Last week we spent a few days exploring Gothenburg; an inviting and laid-back city on Sweden’s west coast. Time flew by as we strolled along the leafy boulevards, enjoyed Fika in cosy cafes, and delved into Swedish culture in some of the city’s captivating museums. Meandering through Gothenburg makes for the perfect mini break.
Gothenburg is Sweden’s second-largest city, yet its vibe is decidedly more chilled than its big sister Stockholm. It sits on the waters edge, is laced with Dutch-style canals, and has a sensational coffee culture. It’s easy to walk round the city, but if you do need to give your legs a rest then hop on one of the trams that stretch out to the all the different inviting neighbourhoods. Four or five days is enough to fit in the best bits of Gothenburg. Here’s what not to miss:
Have traditional Fika in a cosy cafe
Fika is a Swedish tradition meaning ‘to have coffee.’ Yet the culture is more about socialising than the actual coffee, and is often accompanied with cinnamon buns, cakes, and open sandwiches. A famous spot to grab Fika is Cafe Husaren – their cinnamon buns are mind-blowing in size. Its easy to spot on a corner in Haga, with ginormous buns lining the window and tourists and locals holding up the pastries over their faces for funny pictures. The other cakes in their were just as enticing, and the rich, chocolatey Kladdkaka is another Swedish cake you must try. Many other cafes serve delicious Fika options, and a great way to wander the city is stopping frequently to indulge in this tradition.
Gothenburg Museum of Art
The Gothenburg Museum of Art sits at the top of the city’s main leafy boulevard Avenyn. In the centre of the square in front sits the famous statue, Poseidon, the sea God, by Carl Miles. The museum showcases a variety of art, both classic and contemporary. The museum has a Nordic profile, with the world’s foremost collection of Nordic painting from the turn of the 19th Century. There are six floors to explore with changing exhibitions on photography and scultpure, as well as art from West artists like Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. The museum is completely free if you’re under 25, and only a small cost for admission otherwise.
Spot Swedish wildlife in Slottsskogen park
When we visited Slottskogen there was fresh snow on the ground, making it a Narnia wonderland. In summer, the park is a flowery haven though, hosting festivals and concerts and offering the chance to sunbathe and dip in the waters. The park zoo is open all year round though, with a focus on tame and wild Nordic animals. You can spot elks, reindeer, goats, seals, Gotland ponies and Oeland geese. Slottsskogen is working actively to preserve species native to the Nordic region that are under threat. Every day you can watch the zookeepers feed the park’s seals and penguins at 2pm and 2.30pm.
Visit the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum sits high on a hill in Slottsskogen. It has a huge collection of animals from all over the world. It contains the world’s only mounted blue whale, as well as a huge African elephant, a sea lion and birds and fish from every continent. It doesn’t take long to explore the exhibition and the museum is quite dated, but it’s worth a trip if you’re in the park anyway just for its fantastic gift shop. You wish every flora, fauna and quirky animal poster lining the shop wall was hung on your wall at home. The cafe serves up cheap and filling lunches and cakes with a sweeping views of the snowy park below.
Liseberg is Gothenburg’s charming amusement park, with a traditional character but modern rollercoasters to get you screaming. It opened in 1923 and is one of the most-visited amusement parks in all Scandinavia. The park is shut from January to April, but runs different themes for spring, summer, Halloween and Christmas. Throughout the year the park hosts concerts and events in its lively setting. Liseberg has Scandinavia’s longest and fastest rollercoast Helix and Europe’s largest free-fall attraction AtmosFear and Balder. For 2018, the park is opening a brand new roller-coaster Valkyria – Europe’s longest diver coaster with a vertical drop of 50 metres. Liseberg is fun for any visitor of any age, and can easily fill a whole day riding the rollercoasters and digging into candyfloss and hotdogs.
Cheer on Gothenburg’s team at the Ice Hockey
You can get surprisingly cheap, last minute tickets to the ice hockey and although we booked as a last minute decision it turned out to be a highlight of the trip. Located pretty centrally, next to Liseberg, is the indoor arena Scandinavium and unlike many ice hockey arenas it is really warm inside. So, you can sit with your beer and enjoy the match without shivering the whole way through it. Frölunda Hockey Club, also known as the Frölunda Indians, are Gotheburg’s team and they have a loyal and spirited fan base. Joining the fans, and listening to their chants, is a great way to get into the modern Gothenburg culture.
Eat delicious fish as the Feskekôrka fish market
Feskekôrka translates as “Fish Church” because of the iconic building’s resemblance to a gothic-inspired church. It sits on the edge of a canal and is an atmospheric place to enjoy lunch. Fishmongers peddle salmon, tuna, langoustines, crawfish, fresh crabs and pickled herring. Some of the fish on offer is ready to eat their, like crab sandwiches, and upstairs the restaurants serves delicious fresh catches and champagne if you feel like some fine dining.
Wander through the Haga district
Haga is a favourite area of the city for tourists and locals alike. It certainly charmed us with its traditional wood buildings, cobbled streets and quirky corner cafes and courtyards. It’s the perfect area to grab Fika, but also to rifle through the quaint stores selling gifts, crafts, books, home-ware and unique souvenirs. At night the area continues to bustle, as people settle down in candlelit eateries and sip beer in laid-back bars. Cafe 8586 served a fresh and colourful brunch buffet for a reasonable price. Filling lasagne, vegetable pies and salads were followed by nutty chocolates, blueberry pastries and strong coffee. Despite the chilly air, the sun was shining down on Haga and the locals were not missing the chance to catch some rays on the cafe tables outside making a delightful atmosphere throughout the streets.
Visit the islands
Gothenburg’s achipelago consists of dozens of islands stretching into the sea next to the city’s coastline. You only need to take a short tram ride and the a ferry from Saltholmen to reach the islands. The natural beauty of the sea and the archipelago can be enjoyed in a day, or if you’ve fallen in love with the area like we did, you can book into a guesthouse on one of the islands and stay there. The area is divided into North and South, or Norra skärgården and Södra skärgården and both are easily accessible from the city. The southern area is car-free and has great walking paths, charming villages and beautiful beaches. You can take your car to the northern archipelago and there’s fabulous restaurants, galleries, museums and cycling routes. Any island you visit will have its own unique character and will offer the chance to experience the natural beauty of Sweden.
Rifle through the city’s shops
The city holds many high street stores and upmarket shops, but what Gothenburg really thrives in is both its vintage shops and Swedish design stores. Vintage shops like Beyond Retro and Pop Boutique sell stylish gear and the huge flee markets like Kommersen Loppmarknad sells a little bit of everything second hand. The design stores such as Pop-In showcase interesting graphic design from Swedish artists. Alternatively, if you want to sample some traditional food, or buy some delicacies to take home, head to the indoor market Saluhallen. The lingonberry jam is ironically Swedish and absolutely delicious. You’ll need to pack a half-empty suitcase to visit Gothenburg, or you’ll go home regretting all the unique and beautiful things you could have brought home with you.
For our trip to Gothenburg we accessorised with new arrivals from our best designers.
These vintage-inspired round glasses by Ray-Ban feature in a classic gold and are the perfect accessory for cosying into some Fika in Gothenburg’s Haga district.
The new metal round sunglasses in ruthenium by Alexander McQueen are urban and modern with a piercing metal bar detailing. They are slick and stylish, ideal for island hopping round Gothenburg’s archipelago.
Fika? Ice Hockey? Liseberg? The charming streets of Haga? Why do you love Gothenburg? Let us know in the comments below.