Sölvesborg is, despite its small population, for historical reasons normally still referred to as a city. Statistics Sweden, however, only counts localities with more than 10,000 inhabitants as cities.
The port town of Sölvesborg was founded in the 12th century, between the mountain Ryssberget and the bay to the east (Sölvesborgsviken), but the city itself has grown up around the church and later on the castle. The oldest part of the church of Saint Nicholas is from the 12th century. In the 14th century, the church formed part of a Carmelite convent. (Kindström 1945)
At about the same time as the church was built, the castle took shape. The oldest part are slightly younger than the church, and although the earliest days are not well documented (Liedgren 1967), it is supposed that it was originally merely a fortress. The castle came to be extended - both its height as well as the area it covered during the years.
The history of Sölvesborg is marked by its location on the main road connecting the then Danish districts of Skåne and Blekinge, therefore a fortress was built as Sölvesborg was the main city in the province of Sölvesborg (called Sölvesborgs län).
The origin of the name Sölvesborg name is not quite clear, but is believed to come from the founder of the castle, Sölfwitz or Sölvitz. The name thus means the castle (Borg) of Sölfwitz. Others mean that the mentioned Sölve might be the Norse Viking King Sölve or Salve.
During the Middle Ages and well into the 16th century, Sölvesborg marked a strategic city in the west, together with the easternmost city - Kristianopel. During its prime years, the city came to host many of the ruling Danes when they came to visit the town. (Liedgren 1967). With the Danish king Christian IV, change came to be. The old town west to Sölvesborg - Vä, was burnt down during the wars and Christian wanted to replace it with a new one - Christianstad (the city of Christian). In order to accomplish this, the privileges to trade from Vä and Sölvesborg were withdrawn and given to Kristianstad. The city thus became less important and subsequently fell behind.
The castle was abandoned after the Danish defeat to the Swedes at the battle of Knäred in 1637. Rather than letting the Swedes seize the castle, the foreman of the castle decided that it should be burnt. Today, nothing but ruins remains, but the old castle in Bäckaskog is of the same age and of similar construction.
The now defunct city privileges were not returned until in 1841, by the Swedish king Carl XIV.
In the same era, a shipping dock was opened and remained in the city until 1982.
Today, little of the old, traditional industries remain. Instead, the city relies on work commuters and small scale industries, as well as tourists. Outside the city, the fishing industry, especially in the harbour towns of Djupekås, Hällevik and Nogersund are important employers.
Sölvesborg still retains its picturesque street structure, unlike many other Swedish cities. Even after a near total fire in 1801, when the entire city except the church burnt down, the city decided to retain it instead of adapting a grid pattern.
In central Sölvesborg, the twin hills of Kanehall and Vitehall, which up until the 18th century were magnificent lookout points, are still worth a visit as they are located in the beech tree forest, one of Europe's largest coherent beech tree forest. Today, visitors need to go further upp Ryssberget to get the same view, as the trees have grown tall.
Other notable visits include the Nicolai Church, whose oldest part stem from the 12th century and the runestones in and outside the church. The best preserved runestone is the stone located inside the church.
In 1985, SR International - Radio Sweden established a powerful medium-wave radio transmission facility at Sölvesborg. Broadcasting international programming to a large area of Europe, its twin antenna towers, located some 10 km from the town of Sölvesborg itself, are notable local landmarks.