Have you ever seen a real rune stone? I know a place where can you get face to face to face with rune stones up to 1000 years old. Sigtuna is a sleepy unassuming town that lays claim to being Sweden’s oldest surviving town.
Sigtuna is situated about 45 minutes from the Swedish capital of Stockholm and is home to more than 150 unique rune stones – said to be the most of any one town in the world.
Rune stones were erected as a memorial to people who had passed away, but they’re different to gravestones. Rune stones were meant to be seen and placed in areas where people passed by or congregated, such as by churches or on road sides. The practice has been traced back to Danish origins before it spread to Sweden and Norway.
Many of Sigtuna’s rune stones are now fragments of the original rune stones but they’re still worth a look. And you can find some of them just casually sitting by the roadside. There are maps available or you can play a game of find the rune stone and see how many you can track down before consulting the map.
Information about the rune stores – including what’s written on them - is detailed in English and Swedish next to the stones.
Not all the rune stones are out in the open though and some are housed in the Sigtuna Museum.
Once you’ve got your rune stone fix, there’s plenty of cute cafes along Sigtuna’s main street, Stora Gaten. Or grab something from the local bakery – you’ll be able to smell it and take your sweet treat down to the lake.
The lakeside is perfect for a stroll and on the off chance it’s a sunny day – you can also head into the lake for a swim. There’s even ladders leading into the water.
Sigtuna is perfect for a day trip and is an easy train and bus ride from Stockholm. Catch the train from Stockholm to Marsta, and then there’s a number of bus lines that head to Sigtuna. Most people in Sweden speak some English so you shouldn’t have any trouble asking for help to find the right bus. Plan for around a 45 minute commute one way.
A 45 minute train ride from Stockholm is the university town of Uppsala.
The highlight is the pastel peach coloured Uppsala Castle – standing proud on a hill overlooking Uppsala. There’s cannons outside and a bell tower. This isn’t the original castle dating back to 1549 though – the original castle was razed by fire in 1702 but faithfully restored in 1740.
Uppsala is also home to Scandinavia’s largest cathedral dating back to the 13th century.
About 4km out of Uppsala is one of Sweden’s most important burial sites with mounds dating back to the 6th century. You can get there by a local bus or if you’re feeling energetic and have the time, you can walk there.
You can also take a day trip out to the Stockholm archipelago. Vaxholm is considered to be the capital of the archipelago and tends to be the most popular spot in the archipelago.
You can get there by bus 670 from the Tekniska Högskolan T-bana (metro) station or by ferry.
There’s a great café near the water called Vaxholms Hembygdsgards which offers mouthwatering desserts. They’re all spread out neatly on a table for you to select which ones you want. I bet you’ll find it hard to stop at one – or better yet, try and get a friend along so you can try some of two or three desserts without breaking the bank or filling up on too much sugar!
You can also visit the 16th century fortress here – getting there by boat. There’s also a peaceful walk along the water along a boardwalk – perfect on a sunny day.
Back in Stockholm, take some time to stroll the cobblestoned streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town), making a stop at Stortorget – Stockholm’s oldest square. Take in the beautiful square with a hot drink of your choice either at the Kaffekooppen (coffee cup) or the Chokladkoppen (chocolate cup) cafes, which are housed in 17th century buildings.
Also check out the Nobel Museum, Royal Palace, and trendy Södermalm for its vintage shopping and bars.
For the best panoramas of the Old Town, head over to the Södermalm viewpoints Fjällgatan and Monteliusvägen.
Also take a look at Svartensgatan, a street featuring wooden houses showing how Stockholm used to look before wooden houses were banned in the city after a series of fires.
Stockholm has a modern and efficient metro (T-bana) system so it’s very easy to get around.
Where to Eat
If you have kitchen facilities in your accommodation, you can always try frying up some bear meat.
You can find bear (Björn) meat as well as a number of traditional Swedish delicacies at one of Stockholm’s food halls.
The Östermalm food hall dates back to the 1880s – you can find anything from pickled herring to bear meat to Danish pastries here. Another food hall is Hötorgshallen. Right outside this food hall is a market place stocking a range of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The market halls are open Mondays to Saturdays.
Prefer to eat out? Then there’s lots of options. Why not get into the Viking theme and visit the Aifur restaurant in Gamla Stan.
The Viking era inspired restaurant is named after a Viking ship of the same name.
Menu items are hearty meat and fish dishes such as roasted dwarf children and venison. Dishes are named after Viking terms or famous Vikings such as King Bjorn, and have explanations of their origin on the menu. Drinks on the menu include homemade mead (fermented honey and water) – an alcoholic blend drunk by the Vikings - and a selection of beers.
When you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted by staff dressed in Viking costume. Staff introduce you to everyone else eating there, who then proceed to cheer and thump the table as you take your own seat at one of the long tables covered in sheepskin.
Another place to seek out is Barrels Burgers and Beers, also in Gamla Stan – rated as ‘one of the best burger joints in the world’ by one of my burger loving mates.
Things You Should Know:
- Sweden is expensive. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the city. Wander Gamla Stan or the outlying towns, stroll the food halls, or head out to wander the archipelagos or outlying historical towns.
- Looking for a place to stay so you can cook up your beer meat? Head to City Backpackers – centrally located near Gamla Stan and Central Station. Large and comfortable dorms with private bathroom stalls. The hostel also offers free pasta in its huge kitchen. Cooking classes, movie nights and bike rentals are also offered at a reasonable price. Bring your own linen or hire it from reception.
- Stockholm’s public transport is very efficient and reliable. You can pick up a travel card from convenience stores or at stations. The metro system is called the T-bana or simply T.
- The food halls are a great place to sample Swedish delicacies and buy food to cook if you have a kitchen available.
Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.