Varberg – a hidden gem

Architect's impression of Varberg harbour
Architect's impression of Varberg harbour

Varberg is an attractive community on the southwest coast of Sweden, with a long history of growth. In fact, 2017 marked the occasion when the municipality experienced 60 years of continuous population growth, which is quite rare in a Swedish context. Only 14 municipalities in Sweden have achieved this.

The city of Varberg is ideally located with the historic city centre right next to the coast, and with a rich and diverse rural countryside inland. Our location is exceptional – right in between two of Sweden’s fastest growing regions, the Greater Gothenburg region and the Greater Copenhagen region. The Swedish government is investing heavily in the west coast railway to increase the capacity for commuting, and to connect cities and regions along the way. In Varberg, this means our section of the railway will be in a tunnel beneath the city centre. To make the most of this we will move parts of our harbour and have begun to plan for a new waterfront area that connects the city centre with the coastline, as the industrial barriers are removed.

Varberg: growing and flourishing

In the 1950s, Varberg was ‘discovered’ by people in Sweden’s bigger and more industrial cities. This of course coincided with the larger availability of cars to more people. Before that, the towns along the southwest coast of Sweden were mostly dependent on fishing and farming, but suddenly the tourist sector exploded when city people needed a summer holiday on the coast. Varberg is one of the cities that has really flourished because of this development, whereas others flourished for a while and then slowly went into a quiet slumber. That Varberg is different from other communities is obvious in so many ways. Much due to a high level of entrepreneurship, there is a very diverse business sector in the municipality. From large-scale production of timber, pulp and energy, to countless hotels and restaurants that serve Varberg as one of Sweden’s most popular spa and coast resorts – all year round. Varberg is in many ways a hidden gem, but more and more people are discovering the city as a place in which to settle. With less than an hour by car or train to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, and the airport of Landvetter, Varberg is really well connected.

Varberg
Varberg city centre

Varberg is making the most of this fortuitous position. The building boom in Sweden is also apparent here and new residential areas have emerged from wise planning and developing former industrial properties, as well as from the use of fill-in sites to make the city more interesting for everyday life. Although most of the development for housing is focused on the city, we strive to involve residents living in our more rural communities too. We engage people in the decisions that have the greatest effect on their everyday lives. Through dialogue and local action plans we work together to see where public and commercial service, infrastructure, and housing will come to best use. It is also a way for our citizens to meet with local politicians and decision makers to share their thoughts on how the municipality can be made even more attractive. A sustainable society needs to be based on people empowerment and the foundations of democracy. New forms of meetings are important for reinventing the community. Our aim is clear, and we are acting on it. We are building a community converging around means of public transportation and sustainable lifestyles.

Reinventing the community. Building on creativity

Creativity, innovation and a strong focus on the social and cultural aspects of sustainability are at the very heart of developing the municipality of Varberg to take position as the Swedish west coast’s creative hot spot.

In our vision for the future, the municipality has unique opportunities. It is important for us that it is possible to lead a good life within the entire municipality, and not only in the city. This is becoming ever more important as decision making is moving farther and farther away from the people. A sustainable society needs to be based on people empowerment and the foundations of democracy. New forms of meetings are therefore important for reinventing the community.

Come to Varberg. Share our vision

In Varberg, we wish to involve people in the creative process. Our aim is clear, and we are acting on it. That we have sustained this momentum shows in the many awards we have received – and continue to recieve. Varberg has been appointed ‘Sweden’s Most Livable Municipality’ in the category of smaller communities for four years in a row. Our thriving city centre was recently the winner in Sweden’s ‘City Centre of the Year’ award, and living in the wonderful coastal province of Halland, it is certainly very fitting that the yearly Varberg event ‘Hallifornia’ was awarded ‘Placebrander of the Year’. We are proud of these awards and all the people that have worked so hard to make them possible; we regard them as complementary to our chosen path towards the future.

Special Report Author Details
Author: Jan Malmgren
Organisation: The City of Varberg (Office for Sustainable & Strategic Planning)
Email: jan.malmgren@varberg.se
Website: Visit Website

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