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  • Photographer: Hjo kommuns bildarkiv

Historical Hjo

  • Visit Hjo, Tourist Information Center

Hjo is a small picturesque town steeped in history, where every street corner will take you back in time and space. When you stroll the cobblestone lanes in the old parts of town, around the church and the market square, you can almost picture life how it used to be in the olden days. The grid plan in this area dates back as far as to the late 1300s. Further south, along the so called "beach stroll", this was the place where fishermen back in the early 1900s used to dry their fishing nets. In 1990 Hjo was awarded the European Nostra award for its well preserved buildings in the old parts of town.

 

The wooden houses 

As Hjo has been spared from major fires, with the exception of the fire of 1794, which burnt down the church and several buildings around it, Hjo has a number of well-preserved wooden buildings that is unique in Sweden. They can mainly be found around the square. You see, up until the latter half of the 19th century this was Hjo’s finest quarter, with the town hall, workshops, trade and crafts businesses, and houses that were often two storeys high. Inside the courtyards there were outhouses, cattle sheds and stables, and coach-houses made it possible to transport items from the street into the courtyards through the gates. The further you get from the square, the lower and simpler the buildings, and those the furthest away were the homes of workmen and fishermen. You can still see the beautiful gates around the square as you walk along the main streets of Hamngatan and Långgatan, and many of the outhouses and stables still stand inside the courtyards, although today some have been converted into charming apartments.  

A medieval town

Hjo is one of five medieval towns in the county of Skaraborg. In other words it’s an old town – over 600 years old, to be precise. It could be said that Hjo’s history began by the mouth of the River Hjoån in the Middle Ages. The establishment of Alvastra monastery, on the eastern side of Lake Vättern, and Varnhem, here on the western side of the lake, in the 12th century led to brisk traffic across the lake and Hjo was often used as a landing stage, partly for all of the monks travelling between the two monasteries. This created opportunities to start trading goods and services, and over time a community grew up – Hjo. Hjo was granted a town charter in 1413 and was entered into Erik of Pommern’s tax register.

Our European Nostra Award

In 1990 Hjo won the Europa Nostra Award for its well-preserved wooden buildings. But which special wooden details might you see on a walk through the wooden town? Let’s start with the hand-planed panel. Up until the late 19th century, most buildings in Sweden were made of wood. Prior to the fire of 1794, Hjo had 93 wooden buildings and one made of stone – the church. Afterwards the wooden buildings were given wooden panels. The panels were hand-crafted, i.e. sawn and planed by hand. It’s unusual to find buildings with preserved hand-planed panels in Swedish wooden towns today. But they’ve survived here in Hjo. In fact there are around 70 such buildings. They have large or small sections with, for example, beautifully profiled hand-planed panels. Many of the buildings are privately owned, but you can experience the architecture from the street at the following addresses: Torggatan 8, the Lutheran Mission Hall at Torggatan 5, Sjögatan 1 and Sjögatan 6, Gästgivaregården at Sjögatan 9, Forsbergsgården at Regeringsgatan, Hamngatan 10, Kakelugnsmakaregården at Hantverksgatan 1 and Klings gård at Långgatan 10.