Life is at its most tranquil out in the archipelago, while the town centre has a cosy atmosphere that makes shopping a real pleasure, with a combination of familiar chain stores and local shops. Karlshamn also has many cultural gems and well-preserved buildings that reflect the town’s colourful past. If you enjoy fishing we have some of the best salmon fishing stretches in the world here, or you could go on a wildlife safari, explore and experiment with science, walk or cycle along the river Mörrum or enjoy the party atmosphere at one of the largest and liveliest town festivals in Sweden. It’s hard not to have fun here.
Karlshamn, which was originally called Bodekull, was given its town privileges back in 1664 by the then king, Charles X Gustav, and was named after him two years later. It had an ideal location on the Baltic Sea, the harbour was one of the deepest in Sweden, and Frisholmen (the Citadel), the fortified island at the mouth of the harbour, provided good protection from the Danes, who wanted to retake their land. At its peak, about 400 soldiers were garrisoned on the Citadel. They lived under harsh conditions and fought hard in the skirmishes with Denmark. The town was already home to many German and Dutch merchants, who were skilled seamen and traders. This was one of the main reasons why Karlshamn became such a prosperous trading town.
Despite several fires and outbreaks of plague in the 18th century the town continued to thrive. There were more than 40 tobacco works here, and snuff from the region was sold all over Europe. In the 19th century, the arrival of the railway gave a real boost to shipping and trade, as even more German merchants settled here. Thanks to its snuff and tobacco production, two factories making punsch and the first and largest playing card printing works in Sweden, the town became known as a den of iniquity. To crown it all off, the “King of Spirits” – Lars Olsson Smith – whose face decorates one of Sweden’s biggest export products, began his career as a distiller here.
The harbour quarter was a lively place where emigrants bound for America rubbed shoulders with merchants and smugglers, and there was a pub on every corner.
Karlshamn still has one of the largest ports in Sweden and life beats strong in the old heart of the town, the square. The pubs and the verandas where punsch was once drunk have made way for friendly restaurants and cosy terrace cafés where people meet and socialise. To get the best picture of what life was like in the town in times gone by you should visit the cultural quarter. There are beautiful timber houses and cobbled streets all over the town and many people know Karlshamn as the “City with the beautiful backyards”.