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Du är här: Välkommen till Ystad > Turist > Welcome to Ystad > History > A walk through the centuries

A walk through the centuries

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 and bargains.


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 century 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 century. The neighbouring building, Gosselmanska huset , (1765) was the local senior high school between 1841-1871.

Unique theatre


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 torg  is 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 Västergatan 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 further.


The watchman and the watchtowerThe town’s oldest buildings, S:ta Maria kyrka , and Latinskolan (Latin School) with is stepped gable are close to Mattorget. The church dates from the 13th century and the 16th century 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 of S:ta Maria kyrka to proclaim that all is well. The tradition dates back to the 17th century 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 where singsongs are arranged every summer. Here we will also find an old churchyard where many dignitaries and famous people have been laid to rest.

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 century. 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 century shopping arcade that is now used by Siriuslogen (a lodge).

A notable landmark

The monastery 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 there 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 century 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 to Stortorget   andGamla Rådhuset (old town hall); the latter was refurbished in 1840.A restaurant occupies the oldest parts, which are from the 15th century.

In the northeast corner of Stortorget is the 16th 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.

Pedestrian street


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 at the Tourist Office  on S:t Knuts torg where we started.



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