1. The journey is as important as the arrival
Halt. Did you just arrive by plane? Then you’ve got it all wrong. Gothenburg’s heritage is as much about water as terra firma, so get out there and gaze upon the city from your vessel of choice. That’s how many a historical Gothenburger got here, after all.
You can kayak on the 17th-century moats and canals, doze along them on a sightseeing tour that also enters the harbour, or take a ferry up and down the Göta. Some ferry trips are free, which is a real city hack – the views are immense, especially at sunset, when the dying light plays on the port’s enormous structures, from the Lilla Bommen “Lipstick” building to the Älvsborg bridge and the harbour crane in Eriksberg.
For further nautical fun, also check out the Maritime Museum and Aquarium or Maritiman, the floating-ship museum.
Jetties with sailboats and yachts along Gota Alv River in the harbour of Gothenburg © TasfotoNL/Shutterstock
2. You'll find some of Sweden's best seafood here
If you’re a stickler for the “eat local” mantra, then get ready to have a fishy on a little dishy, as the song goes. You can run the full gamut in Gothenburg, from cheap-as-chips to Michelin stars.
In the former camp, the Strömmingsluckan food stand does unbelievable fried mackerel with lingonberries and nutmeggy mash for a pittance. In the city’s Feskekôrka fish market – aka the “fish church” – you can pick up pre-prepared meals such as fish in white wine sauce with peas and potato – microwaved before your very eyes – for about €9. Abundant prawn salads go for the same price.
To really dive deep into the belly of the whale (and your pockets), head to Gothenburg’s most popular fish restaurant (the second favourite, Restaurang Gabriel, is in the Feskekôrka). Michelin-starred Sjömagasinet is set in a gorgeous old wooden building overlooking the river – your dinner might have swum by that morning.
Tina Stafren/Gotenburg & Co
3. There are some seriously cool neighbourhoods to nosy around
Gothenburg has its fair share of grand 18th- and 19th-century merchants’ houses – testament to the city’s long and profitable legacy of trade – but one of the most appealing neighbourhoods, Haga, was developed for the city’s poorest residents. Associated with Gothenburg’s blue-collar workers, wood-and-brick construction takes precedence over stone, lending this corner of town a warm feel. The courtyards tucked here and there off the main drags are little treasure troves of good eating and drinking.
Just to the west, the four parallel Långgatan streets are still a little bit spit-and-sawdust in parts and good for a casual beer with the friendly locals. But even this area is getting gentrified – for full hipster points, take a tram out to the Majorna neighbourhood where venues such as Matería are still well off the tourist trail. While you’re out here you might as well nip over to cultural centre Röda Sten, tucked beneath Älvsborg bridge, where you can watch the maritime traffic as you’re being edified and watered.
More centrally (a 15-minute meander northeast from Haga), you’ll find Gothenburg’s design district. Here plenty of stores purvey the city’s cool, which is a little more laidback than Stockholm’s. One must-see is Designtorget, where the work of an individual designer is selected by a jury to be showcased for one month in the store. Designtorget sits opposite the Nudie Jeans repair shop, where you can have your local denim patched up for free.
Jorma Valkonen/Gotenburg & Co
4. You can enjoy the best freakin’ fika in Sweden
Sweden is all about the fika – a tradition of taking a break with a coffee and a snack. While coffee runs in the country’s veins, it’s not very often of a high quality – usually you’ll get poor beans roasted darkly. But Gothenburg has latched onto the craft coffee scene with relish.
The Magasingatan branch of Da Matteo, a rickety factory of a coffee shop with a cute yard, looks and drinks the part. Their sourdough cinnamon buns are stacked warm in racks, but also keep an eye out for the cardamom version.
If you’re really feeling greedy, though, buy your bun in Haga, which is renowned for purveying pizza-sized kanelbullar – none of this lagom nonsense along here (lagom being the Swedish concept of “not too much, not too little”).
© Susanna Svensson/Shutterstock