Most known as the hometown of Brynas, a classic Swedish hockey team who’ve won twelve Swedish Championships, and as producer of Sweden’s most popular coffee Gevalia, Gavle is located on the bay where the Gavlean river meet the Bothnian Sea in the region of Gastrikland. During my day in town I found such a variety of things to see and do that I could easily see myself living there. At least for a month or two.
From the central station I made a quick detour to Gavle Theater, one of the most beautiful 19th century theaters in Sweden, modelled after the Paris Opera. I then made my way across downtown Gavle, home to more than 200 shops including two shopping malls and 70 cafés and restaurants, via the pedestrian Drottninggatan, Stortorget Square and Nygatan, to the river.
Along the river I strolled through the Boulogner Forest, one of the biggest urban parks in Sweden, modelled after Bois de Boulogne in Paris and sometimes called Gavle’s Central Park. On the other side of the river, closer to the town center, is Gavle Concert House, home to Gavle Symphony Orchestra. The concert house is covered by the same type of tile as the Sydney Opera House, although deep blue, which makes the building reflect lights in a wide spectrum both day and night. The Concert Hall hosts local, national and international stars. The best part: the onsite music library with 22,000 CDs, books, magazines and films.
Further along the same road, Gavle Art Centre has exhibitions with Swedish and international contemporary art as well as lectures, music and workshops. (Other places to view art include Galleri K 4, Galleri Majoo, Galleri Ran, and IDKA/Kulturkiosen, plus public art and sculptures are present throughout much of Gavle.)
Following the waterside back, I passed by The Prison Museum of Sweden (on Hamiltong 1), which tells Swedish prison history from the early 1700s), adjacent Gavle Castle, and the area Söder (Södra Kungsgatan stretches through the whole district). Across Södra Kungsgatan is Gamla Gefle, the Old Town, with cobblestoned streets, timber buildings dating back to the 17th century, cafés, artist studios, a youth hostel, and a museum dedicated to musician Joe Hill.
Near the river, along Södra Strandgatan, is The County Museum of Gavleborg, with a major collection of Swedish art from the 1600s throughout eleven rooms, the Rettig Art Gallery, named after the museum’s donors, temporary exhibitions, and Café Rettig.
Had I stayed longer or at different times of the year, I wouldn’t have mind to downhill ski in Kungsberget, stroll along Gavle Strand, relax on beaches by the sea, listen to music at Getaway Rock Festival, or see the burning of the famous 13 meter high Christmas Gavle Goat, which was included in America Online’s list of the world’s top ten and most original ways to celebrate New Year.
Where to Stay
Gavle Bed & Breakfast
Four blocks from the main square Stora Torget, Gavle Bed & Breakfast has budget lodging with individually furnished rooms for one to four persons.
A simple breakfast is included and there’s a large breakfast room/common room with TV by the kitchen, one smaller common room with TV and books downstairs, sauna and laundry room.
I loved my low-key room on the second floor. Fortunately, towels and bedlinen is included in the price and Wi-Fi is available throughout the house. At SEK 460 per night for a single room it’s a pretty good deal as a more private alternative to hostels and a more budget-friendly option than hotels.