There are few towns the size of Vadstena in Sweden that would be able to compete with its history. With around 5.600 inhabitants it is the center town of the Vadstena Municipality in Östergötland County.
Here you will both find the first monastery of the Bridgettine Order as well as one of the most well-preserved castles from the era of the Swedish king Gustav Vasa.
We visited this delightful small town by car in July 2016 and we very much enjoyed our stay there. We really recommend you to go there if you ever get the chance!
Vadstena: A Short History
The town of Vadstena started to grow around the abbey that that was founded by Saint Bridget in 1346. The town received its city privileges at the end of the 14th century. The importance of the town and the abbey grew during the 15th century and Vadstena became a cultural center in Scandinavia.
Due to the Reformation the importance of the abbey declined and it was closed in 1595. Not even a decision to build a castle in the town in 1544 helped to increase the size of the stagnating population.
Vadstena grew slowly until the 20th century. More recently it is the health care sector that has been the most important employer during the last century. However, health care also has a long history in the area. There has been a hospital since the 16th century and nowadays visitors can still their curiosity at the Vadstena Hospital Museum. Yes, we have mentioned it before: there are a lot of (sometimes odd) museums in Sweden.
5 Things to Do In Vadstena
The castle in Vadstena is one of the more stunning ones in Sweden. Surrounded by a moat and with high walls it is possible to imagine the massive defensive forces that protected the castle once upon a time. The castle was built by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa in 1545-1555 and it has been rebuilt several times.
Vadstena slott was reconstructed as a renaissance castle in 1620 and today it is one of the best preserved castles of its kind in Sweden. Visitors can visit both the inner yard of the castle as well as the castle itself.
The Vadstena Abbey is also known as Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget. The abbey was founded in 1346 by one of the six patron saints of Europe, Heliga Birgitta. That is Saint Bridget or Saint Birgitta in English. She also goes by the name Bridget of Sweden. There were both a male and female section in the abbey. The abbey was the first monastery of the Bridgettine Order.
Walking around in the area of the abbey you will find several old buildings and the feeling of the history is imminent. The buildings are also massive – for a while you might pretend that you are somewhere else than in Sweden.
If you really want to return back in time you can stay at the hotel that occupies the old buildings of the monastery.
There are few places in Sweden that don’t have access to a lake. Vadstena lies next to Sweden’s second largest lake – lake Vättern. This gives good possibilities for water activities such as swimming and fishing. One thing that I really like is to have a picnic on a beach next to the lake. It’s such a romantic and cozy thing to do!
This is today a museum railway, but once it was a railway that connected Vadstena with the rest of the country. You will find the old station building as well as some of the old wagons just a few meters from the castle.
Enjoying the Center
A walk along the streets in the center of Vadstena is something you should not miss. The small streets that connects the abbey with the castle is filled with small shops and cafes. It is very picturesque and there are a lot of people out and about. Why not enjoy some delicious Swedish ice-cream if you get the chance? During our visit there were a lot of places for enjoy ice-cream!
How to Get There?
Do you want to travel to Vadstena? Here is how you can get there:
Car: the town is only a short detour from the highway E4 in the vicinity of Mjölby.
Bus: There are local buses connecting Vadstena with other places in the region.
Train: Except the small museum railway, there are no trains going to Vadstena. Closest train station is probably the one in Motala a bit to the north.
Flights: The Closest airport is the one in Linköping, from where it is possible to continue with the public transport.
The driving distance to Vadstena from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 247 kilometers (2 h 28 min)
Gothenburg – 242 kilometers (2 h 30 min)
Malmö – 384 kilometers (3 h 41 min)
Luleå – 1075 kilometers (11 h 06 min)
Linköping – 52 kilometers (43 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden