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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find more accommodation options to stay in Gothenburg.
SAS has flights to Gothenburg from London from £120 return. Book at flysas.co.uk. 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).
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