Mariefred itself is maybe nothing spectacular, but I found it such a picturesque place, it is absolutely worth a visit! Its most famous attraction is Gripsholm Castle, but even without Gripsholm Castle I would go here for just a nice stroll and look around the little village. I really love the nice little streets with all the wooden houses of this village. In the photos you can see first of all a summer view taken from Gripsholm Castle towards the village and secondly a winter photo from almost the same location.
But Mariefred is not only a lovely little town, it has a bit of history as well: It all began in 1370 when Jonsson Grip started building the castle of Gripsholm. The village of Mariefred has got his name from an even earlier date, in the tenth century, when there was a monastery at this place called "Pax Mariae", which means in Swedish "Marias Fred" ( Mary's Peace). In 1493, the then ruler av Gripsholm Castle, Sten Sture the Elder, founded a new monastery "Monasterium Pacis Mariae". In 1605 Mariefred got city rights from Karl IX. But enough of the short history, let's start exploring Mariefred!
When entering Mariefred by car, the most logical option would probably to park the car at Gripsholm Castle. But don't! I would suggest taking one exit later and driving a bit further into town. Take the next exit to the right instead towards the "Järnväg", which is the old train station, continue this road a tiny bit further and you'll get to a parking area, located close to the heart of Mariefred and across the water from Gripsholm, giving you some wonderful views over the castle.
Of course you want/have to visit Gripsholm when going to Mariefred. This castle is the main reason why so many people visit Mariefred in the first place and not without reason. Gripsholm castle is beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Mälaren and was built in the second half of the 14th century by Bo Johnsson Grip.
In the castle you can see a lot of Swedish interior design from the 16th to the late 19th century. But the main thing the castle is known for is its great collection of portraits: the Swedish national collection. The number of portraits is huge, and it features prominent Swedes from the days of Gustav Vasa until now. Hahaha, you have to know some famous Swedes of course to really appreciate it. But there are a few names that you might know, like Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo. The Castle is open to the public during the summer months, but it the grounds are open all year round, making it possible to make a stroll around the castle even when it is off-season.
After having feasted my eyes on the impressive Gripsholm Castle I would suggest going on a nice long stroll around the picturesque village of Mariefred. It is such a nice little place, especially on a warm sunny summer day. But having said that, I have to admit that it has a lovely charm during the winter months as well! With most of the tourists gone, the village is much quieter and gets a more authentic feel during this part of the year.
The streets of Mariefred are quiet and often narrow; the houses are all wooden and often painted in a for Sweden characteristic red colour. A colour you will find a lot on houses, especially in the rural areas. But there are yellow houses too, and white, green and even pink!
The typical red colour which you can see a lot in Sweden (see the house in the second photo) is a colour called Falu red or Falun red (in Swedish Falu rödfärg). The paint got its name from the copper mine at Falun (county of Dalarna) as the typical colour of the paint was caused by the residue from the copper mines. They started using this paint already in the 16th century and it got rapidly popular, as it was a perfect (and cheap) solution to give wooden buildings the same colour as buildings with a brick facing. But even as to this date, the colour Falu rödfärg is a very popular and can be seen all around the country side.
There are a few buildings in the village that are worth mentioning and one of these is the Callanderska Gården. It is not only a house with a history, it also is a little museum (opened only during the summer months). The original house was destroyed during the big fire of Mariefred in 1682, but it was luckily rebuild. In 1947 this buidling was donated by the Sofia Nordwäger-Callander, to the local history society. The yard contains of several old buildings and a lovely old garden, filled with spices. In the little museum you can see how life was like for a dyer from the 17th century.
Only a few steps away from the Callandersk Gården is the little church of Mariefred. With its white colour and high spire it dominates the view of this little village. The church dates back to 1624, as you can see on the church tower (second photo), but was, like many other buildings in Mariefred, burned down in 1682. The church was restored again soon after, with financial help of Queen Hedvig Eleonora. You can take a look inside the church if you like.
If you follow the Kyrkogatan and turn left you will get to the main square of Mariefred, called Rådhustorget (Town Hall Square). And as the name already says it, this square is dominated by the Town Hall. The Town Hall was built on the initiative of King Gustav III in 1784. The large stylish yellow building is nice to look at, but for me the most remarkable details are the two dormer windows on the roof, with their unusual round shape (see the third photo).
If you like you can go inside the building as this is actually the location for the local tourist office. During the summer months (from 1st June - 31st August) the tourist office is open from Monday to Saturday 10:00 - 18:00 and on Sundays 11:00 - 18:00. In Maj: from 11:00 - 15:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. And in the first half of September: Mondays to Fridays 10:00 - 15:00; Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 - 15:00. During the rest of the year the tourist office can only reached by phone: tel. 0159-297 90.