Gävle, located just a few hours north of Stockholm, is a city often overlooked by Swedes. It’s visited even less by international tourists, and while first impressions might make Gävle’s absence from Sweden’s list of ‘Must-See’ places unsurprising, this small city can still charm. In fact, Gävle offers plenty of historical, natural and contemporary attractions for those who visit.
Cultural Attractions to visit in Gävle
One of the city’s oldest attractions is Gävle Slott (castle), a palace dating back to the 16th century. The castle, located in the city’s heart, is often the backdrop for Gävle’s city festivals and celebrations, and has been beautifully preserved. For more history, the compact streets and wooden houses of Gamla Gefle, the old town, offer an insight into bygone days. These pretty winding streets are home to various artists, and on certain days, you can visit their homes and workshops.
The city is also home to several galleries and museums, including the Gävle Konstcentrum and Gävle Länsmuseet. Both museums feature works by local and international artists. In addition, they are free to enter and host various events throughout the year, such as lectures and workshops. A notable exhibit at Gävle Länsmuseet is the large gingerbread house, displayed the whole of December.
Eating and drinking in the city
Currently experiencing a housing boom, Gävle Strand is an up-and-coming area slightly outside the city centre. Overlooking the river, restaurants opening within the next few years will become part of Gävle’s hip new waterfront scene. Try Tak Skybar for cocktails overlooking Gävle’s panorama, and don’t forget to look north during winter. If you are fortunate, you might catch a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights! Right across the river from Tak is Trädgården, a fun eatery that hosts live music and dancing during the summer.
For those looking to relax and enjoy a leisurely fika (coffee and cake), Gävle offers a variety of delightful cafes, from traditional Swedish patisseries to modern Swedish chains. For something more elegant, try Lido on Söder – the south of the city, chic ‘Elsa’s’ or cosy ‘Kafe Berggranska’. The cakes are a work of art and every bit as delicious as they look – believe me, I have tried them all!
Outdoor Attractions and Nature
In addition to cultural attractions, Gävle offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Right in the centre of the city is Boulognerskogen, a surprisingly large park named after its Parisian counterpart. Visitors to the park can play mini-golf and volleyball or use the outdoor gym equipment. Popular with runners, cyclists and dog walkers alike, the park also has a small bathing area for those feeling less active.
Throughout the summer, Boulognerskogen hosts dance events, seasonal markets, and an outdoor cinema, whilst the cafe offers a tempting selection of lunches, cakes and ice creams.
Surrounding the city is beautiful countryside, perfect for cross-country skiing, hiking and cycling. Most notable is Hemlingby Friluftsområde, an open-air area featuring a ski hill just 2 km from the city centre. While the small slope is better suited to learners and children, there are plenty of winding trails for cross-country skiers, runners and cyclists who can choose from 2, 3, 5, 6 or 10 km trails (my favourite is the 5km). Or you could try Gävle Högt & Lågt (high & low) treetop trekking for more adventure.
Lastly, nearby lakes and rivers make Gävle an excellent destination for fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Not to mention Gävle is a coastal city, so there are several beaches to explore around the area.
The city’s traditions
Gävle’s most famous resident is undoubtedly Julbocken – a giant straw goat erected yearly in the city centre in December. The goat, which stands at over 50 feet tall, is a beloved holiday tradition that has been a part of the city’s culture for over 50 years. You can read more about him (and why people want to burn him) in this post.
Convinced to visit Gävle yet?
From the castle to its beloved Gävle Goat, fika, art galleries and outdoor activities, Gävle is safe and accessible with something for everyone. Served by Mälartåg and SJ trains, the city is just a couple of hours from Stockholm. In addition, its location along the E4 makes it the perfect pitstop for those travelling by car to Åre, Sundsvall or even further North. So, if you want to visit one of Sweden’s lesser-known towns, I recommend you give Gävle a chance.
Note: Female travellers to the city might be interested to know that we have a small but active Girl Gone International community. We would love to show you our city!
Let me know if you have visited, or plan to visit, Gävle. If you enjoyed this post, please share on your social media.