Sweden’s second city gets much less attention than its fancier east-coast alternative (Stockholm), but for us, that’s all the more reason to visit Gothenburg. Find out how to get the best out of any trip to this port-city in our tips for what to do in Gothenburg.
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A Visitor’s Guide to Enjoying Gothenburg
Visiting Gothenburg for the first time, in autumn of this year, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with other European cities – and particularly with a city that was my home for 6 years: Amsterdam.
My comparison between Gothenburg and Amsterdam wasn’t entirely accidental, either. The Dutch were instrumental in the design of modern-day Gothenburg and inspired the network of canals too (some of which have since been filled in).
Beyond the canals, there are other similarities, too. Given it’s strategic position just up-river from the Baltic Sea, Gothenburg has long been a trading and maritime hub, was home to the Swedish East India company, and has served as the main port city of Sweden. In recent years, industry has experienced a recession, and industry has slowly been replaced with tourism – though to a lesser extent than other European cities. Fortunately, the difference in tourist numbers set Amsterdam and Gothenburg firmly apart.
Gothenburg has also been named as the world’s most sustainable city – not only is it close to the forests of west Sweden, but its airport has achieved carbon neutral status, too. A staggering 92% of Gothenburg’s hotels are rated under one sustainability certification or another. We’ve included plenty of sustainable suggestions in this list of things to do in Gothenburg!
Getting Around Gothenburg
Gothenburg is a walking and bicycle friendly city (if you feel comfortable on two wheels). It also has a great network of Trams and Busses that will take you most places you want to go to.
Gothenburg central station, right next to the harbour, connects Gothenburg with fast and efficient trains to other parts of Sweden.
For buses and trams, it’s better to pre-buy your passes (tickets are not available on buses). The Tourist Centre at Kungsportsplatsen sells 1-day and 3-day tickets, or you can buy passes at 7-11s and grocery stores / kiosks around town.
Gothenburg is not a driving city. We don’t recommend having a car here, the public transportation is great and Gothenburg generally encourages use of public transport over driving.
Tickets for ferries and boats to the archipelago are usually available on board, but don’t always accept cash (card is more commonly accepted as Gothenburg starts to go cash-less in favour of debit cards).
We highly recommend getting a Gothenburg pass which allows you access to many of the city’s museums and attractions, sightseeing busses, and the paddan canal cruises.
Recommended Day Tours & Activities in Gothenburg
- Gothenburg walking tour – see the highlights of the city as part of a guided small group tour – for more info click here
- Private Photography tour – we went on a photography tour (see more below) but you’ll definitely get better shots if you go on a private one – for more info click here
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Recommended Things to do in Gothenburg
Fika, Fika, Fika
Ok so… we called this beyond the fika. But. Sorry, you can’t come to Gothenburg and not have Fika. What is fika?!
You likely won’t have been long in Gothenburg / Sweden before hearing about fika. Fika, literally, is coffee together with something sweet such as a cake or a traditional Swedish cinnamon bun (drool), but it’s also so much more than that.
The Swedes take their food seriously, and that includes their fika. Fika is an opportunity to slow down, have a chat, take some time out, or just catch up with friends. The best thing about it? Fika is enjoyed at pretty much any time of the day!
Some of our favourite places to eat Fika include the Cafe Husaren in Haga or the grand Brogyllen on the Västra Hamngatan.
Take a Paddan Trip on the Canals
Paddan open-style boats are open to visitors for city-sightseeing from a different perspective – which we highly recommend! In winter, rugs are provided, with gingerbread biscuits and hot mulled wine!
Paddan boats (which are open to all the elements – so it’s not the thing for a rainy day) depart regularly from Kungsportsplatsen in the city centre, and take passengers on a tour of Gothenburg’s city moat and canals which date from the 17th Century. The tour takes you past famous sights such as the opera house, the fish market “Feskekörka”, city parks, the old ship yard area and past docks along the harbour.
Paddan boat trips are included in the Gothenburg City pass.
Visit the Museum of Gothenburg
Located in the historic East India Company building on the dockside and also referred to as Gothenburg City Museum, this don’t miss museum is crammed with maritime history, stories about the development of the city of Gothenburg, and the only exhibited Viking ship in Sweden. The museum holds events throughout the year as well as general public opening.
After a visit to the museum, stroll just along the canal to the harbour front where you can visit the Maritime Museum (if you’re not museum-d out) or admire the Barken Viking clipper – a now unmissable feature of the Gothenburg harbour front. The clipper is now a ‘hotel’ or boat hotel – you can book a stay on her here.
Contributed by Clare from Ilivefortravel.com
The favourite thing I did whilst visiting Gothenberg was to visit Skansen Kronan. Located in the Haga district of Gothenberg it is only about a 20 minute walk from the centre of town.
Skansen Kronan was a fort that was built outside of Gothenberg, on a hill overlooking the town around 1700 and was one of 2 forts built to protect the walled city of Gothenberg. When it was built it had 23 cannons and some of these are still there on top of the hill for you to see when you visit. It was never attacked and so the main fort has remained intact.
When you visit you will be able to see what remains of the original defence walls of the fort around the hillside and also the fort itself which has walls 4-5 metres thick.
You are not able to enter the fort as it is only open for private parties and ceremonies but the views of Gothenberg city from Skansen Kronan are amazing and as you walk around the fort you get 360 degree views of the whole area and can see for miles. It’s a great place to relax on a warm summers day, with a little café open in summer on the site.
Haga Old Town Neighbourhood
Contributed by Bret and Mary from Green Global Travel
West Sweden doesn’t get nearly the level of acclaim on the international travel scene that Stockholm and Arctic Sweden receive. But, from the Koster Islands to Wragarden Farm (home to Highland cattle, American Bison, and a family of hand-raised Moose!), the region has plenty of simple pleasures for visitors to explore. History buffs will especially enjoy Haga Old Town, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city of Gothenburg.
The city’s first suburb was planned back in the mid-17th century, on orders from Queen Kristina. Its name comes from the Swedish word hage, or “enclosed field,” which was an apt description for the area’s bucolic setting at that time. The neighborhood’s charming main street, Haga Nygata, is lined with historical houses constructed in a traditional style known as “landshövdingehus,” with one floor made with a stone/brick exterior and the rest in wood. Most were built as homes for working class Swedes sometime between 1870 and 1940.
Many of these houses are now occupied by quaint little shops. From clothing boutiques and antique stores to soap shops, toy stores, and chocolatiers, there’s something for just about any taste and budget. The area is also packed with little sidewalk cafes and restaurants with outdoor terraces, which are perfect places to stop for a fika (a Swedish coffee break designed to encourage you to slow and savor the good things in life).
Make sure you try the famous Hagabullen– a massive cinnamon roll that’s as big as a plate– at Café Husaren
Visit the Liseberg
Contributed by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours.
Scandinavian theme parks are famous around the world. So it’s especially impressive that many believe Liseberg Park in Gothenburg, Sweden to be the best amusement park in Scandinavia.
Forbes Magazine even said it was one of the top ten amusement parks in the world. The Liseberg has been running for almost 100 years, and it’s still going strong. When you visit, you should plan to spend all day here. There are admission tickets at various prices, but if you get the All-in-One ticket, you’ll be able to go on every ride for just one price.
The best reason to go to Liseberg is for the beautiful rides. Balder is a wooden roller coaster that offers as many thrills as more modern-looking rides. And roller coaster fanatics can’t miss Helix, which is the longest roller coaster in Scandinavia. But there are rides for people who don’t like roller coasters like the tube ride Kallorado and the 1950s themed rotating ride JukeBox.
Once you’re done with the rides, there’s still plenty of fun at Liseberg. The Green Room is a budget-friendly and tasty vegetarian restaurant that’s the perfect place for lunch. For a snack, you can find every flavor of popcorn, including licorice. And if you want to do some shopping, buy green and pink bunny ears in honor of the park mascot Liseberg Rabbit. In the evening, there might even be a rock concert or two.
Everyone from the Rolling Stones to ABBA have played at Liseberg. Now you can too!
Stroll in Gothenburg’s Parks and Gardens
Gothenburg is home to some beautiful parks and greenhouse gardens which are perfect for relaxing in after too many fika. Aside from the Jubileumsparken across the river (see below) the Kungsparken and Tradgardsforeningen were two of our favourites, the latter with a glass palm house in – built to mimic the design of the ‘Crystal Palace’ in London from the 1850’s.
Go (Window) Shopping in the Stora Saluhallen
Home to every imaginable kind of delicious food to eat, the Saluhallen (the ‘Market halls’) are a great place to browse and see the best Swedish delicacies on display – from cheese, to chocolates, to meat, fish and of course… cinamon buns.
The market halls date back to the mid nineteenth century and were Gothenburg’s largest market place. If you’re in the mood for fika (sorry we can’t stop thinking about those cakes) then keep an eye out for the stall Brogyllen.
Recommended things to do (Just) Outside Gothenburg
Within an hour or so from Gothenburg there are a plethora of things to do: From forest hikes, saunas, and archipelago islands to castles.
Visit Alvsborg Fortress
Contributed by Ivan from Mind The Travel.
The Alvsborg Fortress is reachable within about 30 minutes from Gothenburg. From the Nordstan shopping centre on the edge of the water, it is relatively easy to jump on a boat to visit one of the islands off the city from the Lilla Bommen pier.
Located at the mouth of river Göta älv, the 17th Century Älvsborg Fortress is imposing with its iron and brass cannons, and it has long played an important strategic role in the North Sea. It was long considered an attractive piece of land, and fought over by Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians.
Before New Älvsborg was built there was the old fort on the mainland that is today known as the Old Älvsborg Fortress. Old Älvsborg is documented in medieval manuscripts in 1366. In 1563 and 1611, the fortress was conquered by the Danes. Swedes had to pay ransom each time to recover the fortress. The ruins of the Old Älvsborg can be found near Klippan Street on the southern shore of the estuary.
New Älvsborg Fortress is a listed building and attracts a large number of visitors each year. It takes approximately 30 minutes to get to the Fortress from Gothenburg. Make the most of your visit to Nya Elfsborg by joining one of the many guided tours and learn a lot about the history of the island, available in English and Swedish. The café on the island offers homemade bread, snacks, and a dazzling array of appetizers.
Take a Boat Trip Around Gothenburg’s Archipelago
There are plenty of tours around Gothenburg’s Archipelago come summer, where many Gothenburgers have their summer houses.
Or, if you feel like doing your own DIY version, hop on the 11 tram south-west at Brunnsparken and stay on until the end of the line at Saltholmen (35 minutes). From there you can take a ferry to Donso in the Gothenburg archipelago.
Note that outside of summer months, services to and from the archipelago (as well as tours) close down.
Free Things to do in Gothenburg
Gothenburg doesn’t have to be an expensive city! Here are some of our favourite free things to do in Gothenburg (excluding your Fika cost!):
Take a Free Ferry Across the River
From the main harbour front in central Gothenburg, you can take a free ferry across the Gate alv river to Stenpiren and Lindholmspiren. It’s free, so you don’t need a ticket. This is known as the The Älvsnabbare ferry, and it departs from the main ferry terminal on the harbour (Lilla Bommens Hamn), and is a nice way to see a different view of Gothenburg.
Visit the Jubileumsparken
The Jubileumsparken is a new urban park in the Frihamnen area, just across the river from the centre of Gothenburg and is a nice window into Gothenburg’s future. The city has big plans for expansion, most of which will be realised over this side of the river. The park is part of the Gothenburg 2021 celebrations (which mark the 400th birthday of the city) and will continue to be developed.
The park is home to roller-skating, Sweden’s “most spectacular sauna” and a public (free) infinity pool that floats. It gets busy on summer weekends so come in the week if you can. There’s also a manmade beach.
To get here, you can take tram numbers 5, 6 or 13 from Gothenburg central station.
Have you been to Gothenburg? What are your favourite things to do here? Let us know in the comments below!
Read more about travel in Sweden on Soul Travel Blog:
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