Situated on the West coast of Sweden, the country’s second largest city is home to a wealth of cultural, outdoor, culinary and other experiences. It’s an easy to explore city, with lots to do within walking distance, good public transport links and a friendly atmosphere. It also has a moderate climate compared to other parts of Sweden, thanks to being rather southern and close to the coast. There really is something for everyone here.
1. Visit the islands
No trip to Gothenburg is complete without a visit to the islands of the archipelago – although, rather controversially, I’d say that once you’ve seen one, you’ve kind of seen them all. There are two clusters of islands in Gothenburg, one in the north, and one in the south. The southern archipelago has around 5000 permanent residents, inhabitants swelling to 11,000 over the summer months. These islands are car free, easily reached by public transport ferry from Stenpiren or Saltholmen. My recommendations in the southern archipelago are Styrso (the largest) and Galtero, for uninterupted peace and nature. In the north, the islands are very different, with cars and the related infrastructure, and more built up towns. You can reach these islands by the free ferry from Lilla Varholmen, and once on the islands, you’ll find it’s possible to get around by bus, car or bike, including between the islands as many are connected by bridges. I’d recommend Ockero and Hono. For any of the islands, take comfortable shoes for walking and enjoy the idyllic (sometimes eerie) peace and quiet.
2. Explore Haga
Haga is a beautiful district of the city which is perfect for a bit of relaxed shopping in the various antiques and arts shops. Originally a residential zone for factory workers, it is now a quaint area of beautiful buildings and wide cobbled streets. You can find independent designers, expensive luxury clothing and tourist nick-knacks all in one place. Of course, it’s also full of delightful cafes, making it the ideal stop for a coffee and a sweet treat. You can’t miss the famous ‘Haga buns’ – huge cinnamon buns big enough to feed a whole family! On a weekend, it’s particularly lively, as all the locals spend their saturday afternoons wandering down here arm-in-arm.
3. Stop for fika
While you’re in Haga, it would simply be rude not to engage in the Swedish ritual of fika! Stop for a coffee and a cinnamon bun, take the chance to relax with friends and watch the world go by. It’s a tradition coveted by the Swedes, who always fit in time for fika, even in the work day. It’s especially welcome if you’re spending busy days sightseeing, as it’s a good break for the feet! Or on cold or rainy days, it’s lovely to stop inside a cosy cafe to warm up. Haga is extremely quaint with lots of cafes, but you won’t struggle to find spots for fika elsewhere in the city! Read more about the tradition in my post about fika.
4. History, art and science
Gothenburg is home to several brilliant museums dotted around the city. For the culture and history lovers, magnificent City Museum alone could absorb hours of your time, with exhibitions on the city’s history, vikings and more. There is also the Natural History museum with free entry, and the Museum of World Culture. For scientists young and old, Universeum is a wonderful science and nature museum – the largesgt in the Nordic region! If technology and engineering is your thing, try the Volvo museum, Maritiman, or Aeroseum. And if you’ve got a discerning eye, the Museum of Fine Art is a must-visit. Many of the museums are completely free, or free for students and young people, with a fee of around 60 SEK for adults.
5. Take in the nature
For the second-largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg is an incredibly green city, with wide tree-lined avenues and tons of parks to relax in. In Slottskogen you can meet friends, enjoy mini golf or disc golf, see a variety of endangered Nordic animals in the zoo, or even visit the observatory. But it doesn’t end there; there’s also Kungsparken, Trädgårdsföreningen, Heden and Överåsparken. Further out of the city are Safjället nature reserve, in the Mölndal municipality, and Änggårdsbergens nature reserve.
6. Eat, drink and be merry
There are countless pubs, bars, cafes and resturants in the city, all offering a range of cuisines and atmospheres. If you’re a fan of seafood, Gothenburg is the place for you, with some very highly rated seafood restaurants, such as Sjöbaren in Haga. You can also find food from a great range of countries – especially sushi. You will never be far from a sushi restaurant here.
If you’re after a drink, you will find plenty of trendy bars as well as grungy pubs. They might be pricier than what you’re used to (or they might not differ!) but there are plenty of affordable options. Järntorget is a good place to start!
7. Liseberg amusement park
Personally, I hate rides. But, if you’re a rollercoaster lover, Liseberg is the place to be! With a large selection of attractions, including Europe’s highest free fall, it’s certainly worth a visit. It’s one of Sweden’s top tourist attractions, and people even visit from other countries, just to go to the theme park.
8. Botanical gardens
Gothenburg’s botanical gardens sit in a 143 acre nature reserve, with a 99 acre garden and approximately 16,000 species. Admission is free for those under 18 years of age, or 20 SEK. It makes for a great day out for adults and kids alike.
9. Saluhallen – the Market Hall
At this covered market, you’ll find fruit, veg, meat, spices, cheeses and other delicious treasures from all over the world. You can wander around, buy goods, or stop for a full meal in one of the stalls. It’s so fun just looking at everything available, even without buying, and a great way to shelter from bad weather or find something for lunch if you’re not sure what you want!
So now you’ve not an idea of what to do with your time in Gothenburg, what are you waiting for? With a wealth of artistic, cultural, historical, natural and culinary attractions, it’s a city that simply cannot be missed. If you’re heading over to this Swedish gem, here are some things you should have with you:
Packing essentials for your visit to Gothenburg
- Comfortable walking shoes – either proper ones for hiking through nature, or just any comfy shoe for city sightseeing. Either way, you don’t want to be held back by aching feet!
- Plenty of layers – compared to other Scandinavian destinations, Gothenburg has a temperate climate, but it can still get chilly, especially when the sun goes in, and bars and restaurants get very warm. Whatever the time of year, you’ll be grateful for thin layers and jumpers. Obviously in winter, you’ll want more! A scarf is a must, to shelter your neck from the wind
- An umbrella – Gothenburg gets plenty of rain (it reminds me of home). You don’t want to miss out on attractions because fo the weather, but even worse, you don’t want to be soggy as you enjoy the museums or other attractions. A sturdy umbrella is a must (it gets breezy)
- Sunglasses – this might be in contrast with the rest of the items on the list, but Gothenburg summers are warm and bright, and in the autumn and winter, the sun still pierces through the air! No matter when you visit, you just might be glad you’ve packed a pair of sunglasses.
- The Västtrafik app – this is the number one go-to app if you’re going to be using public transport. Tickets can be bought and stored in-app often for a lower price than on board, it shows your closes tram stop departures, and the journey planner tells you the various ways of getting from A to B, with live updates, and includnig buses, trams, trains and boats. Yes – boats! The travel planner also tells you if the ticket you have is valid on the trip, so you won’t ever be caught out.
And there you have it – now you know what to do with your time when you visit the beautiful city of Gothenburg. Will you be visiting anytime soon?