a street in Karlskrona with Bohlins sign
Europe, Sweden

The Best Things to Do in Karlskrona, Sweden • One day in the south of Sweden

What you might not know about Sweden, is that it is chockablock, full-to-the-brim, bursting-at-the-seams with islands. Even its capital, Stockholm, is made up of islands, and the quiet little city of Karlskrona, in the south, is no exception to this island lifestyle. In fact, Karlskrona is spread out over around thirty islands in total, most of which are connected either by bridges or ferries to the next one. Although it might seem a bit too quiet at first, there are plenty of things to do in Karlskrona if you look hard enough. Here are some of my favourites.

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Karlskrona was a regular port of call on our Scandinavian cruise itinerary, but I never got to spend more than a few hours here at a time. This is also a tender port, meaning that ships have to anchor offshore and then ferry passengers to shore via lifeboat- which eats into the time we had to explore. However, this is a small, very peaceful little city, and one day here is plenty to make the most of the things to do in Karlskrona.

A quick introduction to Karlskrona

Karlskrona was founded in 1680, and was named in that rather big-headed kingly fashion, after King Karl XI of Sweden; the name literally translates as ‘Karl’s Crown.’ Over the next few centuries, Sweden dominated the seas of the area, and the city prospered- partly because of its shipyards and docks of Sweden’s naval base. It was known for its beautiful baroque architecture, and although the plan was that Karlskrona should become the new capital of Sweden, that plan never came to fruition.

These days, it’s a very quiet place with an all-round very civilised atmosphere. Particularly in summertime, it’s a great starting-point to explore the south of Sweden, and it’s also very well connected to neighbouring countries.

How to get to Karlskrona

Don’t get me wrong pals, I arrived in Karlskrona by cruise ship, but I was surprised to learn how easy it is to get from Karlskrona to or from so many other destinations in Europe. So, if you fancy a little trip around the Baltic, this couldn’t be a more perfect stopping-point.

Karlskrona is linked to the city of Gdynia, in Poland via ferry. The journey normally takes between 9 and a half to 10 and a half hours, and ferries run throughout the day and overnight. Check ferryscanner for ferry times and prices.

You can get the train from Karlskrona to Stockholm in about five and a half hours. Check train times here.

Or, head west via the Swedish city of Malmo, and then on to Copenhagen, Denmark’s stunning capital city. (Honestly pals, Copenhagen is so far my fave of all the Scandinavian cities.) The journey only takes around three and a half hours, and direct trains are available. Check ticket prices and times.

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Best things to do in Karlskrona

Wander the city centre

Karlskrona is a teeny-weeny city, and a very walkable place indeed. So you don’t need to worry about public transport or bringing your hiking boots here.

The city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its perfectly-preserved architecture and understated beauty, and in the summer sunshine its a really pretty place to explore. Colourful cottages, grand churches and open squares and gardens are a lovely setting for a stroll.

Don’t get me wrong, there are all the classic high street shops- everywhere in Sweden seems to have the classic high street shops- but what makes Karlskrona a gem is definitely these centuries old buildings and cobbled streets scattered with flowers. The elegant buildings give a sense of Karlskrona’s much more noble past, and the air is so clean and fresh that you feel almost as if you’re in the countryside, not a city.

Blekinge Museum

We stumbled across the mustard-yellow Blekinge Museum and its neat, regal gardens, completely accidentally. Blekinge is the name of the archipelago that Karlskrona sits within, and the little museum tells the story of the region and the city in a really fun, but informative way. The garden is also beautiful and a great place to chill on a sunny day.

The cherry on top is that the museum is completely free to visit. Considering that Sweden can be a really expensive country for visitors, it’s great to find a budget-friendly experience, and the Blekinge Museum is definitely worth a look.

Walk to Stakholmen

Another one for the sunnier days: the little island of Stakholmen is really easy to access from the city centre, and is a lovely place to shake off all the cobwebs. (Especially if you live most of your life in a metal cabin, like I do. Embrace the nature, people.)

Stakholmen looks a bit like a very large, smooth rock, shrouded with a cloud of grass and surfacing from the sea Nessie-style, and dotted about you’ll find the odd WWII remnant in the form of pillboxes for anti-aircraft guns. It’s connected to the main island of Karlskrona via a long wooden jetty, and is a lovely place to get some air and a view of the city if you don’t have time to get further away.

Tuck into some street food at Fisktorget

During summer, the wide open square of the old fish market just in front of the Scandic Hotel becomes home to a pop-up open air food court, where you can tuck into freshly-cooked burgers, pizzas and all sorts of other dishes, or share drinks long into the evening. (I’ll vouch for the pizzas; they’re delightful.)

There’s a lovely chilled-out vibe overlooking the water (even on a blustery day), plus there’s often live music to accompany your lunch/dinner/beverage.

Check out Paraply Pop Up.

The Naval Museum

Full disclaimer: we did walk down to the harbour once to check out the old ships and sailing boats on display, (they’re stunning), but as it was such a nice day we stayed outside to bask in the sunshine instead of going into the museum. It was very much worth the walk to check out the boats, but I’d be doing the city of Karlskrona a disservice if I wrote this entire post and never mentioned that you can in fact go inside the museum, to learn even more.

Karlskrona’s nautical heritage is a strong one, and the Naval Museum is considered a must-visit for plenty of visitors. (Just not me, on that particular occasion. I’m so sorry.)

For under 18s, there’s no entrance fee, but adult tickets to the Naval Museum are 160SEK (2024).

Karlskrona is a very quaint little city, and although it’s not overflowing with things to do, it’s a great place for a relaxing day. Most visitors to Sweden stick to Stockholm or maybe Gothenburg at a push, and I’m always glad to experience somewhere a little more off the beaten track.

For a few hours at a time this is the ideal set of things to do in Karlskrona, but my one wish, if I could go back, would be to have more time to explore further away from the ship. The Blekinge archipelago seems like a really beautiful part of Sweden, and as someone who enjoys hiking, kayaking and generally exploring the great outdoors, I actually feel as if some of the most unique things to do here might lie just outside the city limits.

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