gothenburg is the most satisfying type of short-lived city: big on action, small on effort. Between its photogenic old quarters, engaging museums and ambitious foodie scene, this unassuming port has plenty to see and do, but not so much that you’ll get into sightseeing overload. Instead, enjoy these urban highlights between freshly baked pastries at chic cafes as planned or stroll to distant islands.
As it prepares to celebrate a Covid-delayed 400-year anniversary, the “world’s most sustainable city” – or according to the Global Destination Sustainability Index – is gaining momentum. The sites have been redesigned, the calendar of events is expanding and new districts are emerging.
▶ Start with this classic Swedish ritual: fika. You will need a friendly cafe, fabulous pastries and hot coffee. Thanks to its Frisbee-sized cinnamon buns, Café Husaren is often packed with Instagrammers, so instead join local students munching on cardamom-spiced pastries at cafe roastery da Matteo Magasinsgatan ( cakes from £1.50; damatteo.se), or enjoy the retro glamor of Ahlstroms, open since 1901 (pastries from £4; ahlstromskonditori.se).
▶ For a small city, Gothenburg’s museums are top-notch. The far-from-sheltered Stadsmuseum, located on the Gota Alv River near a photogenic German church, charts the area’s history since the Vikings (free; goteborgsstadsmuseum.se). The Konstmuseum, meanwhile, combines Scandi art treasures with works by Monet and Picasso (£5; goteborgskonstmuseum.se).
▶ Steps outside the 17th century Skansen Kronan fortress offer panoramic views of the city. A golden crown at its peak is also dazzling, and the jumble of red roofs and steel cranes spread below capture Gothenburg’s mix of old and new in a single frame (tours £16; skansenkronan.se).
▶ You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy Liseberg amusement park. There’s a nostalgic merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, charming old-fashioned wooden houses and, at Christmas, a glittering advent market. Hit the gambling stalls to win gigantic versions of Scandi chocolate bars such as Plopp or Marabou (entrance and passes from £20; liseberg.com)
▶ You are in Scandinavia, so design shopping is a must. Artilleriet is a Conran-esque indoor space; look for its blown glass candlesticks (articulet.se). Opposite, Swedish clothing brand Aplace sells Shoreditch-cool togs (aplace.com). For local artisanal souvenirs – strawberry jam; candles – visit the 17th century Kronhuset; this historic ammunition store is now lined with artisan shops (kronhuset.se).
▶ Gothenburg is not just a city; the region’s archipelago of more than 20 islands is a mere bus and ferry hop away and has fishing villages open to visitors all year round. Spend a day in Hono – there are beaches, seafood restaurants and a twee fishing museum, plus a scenic walking path along the colorful coastline.
Kafé Magasinet in Tredje Langgatan
STUDIOGRAFEN / GOTEBORG & CO
The coolest neighborhood
Follow the cool kids to Tredje Langgatan on Gothenburg’s west side, where leafy courtyard bars, cute cafes and micro-breweries abound (tredjelanggatan.se). There’s really only one street – it’s a small town after all – but it comes alive after dark. In November, the Auktionsverket Kulturarena event space hosts a hip, design-focused Christmas market called À la London (auktionsverketkulturarena.se). There are also excellent vintage shops in the surrounding streets.
Where to eat and drink
Gothenburg has a very exciting wine scene. Get a taste of the local obsession with craft drinks at this cozy neighborhood restaurant, a stone’s throw from Lorensberg’s main street. Beef tartare with an emulsion of grilled tomatoes and chopped new onion ashes with natural Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley (dish from £23; restaurangnatur.se).
At the edge of the river, this grande dame café exudes timeless magic. Take a seat under the sparkling glass chandelier and run your fork through a princess cake – a tiered affair of vanilla sponge, jam, cream and marzipan. Don’t leave it until the end of the day; they’ve been known to sell out (cakes from £2; brogyllen.se).
The city’s savvy ensemble heads to this intimate jazz club to munch on grilled cheese sarnis and sip funky wines as chilled beats spill out from its compact stage. Doors open at 5 p.m., with sets often at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.; check the website in advance to see who’s when, and arrive early to grab a seat (around £11; unityjazz.se).
Koka is a Michelin starred restaurant
Fresh Swedish ingredients, processed with precision worthy of a Michelin star: this place is proof that little Gothenburg has the culinary appeal of a big city. Settle in for down-to-earth service, a meat-free policy and innovative dishes, like halibut with tomato and marigold or chanterelles with yoghurt and dill. Around 90% of the ingredients are also organic (tasting menus from £59; restaurangkoka.se).
Set in an airy 1800s warehouse on trendy Magasinsgatan, Tavolo sprawls across New York’s Meatpacking District, with large-scale modern art to match – the centerpiece is a giant headed statue of horse. The festive vibe – it was even buzzing at 5.30pm on a Sunday – is met with the zing of fresh salads and a selection of creative pastas (mains from £15; tavolo.se).
Located on the coast of Hono Island, where the sunsets are particularly magical, this fish restaurant shows the richness of the waters of this western archipelago. The velvety lobster soup is in itself a reason to visit, but the platters of prawns, oysters, mussels, langoustines and crabs will have you lingering (mains from £21; tullhuset.se).
Where to stay
If you’ve been air-dropped on this fun Italy-themed staycation, you might think you’ve arrived in Rome – there’s a bustling restaurant covered in greenery serving giant pizzas, vintage-style photographs in the rooms and OTT floral wallpaper in the hallways, plus a rooftop bar. It’s on the nightlife strip, so if you’re a light sleeper, ask for a room on a higher floor to tone down the decibels (B&B doubles from £80; hotelbellora.se).
A gleaming tower hotel overlooking the water, Riverton shows Gothenburg’s modern side — think rooms with oversized white headboards, faux fur throws, and black-tiled bathrooms (some even have glass walls transparent; note if more privacy is needed). As well as couples, solo travelers and families are catered for via single rooms and serviced apartments (B&B doubles from £88; riverton.se).
Brick facade, high ceilings, modern interiors with metallic accents – this hotel in Gothenburg’s former post office does it all with aplomb. Close to the central station, its location is ideal for exploring by tram, bus and train. Get your cossie ready for the rooftop pool (B&B doubles from £110; nordicchoicehotels.com).
Haga Nygata is the main shopping street in the photogenic Haga district
If you only do one thing
Thanks to painted wooden houses and cobblestone streets, the photogenic Haga neighborhood cut is brimming with old-world Scandinavian charm. Head to the main shopping street Haga Nygata, where Tvala&Tvaga (tvalaochtvaga.se) sells Gothenburg-made soap, and Haga Tratoffelfabrik (hagatratoffel.com) offers traditional leather clogs and handbags.
Alicia Miller was a guest of Goteborg & Co (goteborg.com) and Visit Sweden (visitsweden.com)
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