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Skagerack, Strömstad centrum

The history of Strömstad


Welcome to Strömstad with the Koster Islands – often called Sweden's most westerly outpost. This is where you'll find the saltiest water on the west coast, together with inviting grey granite cliffs. With Strömstad as your base, you can be sure of getting a relaxing and eventful stay. Apart from the amazing archipelago, Strömstad also offers lots of restaurants, good shopping, activities, and Sweden's first marine national park, Kosterhavet. National Park, which opened in 2009. A broad range of places to stay makes it possible to find something to suit every taste.


Strömstad offers sea and nature, sailing and town living with a great range of shops, as well as gastronomic experiences based on delicacies from the ocean. There are many restaurants to choose from. The restaurants are listed on our website, under the heading "Eat" and in the our tourist brochure which can be downloaded under the heading "Info".


The shopping in Strömstad is impressive. The town centre has a large range of specialist stores and north of Strömstad you'll find Norrby Shopping Centre with around 110 shops. There is also a large shopping centre in Svinesund.


The river that became Strömstad

Strömstad was founded in the 1500s, by the mouth of the river Strömsån - under the name "Strömmen". This became the foundation for the present day Strömstad.

Timber had long been transported along the river. Both sawn and unsawn timber were important commodities. A large number of ships sailed here to buy wood. Once Bohuslän became Swedish, through the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658, the Government in Stockholm became interested in establishing a trading place in the north of Bohuslän. They also wanted to make the new province more Swedish. The Swedish Government had previously passed a law prohibiting trade from all loading places that were not towns. The Government maintained that all trade must be carried out through towns, and therefore the north of Bohuslän must have its own town. It was decided that the new town must be fortified, to help defend the newly won region. When the time came to select a site for the new town, Strömmen's loading place was chosen, probably because of the good harbour and the possibility to build fortifications in the nearby mountains, from which the town could be defended. Strömmen was granted a merchant town charter in 1667, and a town charter soon after.


Strömstad soon made a name for itself as an important shipping town, and during the great herring fishing era, in the second half of the 18th century, trade flourished. Salted herring, dried fish and wood were important commodities and several large merchant vessels had Strömstad as their home harbour. In parallel with an unprecedented herring fishing, the foundations were laid for what was later to become the main symbol of Strömstad; the spa resort Strömstad.


For centuries, Strömstad has been known for its trade. Nowadays, the many visitors during the summer months and the year round cross-border trade between Sweden and Norway mean that Strömstad has an usual number of retail outlets for a town of its size.


Strömstad - an old spa resort

Strömstad is one of Sweden's oldest spa resorts. It's not clear exactly when the first spa visitors arrived in the town, but what we do know is that people were taking the waters at Lejonkällan (the Lion Well) in 1782. The mineral water from the well was thought to cure illnesses like epilepsy, paralysis, rheumatism, etc.

Taking the waters was very fashionable at this time, and to combine outdoor activities with drinking the water was thought to have huge health benefits. In the following century, a number of outdoor and indoor baths were built in Strömstad. These offered shower baths, mud baths, tub baths and seaweed baths. The same treatments are still very popular today, and can be enjoyed in the current indoor spa, built in 1909. The outdoor swimming baths opened in 2005.

Life in a spa resort required summer restaurants and places for cultural entertainment and socialising. The assembly hall Skagerack was built in record time in 1877, when Strömstad suddenly found itself without a hall, due to the great fire which broke out in the town centre the previous year. In the mid-1800s, a restaurant opened on Laholmsudden, a stone's throw from Skagerack. A hotel section was added a hundred years later.

The establishment burnt down to the ground in the 1970s and the current Laholmen Hotel opened in 1984.


Strömstad Badanstalt

The current indoor bathing house was built in 1909. The old outdoor swimming baths, from 1888, was destroyed in a storm in 1968, and later burnt down as part of an exercise with the local fire department.



There is now a new venue for outdoor bathing by Laholmen, in the centre of Strömstad. It opened in June 2005, since when you can enjoy a refreshing morning dip, or a swim whenever you feel like it. This is a great place for swimming and sunbathing! Sun-deck, diving tower, changing rooms and a freshwater shower are available. There is also a sauna – two sauna rooms overlooking the ocean. To have a sauna on a chilly autumn evening, followed by a refreshing swim in the sea is a way to really enhance your quality of life.

Nattöppet i Strömstad

The Town Hall

The Town Hall is Strömstad's most remarkable building. It was built from granite, in magnificent Jugend-style. It was finalised in 1917 and opened in 1919.
In the early part of the 20th century, there was a discussion about whether Strömstad needed a new town hall. A committee was appointed, and after a lot of consideration it was suggested that a new town hall should be built in a central location, at a cost of 140,000 SEK. However, there was no money available. The wholesaler Adolf Fritiof Cavalli-Holmgren then offered to donate the money. The deed of gift was dated the 27 May 1908.


The donor set out very detailed instructions as to how and where the house should be built. In his letter of donation it states that the town hall must be located "on the highest part of the plot which used to belong to my parents, on the northern side of Strömsån, right opposite the large bridge". He also demanded that the house, apart from a court, the borough finance department, the town council and police station, should include: a savings bank, a post office, a "systembolag" (state-owned shop for the sale of alcoholic beverages), a museum, and apartments which would bring in rent to boost the town's finances.
After years of differences in opinion between the donor and the town leadership, the building work began in 1912. The final cost for the building work was around 600,000 SEK. The stone details in the Town Hall bear witness of the great skill of the local stonemasons at that time. The commemorative plaque by the main staircase was put up in 1923.

Adolf Fritiof Cavalli-Holmgren died on the 22 June 1922. At that time, four million SEK remained of his great fortune – along with the same amount in debts.


Magic numbers

Magic and symbolic numbers have been used by humans from time immemorial. In the Jewish and Christian faiths, the numbers were given symbolic meaning as a manifestation of the fact that God had arranged everything according to measurements, numbers and weights. The first twelve numbers were often given symbolic meaning based on the Bible. Some masonic organisations also use numerology and symbolic numbers.

The first person to take an interest in the design of this remarkable building – the Town Hall – was the town accountant, Jarl Jonasson. He found that all important events during the construction of the house took place on certain pre-decided dates, and that these numbers were also incorporated in the design of the building. Cavalli-Holmgren had the curious habit that he would only attend meetings and answer letters on certain days. These were the dates of his father's and mother's birthdays, their wedding day and engagement day.

The Town Hall is a memorial to his parents and has been designed around these dates. The numbers included in the dates have come to shape the entire building. As an example, the number of windows and doors on the first floor are thought to make the birth date of his father = 27. The Large Session Hall (Father's Hall) is 7 metres high, 7 metres wide and 13 metres long, when added up this makes 27. Mother's Hall is 7 metres + 7 metres + 5th month = 14 May. And so it goes on. There is probably still a lot to discover.

Today, the entire building is used by the various departments of the Town Council. Guided tours are held in the summer.


Bukten - A historic quarter

Bukten is Strömstads oldest remaining quarter. The buildings here are terraced houses by a cobbled street. Terraced housing was chosen because these were low buildings and offered views over the harbour and boats. They were built during the end of the 18th and the whole of the 19th century. Several of the houses are still permanent residences today. Before the railway was built in the early 20th century, the sea came right up to the dwellings.


Buktegatan is Strömstad's only remaining cobbled street. According to local legend, the women who lived in the houses along the street carried all the stones here. This street was constructed more than 100 years ago. At that time, local residents kept cows and pigs as pets. They had their fields outside of the built-up area. The fields started by the building which is now the library. The vegetable patches were located where the houses opposite the railway station are today, as well as in other sea-facing areas.


These buildings have been home to a number of famous people. One of them is 'Adina i Bukten', Adina Karlsson, Strömstad's "first lady" for a time. She was a teacher at the local school, lived at Buktegatan 4 and knew almost all there is to know about life in Strömstad from the turn of the century onwards. Inge Schiöler, a well-known artist from Strömstad, lived periodically at Buktegatan 3 during the 1960s.


From 1785, this house was owned by a tailor, Mr Bovall. The Chief Magistrate, J Hegarth, bought the house in 1827, and it remained under his ownership until 1882, when it was sold at auction to the sea captain Carolus Christensson. In 1959 it was bought by Inge Schiöler's sister Brita. In 1974, the house again changed owners and this was when the now famous Gallery Olivia opened here. During the summer months, the gallery owner, Liv Olsson, holds an open house.