Best things to do in Gothenburg: a glam gateway

written by
Rachel Mills

updated 27.07.2021

Sweden’s swanky compact second city is a perfect weekend getaway. Easy to navigate on foot, Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish) has a cool laidback charm and a burgeoning food and arts scene. Our author Rachel Mills spends a long weekend exploring the best things to do in Gothenburg and Sweden's stunning West Coast archipelago.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Sweden, your essential guide for visiting Sweden.

1. Feel the charm of the old town

It’s impossible to get lost in the tiny old town, as it has the old industrial harbour to the north, and the Rosenlund Canal to the south. Wander the atmospheric streets of Vallgatan, Södra Larmgatan and especially Magasinggatan to browse the minimalist and high-end design store Artilleriet, or über cool Nudie Jeans (they have a repair shop on site and will patch up your well-loved jeans for life).

Drop into tiny Victoriapassagen for fantastic coffee at the original da Matteo, and then cross the pretty canal to the main boulevard Kungsportsavenyn, known as Avenyn. It’s here that you’ll find the majority of designer shops and chains, alongside expensive bars and restaurants.

Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden

The Gothenburg Museum, Image: Goran Assner/

2. Discover Gothenburg's art

Visiting the variety of museums is one of the best things to do in Gothenburg and in Sweden in general. At the very end of Avenyn, with Carl Milles's 7m-high bronze Poseidon standing guard outside, is the Gothenburg Museum of Art, which has an amazing collection dating from the fifteenth century.

Make a beeline for the sixth floor dedicated to Scandinavian art, where it’s all very form meets function with sculptures dotted about and walls packed with artworks by the likes of Edvard Munch, Ernst Josephson and Carl Larsson.

The modern arts video-based pieces are hypnotising. If all this piques your interest in the Nordic Arts, check out the current exhibition “A Painted History”, a retrospective of nineteenth-century Swedish paintings.

Avenyn, Gothenburg, Sweden

The statue of Poseidon in Gothenburg, Image: Goran Assner,

3. Watch a play at the Gothenburg Opera House

Gothenburg Opera House, also known as Göteborgsoperan in Swedish, is a famous concert venue located on Lilla Bommen Waterfront. It is one of Scandinavia's leading opera houses and is home to opera, ballet and musical theatre performances.

Gothenburg Opera House is recognised for its diverse and high-quality performing arts programme so watching a play here is one of the best things to do in Gothenburg for the art lovers.

It offers a wide spectrum of performances, ranging from opera, ballet, and musical theatre, to contemporary dance and concerts. The repertoire encompasses both classical and modern works, drawing acclaimed artists and talented performers from all over the world.

Opera house of Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

Opera house of Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

4. Visit the Volvo Museum

One of the famous brands in Sweden, apart from IKEA and ABBA, is of course Volvo. Gothenburg is home to both the Volvo headquarters and the Volvo Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history and heritage of the Volvo brand and is located on Hisingen Island.

The Volvo Museum presents a vast array of exhibits that trace the evolution of Volvo vehicles from the company's founding to the modern day. The collection features classic cars, concept cars, racing cars and other vehicles produced by Volvo.

The Volvo Museum in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

The Volvo Museum in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

5. Have a picnic

When Gothenburg was founded in 1621, it was a heavily fortified town surrounded by a deep moat (today’s Rosenlund Canal). The population expanded beyond the city walls, which were all but demolished in the early nineteenth century, and replaced by the parks and green spaces you see today.

Supplies for a picnic can be bought at the Stora Saluhallen where more than forty stalls and shops jostle to sell cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables, or head to the wonderfully pungent Feskekôrka, or “Fish Church”, which, since 1874, has been filled to the rafters with every imaginable raw, smoked or cooked seafood.

6. Eat at the fish church

Five minutes' walk west of Kungsportsplatsen is Gothenburg’s oldest fish market, the Neo-Gothic Feskekôrka, or “Fish Church”, whose strong aromas may well hit you long before you reach the door.

Despite its undeniably ecclesiastical appearance, the nearest this 1874 building comes to religion is the devotion shown by the fish lovers who come to buy their dinner here. Inside, every kind of seafood, from cod to crustaceans, lies in gleaming, pungent silver, pink and black mounds, while in a gallery upstairs there’s a tiny but excellent seafood restaurant.

Feskekorka (Fish church) in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

Feskekorka (Fish church) in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

7. Go back in time to the Haga district

Since 1902 electric trams – they roll out the antique ones for tourists in summer – have trundled out to the surrounding districts. Not to be missed is the once-working-class Haga, with its gorgeous cobbled streets and timber buildings.

This is the place to buy huge cinnamon buns, browse vintage shops and soak up the café culture – not far from here, Andra Långgatan is where the hip young things flock in the evening for a drink or two.

Haga District in old town of Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

Haga District in old town of Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

8. Climbing up the Skansen Kronan

Skansen Kronan is a historic fortress located in the Haga district and is a well-preserved example of late 17th-century Swedish military architecture. The fortress was originally designed as a round-shaped bastion fortification, with thick stone walls, artillery cannons and a remarkable tower.

Skansen Kronan is open to the public, so you can explore the fortress and enjoy the spectacular views from the tower. The museum, which is also located here, offers guided tours and exhibitions to help you learn about the historical importance of the site.

9. Slow down in the West Coast archipelago

Thirteen inhabited islands form the southern part of Sweden’s West Coast archipelago. Once home to tiny farming and fishing communities, wealthy Gothenburg residents have been visiting since the mid-nineteenth century. Today, the islands are scattered with picturesque holiday homes kept in the same family for generations.

It’s forty minutes by tram #11 (or #9 in summer) from Central Station to Saltholmen, the pretty embarkation point for regular ferries to the offshore islands. The little café hidden in the trees is a great place to get information and maps and have a bite to eat.

Vrångö is a birdwatchers' paradise and the most southerly and quiet of the islands. The unspoilt nature reserves to its north and south have little pathways and craggy coastal islets to explore and the beaches are perfect for lazing and swimming. The part of the West Coast archipelago - the Bohuslän coast is also a good starting point if you want to see the unforgettable midsummer celebrations in Sweden.

Vrango island of Gothenburg southern archipelago © Thomas Dekiere/Shutterstock

Visiting the West Coast archipelago is one of the best things to do in Gothenburg for outdoor activities © Thomas Dekiere/Shutterstock

10. Get thrilled at the Liseberg Amusement Park

Just a few minutes walk southeast from Götaplatsen, Liseberg Amusement Park is a riot of party lights and bubblegum-pink paintwork. Opened in 1923, this is Scandinavia’s largest amusement park, and with its flowers, trees, fountains and clusters of lights. It’s one of the best things to do in Gothenburg for adults as well as children, and leagues away from the neon and plastic mini-cities that constitute so many theme parks around the world.

The old and the young dance to live bands most evenings, and although the park is louder and more youth-dominated at night, it’s all good-humoured. Pride of place at Liseberg goes to its two roller coasters. Kanonen, which reaches its top speed just two seconds after being fired from its start point; and the equally hair-raising Balder, a wooden construction that’s twice been voted the best of its kind in the world.

Liseberg Amusement Park in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

Liseberg Amusement Park in Gothenburg © Shutterstock

11. Wander around Garden Society

The well-groomed Garden Society (Trädgårdsföreningen Park) contains a number of things to do in Gothenburg. The most impressive of which is the 1878 Palmhuset (Palm House). Designed as a copy of London’s Crystal Palace, which looks like a huge English conservatory, contains a wealth of very un-Swedish plant life, including tropical, Mediterranean and Asian flowers.

Elsewhere in the park is the Rosarium, which, with nearly three thousand varieties of rose provides a myriad of colours throughout the year; in summer it hosts lunchtime concerts and a special children’s theatre.

12. Discover beautiful flora at the Gothenburg Botanical Garden

Slottskogsparken is a huge, tranquil expanse of parkland with farm animals and birdlife, including pink flamingoes in summer. On its south side are the impressive Gothenburg Botanical Garden (Botaniska Trädgården), a vast glasshouse akin to London’s Kew Gardens, which, at almost two square kilometres, are the biggest in Europe.

At the gardens you can discover a wealth of things to do in Gothenburg, here an impressive collection of approximately sixteen thousand plant species awaits. The gardens hold some sixteen thousand species of plants; highlights are some of Sweden’s biggest orchids, the summer flower plantations and the adjoining arboretum.

Glass greenhouse in Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

Glass greenhouse in Gothenburg, Sweden © Shutterstock

13. Choose a belle-epoque-like accommodation

Back in the old town, right around the corner from Central Station, stay in the brand new Hotel Pigalle, set in an eighteenth-century building with belle-epoque designed rooms, each with an individual touch that might include a comfy window seat or double shower. On the rooftop, the chic restaurant bar is a destination in itself.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Gothenburg.

SAS has flights to Gothenburg from London from £120 return. Book at The Gothenburg City Card provides unlimited bus and tram travel within the city; ferry transport to the southern archipelago and free entry to all the city museums. Buy the card from the tourist offices online (355kr for 24hr, 495kr for 48hr; 645kr for 72hr).

Ready for a trip to Sweden? Check out the The Rough Guide to Sweden.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Sweden without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image © Umomos/Shutterstock

Rachel Mills

written by
Rachel Mills

updated 27.07.2021

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer, editor and broadcaster based by the sea in Kent. She is a co-author for Rough Guides to New Zealand, India, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain a contributor to Telegraph Travel, the Independent, AFAR, DK Eyewitness and and an expert in sustainable, responsible tourism. Follow her @rachmillstravel on Twitter and Instagram and listen to her show Over Here on

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