The Northernmost Stone City in the World
Heading to the north some 400 kilometers away from Stockholm on a much more unusual trip to say, for example, Gothenburg or Malmo which are the next largest cities in Sweden and that I’ve already been before anyway; we arrived instead at the small city of Sundsvall. Two reasons why, the truly decision-maker was to visit our family there which we never got the chance to do so at their home town, and second, in way less importance, getting the chance to visit this region of Sweden far from the big cities in the south, and explore more the beautiful nature and country side.
We decided to spare 2 full days here, which included anyway visiting few other places nearby as our family took us around. Being such a heavy traveller as I am, 2 days in Sundsvall would have been by all means too much as you can see everything in just half a day. Still, there are way too many other places and small cities and villages nearby that will for sure make your visit well worth it; and in this case, a little bit longer time for family reunion was also nice.
Also mentioning something important you should consider, is getting here by train. It is around 3 hours and a half from Stockholm Central and the views and landscapes you will have are impossible to beat if instead you opt to fly. Let’s be honest anyway, the difference in cost between flying or taking the train was on our precise date not that different, but I knew beforehand I wanted to take the train, plus my cousin and a work colleague, both Swedish, told me it’s the best choice if I wanted to enjoy a great trip here and really see more of Swedish nature and landscapes around. They were all right!
There is a fact in the city no one would ever know until making some research over the internet or if someone telling you. It is the northernmost city in the world in stone. This is, while at this latitudes the norm would be wooden houses, in Sundsvall is all the opposite, but stone and brick. The reason is no other than after the few fires that destroyed the entire city, and specially after the 1888, it was decided that the city should be rebuilt in stone instead, hence the mansions you see today. In a lapse of 5 years, 600 houses alone were built! You can get an idea how rich the city was, each of them trying to rival with each other in design and luxuriousness.
I won’t be listing each of the important houses below, but to get the most accurate information in a great didactic and visual way there is a free exhibition about the city within the old City Hall building where the entire city map plan is projected on a large table where you can interact and click on the numbers that represent a point of interest.
For more information about Sundsvall check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Swedish currency is the Krona (SEK). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Sundsvall
- Stenstaden Area All built around 1890 after the great fire in 1888 that destroyed the whole city.
- Market Square The largest and main square in the heart of the city centre. Its current design is the result of the enlargement after the Great Fire of 1888, with buildings in the Gründerzeit style.
-Stadhuset Meaning Town Hall, is one of the landmark buildings in the square. The original wooden building (as for the entire city where all constructions were made of wood) burnt down, hence the need for a new stone one raised after the 1888 Great Fire.
- Storgatan Is the main street through the Stenstaden, built after the 1888 fire, where majority of the elegant grand stone Gründerzeit style buildings and tourist sites located and in the nearby streets.
- Gustav Adolf Church Is the main church in the city. Originally inaugurated in 1753, and reconstructed on the same site following the Great Fire of 1888.
- Opera House Small but nice elegant building.
- Kulturmagasinet The entire area around the harbour has been recently modernised with new buildings constructed including the Museum of the City, a library, restaurants and cafes. The area with its new landmark structures has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Architecture, specially for the new wooden houses that are the tallest in the European Continent (only 7 floors high anyway, but quite an achievement bearing in mind it’s 100% wood structure).
- Norra Stadsberget Where you will get the best views of the entire city, bay and beyond. Its name means the Northern City Mountain. You can climb even higher to the antenna tower, the views get better. In the surroundings nearby there are many old wooden houses taken from elsewhere within the city limits to create a sort of model village for preservation of the few wooden structures that survived the fires
What to see nearby the city
Although there are many options, being majority of them the beautiful tiny fishing villages, it all depends on the time you can spare and if you have a car to move around. Otherwise I cannot imagine how to do to get to those places by public transportation. Our family took us to their favourite places and they hit jackpot. Was indeed an awesome day out at very historic locations:
- Galtstrom Famous for its unique preserved former iron works fabric dating from 1853. The oven is intact and so the workshops around. It is free to visit and walk wherever you like. Also during high season summer months there is the original railway that feed the factory with coal, nowadays a small tourist train trip with the original locomotive.
- Lorudden This incredible fishing village is formed of just few wooden houses, all in typical red, and the view you will get from the port is quite unique. This is definitely a memorable image you will keep of Sweden and comply with the idea we all pretty much have about how the villages anywhere across Scandinavia look like.
The city has its own airport, Sundsvall-Timrå, also called Midlanda. Located 21 kilometers to the north of the city, frequent airport buses connect between the city centre and the airport in about 45 minutes. it is however, a very small airport with few destinations per day. Still, the main link is to Stockholm from where you can continue on transit to anywhere else in the world.
The next best option for reaching the city is by high speed trains. The X2000 makes the journey between Stockholm and Sundsvall in about 3 hour 30 minutes, and as I explained a little bit above, it is a great choice for the nice landscapes and vies you will have through the window. Farther to the north the trains continue towards Umea and Lulea at the very north of Sweden. With a good bunch of daily frequencies and really competitive prices, specially if booked in advance, I would not even consider to go for the last options here, buses. Much more frequent, and of course linking through the country, they take double the time than the train yet the fare compared to the train is not too much lower.
Within the city, well, no worries. There is absolutely no need to take any public transportation. Distances are really short in between and the city centre is very compact for what is best to do all on foot. Should you be staying farther from the city centre in the other hand, the city has a good network of public buses connecting all the neighbourhoods.
Even though the city is quite small in size and population, there is a good amount of hotels in the city and we still managed to find a great deal even if this was in the middle of the high season summer months. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Scandic Sundsvall City, in Trädgårdsgatan 31, right in the middle of the city centre, the Stenstaden area. The best choice we could have done, not only for being right there in the middle, but also for the property itself. Well cared and in good shape, clean, very comfortable and decent size bedrooms with a great selection for breakfast. The staff was extremely polite and friendly and enjoyed speaking to me and my family daily trying with their Spanish. Very sweet from them.