Visby, Gotland, Sweden
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Ask Stockholm residents about their favorite summer escape and many will tell you about the wide beaches of Gotland, a 176-kilometer-long (109-mile) Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic. And Visby, Gotland’s capital, is a historic city and site of a former Viking settlement that is today an impossibly pleasant town of 22,000 residents, with ancient forts, churches and pretty bricked streets lined with cafés and postcard-perfect cottages. Remnants of the city walls, which date to the 13th century, run for 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) and are punctuated by 36 towers. In fact, the entire city has been recognized by UNESCO as the best-preserved medieval commercial center in Northern Europe.Visby’s Gotland Museum puts a spotlight on the history of the Viking settlement, as well as the city’s medieval era, with a fascinating collection of artifacts that includes gravestones, skeletal remains and Viking silver. In the town’s lush park, Almedalen, you can picnic on the grassy lawns or spot birds along what was once Visby’s bustling Hanseatic-era harbor. After you’ve explored the sights, settle into one of the many cozy cafés for that most Swedish of traditions, fika, with a strong cup of coffee and a slice of something sweet to eat.