Örebro, the city near the western tip of lake Hjälmaren in the region of Närke, is number six in size in Sweden with about 100.000 inhabitants. Swedish cities may be small by European (or international) standards, but they are packed with interesting things to see and to do – and Örebro is no exception.
To begin with, the city spreads itself out on both sides of the dramatic Svartån (Black river). A stroll along this river on a summer’s evening is a favorite pastime for inhabitants and tourists alike and really gives you a feel for the medieval romance of this city.
Örebro has got its name from a bridge (bro) crossing Svartån already in medieval times. The bridge was built at the place of a shallow ford that connected north and south since prehistoric times. This means that Örebro was a strategic place for kings and noblemen to control, and sure enough a small fort was built on an island in the river to help with the controlling.
This fort later grew into a real medieval castle, fought over and beleaguered time and again. King Karl IX finally made it into a renaissance palace in European style, but it never really caught on as a royal home. Instead the local governor had his residence in an apartment there (still has, actually), and the rest was used as one saw fit at the time – prison, granary or offices. Now the castle is host to exhibitions and theatre events, and you can even let your kids have a birthday party there! Of course you can also go on a guided tour, visit a small history museum in one of the towers or book a place in an interactive show, where you meet kings, rebel leaders and witches and have a nice medieval dinner afterwards. Check out what is happening at Örebro’s excellent Tourist Office – the program changes frequently (as it always has done in this castle since it was built).
On the highest point of the gravel ridge underlying the city you’ll find the church of Saint Nicolaus, patron of seafarers and traders, on the Stortorget square. And yes, you can tell your kids he is the man, the bishop that gave bread to poor children and still brings presents at Christmas, so perhaps they want to light a candle to be in his good books… Anyway, this beautiful church is a medieval mix of romanesque and gothic that rivals any Swedish cathedral, and it mirrors the trading importance of Örebro through the ages.
This trading importance can also be experienced in the outdoors museum of Wadköping, placed in the city’s park. “Outdoors” is only a conventional label, since you can go inside most of the historical buildings moved here and grouped into a city block. A visit to Borgarhuset (the Bourgeois home) for instance shows you how a well to do family lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. The actual people living in this house were a young woman called Kajsa and her parents. Kajsa later became the cookery book author number one in Sweden, with her “Cookery Book of Kajsa Warg”. This international bestseller still inspires Swedish culinary art, and here you are in the place where young Kajsa had her first experiences among pots and pans!
Many of the other old artisan’s houses and shops are in use today, selling quality handmade products or functioning as small museums. There is also a turn of the century store with café that usually delights both old people who remember this type of village/city-quarter shop from their own childhood, and young ones that feel they step back into grandmother’s times. One of the oldest buildings is Kungsstugan (“the royal cabin”) of king Karl IX, a fairly unique example of wooden medieval architecture – don’t miss out on that!
In summer, a stroll through the rest of the city park with its rose garden is a nice way to round off a Wadköping visit.
Culture taken care of, Örebro is also an excellent shopping stop. If you happen to be here at the end of January, the traditional market Hindersmässan spreads through the city center and draws about 80.000 visitors. In ancient times this was the occasion for selling iron produced in the country around Örebro, but today you will be hard put to it to find an ingot among all the amazing stuff for sale. Any other time of the year, follow the main street Drottninggatan and you will find both stores of nationwide chains and small, exclusive boutiques. Or go to shopping center Marieberg 9 km out of town (frequent buses) with its large malls.
Last but not least, bring your swim suit. Örebro has the spectacular adventure bath Gustavsvik where you may tackle high waves, slide down into pools with a big splash or swim out among ice and snow in warm water during the winter. A relax section with spa is also available – you may need it after all the sight-seeing!