I’m not really one for chasing after countries to tick off my “have visited” list but when the opportunity came up to spend a few days in Sweden while we travelled from Oslo to Copenhagen, I just had to take it.
I wanted to discover more about the Swedish way of life as well as explore all the things to do in Gothenburg.
A Swedish fascination
Sweden has held some allure since I first learned about it as a child via one of their most famous exports – ABBA.
Did you know that ABBA were huge in Australia? So much so that an ABBA movie was made about their 1977 Australian tour. My cousin Maz was probably their greatest fan and I remember her obsession fondly. Voulez-vous… ah ha!
Flash forward a few decades and having many IKEA constructions and a few of their delicious meatballs under my belt, I feel like I had quite a bizarre perception of Sweden.
So I was curious to find out all about Swedish culture during our 48 hours in Gothenburg
Gothenburg, or Göteborg as the locals call it, is Sweden’s second biggest city. Found half way between Oslo and Copenhagen on Sweden’s south-west coast, the city is defined by its proximity to the Kattegat area of the Northern Sea.
With a rich maritime history, Gothenburg has many seagoing activities as well as delicious seafood. But that’s not all we found in Gothenburg.
Things to do in Gothenburg
We arrived on a sunny holiday week and spent most of our time outdoors enjoying the sunshine and laid-back vibe of the city. Armed with our Gothenburg City Cards we had access to the public transport network as well as many Gothenburg attractions.
Gothenburg boat tour
Gothenburg is a city of canals. Dating from the 17th century and influenced by Dutch design, a boat tour of the canals and harbour is the perfect way to see the city’s highlights. Cruising along the canals, out into the harbour and under many of the city’s 20 bridges, the one hour boat tour is fun and interesting.
You learn about the 1.3 million Swedes who emigrated to the United States – many of them from Gothenburg harbour. And also about the shipbuilding industry and Swedish trade led by the Swedish East India Company.
Apart from learning about Swedish history, I loved watching the locals enjoy their city. All along the canals people sat and talked in small groups, legs dangled to the water. There were even some groups fishing.
Feskekörka – Gothenburg’s ‘fish church’ or fish market
The standard of seafood across Scandinavia is very high and you won’t find better than at Gothenburg’s Feskekòrka. An indoor fish market, the Feskekörka is home to several fishmongers and restaurants and the fish looks like it jumped straight from the sea. The market gets its name from its striking church-like design.
We enjoyed lunch at Restaurang Gabriel where I continued an ongoing obsession with shrimp sandwiches – sooo good. The creamy fish soup and mussels were delicious too. The restaurant sits above the market so you can enjoy the market goings on below.
If you fancy a picnic by the canal or in the nearby gardens they have some yummy looking take away sushi packs available too.
The Feskekörka is open from 10am Tuesday to Saturday.
Some people don’t like fish so if that’s the case head to nearby Saluhallen.
An indoor market packed with providores of all kinds, you will definitely find a gourmet treat in this beautiful 19th-century building. Saluhallen is open from 09:00 am Monday to Saturday.
Liseberg amusement park
On our train ride from Oslo, our fellow passengers were most anxious that we visit Liseberg amusement park. And I suggest you do the same when you visit Gothenburg.
The park is a fun for a day out or few hours and has something for everyone. Founded in 1924, there are classic amusements like a carousel and even ballroom dancing under a rotunda. But there are also crazy rollercoaster and fairground rides for thrill seekers and a very sweet bunny themed area for children with rides and a playground.
If you are not interested in rides there are lovely gardens and grounds to stroll around and many restaurants too. The admission price is separate to the cost for rides and the park seems like it is a favourite place for locals to visit, much like Tivoli in Copenhagen.
You can try lots of Swedish treats at Liseberg. Everyone seemed to be walking around with massive blocks of chocolate that they had won as well as cinnamon buns and ‘Spunnet Socker’ – that’s fairy floss or candy floss in Swedish.
We visited on a public holiday and there were few lines and minimal waiting times. I thought the prices were very reasonable too compared with similar amusement parks in the UK. Entry was around £10 with unlimited rides for children at around £25 per day.
Cruise the Gothenburg archipelago
Love the sea breeze in your hair and a leisurely pace? Then head to the port of Saltholmen and catch a ferry to Gothenburg’s southern archipelago.
It’s easy to get there. Just take tram 11 from Gothenburg Central Station and take the short walk to the ferry terminal.
There are over 20 islands to explore in the southern G0thenburg archipelago. We took the ferry to pretty Donsö where Scandinavian red huts line the harbour. There are a few shops and cafes to visit there or find yourself a swimming hole for a quick dip.
Donsö is the kind of place you just stroll around and look for details. I loved this gorgeous post box with a tiny little fishing village scene complete with resident seagull and fishing nets.
The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes each way depending on how many islands it visits. Along the way just gaze out at the beautiful scenery and watch the locals enjoy the sea and sunshine.
If you get a little hungry there is a snack bar on board the ferry for the all important ‘fika’ or snack. In this part of the world that means baked goods. With lots of cinnamon. Yum.
Wander Haga – Gothenburg’s old town
When you arrive in Gothenburg you notice the buildings are quite modern for a European city. That is because many of the city’s wooden buildings were destroyed by fire over the centuries.
The quaint Haga District is the exception. With classic cobblestone streets lined with boutiques and cafes, it’s a spot you must visit in Gothenburg.
Many people visit Haga just to have fika (see below) at Café Husaren, famous for their absolutely ‘ginormous’ – my kids words – kanelbulle or cinnamon buns. I was happy with my coffee. There is undoubted respect for the bean in Gothenburg.
Fika – to have coffee with pastry
My favourite spot along the way was the toy shop Liten Karin [Haga Nygata 25] where a teddy bear blows bubbles at the people passing below. You can also pick up some famous Swedish clogs at Haga Trätoffelfabrik [Haga Nygata 19]
Relax in Gothenburg’s botanic gardens
When the sun is out, and it was gloriously so when we visited, spend some time in the beautiful gardens of Gothenburg. The Botanic Gardens are some of the largest in Europe and showcase over 16,000 varieties of plants.
You can easily spend a couple of hours strolling through the various themed gardens – Japanese, Korean and English – and the enormous glasshouses.
There is a playground for younger children in the centre of the park should you need to take a break. You could also visit the famous Rosenkaféet café for lunch or a snack.
Getting around Gothenburg
Nothing could be easier than getting around Gothenburg. The city is small and easy to walk around and when you need to go further afield there is a very simple to navigate tram, bus and ferry network.
I was very impressed with the transport that caters for all passengers including those with prams and pushchairs. Trams came regularly, even on a public holiday.
If you like to explore by bike, Gothenburg has a great bike scheme where you can ride free for the first 30 minutes and with a small charge after that.
Göteborg city card
In Scandinavia, I found the city cards offered by the local tourist boards deliver tonnes of value and the Göteborg city card is no exception.
With a Gothenburg city card you are entitled to use the public transport system including trams, buses and ferries. Extended bike hire is also available with the card.
Entrance to Liseberg is included (but not the rides) as well as the paddan boat sightseeing cruise and free or discounted entrance to museums and galleries.
The final word on Gothenburg
So what did I learn about Sweden during our trip to Gothenburg? Well, I didn’t find ABBA that’s for sure. That’s old news.
I found a laid back multi-cultural society with a love of cycling, coffee and cinnamon buns. It’s a city comfortable in its own skin. And I’d love to go back some day.
We were kindly provided Göteborg City Cards by the Gothenburg Tourism Board. All opinions and kanelbulle eating my own.
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