Sweden has always been on my travel list. I still wish I’d caught the overnight ferry to Stockholm from the end of my best friend’s street while I was staying in Riga, that one is still very much on the list. In November, I got to tick off a visit to Sweden after a weekend away in Gothenburg. It was the perfect trip; sunny winter days with clear blue skies, the food was wonderful and it was just lovely to escape London for a few days, be able to walk around everywhere and take in new surroundings.
Getting there and around
We flew with Norwegian Air and it actually cost us less to get to Gothenburg and back than it would to get to Manchester from London! We arrived into Landvetter Airport and it couldn’t have been easier to get to central Gothenburg, we just grabbed a Flygbussarna bus from right outside the airport exit and it got us to the city centre in about 30 minutes for about £10. They don’t accept cash on the bus so make sure you’ve got your bank card with you. Getting around Gothenburg itself is super easy too. We walked most places which really helped get our bearings and take in the sights. There is a really great tram network in the city and your tram ticket is valid for as many journeys on the trams, buses and the ferry as you’d like for 90 minutes which was great as we hopped off the tram and onto the ferry to the archipelago for just a few pounds. You can also cycle around town with Styr & Ställ bikes, Gothenburg’s equivalent to London’s Boris bikes. There are more than 50 bike stations spread around town and the bikes are available for hire from 1 March through 31 December.
We stayed in Emelie’s beautiful Airbnb apartment which was perfect for our weekend away. Emelie was a wonderful host, we had everything we needed in the apartment including a lovely scrapbook guide to Gothenburg, put together by Emelie with great food recommendations including lots of veggie and seafood places. The location of the apartment was ideal, just around the corner from the airport bus stop and within a 10-15 minute walking distance of all the lovely restaurants, shops and attractions such as museums, food markets and the old town Haga.
Where to eat
Gothenburg is the perfect destination for food lovers. There are just so many delicious foods to try, from the famous Swedish meatballs, smörgås or macka – open sandwiches on Rye to the Stockholm Knot, an incredible Cardamon pastry and of course Kanelbullar – Swedish Cinnamon rolls!
For breakfast, most days we headed to Konditori Brogyllen (Västra Hamngatan 2, +46 (0) 31 13 87 13). Emelie had recommended this as the place to go for the best breakfast and brunch and she was spot on. For only SEK 75 (£7.50) you can get a delicious breakfast of a hot drink, fresh juice, muesli with yoghurt, croissant, fresh bread with cheese, meats and jams (fyi the homemade Raspberry jam as incredible!). If you’re going for breakfast, I’d suggest getting there early to avoid long queues. If you don’t get there in time for breakfast, don’t worry as there just so many beautiful dishes to choose from. Try the amazing prawn and salmon smörgås or macka, the cardamon Stockholm knot and don’t leave without grabbing one of the amazing cinnamon rolls.
If you’re after some good Swedish food, then head to Smaka (taste in Swedish) – (Vasaplatsen 3, +46 (0) 31 13 22 47.) Here’s all about traditional Swedish home cooking with a popular spacious bar, prefect for grabbing a Swedish beer. Try the classic dish of meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingon berries, Ade said it was the best Swedish meatballs she’s had and I really recommend the Fish Gratin, a deliciously comforting and warming dish on a cold night. The restaurant is very popular so best to book ahead unlike us, but we were able to sit at bar and be looked after but the barman so it all worked out.
On our last night in town, we fancied something a little different so we decided on Moon Thai Kitchen (Kristinelundsgatan 9, +46 (0) 31 774 28 28) and a little different was definitely what we got. The inside of the restaurant just looks like a tropical party. You can sip your drinks at the bar which is a VW camper van or enjoy your dinner in a Tuk Tuk. As we were led to our table, we could help but notice the aroma of spices and coconut rice, by the time we were seated, we were absolutely starving! I had the seafood hot pan with coconut rice and it amazing! A word of warning though, the spice level of the dishes are indicated by the moon size, I opted for a thin sliver moon and it was still way too spicy for me, I really can’t handle spicy food. There a range of hot pan options, with the food coming to you on a sizzling hot pan dish. The seafood was cooked perfectly, the Squid melted in the mouth and was beautifully spiced. The service was great, our waiter was so friendly and was really excited about the fact we were from London as he’d grown up here.
For our last breakfast in town, Ade had done her research and led the way to Café Husaren (28 Haga Nygata + 46 (0) 31 136 378) in the old neighbourhood of Haga so we could try it’s speciality the famous Hagabullar, a gigantic cinnamon buns covered in pearl sugar. It was a 20 minute walk to the cafe from our apartment, but it turned out to be 20 minutes in the freezing rain, so to sit down in the beautiful café housed in a listed building, with a hot cup of tea and share one of these cinnamon buns felt wonderful. Even sharing the Hagabullar, we couldn’t make much of dent in it, so we made like the locals, cut it up and took it with us and it turned out to be the perfect in-flight snack on the way home. The café is not far form the university so is a popular hangout for students and the odd blogger. Definitely a great stop for fika: a concept in Swedish (and Finnish) culture meaning ‘to have coffee’, often accompanied with sweet pastries or sandwiches in the company of friends.
Things to see & explore
Saluhallen (Stora Saluhallen 46. Kungstorget) – Gothenburg’s largest indoor food market since the mid 19th century. Here you’ll find sweets, spices, fresh fish and seafood, meat, hand made pasta, coffee, tea, bread, cheeses and lots of other delicacies, I really recommend a visit. Visiting foodmarkets are one of my favourite things to do on holiday and I always find the best ones have great little places to grab a bite too and Saluhallen is no exception, there is plenty to choose from such as Amanda Boman – a great little bistro serving great lunches between 11-3, the fish soup looked lovely. There’s also a branch of Konditori Brogyllen, perfect for that sweet craving after lunch.
Another food related must visit is Feskekörka the indoor fish market. Seafood is a serious matter in Gothenburg, so much that on 1 November 1874 they opened the Feskekörka which got its name from the building’s resemblance to a Neo-gothic church. Restaurant Gabriel is said to be a great eatery within the fish market, operated by a former oyster-shucking champion. The restaurant specialises in oyster, lobster, crab sole and crayfish, just make sure you don’t go on a Monday like we did when the fish market and restaurant are closed.
While in Gothenburg, we managed to see some of Gothenburg’s Green World installation which spanned the whole of 2016 with the aim of inspiring organic gardening and ecological lifestyles. Japanese Installation artist Tetsunori Kawana was a key contributor to Gothenburg Green World. Each space that Kawana works in has its own context – and gets its own interpretation. At Milleniumplatsen square, by the main Avenyn boulevard, Kungsportsbron bridge and Stora Teatern theatre, you’ll find Kawana’s Bamboo vision of a tranquil, floating cloud, there until the end of this month. He used 400 green bamboo poles, each six metres long to construct the installation.
On this visit we didn’t manage to visit the museums but Universeum would definitely be on the list to visit. It’s located in the heart of Gothenburg and is Scandinavia’s largest science centre. There are seven floors to explore when you can experience life-size dinosaurs, a tropical rainforest, huge aquariums and lots of experiments, perfect for my geeky ways.
Gothenburg Cathedral – Domkyrkan (Kyrkogatan 28) is a peaceful retrieve in the middle of the shopping district. Ade and I wandered in on a Saturday morning and were lucky enough to catch a beautiful performance by the choir and left feeling very calm and peaceful.
The archipelago of Gothenburg stretches along the coast and you don’t have to travel far from the city to find charming villages, stunning nature and beaches. Seal safaris, sea-fishing and boat excursions are just some of the activities available here depending on the time of year.
The southern islands are car free and you get there by ferry from the boat terminal Saltholmen. To get to the northern islands you take the ferry from Lilla Varholmen on Hisingen. It is easy to get to both Saltholmen and Lilla Varholmen from Gothenburg. Tram 11 from central Gothenburg (or tram 9 during summer) takes you to the terminal in about 35 minutes. In fact we jumped on tram 11 right outside Konditori Brogyllen. During peak season the trams depart approximately every 7-8 minutes and the bus 114 Ö-Snabben is also available during peak season.
We took the ferry to Styrsö, which is located in the middle of the southern islands and with a population of around 1400 people. There are shops, cafés, guesthouses and restaurants. There are plenty of places to swim from a child-friendly sandy beach, a pier or flat cliffs although swimming is best saved for the warmer months unless you’re really brave. There are also great fishing spots on the south side of the island. There are four small villages each with a different feel. The oldest is Byn with its church from 1752. Tången is the traditional fishing village with beautiful huddled houses and winding paths. Halsvik was the home of well-to-do captains and Bratten is the home of Summer visitors, which was turned into seaside resort by Gothenburg’s high society in the late 19th century.
As Gothenburg is part closed on a Sunday, we thought it the ideal day to visit the archipelago. We were met by sunny skies and smooth waters as arrived on Styrsö and we set off on a beautiful 5K walk around the towns, taking in the stunning views and ending our walk with tea and a cinnamon roll at the cafe as we waited for the ferry back to Saltholmen. Visiting the archipelago was the things which drew me to Gothenburg and it was a real highlight of the trip.
Where to shop
For fashion and homewares, head to Vallgatan where, among other Swedish brands, you’ll find the flagship outlet of Nudie Jeans, (Vallgatan 15, +46 3160 9360). This Gothenburg-born denim brand was launched by former Levi’s designer Maria Erixon and just the place you’re looking to invest in a high quality pair of jeans. The jeans are unisex and there are knowledgable staff on hand to help pick the perfect pair of jeans for you. When your jeans start looking a bit worn, you can take them back to Nudie, who will repair the jeans and there is a repair shop in London.
The adjoining street Magasinsgatan, was my favourite street. It’s great for vintage fashion, with Miss Ragtime (Magasinsgatan 15, +46 3177 40232) and Pop Boutique (Magasinsgatan 22, +46 3115 1555) which turn old pre-loved items into stunning one-off pieces, great if you’re feeling a bit spendy.
If you’re looking for a sweet fix or a sweet souvenir, then Praline Boden (Haga Nygata 38 + 031-711 15 52) is the prefect stop. We discovered this store by chance on the way to Café Hausaren. The store has a range of about 100 different chocolate varieties which are imported directly from Belgium and then produced in-house. The coffee comes from Bergstrands Coffee roasting with the coffee beans roasted in Gothenburg and is of the highest quality and there are over a 100 different kinds of teas so there really is something for everyone and free taste samples too!
Ade has become a keen knitter and I want to get back into it, so we were on the lookout for a good yarn shop on our trip and we didn’t have to look to far before we found Strikk (Vallgatan 23, +46 (0) 31 711 37 99). If knitting is your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this store and will easily be inspired to create your very own Scandi style chunky knit.
Sweden and home design just go together and Gothenburg is full of homeware store. Ade and I couldn’t help but pop into every home store we saw and one of our absolute favourites was on Magasinsgatan. The Kitchen store which is part of Artilleriet interior design store (Magasinsgatan 19 (alt. entrance Vallgatan 3), +46 (0) 31 711 76 21). This is the most beautifully curated homeware store, with complimentary coffee and bundt cake on offer while you try to resist the temptation to buy every single item in the shop.
I couldn’t help but hunt out a stationary store while in Gothenburg, I love picking up stationary as a little souvenir of a lovely holiday. For stationary I’d recommend a visit to BookBinders Design (Magasinsgatan 11 +46 (0)31-711 98 03) 411 18. I loved the beautifully bound notebooks embossed with wise motivational quotes. Also great for stationary was the homeware store Lagerhaus (Vallgatan 16, +46 (0)31 13 84 50). This store is a must visit for affordable homeware including a great range of marble goods. We were in there browsing for ages, in fact we went back twice!
If you’re looking for a luxe department store then the the uniquely Swedish department store NK, (Östra Hamngatan 42, +46 3171 01000) is the stop for you. NK has a sister store in Stockholm and the NK beauty hall is simply incredible, if we didn’t have a flight home to catch we would have been in there for hours, let alone the rest of the store. We headed to the Byredo concession in NK and happily sampled the stunning fragrances from the Stockholm-founded brand and even the customer service was amazing with the sales assistant gladly giving us samples to take home with us!
I loved our long weekend in Gothenburg and would love to visit Sweden again soon with a trip to Stockholm or Malmö.