No other city in Scandinavia and few cities in Europe can
boast such a complete and ‘living’ picture of bygone days as Ystad. Many
of the 300 half-timbered houses and other buildings bustle with
restaurants and shops, and picturesque corners are alive with surprises
The centre of town
lies within the original city gates: Västerport, Norreport and Österport (west, north, east). The south
‘gate’ was, and is, the harbour – the gate to the Continent.
For many years the old post-boat to Stralsund was the only
regular contact with foreign parts. Today there are daily services of train,
car and passenger ferries plying the routes to Poland and the Danish
island of Bornholm.
Our Ystad heritage walk
starts at the tourist information office on S:t Knuts torg adjacent to the bus and railway stations. Ystads
Konstmuseum (Ystad Art Gallery) also
lies on this square. It was opened in 1936 and has a fine
collection of important Swedish and Danish 20th century art and a Photo
Gallery with a unique collection of photographs including a
daguerreotype photograph, the oldest type of photograph, from 1845.
Adjacent to the museum gardens is Charlotte
Berlin’s museum , a 19th
burgher’s home. Charlotte Berlin was an alderman’s daughter who, on her death in 1916,
left her home and contents, as well as a substantial sum of money, to the city.
Her ‘home’ is now a museum and some of the money, which was placed
in a trust, has been used to acquire clocks, watches etc
for the museum’s timepiece exhibition.
If we leave the square via Stickgatan and
walk to Hamngatan, we pass S:t
Nicolai , the Catholic Church. At the bottom of Hamngatan is Hotel
Continental . Built in 1814 it is
probably Sweden’s oldest hotel building and was constructed on the remains
of an old customs house that dates from the middleof the 18th
neighbouring building, Gosselmanska huset ,
(1765) was the local senior high school between 1841-1871.
Two hundred metres to the west of the hotel is Ystads Teater , Sweden’s
best-preserved late 19th century the
theatre. Behind the theatre a battery of
cannons reminds us of the harbour defences that were placed here in 1712,
hence the name Skansgatan (Forecastle Street). Two alleys lead from here
to Långgatan, at the west end of this street is Gamla Maltfabriken (the old malt
factory). The building dates from 1749 and isbuilt around a
courtyard; part of the building is now used as a restaurant. In the nearby square known as Runnerströms
a memorial to the great benefactor Axel Runnerström.
From Långgatan we can walk up a short and
gentle slope to Mattorget (provisions square) where Lilla Västergatan and Stora
meet. It is here that we can best visualise Ystad as
a city of busy merchants. In the 16th century,
Mattorget, which was at the western limits of the town, was a centre of
trade. The adjacent Kemnerska gården dates from the early 16th century.
It was here that Karl XII, (Charles XII – the Swedish warrior king)arrived home from
Pomerania in December 1715. He rode throughVästerport
and along Lilla Västergatan, which was then
the main approach to the centre. A plaque on Kemnerska gården claims that
Karl XII once stayed there – this has since been disputed. If his ‘hotel’
is of interest to you we must walk a little
The watchman and the watchtowerThe town’s oldest buildings, S:ta Maria kyrka , and
(Latin School) with is stepped gable are close
to Mattorget. The church dates from the 13th century and the
school building is said to be the oldest schoolhouse in Scandinavia. The
watchman’s copper horn is sounded every night from the tower of the church
kyrka to proclaim that all is well. The tradition dates back to the
and should be heard rather than overlooked. Those who say that the
horn is a mechanical device are wrong; every 15 minutes, starting at 9.15 p.m.,
the watchman turns to each of the cardinal points and blows a single tone.
If we leave Mattorget and walk down Lilla
Västergatan we will soon arrive at Norra Promenaden 14
singsongs are arranged every summer. Here we will also find an old
churchyard where many dignitaries and famous people have been laid
Parallel to Lilla Norregatan is Stora
Norregatan, the site of one of Ystad’s most beautifully decorated
half-timbered houses, Änglahuset; the
house dates from the early 16th
century. Just across
thestreet is Brahehuset ; it was built by Axel Pedersen Brahe in the 15th century. He died in
1487 and is buried in
Klosterkyrkan (the monastery church), a stone’s throw from his work.
Adjacent to these historical buildings are the editorial and
advertising offices of the local newspaper,Ystads Allehanda ; August Strindberg
lived here for a few months during the Inferno Crises at the end of the 19th
We are now very close to Norreport , where we can still see the remains of the 17th century
city embankments, and Hagermanska köpmanspalats, a palatial house and 19th
shopping arcade that is now used by Siriuslogen (a lodge).
A notable landmark
and St Peter’s Church
are said to be the
most important historical site in Ystad. The monastery is the
best-preserved in Sweden; the convent at Vadstena is its contemporary. The
buildings house 5 permanent and temporary exhibition centres as well as a
café and souvenir shop. In the monastery gardens
is a rosary, a herb garden – with a fine collection of herbs and medicinal
plants, and a pond with various water birds. Here you will also find a mid 19th
plastered house with a plaque to the composer, organist and conductor
August Körling. He lived here from 1866 until his death in 1919. It was
also the childhood home of the composerFelix Körling .
By way of
Bäckahästgränd, a small alley, we can walk past the Frivillige Bergnings Corpsens museum and Tvättorget
town hall); the latter was refurbished in 1840.A restaurant occupies
the oldest parts, which are from the 15th
In the northeast corner of Stortorget is
century Apoteksgården. It now houses a pottery and in the summer
months there is musical entertainment in the cobbled courtyard. The
neighbouring building, a large private residence, dates from 1794. In 1831
it became Sweden’s first private bank, Skånska Privatbanken.
From Tvättorget, and Jens Jacobsen trading house
(1640), we can walk along the partly cobbled Teppgränd towards Stora Östergatan, a pedestrian street that
links Stortorget and the square at Österport.Birgittahuset , which is easily recognised by its stepped
gable, was part of a mayor’s residence during the 17th
and 18th centuries. It was here
that Karl XII stayed whilst in Ystad. Close by is Henrik Rogges gård . The building dates from the 17th
century and now houses art and handicraft.
Aspelinska gården (1780) is in
Gåsegränd, and where this alley meets Pilgränd, on Stora Östergatan, is Pilgrändshuset , this is the oldest
half-timbered house in Scandinavia and dates from 1480. If we continue
eastwards we arrive at Karstens hus ,
named after Christian Karsten, who was court singer to Gustaf III. He was
born here in 1756. On the other side of the street is Besökaregränd and Per Hälsas
gård . The latter was named
after Per Hansson who was the last private owner. He managed a fresh water
factory here (Per good health). This is the only remaining half-timbered
neighbourhood in Scandinavia.
Private residence, senior high school, town hall
We have now arrived at Österportstorg and
Nya Rådhuset . The latter was built as a private residence
for commercial counsellor C M Lundgren on
a seaside plot of land in 1814. The building has also been
a senior high school. The muchloved Swedish author Fritiof Nilsson Piraten was a
student here. It now houses the municipal executive board and various local government offices.
For over 200 years Ystad was a garrison
town, but on the last day of December 1997 the last regiment left town.
Many of the garrison buildings, which lie at the far end of
Regementsgatan, are now protected.
In 1936, Ystad hosted ‘Recreation’ one of
Sweden’s most important exhibitions of the time. The arched building to
the south of Rådhuset was built for the event. During the exhibition it
was a restaurant but afterwards is was redesigned as a sports centre and
renamed Bollen . Many exciting first division handball
matches have been played here. The executioner’s offices stood on nearby Nattmans torg 39
until the end of the 19th
century. Today the
legal authorities work in the nearbyTingshuset . It was
built in 1902 and designed by Peter Boisen. Boisen also designed Ystad Theatre.
We are now almost back
on S:t Knuts torg
where we started.