A guide to Gammelstad church town in Swedish Lapland
We spent some time exploring the Gammelstad Church Town, just outside Luleå in Swedish Lapland. We peeked inside the quaint red timber cabins scattered around the town. If you’re thinking of visiting Gammelstad here’s everything you need to know.
Church Towns in Northern Sweden
Church towns like Gammelstad were once commonplace in Sweden and actually throughout Scandinavia. The villages in northern Sweden were small and far between each other. The population in each village wasn’t large enough to have a church of their own. Instead people had to travel long distances to visit the church. It took so much time that it was often impossible to do it at all in one day. Instead the churchgoers built their own small cottages next to the far away church, so they could stay here for the weekend.
These church towns became the centrepiece of social life. When the people visited the church town they could also meet their friends and relatives, sell some wares and even find a suitable husband or wife from another village. After all, the social aspect was an main part of life in the church towns.
Only 16 of the original church towns of Sweden are left. The Unesco World Heritage-listed Gammelstad is Sweden’s largest church town. The Visitors Centre is a good place to start your visit of Gammelstad church town. There’s a free exhibition about the unique history of Gammelstad and a small souvenir shop on the ground floor.
Obviously, a visit to a Swedish church town also wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the church. The current stone building was finished in 1492. Surrounding the church are the church cottages, which are painted in the familiar dark red we have seen all over Sweden.
The old Luleå
Nowadays, the town of Gammelstad is a few kilometers outside of Luleå. Actually this ancient town actually used be the heart of Luleå’s town centre, until the whole town was moved closer to the coast in 1649. Luleå got a harbor and from this moment on it was called the New Town Luleå (Luleå Nya City) and the old town became The Old City of Luleå (Luleå Gamla City). Soon it became Gammelstad.
Visit to Gammelstad
If you are in the area of Luleå, then Gammelstad is a must for an afternoon strolling around the ancient wooden Swedish houses. Many of the over 400 cottages are still privately owned, but some are open to visitors and give you a glimpse into Swedish tradition.
Gammelstad can be reached by car or bus. It’s only a short drive out of Luleå. You can actually spend the night in Gammelstad via Airbnb (via this link you can get a discount on your AirBnb stay). You can also stay in Luleå and do a day trip to Gammelstad instead. We stayed at Piteå Stadshotell and Brändön Lodge.
Gammelstad, Luleå, Sweden. You can find more info on swedishlapland.com. I visited Cape Wild during a trip through Swedish Lapland with Voigt Travel. You might also want to read Cape Wild in Swedish Lapland: visiting the tame moose Zigge and Zebbe.