If you’re searching for a Scandinavian city with the perfect mix of chic streetlife, leisurely coffee breaks and down-to-earth locals, you need to visit Gothenburg. I recently spent four days here celebrating my partner’s birthday, and I will never forget it. When looking at flights, I wanted to book somewhere special, somewhere neither of us had been before, and we’d always talked about our desire to visit Sweden.
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As I looked into the best cities to visit, pages and pages of blogs and travel guides suggested Stockholm, the capital city. But flights from Edinburgh just weren’t looking good. Either the wrong days or bad timings. Then I saw decently priced flights to Gothenburg, landing late on Wednesday night and leaving late on Sunday night, perfect timing for my partner’s birthday on Thursday! I checked some hotels and found a great deal with breakfast included (always a holiday highlight!)
I booked, and the countdown was on! But was Gothenburg going to be worth it? Maybe there’s a reason no one really talks about it and opts to visit the more popular and touristy hub of Stockholm.
Is Gothenburg worth visiting?
Sweden’s second city often takes a backseat to the more popular Scandinavian capitals of Stockholm and Copenhagen. But do not underestimate this hidden gem. You won’t regret a trip to Gothenburg, I can assure you!
Nestled along Sweden’s west coast, Gothenburg is home to around 600,000 people. The port city oozes an understated charm, with a rich tapestry of culture and history. Gothenburg is truly a refreshing alternative to the more frequented Scandi cities. Whether you’re hunting for a vibrant arts scene, historic treasures or a tantalising culinary landscape, Gothenburg will entice you with its welcoming embrace. As you explore the city’s picturesque canals, lush parks, and bustling neighbourhoods, you’ll uncover the essence of Gothenburg.
Read on to discover why this Swedish coastal city should be on your travel radar, and let me guide you on the essential insights that will make your visit as unforgettable as mine was!
- Why You Should Visit Gothenburg
- Gothenburg is the home of Fika culture.
- Visit Gothenburg and delight in the city’s vibrant food scene
- You can embark on a captivating boat trip along Gothenburg’s canal
- Visit Gothenburg and escape the bustle of city life in Slottsskogen Park
- You’ll Be Speechless When You Visit Gothenburg’s Museum of Natural History
- Liseberg Amusement Park offers endless fun in the city centre
- When you visit Gothenburg you can get lost in the historic Haga District
- A stunning Archipelago ready to explore when you visit Gothenburg
- The green oasis of Jubileumsparken has refreshing natural swimming pools
- There’s many festivals and events to get involved in when you visit Gothenburg
- You can tour the city’s cool street art
- Where to stay when you visit Gothenburg
- Should I Visit Gothenburg?
Why You Should Visit Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the home of Fika culture.
Fika is the simple act of going for a coffee with some friends, sitting and enjoying each other’s company while sipping a cup of locally brewed beans. It’s a time not to be rushed, but savoured, just like the delicious pastry you enjoy at the same time. Fika culture in Gothenburg radiates from the terrace of every café and restaurant. Whether you’re strolling through the Haga district at 10 am or meandering along the Avenyn in the mid-afternoon, you’ll see couples, groups of friends, family or even colleagues making the most of Fika culture.
Fika is a way of life in Gothenburg, and you can even enjoy a unique Fika tour around the best coffee shops in the city. This tour is the perfect way to learn more about the art of Fika and enjoy it just as the Swedes do.
Visit Gothenburg and delight in the city’s vibrant food scene
It’s not just Fika and pastries that Gothenburg does so well, the food scene, in general, is thriving. Gothenburg is a food-lover’s paradise and offers a culinary scene that is as diverse as it is delicious. From traditional Swedish fare like gravlax and meatballs to the freshest fish caught in the North Sea or modern fusion cuisine, the city’s kitchens are a melting pot of flavours.
A popular restaurant we had to try when we were there was Tavolo. A Michelin Guide restaurant offering delicious Italian food and truly unforgettable cocktails. I won’t say much more than make sure you order the mouthwatering cucumber gin cocktail and the decadent whipped ricotta starter.
Another place you need to head to while in the city, is Lindholmen Street Food Market. Located in an old shipyard in Hisingen, this market is only on on saturdays between 12pm – 5pm. If you’re in the Gothenburg on a Saturday – do not miss it. You can sample a wide range of delicious street foods from local vendors selling everything from bao buns, sushi, curries and burgers. There’s something for everyone and you’ll be glad you visited!
You can embark on a captivating boat trip along Gothenburg’s canal
Setting sail down Gothenburg’s canals offers a unique vantage point to appreciate the city’s inspiring architecture and rich history. On a Gothenburg canal tour, you’ll see some of the city’s most iconic sights and locations. Depending on your chosen tour, you can see the iconic Poseidon statue, Fish Church (not a church but the city’s fish market!), Haga, Brunnsparken and so much more.
When I was there, I chose the action-packed amphibious boat trip. This tour takes you on a land and sea adventure around Gothenburg. Plus, you have the added thrill of the bus racing into the water! A strong choice for a tour that’s a bit different to the usual hop-on/hop-off.
Visit Gothenburg and escape the bustle of city life in Slottsskogen Park
Slottsskogen Park offers a relaxing green oasis right in the heart of the city. The city’s devotion to savouring the little things in life is encapsulated in this stunning park. Honestly, calling it a “park” doesn’t do the place justice. First of all, it’s enormous. The vast green spaces invite visitors to revel in the relaxing haven and enjoy the relaxing sounds of nature. Beyond that, you could get lost with all the activities hidden inside the park too.
Discover the remarkable zoo, where you can admire Nordic wildlife like seals, deers and penguins! We got there just as feeding time kicked off and thoroughly enjoyed watching the seals and penguins diving under the water to grab their fish!
Inside Slottsskogen Park, you can also voyage through ancient natural history at Gothenburg’s Museum of Natural History.
You’ll Be Speechless When You Visit Gothenburg’s Museum of Natural History
Have you ever imagined how you compare to the enormity of the ocean’s largest creature? At Gothenburg’s Museum of Natural History, you’ll find yourself near the world’s largest stuffed Bue Whale!
Wandering around the museum, you’ll be transported back in time as you marvel at all the fascinating exhibits. From bugs and plants that date back to prehistoric times and even replicas of how the world’s first homo sapiens looked! We spent a few hours here, but our favourite exhibit was the giant Malm Whale.
The whale washed up on the rocks of Askim Bay, outside of Gothenburg, in 1865 and was brought to the museum, treated and stuffed. Benches were placed inside the whale’s stomach so guests could spend time inside. It was even transformed into a Santa’s grotto for children at Christmas! It’s no longer allowed for members of the public to enter the whale after one promiscuous couple used it as the setting of their love-making in the 1930’s! You can learn more about the whale’s story here.
Liseberg Amusement Park offers endless fun in the city centre
And when I say endless, I mean endless. We were at Liseberg – Scandinavia’s largest and oldest theme park, all day and only left because they started turning the lights off and escorting people out! It was so much fun and truly one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day in Gothenburg.
It’s located in the city, and we cycled there using one of the NextBike’s (super cheap!) and on our way, enjoyed a little scenic tour of the city. After passing the iconic Poseidon statue at the end of Avenyn, we were pretty much just around the corner from the amusement park.
We bought our tickets online. For two people, all-day tickets with access to all the attractions, we paid around £40 – so affordable and very well worth it for a whole day of fun!
Walking around the amusement park is seriously like stepping back in time. It was built in the 1920’s and so many buildings and areas are so cute and old-fashioned! There’s around 40 rides in the park. If you’re a thrill seeker and love a rollercoaster, you’ll absolutely love Balder, Helix, and Valkyria. I can’t recommend this theme park more, even if you’re only in Gothenburg for a short trip, make sure you prioritise visiting!
When you visit Gothenburg you can get lost in the historic Haga District
Haga is the oldest neighbourhood in Gothenburg and in the 17th century, was the city’s first suburb. Wander the streets, and you’ll find traditional wooden houses lining cobblestone streets where boutique shops and independent cafes offer the perfect retreats for a leisurely morning. We spent our first morning here in Haga and absolutely loved it.
When you’re here, you must pop into Café Husaren, home of Gothenburg’s giant cinnamon buns – as big as your head! I expected this place to be a bit of a tourist trap, popular as an Instagram spot but not somewhere you’d necessarily recommend for Fika. I was proved wrong! The huge cinnamon bun was delicious and went perfectly with the hot cup of Swedish coffee.
Once you’ve stopped for a sweet treat, you can spend the rest of your morning in Haga, exploring the various shops. From independent toy stores, soap shops or a local chocolate maker to interior design and fashion designers to get your fill of Scandi style. The shops here are unique and sell things you won’t be able to get elsewhere!
A stunning Archipelago ready to explore when you visit Gothenburg
One of the most unique things about Gothenburg is the stunning archipelago made up of over 20 islands. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to go, but before we visited, I looked at so many pictures and searched for a few different tours you can do (you can just hop on a ferry and explore yourself too!) it looks truly stunning and is on my list to explore the next time we visit, because yes, Gothenburg is absolutely a city you will want to come back to.
The archipelago is divided into the southern and northern islands. All of the islands offer something different, but a trip to the archipelago is the perfect escape to quaint fishing villages, stunning nature reserves and coastal seaside walks.
If you rent a car while in Gothenburg, you can easily jump on a ferry from Lilla Varholmen to Hönö and Björkö and, from there, explore the rest of the northern islands. If you don’t have a car, explore the car-free southern islands from the Stenpiren Travel Centre or Saltholmen boat terminal.
The green oasis of Jubileumsparken has refreshing natural swimming pools
We spent our final day in Gothenburg at Jubileumsparken on a whim! I had searched for unique things to do in Gothenburg, and this cool park appeared in one of my searches. I saw that it had a few outdoor swimming pools and a metal sauna made out of recycled materials. (I think it kind of looks like an elephant haha, can you see it?)
The park and the swimming pools were created in 2014 and provided a much requested greenspace for the people of Gothenburg. It’s a place where locals can meet, swim, relax and connect with nature.
We were here at the start of September, and it was still really sunny and warm enough to get in the water (although the water is freezing!). We cycled here from our hotel, and it took us around 30 minutes. If you don’t fancy the cycle, there are busses that can take you here too!
There’s many festivals and events to get involved in when you visit Gothenburg
We were in Gothenburg at the same time as their 400-year celebration of the city. This meant that there were a lot of festivities happening around the city, from live music and dancing to street food fairs and art installations.
As well as that, they also made the city bikes free to use for the whole weekend we were there (so lucky!). My partner and I love staying active on holiday and Gothenburg made it easy for us. Firstly, it’s such a walkable city, making it simple to get around and see the sights on foot. We preferred jumping on one of the Next Bikes, though as it meant we could see a lot more in a shorter space of time.
Gothenburg regularly has festivals happening, especially during summer. The biggest and most popular is the Way Out West musical festival that takes place every August in Gothenburg (I think it happened the weekend before we arrived!). But if you fancy a winter break to Gothenburg, they have some pretty magical Christmas Markets to enjoy too!
You can tour the city’s cool street art
Gothenburg is an arty city with a hipster vibe, because of that, there is so much street art to see as you wander the streets. Street art became popular in Gothenburg thanks to the Artscape festival that took place in 2016. The festival returned in 2021 with even bigger street art murals, some of which you can still see today in Gothenburg.
You can find all of the best street art murals in Gothenburg via the West Sweden Street Art Trail. Most are in the city centre, o you won’t have to walk very far to check out the best street art!
With so much to do and see in Gothenburg, I’m sure you can understand why I absolutely loved visiting the city! I spent four days here at the end of August this year and I easily could have spent much longer. In fact, sitting at the airport I realsied that Gothenburg was the first place I’d visited in a while that made me think “I’d love to move there!” That’s pretty much always how I guage how good a city is, could I live here and would I move here? Yes to both for Gothenburg. But if you’re like me, and not in a position to relocate to Sweden, add Gothenburg to the top of your European City Break Travel List! You won’t regret it.
Where to stay when you visit Gothenburg
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Gothenburg, but we stayed at the Scandi Göteborg Central Hotel, and I would highly recommend it. With sleek Scandi decor and all you could ever want for a breakfast buffet, I had no complaints about this beautiful hotel! They even have a spectacular rooftop bar with views of the Gothenburg port and city lights.
There are also a few other options you can consider:
Stay in the beautiful Upper House Hotel for a super luxurious hotel with a glass-bottom swimming pool suspended 20 floors above the city in the Gothia Towers. Located just across the road from Liseberg Amusement Park and 5 minutes from the city’s main shopping avenue.
Hotel Riverton is a stunning boutique-designed hotel with incredible views of Gothenburg’s iconic waterfront. They have a sky bar where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail as the sun dips into the sea and a resident DJ who will start the party once night falls!
Should I Visit Gothenburg?
In my opinion, yes Gothenburg is worth visiting. I haven’t visited any other cities in Sweden but Gothenburg really stole my heart. The people in Gothenburg are so friendly, always smiling and welcoming to tourists and the city is beautiful with so much to do.
Gothenburg is much less touristy than Stockholm and attracts less visitors. If you’re a fan of art, food, music and love a city break with lots to do, Gothenburg is worth a visit.
In summer, the weather in Gothenburg is mild, with plenty of sunny days. Perfect for taking a dip in the waters surrounding the beautiful islands of the Archipelago. And the city centre of Gothenburg is compact with very convenient transport links.
Lastly, Gothenburg’s affordable bars and restaurants are excellent places to absorb its laid-back vibe and make the most of Fika culture.
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