Gävle is a port on the Baltic Sea in Gävleborg County, the southernmost part of Norrland. In 2020 the city had a population of 79,004.
Another 20,000 live associated small towns. Those you might visit include Valbo for the Mackmyra whisky distillery and large shopping mall, Forsbacka for its 16th century ironworks, Bergby for its old church at Hamrånge, and Furuvik for the amusement park and zoo.
Gävle town is first documented in 1413 and received its charter in 1446, as Norrland's first and only city during the Middle Ages. Its harbour was first a fishing port, then an industrial dock and so remains; it's not a ferry port. The fortress resisted a Russian invasion in 1719, and Gävle has been spared combat since, with an army base just in case. But its wooden houses burned merrily enough without foreign assault, and after the last great fire in 1869 the area north of the river was re-built in stone on a grid pattern. South side was relatively spared so this is where you find the oldest part of town.
The countryside around Gävle, like much of Sweden, lies upon the Baltic Shield of gneiss and granite one or two billion years old. This is rich in metals, mined and crafted since antiquity, and hereabouts the main ore is of iron, while Falun further west has copper. A series of small foundry villages grew up using water power to work the furnace bellows and forges. Rivers descended from the Shield uplands (which are still rising, in post-glacial rebound) in fors - rapids and waterfalls, literally the force behind the ironworks. Early foundries had timber for fuel, but to make steel in any quantity you need coal for coking, which Sweden lacks. 19th century shipping and railways enabled bulk import of coal so the local steel industry then grew. But at the same time agriculture was shedding labour, and a series of bad harvests and political oppression drove many to emigrate. And the dozens of little foundries were inefficient, closing down in the 20th century as steel production was centralised elsewhere, and birch woods grew over their sites.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Gävle has a boreal climate with sharp seasonal extremes. Summer is pleasant, with sunset well past 10 pm, and "white nights". Winters are harsh, with sunset before 3 pm, and snow from mid December through February. See also Winter in the Nordic countries
Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN IATA) is the nearest international airport, with extensive global connections. It's 130 km south of Gävle and there's no need to travel via central Stockholm. Instead, take a bus or train towards Uppsala:
- by bus, take UL bus 801 from the bus station beneath Terminal 5. This takes 25 mins to Uppsala and runs twice an hour, 03:00 to 00:00. Change there for bus or train to Gävle.
- by train, take the SL commuter train (pendeltåg) from Arlanda Central station within the Sky City complex (not from Arlanda South or North - these only have expresses to Stockholm city). Trains take 18 minutes to Uppsala Central and run every 30-60 min between 05:00 and 01:00; some of them continue north to Gävle.
Direct trains run hourly from Stockholm Central to Gävle, taking 80 min via Arlanda Central (the airport), Uppsala and Tierp. (Beware, if you buy a cheap ticket to or from Stockholm but get off at the airport, you'll be surcharged.) Trains continue north every couple of hours to Sundsvall (2 hr 15 min), Umeå and Luleå, including the Norrland sleeper trains. Direct trains also run from Linköping, Norrköping and Östersund. Regional trains run hourly from Borlänge in Dalarna region via Falun, Hofors, Storvik and Sandviken; some of them start from Örebro.
1 Gävle Central station. The station is in city centre. It has five cafes, with more in nearby streets. There are ticket machines (but no staffed kiosk) in the station building and in the underpass to the platforms, and left-luggage lockers. Use IATA code QYU IATA for booking "flights" through Arlanda Airport. Exit the station west for local taxis and buses and city centre, exit east for out-of-town taxis and buses including rail replacements.
Furuvik is a platform halt for the hourly regional train (Upptåget) between Gävle and Uppsala. Use this for Furuvik Park, the zoo and theme park, see "Do". The ride from town centre takes 8 min.
Buses from Stockholm City Terminal take just over two hours and a single ticket in 2022 is 220 kr. Ybuss run 2 or 3 times a day from Stockholm via the airport and Uppsala, and call at Gävle Bro the service area on E4 at the west edge of town. They're heading for northern cities such as Sundsvall. You can also buy tickets via the Flixbus website.
Merresor (formerly SGS Bussen) run Th-Su in the morning from Sandviken via Valbo and Gävle to Stockholm and starts back around 17:00.
Tapanis Buss runs from Stockholm via Gävle Bro to Sundsvall, Luleå and Haparanda / Tornio on the border with Finland.
Major routes through Gävle are E4 south to Stockholm and north to Sundsvall, E16 west to Falun and eventually Oslo, and R76 south along the coast.
Walking will get you most places within town. From the railway station east end to the river park west end is little over 1 km.
There's no bike hire in town, but you can get spares and repairs M-F at Posa Cykel at Norra Köpmangatan 4.
Local buses all run from the railway station and Rådhustorget main square, see X-trafik for timetables. Bus 1 runs every 15 min to Valbro shopping centre. Bus 41 runs every 20 min to Sandviken. Bus 49 runs every 2 hours to Gävle Bro the long-distance bus drop off, then to Hedesunda.
Taxi operators are Fast Pris (+46 26 165000), Gävle Stad Taxi (+46 26 100880), Taxi Stor & Liten (+46 26 107000) and TaxiKurir . Taxis are usually reliable and the drivers speak good English.
- 1 Rådhustorget is the main square of the modern town, laid out on a grid north of the river. It has several interesting old buildings including the Rådhus (town hall) for which it's named, but most are bland 20th century.
- Slottstorget or Castle Square is the extension of this space across the river. This is where the Gävle Goat (Gävlebocken) is erected each year four weeks before Christmas, a large straw goat. The tradition began in 1966, as did the tedious tradition of burning or otherwise destroying it, in spite of fire-proofing, security guards and camera surveillance. Only a third of goats have lasted until Christmas and several have perished within hours of assembly. Since 1986 there have been Goat Wars between rival structures, one built by a school and the other by local business; they've yet to hit on the solution of decoy goats.
- Gamla Gefle, Gävle's old town, remains only as a few blocks south of the river. The Joe Hill and Prison Museums are here.
- 2 Gävle Castle (Gävle slott) (West side of Slottstorget and just east of the Prison Museum). The foundations are from the 16th century, but it has been rebuilt several times, last during the late 1740s when it was transformed into more of a fine mansion than castle. It now houses local government offices so you can only admire the exterior and courtyard.
- 3 Swedish Prison Museum (Sveriges Fängelsemuseum), Hamiltongatan 1-3, ☏ +46 26 65 4430. W-Sa 12:00-16:00. This occupies two buildings: you start in the main block, the two-storey former jail in the classic 19th century high-hall pattern. Then the Länscellfängelset on nearby Timmermansgatan depicts its 18th-century predecessor, a dark squalid lock-up of low-lifes, dirty straw and droll rats. Adult 80 kr, concession 40 kr, child 30 kr.
- 4 Regional Art & History Museum (Länsmuseet Gävleborg), Södra Strandgatan 20 (south bank of river, facing the police station), ☏ +46 26 655 635, firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 11:00-18:00, Sa Su 12:00-16:00. The county museum and art gallery has a large and interesting collection; child-friendly. The building was financed in 1933 by a tobacco and shipping magnate. Free.
- 5 Joe Hill Museum, Nedre Bergsgatan 28. Sa 12:00-16:00. This was the birthplace in 1879 of Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, better known as Joe Hill. In 1902 he emigrated to the USA, where he became a labor organizer, song-writer and activist for "Industrial Workers of the World", the "Wobblies". In 1914 a Salt Lake City grocer and his son were shot dead by two intruders; Joe Hill came to a local doctor that evening with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was eventually convicted of the murder, and executed by firing squad in Nov 1915. The prosecution case was shaky and his many supporters believed he was shot for being a "wobbly", but his refusal to explain his wound sealed his fate. Free.
- 6 Holy Trinity Church (Heliga Trefaldighets kyrka) on Kyrkogatan was opened in 1654 after its predecessor burnt down. It contains the 11th century Sörby rune stone, dedicated to a warrior chief called Egil.
- 7 Swedish Railway Museum (Järnvägsmuseet), Rälsgatan 1, ☏ +46 26 445 1460, email@example.com. Closed until summer 2023. The museum moved here from Stockholm in 1970 to have more display space, and it hosts a large collection of old locomotives and rail cars. It's closed for renovation, as is its annex train shed north side of town, and heritage train trips are suspended.
- 8 Testeboån delta is a wetland and deciduous forest nature reserve at the foot of the Testeboån river as it flows into the harbour. Access is free 24 hours via Hamnleden onto Gestrins väg. You can also reach it by the footpath on the railway bridge across the bay, though the view is mostly of industrial docklands. Not to be confused with Testeboån Nature Reserve (below) which starts 15 km upriver.
- 9 Brädviken along the road to Bönan has a bathing beach and walking trails through the woods.
- 10 Bönan is a small fishing village and collection of summer chalets. The coast is mostly rocky but there's a small sandy cove. The former lighthouse, a wooden tower, is now the base for the channel pilots. The village has a cafe and a campsite open in summer. Bus 95 runs from Gävle via Brädviken every couple of hours.
- 11 Testeboån Nature Reserve covers the upper course of Testeboån river and is easiest accessed from the car park along Oslättforsvägen, as marked. (No access from the nearby E4.) You could also access from its source at Oslättfors. Glaciers dumped a moraine of gravel across the valley so the river splits into multiple channels, with wetland and deciduous forest. Further down the terrain becomes steeper so the river cascades. The reserve is free to access 24 hours.
- 12 Oslättfors is a woodland village by the lake at the source of Testeboån river, with access to the reserve. From 1796 there was an ironworks (bruk) here, making nails and other forged products. A few buildings of that era remain: the church (24 hours), the utility office, a coal depot and metalsmiths' houses. In 1880 the works were replaced by a timber industry, still in business. The mansion house, school and railway buildings are gone, and there isn't a museum. You can bathe or kayak in the lake.
- 13 Forsbacka ironworks (Forsbacka bruk). There have been ironworks in Forsbacka since medieval times but the present structures are mostly late 19th redbrick. They occasionally have guided tours but you're generally free to stroll around. The foundry master's mansion is now an events venue.
- 14 Hamrånge is a hamlet straggling north of Bergby by the E4. Its main attraction is the church of 1854: it's oriented north-south. The font and two crucifixes are from its medieval predecessor. 500 m north, Hamrånge Hembygdsförening calls itself a "heritage village", but it's not a skansen outdoor museum. Set up in 1931, it's a sort-of events venue but unsure of what it wants to be. 2 km south of the village, Julhuset I Hamrånge is a Christmas lights display.
- 15 Axmar ironworks, active 1671-1927, were 5 km north of Axmarby village on the north boundary of the county. These have been landscaped into a park dotted with old buildings that you're free to stroll around, but there isn't a museum. The castle was demolished in 1970.
- The countryside around Gävle is good for outdoor life, especially during summer. Canoeing on the numerous lakes is popular. Fishing is free in the Baltic Sea; a license is needed in lakes and rivers.
- 1 Gävle Concert Hall, Kungsbäcksvägen 22, ☏ +46 26 172900. The resident symphony orchestra gives regular concerts, and there are visiting acts.
- Regiment Park is south bank of the river beyond the concert hall.
- 2 Boulonger Park is the larger park on the north river bank. A footbridge at its east end connects to the concert hall and Regiment Park.
- 3 Mackmyra Whiskyby (Whiskey Village), Kolonnvägen 2 (west of town near E4 / E16 intersection), ☏ +46 26 541880, firstname.lastname@example.org. F, Sa. Mackmyra distillery introduced the first Swedish whiskey in 1999, a single malt. The original site at Valbo (in a former power station) has an annual capacity of 0.6 M bottles. The one you can visit is the second site 10 km east near E4, the seven-storey "gravity distillery" opened in 2011. (The water is pumped up just once, then its head of pressure drives everything else with no inefficient intermediate pumping.) They also make gin. There are no brief tours, those offered are four hour events with tastings and dinner included. Adult 1200 kr.
- Football: 4 Gefle IF were promoted in 2022, so they play soccer in Ettan or League One, Sweden's third tier. Their home ground Gavlevallen, opened in 2015, has a capacity of 6500; it's 2 km north of town.
- Monitor ERP Arena (aka Gavlerinken) is an indoor arena next to the football stadium. With a capacity of 7900, it's the home rink of Brynäs IF ice hockey team, playing in the Swedish Hockey League, the top tier. The arena is also used for live music events.
- 5 Gävletravet, Gavlehovsvägen 14, ☏ +46 26 66 2200. A track for harness racing (trav) - jockeys sit in a two-wheel coach or "sulky", and the horse has a trotting gait, the gallop is not permitted.
- Golf: Gävle Golfklubb are northeast of town along Hamnleden, just north of Testeboåns delta.
- 6 Gasklockorna means "gasometers" - stonking great redbrick roundhouses, not the collapsible metal storage towers that became common in the 20th century. This industrial dockland brownfield has been rehabilitated into a cultural neighbourhood with theatre, rock shows, cinema and retail. Bus 14 runs along Atlasgatan.
- 7 Furuvik Park, Dannemansvägen 4, Furuvik (12 km SE of Gävle, hourly train), ☏ +46 10 708 79100. mid-May - mid Aug daily 10:00-19:00. Small theme park and arcade for toddlers as well as a zoo and Cold War-era coastal fort and museum. Adult 250 kr, child 210 kr.
- 8 Bomhusbacken. A kiddy-slope for skiing and tobogganing, suitable for beginners, with a notional charge for the lift. No toilets.
- 9 Hemlingbybacken, ☏ +46 26 178000. This is the next step up for beginners, a two-lift ski slope. There are bowls, rails and jumps for snowboarders. Hours depend on snowfall.
- There are a few indoor shopping malls downtown, but most stores are along the main drags downtown and south.
- Souvenirs from Gävle could be a straw goat, Ahlgrens candy, Gevalia coffee, or Mackmyra whisky from Systembolaget.
- Gallerian Nian is the main town centre mall, at Drottninggatan 9 one block east of the Best Western. Most stores are open M-F 10:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-18:00.
- Flanör is the slab of a shopping mall on the west side of Rådhustorget the main square.
- 1 Valbo köpcentrum, ☏ +46 26 420 9050. M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa 10:00-18:00, Su 11:00-18:00. The municipality's largest shopping mall, with around 60 stores.
- Main square has a cluster of hot dog, falafel and similar food stands.
- Galleria Nian (see Buy) has a food court with a dozen outlets.
- Épi Bageri & Café, Norra Kungsgatan 11 (next to Verovin), ☏ +46 26 12 88 00. M-F 07:00-17:00, Sa 08:00-15:00. Café and bakery that serves delicious pastries and sandwiches.
- 1 Elsas Coffeeshop, Västra Vägen 4, ☏ +46 26 101444. W-F 11:00-21:00, Sa Su Tu 11:00-18:00. Popular café with salads and pizza and riverside views.
- 2 Konditori Lido Söder, Södra Kungsgatan 10, ☏ +46 26 61 1942. M-F 07:00-18:00, Sa Su 10:00-16:00. Lido is a chain with several cafés around town - this is the original of 1954, with a cosy atmospheric interior. Has a large selection of pastries and serves brunch on Sundays.
- 3 AMO Safwan, Brynäsgatan 1, ☏ +46 26 421 19 00. M-F 11:00-19:30, Sa 12:00-19:30. Just a humble takeaway shack, but they offer the best falafel and shawarma in town.
- 4 Pigalle, Södra Kungsgatan 32, ☏ +46 26 624044. M-F 08:30-16:30. As constant as the Northern Star, this serves trad Swedish midday fare. Some find it bland.
- 5 Café Bogården, Kungsbäckvägen 39 (corner with Västra Gränsgatan, Bus 5), ☏ +46 26 627914. M-F 08:00-15:00. Tucked away in Villastan, the garden suburb near Boulogner park, this serves excellent coffee, pastries and classics such as egg and herring sandwiches.
- 6 Neo Neo, Norra Strandgatan 15-17, ☏ +46 26 183022. Tu-F 11:00-13:30, 17:00-23:00, Sa 17:00-02:00. A creative take on Japanese and Korean cuisine with excellent reviews.
- Church Street Saloon, Kyrkogatan 11 (50 m west of Neo Neo), ☏ +46 26 126211. M-F 17:00-23:00, Sa 13:00-23:00. Serves American-western food in kitsch C&W style, gets crowded.
- 7 Sarahs, Slottstorget 5, ☏ +46 26 65 3503. M-Sa 17:00-22:00. Serves a seasonal menu inspired by classic Nordic cuisine.
- 8 Matildas, Timmermansgatan 23 (just off S Kungsgatan), ☏ +46 26 625349, email@example.com. Tu-Sa 17:00-22:00. This is likely the best restaurant in town, featuring seasonal Nordic cuisine.
- 9 Söders Källa, Södra Kansligatan 22, ☏ +46 26 613800. Tu-Th 16:00-22:00, F Sa 16:00-23:00. Classic Nordic cuisine, great reviews.
- 1 Bilagan, Hattmakargatan 15 (block behind Scandic hotel), ☏ +46 26 121638. W-Sa 21:00-02:00, Su-Tu 18:00-01:00. No-frills karaoke bar: cheap bear and a bit rough but always with a tolerating atmosphere. Some of the karaoke singers can actually sing.
- Grillo, Kyrkogatan 14 (block west of Rådhustorget), ☏ +46 26 182 808. May-Sept. Summer-only outdoor bar and barbecue spot.
- Interpool, Södra Kungsgatan 20 (next to Coop), ☏ +46 26 25 1144. Tu-F, Su 15:00-03:00, Sa 13:00-03:00. Sports bar with pool / billiards.
- 2 Lion Bar Gävle, Hattmakargatan 4A, ☏ +46 26-121900. Su, Tu 15:00-23:00, W Th 15:00-01:00, F Sa 15:00-02:00. By far the cheapest beer in town, with karaoke on Wednesdays and weekends. Offers a small but decent range of bar food.
- Musikhuset (formerly Sjömanskyrkan Bar), Kyrkogatan 32 (south side of station square), ☏ +46 26 143990. M-Th 09:00-22:00, F 09:00-00:00, Sa 17:00-00:00. Housed in a former church, this cafe-bar is a great venue to see local bands.
- 3 Verovin, Norra Kungsgatan 11, ☏ +46 26 122060. W-Th 17:00-23:00, F Sa 17:00-00:00. Small classy wine bar with an extensive selection, also serves food.
- 4 TAK Skybar, Alderholmsgatan 7, ☏ +46 26 222 8850. W Th 17:00-23:00, F Sa 15:00-01:00. Serves decent bar food and has a rooftop terrace.
- Järnvägshotellet, Centralplan 3 (facing railway station), ☏ +46 26 12 0990, firstname.lastname@example.org. Simple but comfy budget place in an old red-brick building, very central. You need your phone to check in, they send you the door code. Shared toilets and shower cubicles. B&B double 950 kr.
- Elite Grand Hotel, Kyrkogatan 28 (by railway station, behind Järnvägshotellet), ☏ +46 26 400 7300, email@example.com. Atmospheric old hotel in a building of 1901 refurbished to a modern standard. B&B double 1270 kr.
- 1 Gävle Vandrarhem AB, Södra Rådmansgatan 1 (one block east of Södra Kungsgatan), ☏ +46 26 62 1745. A hostel in the old town 600 m from the railway station. Simple and usually clean, dogs accepted. Single room 600 kr, double 750 kr.
- 2 Clarion Hotel Winn, Norra Slottsgatan 9, ☏ +46 26 64 7000. Central chain hotel with sauna and restaurant, tired furnishings and cleaning not always up to the mark. B&B double 1500 kr.
- 3 Scandic CH, Nygatan 45 (one block north of train station, turn left), ☏ +46 26 495 8400, fax: +46 26 495 8411, firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star hotel in town close to railway station. Several guests thought it small and basic for the price. B&B double 1770 kr.
- Scandic Gävle West is in Hagaström at the junction of E4 and E16, so this is more convenient for passing motorists.
- 4 Hotell Alderholmen, Norra Skeppsbron 3C, ☏ +46 72 511 5115. Comfy riverside hotel with self-check in, no reception. B&B double 1000 kr.
- 5 Best Western, Nygatan 8, ☏ +46 26 61 2600. Reliable mid-range chain hotel a couple of blocks west of town centre. B&B double 1250 kr.
While Gävle is generally a safe city, main risk factors are petty theft and nightlife brawls. As in most of Sweden, cold weather can bring dangers including those of winter driving. Animal collisions are a risk factor; in particular moose, deer and boar.
Although it has become somewhat of a longstanding tradition for arsonists to try to burn down the Gävle goat, which more often than not does not survive the winter, keep in mind that this is still illegal, and would result in you getting arrested and sentenced to imprisonment.
As of Nov 2022, Gävle has 5G from Tele2, Telia Mobile (the best coverage) and Telenor, and 4G from Tre Mobile. Wifi is widely available in public places.
- Älvkarleby is a small town 20 km south, where the river Dalälven reaches the Baltic Sea. There's a hydroelectric power station and the unusual Dragon Gate, a Chinese hotel with a museum of Swedish culture.
- Sandviken 27 km west is the blue-collar neighbour town. The municipality includes Högbo Bruk recreation area.
- Uppsala with its ancient burial mounds and University is 40 min south by frequent train.
- The Uppland history tour from Tierp to Stockholm is a showcase of the foundation of the Swedish kingdom, with roots in the Viking Age.
- Stockholm 170 km south of Gävle has connections all over Scandinavia.
|Routes through Gävle|
|Sundsvall ← Söderhamn ←||N S||→ Tierp → Stockholm|