Are you looking for a place that is small, yet historical? Do you want to get away from the big city buzz and just enjoy an ice cream by the lake? If your answer is yes, then maybe Sigtuna is the place for you. We visited Sigtuna in April 2017 and enjoyed our trip very much. It makes a good day trip from the Swedish capital and it offers a good mix of nature and history. It is a place where visitors can marvel at medieval churches, ruins, castles, and rune stones from the Viking Area.
A Short History of Sigtuna
This cozy and picturesque small town is actually the oldest town in Sweden. It is a place of firsts: it is here that the first Swedish coins were minted. That happened during the period from 995 to 1030. In total, we are talking about more than 2 million coins. 1835 saw the introduction of another novelty: the first telegraph pole in Sweden in nearby Märsta. In fact, given the location of the town – it is located between Stockholm and Uppsala – it’s no wonder that the pole was erected here.
The history of modern Sigtuna started in 980, which makes it the oldest town in Sweden. We know that a king was the founder, but sources differ on which king it actually was. It could have been Eric the Victorious or Olof Skötkonung. Back in those days, the town served as a royal and commercial center for some 250 years. It was also an important religious center at the time, which can still be seen today.
In 1187 the town was attacked and pillaged by raiders from the east. Eventually, in the 13th century, Sigtuna lost its importance. The town stands on the shores of Lake Mälaren and the post-glacial rebound eventually caused navigability problems.
Fornsigtuna (Old Sigtuna) lies about 4 kilometers from Sigtuna. Although the place is of no importance these days, it played a central role in Norse mythology, like here in Orvar-Odd’s saga.
Sék hvar sitja
fljóð þaus löttu
farar mik þaðan
í höll konungs
öl né rekkar
of aldr síðan.
I see where they sit
at home in Sigtun,
the girls who begged
me not to go;
no joy for Hjalmar
in the hall after this,
with ale and men,
Five Things to Do In Sigtuna
Dig Into History – Churches & Ruins
The church and religion were important in Medieval times. Actually, merchants and wealthy townspeople erected many as seven large stone churches in the town. Today, you find three ruins of old stone churches in Sigtuna: St. Peter’s, St. Lawrence’s, and St. Olaf’s (St. Per, St. Lars, and St. Olof).
The remains of St. Olaf’s Church have been the subject of several smaller scientific excavations in the 2000s. The excavations have shown that the architecture of the church was exceptional. Furthermore, the church ruins rest on an older building – perhaps the oldest stone church in Sweden. St. Olaf’s Church was never completed.
St. Mary’s Church (Mariakyrkan) stands next to St. Olaf’s Church. Dating back to the mid-13th century, it is one of the oldest brick buildings in the Lake Mälaren valley. The church was part of the Dominican friary until the Protestant Reformation, which led to the dissolution of the monasteries in the early 16th century. St. Mary’s Church is the parish church of Sigtuna today.
Take a Stroll in the Old Town
A stroll in medieval Sigtuna is more than just churches. The pedestrian street Stora gatan crosses the town and it is surrounded by old, colorful wooden houses. There are plenty of small cozy cafés. The town hall (Rådhuset) is actually not so old – it’s from the 18th century, but it’s still very quaint. It’s a funny fact that the town hall is the smallest one in Sweden. These days it’s a museum and a popular spot for weddings.
Visit a Castle
There are five castles in the area surrounding Sigtuna. These are Skokloster Castle, Skånelaholm Castle, Steninge Palace, Wenngarn Castle and Rosersberg Palace. The latter of these castles is one of ten royal palaces. Why not make a day trip to one or several castles?
Play in Water
Visitors can enjoy the water in many ways. In the summertime, it’s possible to go to Sigtuna by boat from Stockholm. There is a guest harbor, and visitors can enjoy a swim in the lake, go canoeing or try other water sports.
Each February Sigtuna is a part of the world’s biggest annual ice-skating event. The race Vikingarännet starts in Uppsala and it runs via Sigtuna to Stockholm.
Check Out the Markets
Sigtuna is famous for its markets. In the cold and dark weekends of December, many locals and visitors gather in the town to get a feeling of the traditional Christmas spirit. The open-air market has something for everyone, including traditional food, local handicraft, and Santa.
In 1912 Sigtuna had its last farmer’s council meeting. That very same summer Stockholm hosted the Olympic Games. To celebrate this, the town arranges an open-air market called Sigtuna möte in late August/early September each year. The year 1912 is ever-present and visitors can enjoy music, dance, and handicraft – while dressing up like people did in 1912.
Going to Sigtuna?
Do you want to travel to Sigtuna? Here are a few ways you can go there:
- Car: Sigtuna lies along road 263 which connects with the E4 in Märsta, just north of Stockholm.
- Bus: There are local buses connecting the town with Märsta, from where other regional transports are available.
- Train: The closest train station is in neighboring Märsta where regional trains are available to Stockholm and Södertälje.
- Flights: Sigtuna lies only a stone’s throw from Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN), the largest airport in Sweden.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 49 kilometers (41 min)
Gothenburg – 461 kilometers (5 h 13 min)
Malmö – 659 kilometers (6 h 42 min)
Luleå – 868 kilometers (9 h 34 min)
Linköping – 246 kilometers (2 h 37 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden