Port of Visby
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Visby is the capital of Gotland, Sweden's beautiful 'holiday island', famous for its soft sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, distinctive grey-fleeced sheep and wild orchids (more than 35 varieties of them, at the last count).
It also has a fascinating history, having been inhabited for more than 7,000 years and invaded by 13th Century Germans (who left behind some spectacular medieval churches) and then by Danes, only reverting to Swedish rule in the mid 17th Century.
Visby itself, which lies on Gotland's northwest coast, is the jewel of the island and testament to its rich history -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Sweden's best-preserved medieval cities (complete with ancient walls).
It has the feel of a real seaside resort and is a truly delightful place to spend a few hours in, boasting some spectacular church ruins, very pretty Botanical Gardens, a few historic houses and an interesting museum -- as well as a sparkling seafront, some excellent craft shops and good cafés and restaurants.
Come here with a go-getting rubbernecking agenda and you might be disappointed that there's not more to it. On the other hand, if you view a day here as a chance to kick back, mosey around and smell the roses (which proliferate -- thanks to its clement climate -- until very late autumn) and you'll have a truly lovely time and experience the laid-back Swedish lifestyle at its best.
Top Visby Itineraries
Marina20 Night World CruiseSouthampton, Paris, Saint-Malo, La Rochelle-La Pallice, Bordeaux, Bilbao, Southampton, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Visby, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, StockholmNow
Seabourn Ovation28-day Hanseatic HeritageLisbon, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Bordeaux, La Rochelle-La Pallice, Brugge , Hamburg, Hamburg, Stockholm, Stockholm, Visby, Klaipeda, CopenhagenNow
Marina10 Night Europe - Northern CruiseSouthampton, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Visby, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, StockholmNow
Prinsendam14-day Baltic & Kiel Canal ExplorerAmsterdam, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Visby, Copenhagen, AmsterdamNow
Prinsendam28-day Baltic Kiel Canal & North Cape ExplorerAmsterdam, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Visby, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Alesund, Geiranger, Tromso, Bergen, AmsterdamNow
Where You're Docked
Ships must anchor at Visby as there's no cruise dock. Passengers are tendered into town past a long breakwater, with the medieval town within easy walking distance of the tender pier. On arrival you'll see a 'Welcome to Visby' sign and there are basic maps and toilets at the landing site, but no passenger terminal.
Good to Know
Volvo drivers with their lights full blaze, driving along at 15 miles per hour (Swedish traffic laws are ferocious, so motorists tend to take things slow and steady in this part of the world). Oddly, this does not appear to apply to flocks of cyclists, who can whizz by at startling speed while you're waiting for one of those interminable Volvos to pass.
Also, watch your step as Visby's cobbled streets look very charming but can be steep and ankle-wrenchingly slippery in the wet. Wear flat, sensible shoes for exploring; this is not the place for tottering about in stilettos.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Swedish Krona (SK 7 is roughly $1; SK 11.5 is approximately £1, but see www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for the latest conversion rates).
There is an ATM machine set into the wall on the right hand corner of Donnersplats (the main square); look for the 'Automat' sign.
Swedish, naturally, is the island's language. English is not widely spoken. Take a phrasebook if you really want to connect with the locals, but here are few phrases to start you off, like "hello" and "goodbye" (hej / hejda), and "please" and "thank you" (vanligen /tack).
It has to be some manifestation of the local curly-horned, dark grey-fleeced sheep of which the Gotlanders are so proud. You'll find them everywhere (there are even statues of them on the promenade!) and local craft shops are crammed with jolly cuddly toy versions costing from SK 69 for a small one to SK 159 for a large.
For a really impressive memento, splash out on a grey curly fleece rug (SK 1,700 – about US$ 242 ) Or spend SK 86 on a Pippi Longstocking doll (movies featuring the flame-haired little girl were filmed in Visby).