Sundsvall, Medelpad, Exploring Sweden

Sundsvall, Medelpad – Exploring Sweden

Sundsvall is a city built of stone and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. With its 58 000 inhabitants, Sundsvall is the third-largest city in northern Sweden, behind Umeå and Gävle. With nature close by and a city center worthy of a capital, there are a lot of reasons to visit the city. Even if you are just passing by along the E4 highway, the Sundsvall Bridge will give you a taste of what the city has to offer.

A Short History of Sundsvall

Sundsvall was founded in 1621 on what was then pasture grounds where the river Selångersån meets the Baltic Sea. Sundsvall was just one of several towns founded at this time along the coast in northern Sweden as well as along the coast in what is today Finland. This after that the statesman Johan Skytte had traveled around the Golf of Bothnia two years earlier.

Sundsvall initially mainly housed a few fishermen. As the city developed the Swedish Crown built a weapons factory in the town. Later development has turned the city into an industrial city with focus on the forestry industry.

During its 400 years, Sundsvall has had three major fires. They took place in 1721, 1803, and 1888. The first fire in 1721 was during the Russian Pillage when the Imperial Russian Fleet attacked the civilian population along the Swedish east coast. This was at the time of the Great Northern War and Sundsvall was just one of several targets. The second major fire in 1803 saw 211 houses burned down in five hours, resulting in over 900 of the around 1000 inhabitants becoming homeless. The largest city fire in the history of Sweden took place in 1888. The town was in ruins within 9 hours and around 9000 people lost their homes. The last fire resulted in a decision that Sundsvall should be rebuilt in stone.

Things to do and see in Sundsvall

Norra Stadsberget

Norra Stadsberget is a hill to the north of Sundsvall’s city centre. Here you find not only a great view of the city, but also Sundsvall’s open-air museum that has taken inspiration from Skansen in Stockholm. It gives you a possibility to explore the history of the Medelpad region. View the historical buildings, see domestic animals and let the kids play in the large playground.

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Södra berget

Södra berget, or the southern hill, is the place for a larger outdoor centre. Here you find ski slopes, walking trails and a lot more. For the younger travellers there is both a forest playground as well as the Tarzan path (Tarzanstigen) with adventures along the path.


Stenstan, or the stone city, is the central part of Sundsvall. After the great fire of 1888, when big parts of the city were destroyed, the decision was made to rebuild the centre in stone. So only stone houses were to be built and the streets were made wider. Only the wealthy did, however, afford to rebuild the houses. One of the more spectacular buildings from this time was Hirschska huset, the House of Hirsch. The building later became the model for several buildings along exclusive Strandvägen in Stockholm and did get a dragon statue in one of its towers to protect from future fires.

The wide walking streets and parks have made Sundsvall an city that is easy to explore on foot and it offers the scenery worthy of a European capital.

Find the Dragons

The dragon from the House of Hirsch later became the symbol of the municipality of Sundsvall. It is also the inspiration for an annual dragon parade that saw the light in 2003. The Dragon of Sundsvall should offer courage and strength to the one who performs great deeds.

The Dragon Parade starts in May and the dragon statues are visible in the center of Sundsvall for the whole summer. The best dragon is elected at the Dragon Festival at the end of the summer.

How to get to Sundsvall

  • Flights: Sundsvall–Timrå Airport (SDL) is located 21 kilometers north of Sundsvall and connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
  • Car: The city lies where the highways E4 and E14 meet. E4 goes from southern to northern Sweden and E14 connects Sundsvall with Östersund and Åre, as well as Trondheim in Norway.
  • Train: The northbound trains from Stockholm stop in Sundsvall and there is also westbound connections to Östersund and Trondheim.
  • Bus: Several long-distance bus routes along the Swedish northern coast have stops in Sundsvall.

The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:

  • Stockholm – 377 kilometers (3 h 49 min)
  • Gothenburg – 730 kilometers (7 h 56 min)
  • Malmö – 985 kilometers (9 h 29 min)
  • Linköping – 572 kilometers (5 h 41 min)
  • Kiruna – 863 kilometers (9 h 38 min)

Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden

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