Birka was the first city in Sweden. The city originated around 750 and is located on todays Björkö. The island was an important trading center during the time of the Vikings. Björkö is an island in Lake Mälaren, about 30 kilometers from Stockholm. Since 1993, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
By boat to Birka
Strömma offers various boat excursions, Birka is probably the most popular one in the summer months. The boat leaves from Stadshuskajen, near Stockholm City Hall. It is advisable to buy your ticket in advance. Unfortunately, anyone travelling with the Stockholm Card can not book a ticket and will have to be on time to secure his/her spot. For departure times, take a look at on the website.
At 10 o’clock, the town hall bells just sounded, our boat started to move. It was a sunny day and the sun deck was filling up quickly. Despite the sunny weather, it was quite fresh when the boat sailed away. Don’t forget to bring both warm clothes and sun protection. The boat ride takes around 2 hours. You can book food in advance. If you haven’t reserved to eat, you can bring your picnic or wait and have lunch in the restaurant of Birka.
Along the way you will pass many interesting places about which the hostess or host of the boat gives a little explanation. They tell about Kungshatten, (the King’s hat) and how this place got its name. On top of the island you also see this symbolized with a hat on a may pole. The boat also has a short stop to deliver the newspaper in Nykungshatten.
Birka, the Viking town
Birka offers guided tours in English and Swedish. The tours take about an hour. I first doubted if I would follow the tour because an hour in a total staying of only 3 hours is quite long but it was well worth it. The first tour proved to be the busiest. To me the first tour seems the most practical too because you get a lot of information about the location during the tour and then you have time to visit some parts like Svarta Jorden.
Don’t expect to see a real city in Birka. Archaeologically, however, it is a very interesting place. From the mountain Borgberget you can see the remains of the city walls. On Borgberget you will also see the Angar monuments that was placed here in 1834 for the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Sankt Ansgars in Birka.
A bit of the Viking town is being rebuilt near the harbour. In one of the houses there is a bakery where you can bake bread for 30 kronor. You will also find some Viking sloops.
In the museum you will find some archaeological finds. There is an aerial view on which you can see the topography. Further on there are some replicas, a film and a museum shop.
Facilities on the island
There are toilets and even showers on the island. A little further down you’ll find two taps where you can take drinking water for free. You can go to Café Eldrimner for fika and small snacks. In the restaurant Särimner you can eat a more extensive meal. The island also has nice picnic spots and you always see someone taking a fresh dip in the water so bringing your swimwear with you is definitely a good idea 🙂
How do you reach Birka?
In addition to boat trips from Stockholm and Mariefred, there is also a guest harbor for those who want to come to the island with their own boat.