Historical and old photos of Västerås, Västmanland
Västerås is one of the oldest cities in Sweden and Northern Europe. The name originates from Västra Aros (West Aros), which refers to the river mouth of Svartån. The area has been populated since the Nordic Viking Age, before 1000 AD. In the beginning of the 11th century it was the second largest city in Sweden, and by the 12th century had become the seat of the bishop. Anundshög is located just outside the City of Västerås. Anundshög is Sweden's largest burial mound. "Hög" is derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound or barrow. It was built about 500 AD and is over 74 yards (68 m) wide and is almost 10 yd (9.1 m) high.
In the ensuing centuries, a cathedral and a monastery were built; the Gothic cathedral, rebuilt by Birger Jarl on an earlier site, and consecrated in 1271, was restored in the 19th century. The first City Arms date from the end of the 13th century. A castle commands the town from an eminence; it was captured by King Gustav I and rebuilt by him, and Eric XIV was confined there from 1573 to 1575. Gustav also called together the riksdag in Västerås. During the riksdag assembly, the decision was made to convert Sweden into a Protestant state and to remove the power of the Catholic Church. Rudbeckianska gymnasiet, the oldest gymnasium (secondary school) in Sweden, was built in Västerås by Johannes Rudbeckius in 1623. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the growing of cucumber became popular, and Västerås received the nickname Gurkstaden (the Cucumber City), which it still retains today.
Västerås is predominantly known as an industrial city, but also a retailing and logistics city. The city wants to distinguish itself as Västerås – Mälarstaden, meaning "Västerås—the city by Lake Mälaren", in order to attract tourists and new inhabitants, as well as students to the local university college, Mälardalen University (approximately 16,000 enrolled students in Västerås and in the nearby Eskilstuna). To this effect, the city has started using a designed logo as branding in some official contexts, partially replacing the coat of arms, as well as rebuilding several old harbor areas to make them more attractive to live in. Västerås has the largest lakeside commercial and recreational port in Scandinavia on Lake Mälaren. The lake has many islands, and there are tourist boats that go out to them daily in the summer. The city also has a skyscraper colloquially nicknamed "Skrapan" (English: The Scraper) which has Sweden's highest-located cocktail bar, called Sky Bar, on the 24th floor of the building. Until 2017, Västerås hosted Power Big Meet, an annual event for owners and enthusiasts of classic American cars. The event moved to Lidköping in 2017, with arrangers citing having outgrown the available facilities in Västerås. Long-time Power Big meet collaborator Klas Brink instead arranged the competing Västerås Summer Meet at the same location as Power Big Meet had been arranged for years.