Chief city of the County of Gotland.
Hanseatic Town of Visby
Location and site
Visby is located on the northwest coast of Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea. About 100 km. from the coast of Sweden, the site is terraced and its port, today silted up, is ice-free.
Inside Visby’s fortifications walls, the configuration of the streets dates to the 13th century and seems to reproduce the layout of the earlier Viking settlement. The streets lead from the gates to the port. Around the port, three parallel streets are crossed by lanes. The streets, with their spontaneous layout and variable width, are paved with limestone, stones and granite slabs.
The urban landscape, which is dominated by the cathedral, is made up of some 200 houses of 5-7 storeys, old limestone warehouses that were transformed in the 18th century, and the vestiges of about 15 churches. The principal construction materials are the reddish roof tiles and stone, sometimes decorated with brick.
Visby is an exceptional example of a Northern European fortified commercial city of the Middle Ages which has preserved the integrity of its urban landscape and a large number of historic buildings of very high quality that illustrate the form and function of this important type of city. (IV) and (V)
- In the early Middle Ages, the island of Gotland established a trading post at Novgorod. By the 10th century, it dominated the maritime trade of Northern Europe.
- Following a trade agreement with Lübeck in 1161, Visby became one of the first cities of the Hanseatic League and its principal centre on the Baltic Sea. It was the only town on the island that possessed the right to trade with German towns. Besides the Germans, Russians and Danes settled in Visby, and each constructed churches and guild halls, as well as warehouses, near the port.
- The international influence of Visby severed its earlier links with the other ports on the island and led to their decline. A stone wall of 3.5 km., flanked by 40 towers, was erected around the city in the 13th century.
- In the 14th century, Visby lost its central position on the Baltic Sea and in the Hanseatic League. Struck by the Black Death in 1350, the island was invaded by the Danes in 1361. In 1396 it was occupied by the Vitalian Brothers, a group of pirates who were thrown out by the Teutonic Knights in 1398. An armed attack by Lübeck in 1525 led to the decline of Visby.
- The island was ceded to Sweden as part of the Treaty of Bromsbrö of 1645. A century later, its new prosperity was accompanied by a period of construction and reconstruction, mostly in stone.
Ms. Eva Nypelius
Mayor of Gotland
+46 (0)73 9805097
Mr. Henry Henziger
+46 498 26 91 21
Mr. Roland Engkvist
EU and international co-ordinator
+46 (0)498 269706