In the 12th century, a number of fishermen and their families settled where the sea met the land near the now covered mouth of the river Vassån. From this settlement grew Ystad, today a central meeting place for people, ideas and cultures. The town's buildings are proof of a long, exciting history.
St. Maria Church and Monastery were built back in the 13th century, while a variety of preserved buildings and environments from the centuries that followed are evidence of the town's expansion over the years. Today, Ystad is a modern town with a huge range and opportunities to live a good life. The town's coastal location, chosen by those early settlers, provides excellent access to the Baltic Sea. There is also a sandy beach in the centre of town and more than 40 km of beach facing south towards Österlen. Ystad is close by.
Culture and nature
Ever since the ferry links started from Ystad in the 17th century, music and theatre have played an important role. Today, the cultural life buzzes as never before, and the town's traditional theatre is often the hub of cultural events. The municipality is host to many active societies and associations who are happy to show off their skills when the opportunity arises.
In 2004, Ystad was transformed into a film town. It had long been known as the home of Inspector Kurt Wallander in Henning Mankell's popular books, but that year filming based on the books and scripts by the author commenced. Around fifty films have been made in the region since then, and several are still in production. Since 1991, when the first book came out, Wallander tourists have visited Ystad to experience the scenes for real.
Simrishamn is currently a picturesque town that is blooming in several senses. In summer, Storgatan is lined with restaurants and cafés, creating a continental atmosphere. At the harbour, people gather and eat ice creams.
If you stroll through the oldest parts of the town with its pastel-coloured houses in the middle of summer, you'll pick up the scent of roses. Behind the fences along the streets lie small gardens like oases among the houses. There are plenty of roses in various forms in Simrishamn.
Significant trading town
Simrishamn was given its town charter in the 13th century, thanks to its herring fishing. Initially, the name was Svimraros (-os means mouth), with the settlement lying where the river Tommarpsån flows into the Baltic Sea, a natural place for a harbour. The town's streets and buildings bear witness to a rich history. For a long time, Simrishamn was a significant maritime town and became part of the Swedish kingdom in 1658. Gradually, trade developed, as did the shipping companies. During the 19th century, Österlen had Sweden's largest fleet of sailing ships.
Simrishamn is currently the country's largest fishing port in terms of quantity of fish landed. From June to August there is also a boat connection between Simrishamn and Allinge, Bornholm and Christiansö, a quick boat trip of an hour.
If the film industry of today has taken other parts of the region to its heart, Tomelilla was already a star of the silver screen. Comedians Hasse Alfredsson and Tage Danielsson made a number of fi lms here during the 1970s and 1980s: Äppelkriget (The Apple War), Den enfaldige mördaren (The Simple-minded Murderer) and Jim och piraterna Blom (Jim and the Blom Pirates). During the fi lm Picassos äventyr (The Adventures of Picasso), the marketplace in Tomelilla had to stand in for Madrid, Paris, London, New York and the Riviera, with the help of Per Åhlin's glass paintings. Where else would the largest, smallest and only Hasse & Tage Museum be?
Art and handicrafts
Artists and artisans like to move to this area where they keep their studios and workshops open for visitors. The area is also home to many galleries, as well as Sweden's fi rst rural art gallery, Tomelilla Konsthall (Tomelilla Art Gallery), which opened in 1965.
Castles and forts
The area has a rich history. Stone ships, stone circles and the grave of Silverfl ickan" (Silver Girl) in Gårdlösa, as well as the remains of Skåne's largest fort, Vallen, from the 14th century, are among the famous ancient monuments. The castles and forts bear witness to riches, as well as disputes and hardships. Even today, the buildings give an impression of splendour and are excellent places for walks, visits and experiences.
From having been a fishing village, Kivik soon became a summer paradise thanks to the mild climate and also to its wonderful location on the hill down towards Hanöbukten bay. The summer season starts in May, when thousands upon thousands of apple trees burst into bloom.
As early as Easter, the area receives visits from art enthusiasts in connection with the traditional Art Circuit in Österlen. The area around Kivik is very special. Extremely hilly, it creates a landscape that offers excellent views and wonderful opportunities for bathing, hiking and walking. South of Kivik lies Stenshuvud, one of the most varied national parks in Sweden, rich in species, with a fantastic view from the top of the mountain. The area is also rich in ancient monuments; just outside the village is the most famous, Kiviksgraven, Sweden's largest bronze age burial site. A huge stone mound that, at its heart, contains 3000-year-old stone engravings. Kivik's Esperöd Arboretet (Esperöd Arboretum), with its unique collection of exotic trees, is also worth a visit.
Kivik's market in July dates back to the Hansa period. It provided a colourful setting for many of Fritiof Nilsson Piraten's tall tales. Towards the beginning of autumn, apples are another reason for a market. At the end of September, the Äppelmarknad, or Apple Market, is held in Kivik, with the famous apple picture down at the harbour and lots of delicious fruit and fun entertainment.
High up on the ridge, offering fantastic views is Sweden's largest preserved ancient monument, Ales stenar, which today includes a total of 59 stone blocks in the form of a 67-meters long and 19-meters wide ship. The paths up here from the harbour and from the village are well-used; the stones are a popular tourist destination that is really worth making the effort for.
Early in the morning, when the sun rises from the sea, the site's true glory is revealed. It's easy to understand why our forefathers chose Kåsehuvud for their monumental stone ship. Walkers on Skåneleden (the Skåne Trail) pass over the remarkable sand-steppe vegetation in the hills around here, where many bird species and butterfly varieties can be found. The hills are also popular for a completely different reason. This is where you will find Sweden's best conditions for paragliding, attracting visitors from near and far.
Grilled and smoked from the sea
Down in the harbour, the only one between Ystad and Skillinge, fishing and leisure boats bob up and down. Anglers stand on the pier, which sometimes functions as a bathing platform, hoping for a sea trout, while elsewhere far off on the cul-de-sac, smoke is rising from the fish smokehouse. The smells are exquisite, making you long for a plate of herrings. But fish dishes are not the only thing you can enjoy, as there are a number of other restaurants and cafés close by.
Art and light
Along the village street lie small houses with slate roofs, transomed windows and well-painted double doors. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed. Artists discovered Kåseberga early on. Prins Eugen, Frans Berg and Tora Wega Holmström came here to paint and enjoy the light. Internationally renowned artist Magnus Wallin, born 1965, grew up in the village and comes from a family that was involved in fishing for generations.
Villages are dotted around Ystad & Österlen, like currants in a cake. Many of them offer attractive churches, exciting ancient monuments, old houses and picturesque locations.
Many villages have an active cultural life, with residents, old and new, and summer visitors ensuring a dynamic energy and excitement. Artist villages Peppinge, Valleberga and Ingelstorp are a few examples, as is Hammenhög, which is experiencing a cultural revival. Borrby Bokby have with their antiquarian increased interest in literature, Södra Mellby certainly has an artistic vibe and Brösarp offers a multi-faceted art gallery.
As you travel around, each village is worth a short stop. Along the coast, old fishing villages lie in a row: Kåseberga with Ales stenar (Ale's stones), Brantevik and Skillinge with their maritime museums and barges, Baskemölla which has Tjörnedala Konsthall for art, Vik with the natural formation of Prästens badkar (the Priest's Bathtub), and Vitemölla and its associated hiking area.
Further inland, other experiences await. Ystad & Österlen is an area with lots of small villages, offering attractive churches, exciting ancient monuments, old houses and picturesque locations. The churches carry their history with pride in each village; the church in Sankt Olof is near an old holy well and Ravlunda is home to the grave of Fritiof Nilsson Piraten. The churches are often incredibly beautiful, sometimes dating back to the 12th century and have murals by famous church painters. The church in Stora Köpinge houses chalk paintings from the 14th century and a pulpit from 1597.