One of the pearls along the western coast of Sweden is the town of Varberg. It is a popular summer destination and houses the majestic Varberg Fortress. With a population of around 36.000 inhabitants, it is the 36th largest locality in the country. The town has a long history and has eventually grown with the fortress and the harbor in its center.
A Short History of Varberg
The history of Varberg goes back to the Middle Ages and a time when the province of Halland was still a part of Denmark. At the time the town was known as Getakärr, of which only the church ruins still exist.
The Danish count Jacob Nielsen built a fortress here in the 13th century on a spot for a phryctoria, a signal fire. The fortress was his refuge after the murder of the king in 1286, a murder of which he was a suspect. The fortress received its name from the previous phyctoria and was known as “Vårdkasberget” or “vardhberg”, meaning watch mountain. The name eventually became Varberg.
The Danes established New Varberg a few kilometers north in the 15th century and over time it completely replaced the old town closer to the fortress. The Kalmar War between Denmark-Norway and Sweden at the beginning of the 17th century marked the end of New Varberg and it was burned by Swedish forces in 1612. The event meant that the focus was returned to the development of Old Varberg.
The fortress was extended and modernized in the 16th and 17th centuries and was completed in 1618, first after the war with Sweden. The Treaty of Brönsebro in 1645 saw the ceding of Halland to Sweden and Varberg becoming Swedish.
The first centuries under Swedish rule saw a major fire in the town each century, in 1666, 1767, and 1863. It was already in the 19th century that Varberg became a spa town. Varberg was at the beginning of the 19th century the largest town in Halland, with a population of around 1400 inhabitants. Because of slow population growth, Halland didn’t get the benefits of industrialization at the same time as the rest of Sweden. However, it turned out to be the nearby textile industry that increased the town’s importance as a harbour. It would also mean the arrival of the railway at the end of the 19th century.
Things to Do and See
For anyone visiting there are of course a few must-see attractions in Varberg. In addition to these the large town center with its square and pedestrian streets will offer both shopping and restaurants.
Varberg Fortress, or Varbergs fästning in Swedish, is the main attraction of the town and one of the majestic sights on the Western coast of Sweden. It was built in the Middle Ages and has seen both Danish and Swedish rulers. Its defensive purpose was eventually changed to being a prison, a task that it kept up until 1931. Today it is open for visitors to explore the history, views, and structure.
Varberg is a spa town and nothing shows that as much as the cold bathhouse. The fortress is spectacular, but it is the bathhouse that is the most eye-catching. Pools were constructed already in the 1820s for cold baths in the harbor area. The current building was constructed in 1903. Right next to the bathhouse is also a sandy beach popular for families.
Strandpromenaden, the beach walk, was established already in 1912. It begins in the harbour area and will take you around the fortress and along the coast for four kilometers.
Getterön Nature Reserve
Getterön is an island located right outside of the harbour in Varberg. It is accessible by road and houses the airfield, camping, and beaches. There is also a nature reserve covering an area of 350 hectares. Here is also Naturum, a center telling visitors about the surrounding nature.
Societetsparken is a central park with a long history. It was established in the end of the 19th century and was earlier known as the bathhouse park. It includes one of the best preserved society houses in western Sweden, dating back to 1883. Today the park houses many summer activities for visitors.
How to Get to Varberg
Flights: The closest airport is Halmstad Airport (HAD) located 72 kilometers away, with mostly domestic flights. There is also the larger Göteborg Landvetter Airport (GOT) 92 kilometres away, with both domestic and international flights.
Car: Varberg is located along the E6 between Göteborg and Halmstad.
Train: Several train services have departures and arrivals in Varberg, including SJ, Västtåg and Öresundståg. Destinations include Göteborg, Halmstad, Helsingborg, and Malmö..
Bus: Local and regional buses connect Varberg with the surrounding region.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 493 kilometers (5h 44min) Gothenburg – 75 kilometers (58min) Malmö – 203 kilometers (2h 16min) Linköping – 298 kilometers (3h 37min) Kiruna – 1652 kilometers (19h 45min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden