Young, progressive, hip, clean, innovative—these are all adjectives I’d use to describe Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city and the jumping off point for all West Sweden road trips. But you don’t have to hit the road immediately upon landing in Scandinavia as there are plenty of things to do in Gothenburg that can easily fill a weekend (or a week) if you have the time.
Gothenburg is a little bit casual, a little bit cosmopolitan, and a whole lot hipster. In fact, one of its residents told us about the university town: “Gothenburg is not just a beer city—it’s a beard city.” In that respect, it felt a whole lot like home.
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But it’s really a place you need to hit the ground running before you can fully appreciate its distinct vibe. Here’s what you can expect from what many refer to as “Little London.”
Where to Stay in Gothenburg
On the front end of our trip, we stayed at the Clarion Post Hotel as part of the Volvo Overseas Delivery Program. This former central post office is one of the city’s finest design hotels with a lobby lined with crystals and an inviting rooftop pool on the 13th floor that offers a full panorama of the city center.
On our return, we spent three nights at Hotel Pigalle, one of Gothenburg’s chicest boutique hotels. And while it’s designed to mimic Paris in the early 1900s, the hotel itself has actually only been around a couple years (yet it already landed on Conde Nast Traveler’s coveted Gold List).
Keep your eyes peeled for fun little design accents like strands of pearls and amusing artwork (Karl Lagerfeld as an owl, anyone?).
How to Get Around Gothenburg
We spent most of our time on foot to hit up all the central attractions. Despite just 500,000 residents, Gothenburg is a pretty large city size-wise so if you’re there more than a day or two, you’ll need to turn to additional methods to see the sights.
You could rent a car, but honestly you don’t need it. We talked to Gothenburg residents in their 30s and 40s who had never even bothered to get a driver’s license — the public transportation is that good. We found the tram and bus system very easy to navigate, not to mention reliable; each stop listed the time of the next arrival down to the minute, and we never waited more than five.
You can purchase tickets at any of the sales kiosks or the tourist center, as well as download the app and pay on your phone. Gothenburg’s visitor card (available in 24-, 48- and 72-hour increments) also includes all public transportation: buses, trams, ferries, trains. Like everything else in Sweden, the transportation truly runs like a dream.
If you’re in a pinch, there are also plenty of taxis—some of which are even Teslas (#OnlyInSweden)—and we wound up calling one to go to the airport when we were in danger of missing our flight.
Fun Things to Do in Gothenburg
Whether you’re coming to Sweden for the food or just want to take in all the Instagram-worthy sites, these things to do in Gothenburg won’t let you down.
This burlesque-inspired hotel may be the sexiest place in all of Gothenburg with its bold artwork and red velvet accents. We didn’t stay here, but we did settle into the living room one rainy afternoon for cocktails as we sipped our way through the extensive gin menu.
The Palm House
This green house is located right smack in the middle of the well-manicured lawns of the Garden Society of Gothenburg, an urban oasis that dates back to the 19th century and boasts thousands of roses. It was raining throughout most of our time in Gothenburg, but that didn’t stop us from seeking shelter indoors and enjoying the exotic plants (and the warm temps) of the indoors Palm House.
Gothenburg Museum of Art
I’m not typically a museum fan, but I couldn’t help but love the modern art filling Gothenburg’s stately museum. We saw paintings from famed Scandinavian artists such as Edvard Munch and marveled over the sculptures. There was even a Ping Pong installation where I got to use my skills to school SVV in the art of table tennis.
Upper House Spa
A protruding outdoor hot tub that hangs 19 stories above the ground and boasts killer views of Liseberg and the city beyond? I almost couldn’t believe it myself. But this three-level spa housed in Gothia Towers is one of the coolest places I’ve visited ever.
The old town may be one of the more touristy sections in the city, but it’s also the oldest. The entire block is lined with cute, colorful wooden houses, many of them some hundreds of years old.
Pro tip: Stay in the on-site hotel, and your spa bill and fitness classes will be 20 percent off.
Gothenburg Botanical Garden
A 20-minute tram ride from the center of town, Gothenburg’s botanical garden (Botaniska Trädgården) is one of the largest in northern Europe (not to mention, most beautiful). Spanning more than 400 acres, this gorgeous slice of greenery took us more than an hour to walk through thanks to its more than 16,000 species of plants to fawn over.
Where to Eat in Gothenburg
From beer halls to champagne cafes to traditional Swedish cafes, there are many delicious things to eat in Gothenburg, as well as cool restaurants to check out.
There are a handful of craft breweries within Gothenburg—it’s a scene very much on the rise—but only a couple you can actually visit (and even those are either reservation-only or have odd days and hours, like open every other Friday). Luckily, we found this friendly taproom on the fringe of the tourist district, Haga, that stocked everything we could want and more.
SK Mat & Människor
This contemporary restaurant helmed by restaurateur Stefan Karlsson has an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs in action as they whip up your meal (translated in English, the restaurant’s name means “food and people”). Awarded a star in the Michelin guide, it’s a great excuse for a date night, as well as the prime spot to sample all the regional delights.
We had the tasting menu—three of the four courses of which was a different kind of fish from West Sweden—complete with wine pairings.
Built in 1874, the “fish church” is exactly as it sounds: a Gothic-style, church-like structure that houses a fish market. Insider, there’s also a second-floor restaurant, Gabriel, that overlooks the market and serves one of the best meals we had in all of Sweden (make reservations as the dining area is small).
It’s known for its Swedish oysters, which taste like the ocean itself, but I was a huge fan of the “fish burger,” which was baked cod in casserole form and drowned in butter.
Little has changed in the city’s resident market hall in Kungstorget since 1889 when it was completed. It’s still a popular spot for locals to grab lunch on the go from any of the many stalls or pick up meat, artisan cheese, spices, wine, chocolate, or other delicacies for dinner or to take as gifts.
I embraced the concept of “fika” when I lived in Scandinavia more than a decade ago and was thrilled to learn that it’s still very much alive today in Sweden. On our first morning in Gothenburg, we stopped by the iconic Da Matteo roastery in Magasinsgatan for a latte and cardamom bun (and then returned on days two and three, as well!).
This champagne bar offers a wide selection of bubbles by the glass or bottle, plus a bevy of seasonal Swedish dishes (read: lots of fish). We had the three-course tasting menu complete with champagne/wine pairings. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: We did not eat poorly on this trip!
We visited the modern brasserie in the art museum twice: once for cocktails (so good!) and again for lunch (also, delicious). Just don’t pass the chance to visit the adjoining modern art museum while you’re there.
You know those days when you’re playing tourist so hard and nothing sounds better than sitting down for a spell with a large beer for company? That’s how we felt after walking what felt like 100 miles around Gothenburg one day.
We saw the entrance to Kafé Magasinet’s courtyard as we were tooling around Haga and mentally bookmarked it for when we needed a rest. The interior was every bit as lovely as we could hope when we returned an hour later, and the spacious café has both indoor and outdoor seating and serves fika, food and a full bar.
Food trucks in Magasinsgatan
Like so many other big cities, Gothenburg has a burgeoning food truck scene. There are always a couple ones in rotation parked right out front of the da Mateo in Magasinsgatan.
On our final night at Hotel Pigalle, we headed up to the fourth floor for a feast in the on-site restaurant. I’m not sure what I loved more: the décor (a hodgepodge of patterns and textures occupying a cozy space with a slanted ceiling) or the meal (a three-course tasting menu of regional specialties and our first meal of the trip that wasn’t all seafood).
Swedish foods you must try
- Swedish meatballs, with lingonberry sauce
- Västerbottensost, a decadent savory cheese pie
- Cod bake with brown butter, preferably from the Fish Church
- Langoustine, saltwater crayfish
- Kardemommebulle, cardamom buns
- Any fresh-caught fish with dill sauce, the Swedish herb of choice
With its seven Michelin star restaurants, Gothenburg definitely lived up to its reputation of being a culinary destination, though as evidenced above, we found more to do there than just eat and drink.
Any favorite Gothenburg spots that I should put on my list for next trip?
What a great guide, full of VERY useful info, I want to print it off and just use it as a checklist! I have not visited any of the Nordic countries and want to do a trip through the whole region, Gothenburg looks like an amazing place to start.
Thank you, Andi! You would LOVE Gothenburg. It’s similar to San Francisco with its diversity and culture—only without all the inconveniences 😉
I live in Gothenburg and all these places are SO GOOD!! So glad you found them and could try them. I have yet to try Mr. P but it’s on my list so it’s nice to hear that you approve :))
Ahhh I’m so glad you approve! It’s the ultimate compliment when you get positive feedback from the locals, Amanda, so thanks =)
And yes, you have to go to Mr. P! It was such a different vibe eating there for lunch than cocktails.
Gothenburg is my type of place!
Boutique hotels. Tick!
Hipster neighbourhoods. Tick!
Great interesting local food. Tick!
Marvellous cocktails. Tick!
Walkable cities & easy to use public transportation. Tick!
Lovely things & places to photograph. Tick!
An I-wish-I-could-stay-longer feeling. So many ticks!
Yes, girl! All those ticks!
I enjoyed every part of your blog: the photos, the stories, advices, text in general… :))
Thank you so much! You’re so sweet to say that.
Been to Sweden but was only able to visit the capital city cause of tight schedule. This looks like one mesmerizing destination… You photos are clicked well
Prior to this trip, the only city I’d been to was the capital, as well. Stockholm is lovely, but it’s worth getting out of it to see more!
Thank You For Sharing the very well written and interesting blog!! full of VERY useful info
I would love to visit Sweden someday, and your pictures are just beautiful! I’ve pinned this for later 🙂 Thanks for this great article!
Thanks, Kelly! I hope you get to make it there soon!
Thanks for this guide. Sweden has been eluding me for so long…hopefully I will go there in 2018
Keeping my fingers crossed for you! It’s an amazing place.
what a great guide! I’m a huge fan of Sweden despite only visiting Stockholm 🙂 Gothenburg looks great – a bit off the beaten path, arty and local.. just my type of place!
I felt that same way after visiting Stockholm, too! Such a magical city—I was stoked to get to see more of Sweden’s urban culture.
Your pictures look amazing! I can’t wait to add this to the list!
What? Tesla taxis? That is kind of crazy! I have heard so many great things about Gothenburg. Sounds like my kind of city since it is edgy, interesting and not crowded. The Upper Spa House looks gorgeous. You took so many good photos in there (like the first one).
If only we had that kind of wealth in the US, ha! Everything there is so clean and just so…nice.
Gothenburg is such a great city! I visited it as I child and loved it, particularly Liseberg. I think than if I were to go back now I’d be more impressed with the rooftop spa. 😉
I had a dream last night I was back at that rooftop spa and nearly cried this morning when I woke up and it wasn’t true, ha!
I’ve only ever been to Sweden when I was really young, but you’ve got me thinking maybe I should go back. When I saw you first photo, I expected it to be from somewhere in southern Europe…not Scandinavia! Wonderful recap of a very charming city – I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself.
I’d definitely recommend a Scandinavian trip as all three of the countries are simply stunning! Sweden, though, is my favorite 😉
I’ve been to Gothenburg twice now because I have friends living there. I never really paid attention to the sights I saw because I saw it as just hanging out with friends, but one thing I recall was how much I liked to see the city from Skansen Kronan.
Yeah, it’s very different visiting a place when going to see friends than doing it as a tourist!
Wow, this place literally looks like my heaven. I’ve heard of here but never read a blog on it before – but now it is 100% on my list of places to go! I mean, c’mon.. look at that spa! The views are out of this world!
That spa alone is worth a trip to Sweden!
So pretty and I absolutely love a city with reliable public transport.
I am planning to visit my brother in Sweden sometime soon. Your pictures have done justice with a place and there cuisine looks delicious and may be i can find some place to kayak on and enjoy the beauty of this wonderful city. I will probably visit Stockholm too.
Thank you, Mike! I love Stockholm, too. A combo trip with Gothenburg would definitely give you a good overview of Sweden!
If you like to kayak, consider an overnight trip to Orust Island (just an hour away) and stay here. Bikes and kayaks are included with your stay =)
Kristin, your post popped up on Pinterest right on time! Landing in Gothenburg in less than two weeks and don’t know anything about this city. So many cool tips, thank you!
What happy timing, Anya! I hope you have the best time ever. You should be there during gorgeous weather, and I’m envious!
This is a useful blog! Thank you for the lovely pictures and write-up! Any new updates to this fabulous city? We’re headed to the Gothia Cup with kids and adults and we’ll stay close to Gothia towers. We’d love to see if there’s anything else you suggest!
Hi Marie-France! I haven’t been back since I wrote this, but I still stand by all these recommendations =) Hope you have a blast!
I am planning to go to Gothenberg In September and I saw your post on Pinterest. I was very impressed and bookmarked it.
Have an awesome trip, Sagar!