Gothenburg is a lovely, smaller city on the west coast of Sweden. It is the second largest city in the country and has long been a more industrial city than Stockholm. Much of the northern side of the city was used in the past for shipbuilding. Today most of the shipyards have closed, but it is a thriving city, home to Volvo Cars, Volvo AB (Volvo trucks, among other businesses), AstraZeneca, and ABB.
It is a walkable city for visitors planning a trip with a good public transport system of trams, buses, and trains. Gothenburg is a more laid-back city than Copenhagen in Denmark and the neighbor city of Stockholm, and it is especially nice in the summer when it is warmer and you have longer days to enjoy it.
What to do in Gothenburg
Gothenburg is built on the sea, on the banks of the Göta River, and in the middle of the city are a small number of canals. This makes a canal tour ideal for a quick and interesting view of the city. Many of the attractions and locations for sightseeing are within a 15-20 minute walk of the center. Still, there is an extensive network of buses and trams for public transport, and you can also hire bikes and battery-powered scooters to get around the city as well.
When moving about in the city, keep in mind that there are tram tracks, roads, bike paths, and pedestrian paths to both navigate and watch out for when you are crossing a road.
A walk through Trädgårdsföreningen is a nice way to enjoy nature right in the city, and in the spring and summer, there will, of course, be flowers. If enjoying parks and gardens is something you enjoy, then take the tram to Linné and visit the Botanical Gardens (Botaniska Trädgården).
The suggestions below can be chosen according to your taste and the weather, which can be unpredictable. Although there are very few ‘must-see’ places in Gothenburg, taking a walk down Kungsportsavenyn (or the Avenue) to Götaplatsen gives you a feel for the city and a view of the iconic statue of Poseidon. The art museum and concert hall are also at this end of the city.
Walk Through the Haga District
The Haga District is an old worker’s district in Gothenburg, which in addition to being a nice residential area is a very nice area to walk and explore the many small boutique shops and cafes. The theme here is to wander and explore and take in the atmosphere and the cobbled streets and wooden buildings take you back a few centuries. The other theme here is a more bohemian feel as there are vegetarian cafes and some second-hand clothing stores.
Liseberg Amusement Park
Liseberg is one of the largest amusement parks in Scandinavia, and a fun way to spend a day or afternoon, especially if you have kids. It is something of an icon in Sweden, with the rides named after Norse gods. It is open through the spring, summer, and autumn, and closed for the winter except for Halloween and just before Christmas for the Christmas Markets.
Take a Canal Tour
The city of Gothenburg was originally run by the Dutch, and the design of the city was modeled on Amsterdam and Jakarta – which means that it had a network of canals. Many of the canals are now gone, but some remain, making a canal tour a fun and interesting way to see the city. There are a few different options, but the one that can take you along the canals and under the bridges is the Paddan tour. In just under an hour you get a tour of the canals and out on the river.
The Skansen Kronan was once a fortress, sitting on the top of a hill overlooking the city. These days it is a function and conference center, but also a spot to enjoy a great view over the city, and a nice walk if the weather is nice. Gothenburg is mostly flat, and so there are very few vantage points overlooking the city, so Skansen Kronan is worth including in your itinerary if time allows.
New Älvsborg Fortress
The port and city of Gothenburg have needed protection for much of the early part of its life, and this old fortress is a reminder of those times. New Älvsborg Fortress (Nya Älvsborgs Fästning in Swedish) is a fortress on a small island near the mouth of the river. These days it is a nice tourist attraction for those people interested in the history of the region, and for those who would like a trip out on the river. The fortress is reachable by ferry from Långedrag Pier and Lilla Bommen.
Visit these Museums
Universeum for Kids
Universeum is a museum built around our understanding of our planet and the universe, so while it isn’t specifically about Gothenburg, it is a great place to take the kids if they are getting bored. There is an aquarium, a greenhouse, and a science lab, where the kids, big and small, can learn, experiment, and make things like slime, and then there is a section on our planets and the universe.
Gothenburg is the home of Volvo, and the massive campus in Torslanda is home to Volvo Cars and Volvo AB, which includes Volvo Trucks. The Volvo Museum, which traces the history of car production from 1927 to the present, has been in Torslanda for many years, but as of April 2024, the Volvo Museum is in the new World of Volvo building near Liseberg. This museum is of course a great option for car fans, and kids.
Gothenburg Art Museum
The Gothenburg Art Museum (Konstmuseum in Swedish) showcases a wonderful collection of Nordic art from the 15th century onwards, as well as Dutch and Flemish art. They also hold exhibitions of contemporary artists. The collection features impressionists, and modernists, as well as the romantics and more academic paintings that show earlier life in Sweden and the Nordic countries.
Gothenburg has some nice parks to explore, and you don’t need to travel outside the city to see one – Trädgårdsföreningen, or the Horticultural Association, is a large garden complete with a rose garden, and the Palm House, which is a large glasshouse that holds a nice collection of tropical plants. Even if you’re just looking for a place to sit and relax during your stay in the city, this is a nice place to visit that won’t require you to travel outside the center.
Just outside the city center at Linnéplatsen are the large parklands of Slottsskogen, and across the road is Botaniska Trädgården, or the Botanical Gardens, which has an expansive collection of flora from all over the globe. The gardens are particularly beautiful in the spring when the tulips and other flowering plants come to life.
Where to eat in Gothenburg
Authentic, classic Swedish food can be harder to find than you think. In Gothenburg, seafood is especially popular and you will usually find a few seafood options on the menu. In most places, there will be at least one vegetarian option as well.
During the week many restaurants offer what is called Dagens Lunch, which is a hot meal, salad, and then tea or coffee, all at a cheaper price than you will find in the evening. This is also the time when you are more likely to see some Swedish classic dishes on the menu. Some classic dishes (apart from the meatballs we all know from Ikea) are Wallenbergare (a meat patty like a rissole served with mashed potato), fish dishes such as cod or salmon, and pea soup and pancakes (a Thursday tradition – go to Star Bowling for this one).
It is also a good idea to book in advance. For Friday and Saturday nights, popular restaurants can be booked out weeks in advance, so to avoid disappointment and the endless trudge looking for a place to eat, book in advance if you can. Most restaurants provide online bookings.
A good place to start where you can keep most people happy is John Scott’s, which is a bit like an English-style pub, and the menu has different burgers, steak, fish, and chips… but also has Swedish Meatballs.
Our favorite burger restaurant in the city is Bastard Burgers, at Östra Hamngatan 30 closely followed by DINÉ Burgers at Drottninggatan 31.
There are vegetarian-only restaurants as well – Cafe Adrum at Östra Hamngatan 19, and Happy Me Vegetarian at Vasagatan 24.
If you prefer a restaurant based around seafood, then Fiskekrogen at Lilla Torget 1 is the place for you, where you can enjoy a Swedish twist on seafood, usually featuring local produce.
A popular spot for Thai food, you can’t go past Moon Thai at Kristinelundsgatan 9, which not only features great Thai food but the restaurant is fully decked out with neon lights and tuk-tuks.
For modern Swedish gastronomy seek out Bhoga, Koka, or Human. They are all excellent. I have been to Bhoga several times and each time it has been amazing. They change the menu frequently based on the season and availability of ingredients. The emphasis here is on simple food and flavors done well.
Make this one of the cities in Sweden to put on your travel itinerary. This is just the tip of the Scandinavian destinations you can enjoy while traveling the world.