but has been extended several times after that.
How to Get to Östersund
Flights: The closest airport is Åre Östersund Airport (OSD) located 11 km away from the center. It connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
Car: Östersund is located along the E45 between Svenstavik and Strömsund, and along the E14 betwen Sundsvall and Trondheim.
Train: There are regular trains to Östersund from Stockholm, Göteborg, Sundsvall, and Åre as well as a few more places in Sweden.
Bus: There are both domestic and regional buses connecting Strömsund with many parts of Sweden as well as the surrounding area.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 558 kilometers (6 h 18 min) Gothenburg – 784 kilometers (9 h 51 min) Malmö – 1022 kilometers (12 h 11 min) Linköping – 753 kilometers (8 h 25 min) Kiruna – 811 kilometers (10 h 04 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden