Kalmar Castle: Where Sweden's Royals Ruled and Romped
Beyond lush woodlands and a wooden drawbridge in the southern province of Småland, the antics of medieval Swedish kings are on display at Kalmar Castle. Scandinavia's best preserved Renaissance castle was built in the 12th century in Kalmar, one of Sweden's oldest cities. Until 1658, it was the seat of Swedish royalty.
The imposing structure is secured by a moat and sturdy outer ramparts where visitors can still scramble around. King Gustav Vasa enlarged and fortified the castle in the 16th century, before his sons Erik XIV and Johan III redecorated it as a Renaissance palace. The brothers squabbled about succession, and some suspect King Erik XIV—who kept a mistress at Kalmar Castle—was poisoned by his younger brother, who followed him to the throne. A guided tour reveals a secret hatch to an escape route the dysfunctional royals could use during threats or danger.
After Sweden's border moved south in the mid-17th century, Kalmar lost its strategic importance. The palace fell into disrepair and was later used as a women's prison, distillery and finally a granary. Renovated in the mid-19th century to preserve Swedish history for today's visitors, it's now daily May–September, on weekends the remainder of the year.