While Stockholm and the West Coast continue to attract most tourists each year in Sweden, those to interested in travelling to the east coast are missing a great treat.
To the visitor, Västervik has plenty to offer, from beautiful architecture and fine bathing to a rich cultural history and musical legacy. It is also well known as the hometown of Abba legend Björn Ulvaeus and former world number one tennis player Stefan Edberg.
More than being just one of its favourite sons though, Ulvaeus is determined to leave a permanent legacy in Västervik, which is why he is behind a spectacular new building project.
Ulvaeus has bought a 70% majority share in Slottsholmen, one of the town’s best known landmarks. The historic building, which has been left empty for several years, has been the centre of discussions and arguments for decades.
The ABBA star is part of a consortium planning to re-develop the building, providing a waterfront development of apartments, conference facilities, bars and restaurants, plus, of course, considering its new owner, a small concert venue.
In redeveloping Slottsholmen, Ulvaeus is returning to a part of the town that holds special memories. His first job was as a kitchen porter in a restaurant on the site. Ever since, Slottsholmen has exerted a draw on him:
“There was something magical about the place, with music that echoed over the water on summer nights. People walked back and forth on the promenade – a promenade that no other Swedish town can match,” Ulvaeus has said.
Now, Ulvaeus has declared: ”There shall be dancing again on Castle Island.”
He and his partners Alm Equity will invest some 150 million kronor in the project. If all goes to plan, work will begin this autumn, and the new nine storey building should be complete by 2013. Keen to keep roots in the town, the musician has chosen one of the best corner apartments in the building, overlooking the waterfront in one direction and the town in another.
Not everyone in Västervik is happy about the development, with some worried that it will spoil the character of Slottsholmen. For its part, the consortium says it is doing all within its power to maintain the character and integrity of the original building and promises that the development will draw new visitors to the town.
Slottsholmen’s ground floor will be surrounded on all sides by a waterside promenade where owners of the apartments will be able to moor their boats. A newly built walkway will connect this to the main part of Västervik alongside the existing bridge, while the town’s courthouse will also be moved here.
It is beyond doubt that the building will become Västervik’s new landmark. Local politician Harald Hjalmarsson is convinced that bringing the building back to life is a positive step for the whole town. ”The building is a landmark that will make Västervik known throughout the country. It is a great day for Västervik,” he said when the new plans were unveiled.
Meanwhile Västervik’s musical connection doesn’t end with the Slottsholmen development. The town is also the proud owner of one of Sweden’s most beautiful ruins, Stegeholm. Ulvaeus himself played there at the start of his career with his first band, the Hootenanny Singers.
Here every summer, the remains of the fort, built in 1360, plays host to the Visfestivalen, a spectacular event in a setting fit to match its splendour. Its metre-thick walls provide perfect acoustics giving the occasion a unique and unforgettable atmosphere.
As proof of its enduring popularity, this year sees the 46th consecutive anniversary of the festival. To mark the occasion, promoter Hansi Schwarz has made up the bill from his favourites artists to appear over the entire history of the festival. In addition, Stegeholm will also provide a fitting setting for The Ark to headline the one-day UnderBar Himmel Festival as part of their farewell tour.
Whether it is for the music, the history, the culture, the landscape, or most likely, all of the above, Västervik has something to offer everyone. It won’t remain a hidden gem much longer.
Article sponsored by Västervik: Sweden’s most beautiful archipelago.