In Swedish Lapland you will have the opportunity to discover three World Heritage Sites. They include the Laponia Area spanning four National Parks and two nature reserves, the Struve Geodetic Arc in Jupukka Nature Reserve in Tornedalen – and the Church Village of Gammelstad outside of Luleå.

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 the largest and most well-preserved church town in Sweden.

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, homes and parish warehouses. This was where Luleå grew from a small church town and trading place into a real city.

Here you can find the largest late medieval stone church in Northern Sweden, from 1492.

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.

In December, you can attend the guided lantern tour of Gammelstad.

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.

The altar screen depicts the story of the Passion of Christ and is among the finest in Sweden.

Today, most of the church cottages in Gammelstad are privately owned, but cottage no. 253-254 on Framlänningsvägen, is owned by the Nederluleå Local History Society and used as a display cottage. The cottage was built in the mid-18th century and it is now furnished in a typical early 20th century fashion.

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.

Find out more
The Gammelstad site is the world’s most extensive and best preserved example of a church town, with more than 400 church cottages gathered around a medieval stone church. For more information about tours winter or summer, check in with the Gammelstad Church Town tourist information.

The Hägnan Outdoor Museum, 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 experiences for all ages. After having a little something to eat at Café Fägnan, a walk around the outdoor 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.

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