Since the 18th century, Karlstad has been associated with the sun thanks to a woman by the name of Eva-Lisa Holtz. She was a friendly, cheerful waitress whose sunny disposition and warm greeting earned her the nickname ‘Sola (‘the Sun’) in Karlstad’ far and wide. She was enterprising and ambitious, eventually opened her own restaurant and became a highly respected lady in the city. Today, Herman Reijer’s statue of Sola stands in one of the most picturesque places in Karlstad, outside Stadshotellet hotel, near the Klarälven river.
Sola, along with the smiling sun designed by Lasse Sandberg which Karlstad Municipality uses as a logo, has firmly established Karlstad as Sweden’s sunny city.
Thanks to the city’s location on Lake Vänern, the sun actually does shine a little more often here. Karlstad is very often among the top ten locations in Sweden for the number of hours of sun.
But the sun in Karlstad doesn’t mainly refer to the one in the sky – it’s our sunny disposition, our legacy from Sola. So even if the sun should ever be covered by clouds, you’ll still feel the warmth from the people you meet.
Where Klarälven river meets Lake Vänern
Being at the meeting-point of Sweden’s longest river with the biggest lake in Northern Europe, Karlstad (historical name Tingvalla) has been an important trading and market town since the 13th century. And commerce is still important today, with impressive growth both in the city centre and in the out-of-town retail parks.
It was in 1584 that Duke Karl, who later became King Karl IX, gave Karlstad its town charter and also its name. Karlstad became a diocesan capital in 1647 and a seat of the county government in 1775. And just like many other Swedish cities, Karlstad has been struck by great fires. The worst occurred one day in July 1865. It ravaged virtually the entire city. Only a few of the city’s buildings survived, a couple of buildings along Älvgatan as well as Biskopsgården and the cathedral.
Sweden’s longest and oldest stone bridge
One of Karlstad’s best-known structures is the old stone bridge over the Klarälven river. Östra bron bridge with its 12 arches is the longest and oldest stone bridge in Sweden, with a length of 168 metres. It started being built back in 1761. Before that there had been wooden bridges there, but because they were unable to withstand the volume of water in the spring river, a stone bridge was needed instead. It was estimated that it would take four years to build the bridge but it didn’t open until 1797, 32 years later, and it was not completely finished until 1811.
Water – part of the city
In Karlstad, water is always close by. There is always a part of Klarälven or one of its tributaries either right outside the window or just a short walk away. In summer you can even travel by bus on the water. And on the water buses, the journey is as important as the destination. They run services on the river and in parts of the Lake Vänern archipelago.
If you like, you can swim in the river in the city centre. And in the Inre hamn/inner harbour area, you can enjoy the summer evenings and night life.
A vibrant storytelling tradition
In Karlstad, and in fact in the whole of Värmland County, culture is a part of everyday life. A vibrant storytelling tradition and great creative power mean there is much to discover and experience here – on all kinds of levels.
Wermland Opera hosts world-class operas and musicals. Värmland Museum is full of surprises with fascinating, unique exhibitions. Alsters Herrgård is a memorial to the poet Gustaf Fröding. And Sandgrund Lars Lerin is home to a permanent exhibition of one of the leading watercolour artists in the Nordic region. Along with exciting small galleries, theatres and handicraft shops, this helps Karlstad live up to the legacy left it by such famous names as Gustaf Fröding, Nils Ferlin and Selma Lagerlöf.
The whole of Värmland
Within just over an hour you can also reach large parts of Värmland County with its culture and magical nature. All year round.
Mårbacka, residence of the late author Selma Lagerlöf, culture and arts centre Sliperiet in Borgvik, Gla Forest nature reserve, Ransäterstämman folk music festival, the art museum in Kristinehamn, Rottneros Park sculpture park, Västanå theatre, Rackstad Museum and Klässbols Linen Weaving Mill are just some examples. There are also all of Värmland’s farm shops, studios and art galleries.
And Karlstad is the gateway to all these experiences.
Today’s Karlstad is shaped by experiences, events and meetings. Located in between Stockholm, Gothenburg and Oslo, and thanks to excellent communications by bus, rail and air, Karlstad is the ideal place for a small get-together or a major event, concert or congress.
Karlstad also offers endless possibilities for congress and event organisers. Karlstad CCC is one of Sweden’s largest and most modern event and convention centres. Nöjesfabriken, with its many meeting venues, large restaurant capacity and stages, offers a wide range of opportunities for successful meetings. And for truly large meetings there is the Löfbergs Arena, one of the best event arenas in Sweden. Or why not meet outdoors? The Mariebergsskogen city park has Sweden’s largest covered open-air theatre, for example.
The majority of the city’s hotels naturally also offer different kinds of conference facilities, and the acclaimed Karlstad University has a wide range of meeting venues in various sizes.
Karlstad has some 1,500 hotel rooms and 3,000 beds, most of them within walking distance from conference facilities and communications, as well as shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
With sunny Sola, the natural hospitality of the local people and all the ultra-modern meeting and conference centres, Karlstad today is one of the hottest meeting-places in Sweden.
Always big experiences
Karlstad is all about experiences. Choose from world-class concerts, club gigs, art, musicals and opera, or exciting sports events.
There is almost always something going on in Karlstad. The summer sees events like Putte i parken, one of Sweden’s nicest music festivals, as well as the Karlstad Grand Prix athletics meeting.
In the winter we are proud to host for example Sweden’s biggest recurring world championship event, Rally Sweden. It is a high-speed winter festival, and the most public-friendly rally event in the world.
Nöjesfabriken always has some great musical experiences to offer. At the Löfbergs Arena you can see world-famous artists, magnificent shows and TV productions. And Mariebergsskogen with its green spaces and outdoor stage is the obvious summer favourite.
And of course ice-hockey
The Färjestad BK ice-hockey team has reached eight Swedish Championship finals since the turn of the millennium, a fact that speaks for itself. And the people of Karlstad love to celebrate their championship wins on Stora Torget square.
FBK’s home arena is the Löfbergs Arena, one of Sweden’s best sports and event arenas. Just a stone’s throw away is Färjestadstravet, the harness-racing track that hosts a wide range of elite events. This is also where the Rally Sweden sprint stages are held.
So to sum up, Karlstad has the arenas, the opportunities and the commitment for most types of events, whether in culture, sport or some other field of experience.
Partnership for success
Karlstad University is one of Sweden’s youngest and most modern universities, and obviously the 12,000 or so students make their mark on the city.
The university is renowned for its far-reaching collaboration with the private sector. It is a strong, important partner in the region when it comes to competence sourcing, research and development.
Trade and industry in Värmland County is also characterised by co-operation. The successful cluster known as The Paper Province brings together the forest and papermaking industry in the county. Along with its 100 member companies, the cluster works together to create new development and business opportunities. The Compare cluster works in a similar way in the IT and telecom sector, and the Steel & Engineering cluster in its field.
Karlstad combines growth with an ambition to create the best possible city for everyone to live in.