JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNY THOLIN FROM GOTLAND, SWEDEN !
Jenny is a 38 year old local of Gotland who is living together with her husband and their two kids on what she calls the most beautiful place on earth. She works as a Communication Manager on an energy company called Geab. Her absolute favourite hobby is photography and she loves to capture the moments of nature on Gotland- all year round. A really good evening for her is to enjoy some good food and drinks, listening to some local live music with friends and family.
Located between the Scandinavian peninsula and Latvia is the island of Gotland. It is the biggest island of the Baltic sea, situated roughly 60 miles off the coast of southern mainland Sweden. Its area is 3,140 km² including the islands Fårö, Gotska Sandön, Furillen, and Stora and Lilla Karlsö.
Its position in the middle of the Baltic Sea made the island a natural hub for contact between West and East. The island has 92 medieval churches and is also known for the high count of lambs found there. Gotland’s history, unique nature and climate attracts tourists from all over the world.
Visby, the capital of Gotland, was one of the largest and most important trading towns of the Baltic region in medieval times. This Hanseatic town has the most well preserved medieval curtain wall of all of Northern Europe. In 1995, the metropolis was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Please tell us something about you and your connection with Gotland.
Gotland is where I grew up. But I have also been away for 12 years. During these years I have been travelling and working around the world. I have studied in Halmstad and I have lived in Stockholm.
In the end I felt that the longing for the island grew stronger and moving back here is one of my best decision ever. I have seen a lot of places in the world and the travelling really made me realize how beautiful Gotland is. It is a magical place on earth.
How different would you say is life on Gotland from mainland Sweden?
As Gotland is an island the first difference would be that you are always close to the ocean. No matter where you are on the island 30 minutes in a car will take you to a beach.
Another thing is that life goes by in a slower pace than the mainland, well at least in the mainland cities. It is safe and secure. The distances are short and the people are friendly. The scenery is fantastic and you feel good in everyday life. For me, living here is all about quality of life.
The sunrises and the sunsets are amazing here and I find it very peaceful to take my camera and nothing else and explore the magic moments.
What are the ways to reach Gotland, considering most tourists to Sweden land in Stockholm?
The most common way to reach the island is by a 3 hours boat ride on a ferry. You can take the ferry from Nynashamn port south of Stockholm. Nynäshamn is less than an hour on the commuter train from Stockholm. The ferry will take you to the heart of Visby, only a a few steps from the impressive World Heritage.
You can also come by an airplane, it takes about one hour from Stockholm. Visby airport is Gotland’s only commercial airport. The city of Visby is at a short distance of about four kilometres from the airport.
If you feel a little bit more adventurous you can go by sailing a boat or a jet ski. There are even people that have made the crossing on kiteboard!
Apart from Stockholm, you can fly to Visby from Gothenburg and Malmo too throughout the year. In summer there are direct flights available from cities like Helsinki and Oslo too. By ferry, there are 2 more mainland ports from where you can reach Gotland, Oskarshamn (4h from Stockholm) and Vastervik (3h from Stockholm).
When do you suggest is the best time to visit Gotland?
All seasons have their charms and it is cool to experience the island all year round. In winter, the storms blow over the island and in the summers we have the most sunshine hours in Sweden.
If you have never been here, summer time for sure. After you get a feeling for it, I would say late summer, August / September. Less tourists but warmer in the water and everything is still open.
In winters (December to March), temperatures fall below zero degrees, there aren’t many hours of daylight, it is windy and everything slows down. Most cafés on the island close for the winter but a few stay open irrespective of the season.
Gotland is Sweden’s largest island with a diverse landscape. How many days would you say are enough to explore the island and where should you base yourself?
If you base yourself in the middle of the island, like in Visby and rent a car, you can cover some good places in a week. To really explore it I think you need two weeks. Then you can move around and stay at different locations, like Ljugarn, Fårö and Burgsvik and really enjoy the countryside of Gotland.
What are the five must things to see/do in Gotland?
Visby in the West : A walk around Visby a day and night. So much history and nice spots to look at. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a well-preserved 3.5 kilometre long medieval ring wall called Ringmurer which has many of its original towers from the 1200s still intact. Everywhere you go there are small cafes or bars that you can take a quick stop at on your walk.
Gotlands Fornsal, the Historical Museum of Gotland is very close to Almedalen Park, Visby harbour and about a kilometre from Visby bus station. It has a permanent World Heritage exhibition that is open all year round. The exhibition offers information and pictures of Visby World Heritage Site, plus written material in several languages describing World. You can also take a look at Domkyrkan Church or head to Botanical Gardens to see the Ginkgo tree and roses that gave the city the title of ‘The city of roses and ruins’.
Lummelunda Grottan & Fårö in the North : Visit the Lummelunda Grottan, a karst cave formed of limestone bedrock and contains stalactite, stalagmite formations and fossil remains. Open between May to September the cave remains closed at other times.
Gotland is perhaps best known for its sea stacks found at Langhammars on the island Fårö. A separate island that you need to go to by ferry (no charge and takes about 10 minutes from Fårösund). On Fårö you have different beaches to choose from, lots of restaurants and accommodation and some of the most famous raukar (old stone formations) are there.
Ljugarn in the East : Located on the eastern coast of Gotland, Ljugarn is an old seaside resort town known for it’s beautiful long and flat sandy beach. Today you will find the main beach road dotted with many villas, seaside restaurants and cafes. It is one of my personal favourite location if you want to spend a whole day and night in one place. You can have a relaxed day at the sandy beach, then listen to some good local music in the afternoon. You can enjoy a nice dinner in beautiful settings, there are plenty of really nice restaurants to choose from. There are also plenty of bars and if you are in the mood you can go down to the beach to watch the stunning sunrise. For spending the night you can choose from different hotels, cabins and the camping site is really good.
Sudret in the South : Sudret is a name for the most southern part of the island. Here you have lots of different beaches, restaurants and accommodations. Like Fårö you also have a lot of raukar. Holmhällar is a favourite spot for me and my family.
Just like Fårö there are many other minor islands around Gotland – Gotska Sandön, Furillen, and Stora and Lilla Karlsö. Gotska Sandön is an uninhabited Swedish island, 40 km north of Fårö. All of it is a national park. Furillen is an island in Rute on the northeast coast of Gotland with an area of 4 km2. Stora Karlsö is 2.5 km2 and located around 6 km from the Gotland mainland while Lilla Karlsö is 1.6 km2 and located about 3 km west of Gotland.
Gotland’s 800 km shoreline offers myriad of lovely beaches. Which according to you are the best ones to soak up the sun?
The island has a total of 800 km of coastline if including Fårö.
If you are traveling with small children, Åminne beach (40 km East of Visby) is the one. Long sandy beach with shallow water. There is a restaurant that also have a pool if you want to relax in the end of the day, but the kids can not get enough of the water.
If you are into a more party and lively beach Tofta (20km South of Visby) is the one. Here you have bars and restaurants directly on the beach. There is beach volleyball competitions, music and dancing.
Sunset at Stenkusten (15km North-West of Visby). A beautiful stone beach that runs along the northwest part of Gotland. Make a fire at the beach, bring something to eat and drink and watch the sun set (make sure to stop by Halshuk when your up there).
Herta beach (around 60 km South-East of Visby) is an out of the way beach on the eastern part of the island, many locals consider this their favourite beach.
How to get around the island? Do you recommend renting a vehicle or public transport does the job?
You can get around with public transport but it will only take you so far.
If you go for public transport, we have buses in Gotland. You can buy bus tickets at Visby bus station, at the Tourist Office at Donners plass in Visby, at the Press Office in Romakloster and Visby Östercentrum, at Snäusbodi in Hemse, on Destination Gotland’s ferries or through the Ridango app.
If you have the time, rent a bike! It can take you all the way around as well. You can also take part in a motorcycle safari if you prefer not to explore on your own.
You can also cycle along at your own pace through lush greenery and along the stretches of the coast. Within biking distance of Visby you can experience nature at its best like at Södra Hällarna, Högklint, the areas around Västerhejde Church, Lummelunda bruk or Själsö & Brucebo.
However, your best bet is to rent a car to really explore the island.
Are there any events or festivals in Gotland around which tourists should plan their holiday to feel the local culture?
I think the best way to feel some local culture is to listen to some local live music. There are plenty of locals bands and artists singing and performing in the restaurants and on the beaches during the summer. I would suggest checking out the programme for some of the restaurants all over the island as they often have live music in the evenings.
The Medieval Week is a vibrant festival involving concerts, street theatre performances, historic walks, lectures and much more. Most of the 500 events and activities take place in Visby, but some spread across rural Gotland as well.
It is said that the calcareous soil of Gotland adds a unique flavour to the food you serve. What are the old-fashioned delicacies of Gotland?
Gotland is most famous for its different types of vegetables. The first asparagus from the island usually end up on the King of Swedens plate every season. We have our own truffle that is considered to be really good.
Most famous right now is probably our Ramslök (a mix between garlic and spring onion). Chefs do all kind of different wonderful things with it. Try it out in one of the restaurants on the island.
Saffranspannkaka is the regional dish of Gotland which translates to Saffron pancake. It is generally served with whipped cream and dewberry jam.
Which are the best places to try the local cuisine?
The best places to try the local cuisine would be “Lilla Bjers” just outside Visby. The food is tasty, local and interesting. The setting, on an idyllic small farm where much of the produce is grown/reared, is lovely.
Another restaurant I recommend is “Lindgården” in Visby. Here you can experience a recognized Gotland kitchen with a first-class wine list. The restaurant follow the farmers’ calendar and the raw materials are carefully selected by season. In the summer you sit in the beautiful park surrounded by mulberries and walnut trees. A guaranteed wonderful experience for the taste buds!
Which are the local crafts or souvenirs of Gotland? Where can one see them being made or collect them from?
I would say that our fantastic sheep skins from typical Gotland sheep are one of our most famous locals crafts. Also ceramics – whether you’re looking for coffee mugs or pieces of art, Gotland has a large number of skilled ceramic artists. You can visit some of them in their homes/ farms/ studios. Look out for their signs as you drive around Gotland and make sure you take the time to stop.
Any tips/suggestions for tourists coming to Gotland?
Make sure you have the time to visit some of the smaller towns in the countryside.
Insider tip : The best bar with the best view in Visby for a drink in the sunset, is Krönet. A cozy bar with excellent drinks and relaxed feeling.
Also, I run an Instagram account called @fotogotland where I share my photos from Gotland and tell others about how wonderful it is to live here. Check it out to know about the best places to visit or local hangouts in Gotland.
Things to Know :
Currency : Gotland uses the Swedish krona as its currency.
Language : People on Gotland speak Swedish with a dialect called Gotlandic or Gutnish.
Apps : Download the Ridango app, where you can buy bus tickets and see timetables. Ridango also has a travel planner. “Here is the bus” is a service where you can see where your bus is.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO GOTLAND OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT JENNY’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM