Västerås is a big city, with about 125.000 inhabitants, which makes it one of the top 10 cities of Sweden. Västerås is also one of Sweden's oldest cities, dating back to the end of the 1200's. Today Västerås is a modern industrial city, but it has some places really worth while to visit. And that's what this page will be about! So I hope you will enjoy reading it and maybe I can inspire you to visit the city and surrounding areas some day :-)
Västerås had been an established market site since the time of the Vikings. During the Viking times the name of the city was Västra (west) Aros (river delta) and has now evolved to the name Västerås.
This is the skyline of Västerås over lake Mälaren. You have to click on the picture to see it a little bit better I am afraid. The picture was taken from too far away to have a good view over the skyline.
The location of Västerås is great, with the river Svartån flowing through its city centre, and situated right at the shore of lake Mälaren. Lake Mälaren is a beautiful lake with many islands, and it is no wonder that Västerås has a busy harbour with lots of recreational boats. I am not so sure that the skyline of the city is so great though, hahaha, too many big modern and industrial buildings.
After this short introduction of Västerås, let's go into town and have a look around. Let me start with this statue called 'The ASEA-strömmen' (ASEA-current) which shows a characteristic Västerås view. You can see the workers cycling home from ABB (the former ASEA). The details in the statue are great, it looks so realistic, even the lunchbox of the workers isn't missing :-) The statue is located on the main square of Västerås (Stora Torget) and has been here since 1989. I really loved this sculpture, maybe because it reminded me a lot of my own trips on the bicycle, to and from work and also from school.
The sculpture was made by B.G. Broström. A fun detail is that he even included his own father among the bicyclists.
This is a picture of the Town Hall of Västerås. The Town Hall is rather new; they started building it in 1953. The tower isn't what I call beautiful, but clearly present as it is 65 meters high. The nice part of the tower is the carillon, which is the biggest carillon of Sweden. You can hear the carillon every day, I think around noon.
This statue takes a prominent place at the city hall. You have to look up though, otherwise you will miss seeing it, as it is high up in the sky. But if you look up, you can't miss seeing this gold coloured bull glittering in the sky. This statue 'The Bull' is from 1963 by Gunnar Runefelt. In popular speech it is also called 'den gyllene kalven' (the golden calf).
Across from the Town Hall you can see this fountain. Hahaha, maybe it is not really worth mentioning, but it gives you a bit of a feel what the city looks like :-)
The fountain is just before the turbine house. The power from this turbine house was actually the start of the ASEA company (1891), later the ABB, one of Sweden's biggest companies.
Next to the Town Hall you can find the Västerås museum of art (Västerås Konstmuseum). The museum is located in the old court house of 1860. The museum exhibitions mainly cover contemporary Swedish and Nordic art. I haven't been into the museum myself, so I can't tell you that much more about the collection.
You can find a lot of information (all in Swedish) about the museum on the website mentioned below.
Not far from the city centre is a park called Djäkneberget. Djäkneberget is a hill and lays just a couple of hundred meters to the west of the cathedral and the town square. In former times the park was used as a meeting point by the students ("Djäkne" is an old word for student) and that is how this park came to be.
The park is really nice and you have a nice view over parts of Västerås from here. But thing I liked most about the park are these boulders with inscriptions. This boulder is in memory of Sam Lidman who is responsible for more than 500 of these inscriptions in the park. It’s great to read the various inscriptions on the boulders and think about what they mean. You need a Swedish guide though, hahaha, as most of the inscriptions are in Swedish. Luckily I had someone with me to translate it all for me :-)
Some of the boulders just contain a name of a historic person, but other inscriptions are longer and have a meaning. One example of the inscriptions is : "Var heller frij än annars träl - ämedan du kant tik röra." Which means: "Prefer to be free and not a slave - while you still can move." But there are many many more (over 500) and all food for thought.
IIt's fun to walk around in Kyrkbacken and just wander around through the winding streets of this old part of town. Kyrkbacken is not far from the city centre, it is just behind the cathedral, so it's not hard to find. Although the houses are old, it's not a museum; it still is a 'living' part of the city. But it does give a good impression of what life in town looked like a couple of centuries ago. The houses are small and low, the plank fences, the narrow streets, and the greenery gives you an idea how a medieval Swedish city must have looked like. All the old the houses have signs on them telling their history, and this makes it easier to imagine what life in those days must have been like.
Nowadays it is the working area of quite a few artistic craftsmen and it is great to have a look around in the little stores with their handicraft.
It's time to say goodbye to Kyrkbacken and have a look at the cathedral of Västerås. If you visit Västerås you have to take a look at the cathedral! The oldest parts of the cathedral are from the 1200's and it houses important artistic treasures as early as from the 8th century.
The cathedral was open when I visited Västerås and I could just go inside to have a look around in this beautiful cathedral. I recall that the cathedral wasn't opened all day long though, but unfortunately I can't really remember the opening times.
In the picture you can see the tower of the Cathedral. The tower has an almost Baltic style and is from the early half of the 1400's. Not really visible in this picture is the gilded spire from 1693, which carries a crown. The crown on the spire indicates that the church is used for royal burials. The church is the resting place for Gustav Vasa's son King Erik XIV.
I've mentioned this name before, Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius. He is the famous Västerås bishop (1619-1646) and founder of the gymnasium. He was a strong pioneer whose activities meant a lot for the city. You can see this statue of him is in front of the cathedral. The statue is made by Carl Milles. Carl Milles is the artist that also made the beautiful statue (one of my favourites) in Eskilstuna, called the 'Hand of God'.
I didn't take that many pictures inside the cathedral, so I can't show you so much of it. Hahaha, so I guess you have to go for yourself to have a look :-)
In this picture you can see a bit of the inside of the cathedral. Below the organ you can see the Rudbeck Burial Chapel. The chapel is framed by two candelabras with gilded chains. Three stones in the wall commemorate Johannes Rudbeckius and his two sons.
The organ above the Burial Chapel is a century old but was recently reconstructed. It is one of the largest 19th century organs in Sweden. But the organ is actually not what it looks like; the pipes that you see are only there for the show. The organ has 4472 sounding pipes, but this organ is not used that often. It takes seven seconds for the sound to travel from the organ to the front of the cathedral and this is the reason why the organist rather plays on the smaller sanctuary organ at the front of the church.
By now your feet are probably very tired from walking around! Hahaha, but no problem, you can take a rest and have a drink in one of the many restaurants or like here on a terrace.
It's time for now to say goodbye to Västerås itself and have a look around in the surrounding area of this city. In my 'off the beaten path tips' you can read about the historical site 'Anundshög', an interesting burial mound, left by the Vikings. And in my general tips you can read all about the wonderful places to visit around the city of Västerås. So I hope you will follow me around on this trip, so I can show you much more of what the area has to offer.
This is the sarcophagus of King Erik XIV, son of Gustav Vasa. King Erik XIV was brought back to Västerås after having died in 1577. He was a prisoner of his brother, King Johan III. The legend goes that he has been poisoned with arsenic served in his pea soup..... Hmm, I can't help it, but when I hear the word pea soup I have to think of a typical Swedish tradition, lol. The ones that have read the local custom tips on my Sweden page know what I am talking about :-) Swedes traditionally eat pea soup every Thursday followed by pancakes. Hahaha, I wonder if that was already the tradition in those days ;-).....
Okay, let’s get back to the story.... King Gustaf III thought that Eric ought to have a worthy resting-place and ordered a marble sarcophagus. But when the grave was opened in the 1950's, it was discovered that the sarcophagus had been too short for the rather tall monarch, so the feet had been placed along side the legs. Phew, it seems not always that easy to be a King!
This is a picture of the proba, just south of the cathedral. Proba is the old Latin word for school jail, and that is what this place was for! The jail was build by Johannes Rudbeckius and the 'tenants' called it a 'terrible place'. The jail was used for students that didn't behave, but also for priests and civil servants who had made mistakes on the job. Wow, can you imagine a 'school jail' these days for misbehaviour???
The proba was used as a jail until 1801 and it is the only one of its kind remaining today.