11 awesome things to do in Gothenburg

When you think about Sweden, is Stockholm the only thing that comes to your mind? This is about to change! Because once you have read this article you will be in love with Gothenburg without ever having been there!

11 great things to do in Gothenburg for a perfect weekend!

Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city and easy to reach from Germany with the ferry. Stenaline departs from Kiel and takes you to Gothenburg over night. So you can even make Gothenburg a day trip if you are short on time.
If you are not from the North of Germany or happen to be passing through you can of course also take a plane. Several airlines, for example SAS, Finnair or AirBerlin offer direct flights from Berlin to Gothenburg and they take just over an hour. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest fares and best times to travel.

Once in Gothenburg you can reach pretty much everything on foot. For longer distances like going to the seaside or if you simply are tired of walking get yourself the Gothenburg Card. With this card you can use all public transportation and have free access to many museums. The card is 24€ for a day and 33€ for two. Gothenburg can also be the starting point for your Western Sweden adventure.

One weekend is enough to explore the city and even the archipelago. But if you are a foodie like me, you could easily spend months in this city because Gothenburg has become one of Northern Europes culinary centres. I would give my front teeth for the cinnamon rolls alone!

Like all cities in Scandinavia it is warmest in summer, but I doubt whether it is really the nicest in summer. Cities in the North tend to have a special atmosphere in fall and winter. There is nothing like hopping from one café to another and seeing sheets of ice float on the water?

Now it’s time for 11 things to do in Gothenburg:

1. Navigate Gothenburgs canals with a boat!

Such a trip on a boat is the perfect start to get to know the city and to get an overview. The boats leave several times as day from Kungsportsplatsen and a tour is 50 minutes.

First you travel through the canals and under bridges, then out onto the river Göta. There you have a wonderful view of the dockyards, the port and a few museum ships. In your little boat it will feel like miniature world and you might get pretty wet if the waves are high. But if the sun is shining and temperatures are warm this can be great to cool off!

2. Try local specialties at Stora Saluhallen!

At Kungstorget, right in the city center, lies Gothenburg’s largest market hall which was constructed in 1889. This food haven is beautiful from the outside and on the inside offers a real taste of Sweden. There are more than 40 stalls and restaurants inside with national as well as international products. You will of course find the famous Köttbullar with mashed potatoes, but also things like elk meat, raindeer and delicious salmon. Check out Amanda Boman for Swedish plain fare.

This is also a great place to buy presents like the traditional candy, chocolate or spices for your loved ones at home. Best to go at lunch time, there are great lunch specials and you can watch the locals and maybe make some new friends.

3. Go for Fika at Café Husaren!

Now it is high time for a little break and a ‘Fika’, the traditional coffee break with friends. You should observe this practice at least two times a day in the eyes of the Swedish. Café Husaren in the perfect place for doing so. Seated under a picturesque stucco and glas ceiling you can enjoy homemade cakes, typical Swedish sandwiches, hot chocolate and possibly the largest cinnamon rolls in the world. Trust me, you have never seen anything like them and they will fill you up for the rest of the day! Like everywhere in Sweden they serve filter coffee and refills are free, so you can fill up on coffee until you go into caffeine shock!

After having fueled up you should go for a walk in the area. The quaint former working class neighborhood Haga is great for just roaming the streets and looking around: colourful little wooden houses, nice stores with fashion, design and second hand stuff or antiquities, art galleries and many laid back cafés, bars and restaurants will easily draw you in for hours.

A good place for your second Fika is Da Matteo at Magasinsgatan where homemade bread and great coffee are waiting for you!

4. Relax in the park!

After having digested a little bit of the giant cinnamon roll you can sit down at the canal in Trädgardsföreningen Park if the weather is good or enjoy the sun on the terrace of the wonderfully outdated Rosencafé. You can even rent long chairs in the park.

Also, there is a beautiful palm house here which definitely is worth a visit and a nice rosarium, all from the 19th century. Everything is romantic and playful, which is very common in Sweden. In summer there are even concerts here. The park is right next to the train station, so right in the heart of town.

5. Shop till you drop!

I almost went nuts in the nice little design stores and wanted to take along everything from the bowls, the water kettle, to the insanely pricy carpet. The main shopping area are Kungsgatan and Vallgatan streets. Here you can also find the big Swedish fashion chains.

If you are looking for something more alternative and less commercial, don’t miss Magasingatan. Here there are smaller stores with the latest fashion, design, home furnishings and gifts. Vintage lovers are sure to find their new favourite piece of clothing when going through the racks at Miss Ragtime. And if you are looking for a cool bar after all the shopping this also is the right place.

6. Try Swedish street food!

On every corner there is a Korykiosk: a special kind of hot dog stand. Here you will find the typical Swedish Tunnsbrödsruller, a warm sausage with bread or, if you prefer the more creative version, sausage rolled into a soft flat bread with mashed potatoes.

When in Gothenburg you should have lots of fish, all the street food places offer great fish and seafood. A special place to go is the Feskekörka. This fish market is located in a church-like structure right by the canal. Shrimps, oysters, mussels, crawfish and even lobster: take your pick!

Tip: If you want to start the day on a fishy note then plan a visit to Sweden’s largest fish auction. This is only for the early risers, the auction starts at 6:30 at the fishing port. Gothenburg’s best chefs offer sought-after fish and seafood from the West of Sweden. The bustle alone is worth seeing!

7. Watch the elks at Slottskogen

You have never seen elks? Here at Slottskogen Park you can! The spacious enclosures are home to not only these long-nosed giants but to lots of wildlife, to owls and horses, wild boars, seals and penguins. A real treat for an animal lover.
Gothenburg people call the park the green lungs of their city. The 137 hectors of forests, pathways and lawns are well accessible from the city center on foot. In late summer you can even pick wild strawberries and blueberries here. The Scandinavians sure have a hand for nice parks!

If you want to get active, you can play beach volleyball, minigolf or fresbeegolf.

The Way Out West Festival also takes places here in summer. I have been there and highly recommend it! Cool people, no riots, good Scandinavian music and all of that to the beautiful backdrop of the park!

And when the festival is not in session the Gothenburg symphonic orchestra plays free open air concerts here.

8. Take the boat out to Schärengarten!

The regular ticket is enough to go to Saltholmen (tram route 11) from where the ferry leaves. Visiting the unique Schärengärten was my personal highlight on the trip to Gothenburg! The transit alone is wonderful. The sea breeze in your face, colourful wood cabins passing by and the joyful anticipation of getting to explore an archipelago.
You can go for walks on the islands and you will find little bays there where you can jump into the water. This is great fun even in fall!

I took the ferry to Brännö-Rödsten, walked across the island and took the Brännö-Husvik ferry back. Half way through you can stop to eat at Brännö Värdshus or go a little further to Café Varvet like I did. I immediately fell in love with this café. It looks like a shed, entirely made of wood with hammocks in the corners and dishes like my grandmother had. I had an incredibly tasty salad there with fresh salmon and crawfish which I still rant of to this day!

 9. Discover the botanical garden!

Gothenburg has a lot of park area, so make use of it! The botanical garden is right opposite of Slottskogen and is so large that you have to kick into super high-speed mode to see everything. But you really should not stress out too much on your Gothenburg weekend but rather enjoy the parks with leisure.

You can settle for a picknick here, take a walk in the woods or marvel at the stunningly crafted flower beds. The stone garden was awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide and is divided into geographical regions – according to the origin of the plants. America, Europe and Asia are represented by 5000 plant species. And if you want to cool off, you can walk through a waterfall.

The  2€ admission fee is ‘voluntary’ but totally worth it.

12. Visit a museum!

Like everywhere, the weather can sometimes be unstable or plain bad in Gothenburg, especially in fall and winter. So off to a museum! During my stay the weather was perfect, so it would have been a shame to spend my time indoors, but I heard of several great museums which really are not just a passtime.

At the experimental museum Universeum you not only get to visit the rainforest, you can go to space or dive into the ocean. Over two stories the museum offers lots of opportunities to do scientific experiments yourself.

The Museum für Weltkultur is already worth a visit for its exterior, it has won several architectural prizes. Inside you can tour the world. Besides exhibitions the museum also offers a lot of other things such as films, seminars, festivals, after works, workshops and live music. Just check out their website!

11. Discover alternative Gothenburg!

The Röda Sten Konsthall right under the huge Hissingen bridge is an alternative forum for all forms of contemporary art. It is an old four story factory building with a cozy not too pricy restaurant on the first floor and exhibitions on the others. The installations and sometimes very large works of art are impressive! Around the corner is a marina for vintage boats. So if you are interested in boats, you should swing by there.

There also is a nice café directly down by the water. Have a seat with a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the wonderful view of the water. To me this place really has Berlin flair and makes me feel at home!

Off to Gothenburg!

With these 11 things to do in Gothenburg you should be well prepared for a weekend in the second largest city of Schweden, so you can book a flight for this fall. Or you put it on your 2016 list. Whichever suits you, the city is not as run over as Stockholm and has a lot to offer. Definitely go form your own opinion and explore Gothenburg on your own!

Have you been to Gothenburg and have own tips? Leave a comment and tell me!

Sebastian Canaves
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