Skip to navigation Skip to main content

Gammelstad church town – 20 years as a World Heritage Site

EU - European Region Development Fund

Not many people know that the city of Luleå has not always been where it is today. Gammelstad, outside Luleå on the road to Boden, used to be the city centre up until the 17th century, before it was moved closer to the sea and the harbour where it lies today. When the city moved, it was named the New City of Luleå (Luleå Nya Stad) and the old one became The Old City of Luleå (Luleå Gamla Stad). The names were soon shortened to Luleå and Gammelstad respectively.

Gammelstad is home to a unique cultural environment. Here you can find the largest late medieval stone church in Northern Sweden, from 1492 and the largest and most well-preserved church town in Sweden with more than 400 church cottages.

The church cottages were built by local farmers in a time when attendance at church services was mandatory and the great distances in Northern Sweden made one-day visits impossible. However, Gammelstad was not only visited for these reasons, social gatherings were also important. During the church weekends, the alleys were crowded with people in weekend dress, the church bells rang, and friendships were made, maintained and broken. The distinctive cultural environment is well preserved and harbours an atmosphere of days gone by. When you stroll through the church town, it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise the farmers arriving at there to build their cottages. Gammelstad Church Town has been a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1996, meaning that it is covered by the UN Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This year is the 20th anniversary of the appointment and it will be celebrated! Throughout the year, programs for fami- lies and individual visitors, connoisseurs and explo- rers are offered. The open-air museum Hägnan, a stone’s throw away from the church town, is also worth a visit when you are in Gammelstad.

The open-air museum Hägnan, a stone’s throw from the church town is also worth a visit. At Hägnan you can see what life was like in a coastal regional village between the 18th and 20th century. The museum has buildings from all over Swedish Lapland and offers rich, varied activities and expe- riences for all ages. After having a little something to eat at Café Fägnan, a walk around the open-air museum will do you good. Alternatively, you can bring your own picnic basket and sit down on the grass. There is a lot to see, and you shouldn’t miss the shop that takes you back in time.

Traditional Christmas smorgasbord

At the beginning of December the yearly Christmas market is held at Hägnan, with tables filled with crafts and treats. It is very popular to gather friends and family for Christmas smorgasbord up until Christmas. The delicacies of Christmas, such as Christmas ham, pickled herring, salmon, swedish meatballs, Janssons frestelse and other Christmas goodies are served. If you want to experience a traditional Christmas smorgarsbord in a historical environment, Kafé Fägnan and Kaptensgården are two good alternatives.

With a guide in Gammelstad Church Town

The church town is an exciting place with a rich history. The best way to experience the church town is to join a guided tour. Visitor Centre in Gammelstad Church Town offers different types of guided tours during summer. No registration is required and the tours are held in several languages. Each tour takes about an hour. 

Visitor Centre

The fire festival

When the winter darkness descends and the cold bites you cheeks, the fire is celebrated with a magical Norse festival, The fire festival at the open-air museum Hägnan. Experience an Æsir show with fire eaters, story telling for children, musical performances and lantern walks.

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre can be found in the middle of the church town, in the old Betel Chapel which dates back to the 19th century. At the Visitor Centre, you can find information about Luleå and Swedish Lapland in general and Gammelstad in particular. There is a slide­ show, a world heritage exhibition and a small souvenir shop.

Visitor Centre