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Sweden’s westernmost city also boasts some commanding historical buildings, world-class restaurants, a stunning archipelago, some of the best seafood in the world, and a rollercoaster, writes Chris Gallagher
Growing up in the UK, Sweden always seemed like a magical place: full of everlasting sun-kissed days in summer; translucent snowy pistes in winter; beautiful blonde-haired girls, and marauding Vikings.
Of course, we hadn’t been there and were only familiar with Abba, Bjorn Borg, Britt Ekland, Volvo cars and meatballs (usually from a tin).
But sometimes the best way to get a more authentic inkling of a nation is by visiting its second-biggest city. Gothenburg is a compact, pristine urban delight of elegant architecture, lovely waterways and plenty of lush, green spaces.
Sweden’s westernmost city also boasts some commanding historical buildings, world-class restaurants, a stunning archipelago, some of the best seafood in the world, and a rollercoaster.
This former shipbuilding city is easy to get around, and its quaint cobbled streets and town squares can be easily enjoyed on foot. If you are not a fan of IKEA and H&M don’t worry, because here you’ll find some of the funkiest, most original clothing and home interior boutiques around.
My favourite place I’m a bit of a petrol head (or a diesel head, these days) so it’s the Volvo Museum. It’s a little out of town as you have to take a bus to an industrial estate but well worth it, especially if Volvos have some resonance for you (my mum had a Volvo 66, then a 145 Estate). Here, you can enjoy an odyssey of Sweden’s history through the cars, buses and trucks of its largest car manufacturer. It’s all been superbly done so if you simply want to sit in all those wonderful models of yesteryear and reminisce or catch some of the excellent AV displays, you’re in the right place.
Highlights That Scandinavian outdoor lifestyle mentality is infectious, even though you’re in the city. Whether it’s Slottskogen (the main park), the Gothenburg Botanical Garden or simply relaxing on a boat trip along one of the many canals, you can’t escape it. If you want to go farther afield in a boat, catch a ferry from the Saltholmen port and visit one of the many islets in the archipelago where you can swim, fish and watch seals at play.
Then, there’s the seafood. Here, it’s a serious business, and the venerable Feskekorka (fish church) is where you can witness an intoxicating mélange of fish traders, restaurateurs and takeaway vendors all vying for your custom. Why not sample some of the catch of the day as streetfood in the form of prawns or shrimp?
On the west side of the city, the Haga neighbourhood dates from the 17th century. Presided over by the historical Skansen Fortress, which was built in 1697 to protect the city from the Danes, it’s a terrific place to enjoy a stroll, relax, shop and recharge your batteries. They like their coffee and buns in Gothenburg, and you’ll find no shortage of cafes here offering you your caffeine rush complete with a kanelbulle (a sugary, cinnamon-flavoured wheat bun).
While you will want your museum day at the Gothenburg Museum of Art, the Design Museum or the Universeum (science centre) if you tell the kids about the rollercoaster, that’s where you’ll end up. Still, the Liseberg Amusement Park is something of an institution so you will get to tick a box as they drag you round the rides, games stalls, food stands, and the Big Wheel.
Lowlights It’s Sweden so it can be expensive.
Souvenirs For wares that you can’t usually find elsewhere, head to the city centre streets of Magasinsgaten (good for retro gear) or Vallgaten. The city’s biggest flea market can also be found at Forsta Langgaten but be prepared to browse for a bargain.
Getting there British Airways, KLM and Swiss Air offer flights from Muscat to Stockholm, where you can catch a connecting flight to Gothenburg. It takes around five hours by train. Alternatively, you can catch a flight to Oslo (Norway) and take an extremely scenic four-hour train ride.
Where to stay All the world’s top hotel chains have a presence here so check out the websites Booking.com, Trivago, Expedia or Kayak.