Sometimes there’s nothing better than relaxing with friends – or alone! – over your drink of choice, and it’s no secret that as students we quickly scope out the best places to go. Gothenburg is home to an astonishing wealth of pubs and bars, so you’ll never be far from somewhere to stop in and relax. Particularly popular in Sweden is after work, similar to happy hour, so be sure to check that out if you’re in the mood for a cheap early-doors drink. As a student, I have my favourite haunts, and I’m quick to scope out the cheap and cheerful locations, but I also know where to head if I’m in the mood for a more upmarket drink! In this bar guide I’ll take you to the cheap, the trendy, and everywhere inbetween.
For a cosy courtyard: Tredje Långgatan
This is cheating, because this is a whole street, but I couldn’t resist. Situated close to Järntorget square, this street is full of trendy bars and it’s more than lively on a weekend. If you look closely (I walked past 3x when I first visited) there are two courtyards off this street, in which you’ll find several bars and restaurants, blankets for customers, ambient lighting and tables with heat lamps. For a cheaper-than-expected beer and pizza, and a gorgeous greenery-filled covered courtyard to sit in, try Kafé Magasinet (for bonus points, this is a stunning cafe during the day, with a gorgeous food and drinks menu, and popular with remote workers or students). Or, for Mexican food and cocktails, Tacos and Tequila is the place to go. Both places have wonderful ambiance and feel very cosy on a dark evening.
For a grungy local pub: Skål
Skål – “cheers” in Swedish – was the site of many early Erasmus meetups and the place where I spent several evenings in a row when I first arrived in the city, solidifying friendships. With friendly service and decent prices, it’s a brilliant place to catch up with friends. It’s on the smaller side, although we managed to fit impressively huge groups in there, and popular with the locals, so you’ll get off the tourist circuit for a while.
For a city-centre drink: Boqueria
It won’t be the cheapest drink you find in the city, but it might be the most ambient. With a lovely outdoor seating area overlooking Götaplatsen and the Poseidon statue, it’s worth it for the atmosphere alone. If you’re looking to stay a while longer, this is also a restaurant serving Spanish food, and right next door to a cinema – evening plans sorted!
For low prices and high volume: The King’s Head
This British-style pub is nothing too special from the outside – in fact, you might be tempted to avoid it altogether from looks alone. It’s situated next to its even grungier sister, the Queen’s head, which I’ve never stepped foot inside. Given the short walk from Järntorget, which hosts tons of trendier spots, why stop here? Well, we’re students. And the beer is 39kr. There’s your answer.
In all seriousness – it’s one of my favourite hangouts, but I won’t pretend it’s a pretty place. The pros: the playlist is on point every night without fail (although very loud), the service is friendly and fast, and it’s always a popular hangout for students, young locals, and the occasional solitary drinker, often with a book (I don’t know how they concentrate). It’s got a particularly international crowd, so you never know who you’ll meet. They also have a small food menu, and cheap buffets on Friday and Saturday evenings. The cons: the toilets, the noise, and it’s absolutely packed on a weekend. It’s also at the less trendy end of the bar area, so occasionally you get some colourful characters hanging around. If you’re open minded and/or on a budget (and not fussy about fancy bathrooms), perhaps give it a shot.
For everything at once: Yaki-Da or Pustervik
Bar, restaurant, music venue, nightclub, all in one? Yaki-Da and Pustervik are the options here. Also popular with students due to their low prices, don’t let that put you off. Open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until late, Yaki-Da boasts four floors of comfy, cosy seating, with several bars. The bar itself doesn’t have the best service, and perhaps the later evening is to be avoided if you’re not after a crowd, but the food comes highly rated, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their social media for special events. Pustervik has a more cultural vibe, with a packed calendar of music concerts to keep an eye on – just this week I saw Wolf Alice perform there, and the atmosphere was amazing. The venue also doubles as a club (complete with huge glitterball), restaurant and cafe.
For games and beer: Kappa Bar, Checkpoint Charlie or Nordic Sportsbar
Checkpoint Charlie advertises German-inspired street food, drink and decor, and whilst I didn’t feel immediately “German” upon entering, I confess I’ve never drank in a German bar so I couldn’t possibly comment on how accurate it is. It’s located on Avenyn, close to Brunnsparken and the Central Station, so you definitely feel part of the city’s nightlife. I attended on a Saturday night, clearly as the place was in the process of transitioning into a club, and the live DJ’s music, whilst fun, added a lot of volume to our conversation. The menu looks (mostly) affordable and definitely very yummy, and I’d be interested in returning in the week to see what the vibe is like for a quick drink. Upstairs, there are multiple games available, including arcade machines, backetball hoops and air hockey, and screens throughout show live matches.
Nordic Sportsbar is our favourite place to go bowling, especially as they offer Erasmus student discount at certain times. It’s much further out of the city, in a residential suburb, so you might not fancy being there if you’re visiting the city. But with TV screens for sports, bowling alleys, shuffleboard and more, it’s a great venue. They also offer a large and yummy-looking food menu, but as students we go for the cheap bowling and a couple of beers!
And finally, Kappa Bar is the place to be for both board and video games with a great atmosphere. With locations in various cities as well as Gothenburg, this bar is a great hidden gem that I didn’t discover until several months into my stay in Sweden! In this bar, not only can you eat and drink, but also make use of various gaming consoles, for group Fifa matches or Mario Kart tournaments.
Wherever you end up in Gothenburg, you’ll more than likely find a bar to pass the evening in. Heading to Järntorget (a square and also the name of the public trasport stops) is your safest bet, as this area has a really high density of pubs and bars. From there, explore the streets of Tredje Långgatan and Andra Långgatan, and you’re sure to find something that catches your eye. But with cafes open until the early evening, there’s plenty of time to sit and plan your nightlife!