Would you rather take a trip to Stockholm or Gothenburg?
If you feel like this question is a bit of a no-brainer, and you would choose the ultra posh city of Stockholm without a second thought, I don’t blame you. It’s an undeniably spectacular city.
In fact, while living in Sweden for the past three years, I would purchase train tickets to Stockholm whenever I craved a small dose of city life. (I’m a born and bred Torontonian currently living in rather small Swedish town). Until recently, I never really considered spending a few more hours on a train in order to visit the west coast city of Gothenburg. I thought Stockholm had it all.
And let me tell you that I was so, so, so wrong.
Last month, after nearly three years in Sweden, I finally made my way down to Gothenburg. All in all, I wasn’t quite sure what kind of city I expected to stumble upon, but I thought I would be stepping into a smaller version of Stockholm (wrong again, Anya).
When I walked out of Gothenburg’s Central Train Station and made my way to a nearby tram and bus stop, I glimpsed the canals and felt the salty ocean breeze. On that first bus ride through Gothenburg’s downtown core, I saw part of the waterfront, the old shipyard, the impressive brick buildings in the Linné district, and countless patios packed with people soaking in the later afternoon sun. In those first 20 minutes, I realized that Gothenburg is not a smaller Stockholm. The two Swedish cities do share some similarities. However, Sweden’s second largest city has definitely made itself stand out from the nation’s capital.
All in all, I highly recommend visiting Stockholm. But I will venture to say that if you’re travelling on a budget, short on time, or really want to see a Swedish city that will go above and beyond your expectations, a trip to Gothenburg is a must.
Here are 10 reasons why you’ll fall in love with Gothenburg!
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1. The Views
If you’ve read any of my other posts, such as my Munich post or “Instagrammable” Lisbon post, you’ll be well aware that I’m always on the hunt for the most spectacular city views. I’m happy to inform you that there is no shortage of beautiful views in Gothenburg.
If you’re looking for a classic bird’s-eye view of Gothenburg, head up to the Skansen Kronan fortification on top of Risåsberget hill (found in the lovely and central Haga neighbourhood). Walking around the 17th century fortification will give you a 360° view of the city.
View of Gothenburg from Skansen Kronan.
If you’d rather see the city from sea level (see what I did there?), you’re definitely able to! A journey on a Paddan Boat Tour will take you through the downtown canals and out by the old shipyards on the Gota River. Without a doubt, you’ll experience some unique views of Gothenburg from the water.
Admiring Gothenburg’s downtown core from one of the canals.
2. Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s “Amsterdam”
Like Amsterdam in the Netherlands, downtown Gothenburg has canals. However, the connection between the two cities goes deeper than the simple presence of these small waterways. When Gothenburg was being built hundreds of years ago, Dutch engineers were hired to plan the city since they were familiar with building on marshes (e.g. Amsterdam was built on marshy ground). Due to this connection with the famous Dutch capital, Gothenburg can be rightfully called Scandinavia’s Amsterdam. How unique and unexpected is that?!
3. Budget-Friendly Sites and Attractions
Scandinavian countries have a reputation for being expensive places to visit. Fortunately, Gothenburg has an abundance of free or affordable sites and attractions to help you keep more of your money in your bank account.
Free: Skansen Kronan
As mentioned earlier, the 17th century fortification is the place to go to in order to experience a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Gothenburg. Visiting the fortress at sunset can be especially magical.
A snap of the city from a different side of the fortification. Almost sunset.
Free: The Garden Society of Gothenburg (Trädgårdsföreningen)
The Garden Society of Gothenburg is an expansive park found just across from the central train station. If you visit during the warmer months, you will find picture-perfect gardens filled with thousands upon thousands of roses. You maaaaaaay feel tempted to keep snapping photos until your memory card is full.
Beautiful, peachy roses in the Garden Society of Gothenburg Park.
The Rosenkaféet in the park can be a great place to relax and take in the lovely surroundings.
Free: The Palm House (Palmhuset)
The Palm House is an impressive green house in the Garden Society of Gothenburg park. Inside the Palm House, you will find many tropical plants and places to sit if you’re in need of a bit of warmer weather. The greenhouse is open from 10 AM – 4 PM everyday of the week.
The Palm House from a distance.
Inside the Palm House.
Free: Admiring the Food Halls
Gothenburg has two famous food halls: Saluhallen and Feskekôrkan (The Fish Church). Both halls stand along the same downtown canal and are fascinating to explore (check out their architecture!). You can find mouth-watering goods from all over the world in Saluhallen and tons of fresh seafood in the Fish Church.
A snap of the Fish Church taken from the canal. One of the reasons the building is called the “Fish Church” is because of it’s church-like exterior.
€18+: Paddan Boat Tour
A Paddan Boat tour is a guided tour that takes you through Gothenburg’s downtown canals and out onto the Gota River.€18 may sound like a pricey investment, but this tour is still cheaper than the Stockholm equivalent.
Cruising down the canals on the Paddan Boat Tour.
Despite the cost, I highly recommend going on this tour since you get quite a bit of insight into the city’s history, develop a better understanding of the city’s layout, and have a bit of fun ducking under some super low bridges, such as the Cheese Slicer.
Out on the Gota River. A snap featuring the 100+ -year old ship called the Viking and the Lipstick building in the distance.
Click here for more information about Paddan Boat Tours.
Liseberg is Scandinavia’s most popular amusement park. In addition to a variety of world-renown roller coasters, you can find many restaurants, performance venues, and a botanical garden inside the park.
If you don’t want to splurge on an all-day all-access pass, it costs €10 to enter and walk around for the day. You can then purchase coupons to get on the rides of your choice.
Click here to learn more about Liseberg.
Budget Tip: If walking around Liseberg, taking a Paddan boat tour, and visiting a handful of Gothenburg’s museums and historical sites interests you, a Göteborg City Card may be worth looking into. Click here for more information about the card.
4. Walk Around Haga
Taking a short walk or tram ride from Gothenburg’s city centre to visit the old neighbourhood of Haga is a necessity when visiting the city. I’ve even given Haga it’s own large heading in an attempt to emphasize the area’s awesomeness. If you want a taste of what time travel could feel like (…someone’s been binge-watching the Outlander), go to Haga.
On both sides of the district’s pedestrian street, Haga Nygata, you will find countless cozy cafes, quirky antique shops, and hundred-year old traditional wooden homes. Haga’s quaintness will make you feel like you’ve magically managed to leave modern city life behind just by turning around a street corner.
Super cute Haga Nygata.
More Haga. What year is it again?
5. Efficient Public Transportation…That’s Also Budget-Friendly
Buses, trams, and ferries make up Gothenburg’s public transportation system. When travelling around downtown Gothenburg, you usually have many buses or trams to choose from in order to get where you need to go. Buses and trams typically arrive and depart on time.
What’s fantastic about Gothenburg’s public transportation system is that you can buy and use passes and tickets though the city’s Västtrafik To Go app. This very same app lets you look up your journeys too.
Of course, if you don’t have access to data, you can buy tickets and passes from convenience stores, such as Pressbyrån and 7-Eleven.
But the public transportation system gets even better…
A 3-day/72-hour pass for the Gothenburg zone costs just under €19 (that’s cheaper than a 72-hour public transportation pass in Stockholm). This pass lets you use all buses and trams to get around Gothenburg AND lets you take quite a few ferries out into the Gothenburg Archipelago. If you’re thinking about visiting the archipelago while in Gothenburg, the 72-hour public transportation pass is totally worth the cost. (FYI I highly recommend visiting the archipelagos).
6. The Archipelagos
As suggested above, if you’re planning on spending more than a day in Gothenburg, I encourage you to take a trip out to the Southern or Northern Archipelago. (NOTE THAT: Ferries travelling to and from the islands in the Southern Archipelago are included in the 72-hour Gothenburg public transportation pass). To reach the Southern Archipelago, you can take Tram 11 from downtown Gothenburg to the Saltholmen boat terminal and hop on one of the ferries.
During my stay in Gothenburg, we took the ferry to Bränno Husvik, walked across the island (only a 35-minute walk if you’re short on time), and took the ferry from Brännö Rödsten back to Saltholmen.
If you’re craving to catch sight of some idyllic coastal landscapes and picture-perfect vacation homes, visiting Brännö is a must. I’ll let the photos do the convincing.
Passing by Styrsö on the way to Bränno Husvik.
Arriving at Bränno Husvik.
Bay-Watch (caption taken from Electric Blue Food).
Those vacation homes.
Thinking about visiting the Southern Archipelago?
7. The Food
Gothenburg is a foodie’s paradise.
Earlier in the post, I mentioned Gothenburg’s two food market halls. Since one hall is called “the Fish Church” and well, looks like an actual church, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the city is known for and proud of its delicious and fresh seafood.
Inside the Fish Church.
That being said, if you’re interested in trying fish-free delicacies from Sweden and beyond, you can head on over to Saluhallen.
As well, the ultra-hip Linné neighbourhood boasts many one-of-a-kind bars and restaurants prepared to satisfy all sorts of cravings (including cold beer on a perfect summer patio cravings).
Those beer-battered fish tacos at Tacos & Tequila were everything. Sorry for gobbling them up before taking a snap. Here’s a pic of their awesome sauce summer patio instead.
But maybe you have more of a sweet tooth than a taste for the savoury? Gothenburg can cater to all your foodie needs. You can take your pick of all sorts of freshly baked goods in the Haga neighbourhood (which is right next to Linné BTW). Popping by Café Husaren in Haga is a must even if it’s just to take a look at the famous Hagabullar – the most enormous cinnamon rolls you will probably ever lay eyes on. Yes, you can buy a whole roll, but can you eat it all in one go? I challenge you.
Baked goods in Haga out on display.
Café Husaren’s HUGE Hagabullar.
8. The Art
It’s not surprising that Paris’ Louvre or New York’s Museum of Modern Art are home to quite a few masterpieces. But did you know that you can check out works by Rembrandt, Monet, Munch, and Picasso in Gothenburg? Just head on over to Gothenburg’s Museum of Art (Free museum admission with the Göteborg City Card). Nevertheless, if the contemporary art scene interests you more, you can visit Göteborgs Konsthall.
Yet, it’s important to acknowledge that not all of Gothenburg’s art can be found indoors. Artscape, an international street art festival, took place in the city last year (2016). During this festival, national and international artists created magnificent and ginormous murals on many of the city’s façades.
Check out some of the impressive works of art below:
Hueman’s colorful and mesmerizing mural found at Magasingatan 17.
“Emma” by RONE on Mandolingatan 39.
Yash’s masterpiece on Väderilsgatan 44 – 56
My friend Laura took these stunning photos of Gothenburg’s street art. Click here to check out her European adventures on Instagram.
When setting out to explore Gothenburg’s street art, keep in mind that only a handful of works are in the city centre, such as Hueman’s piece. Others are just a short bus or tram ride away (like RONE’s and Yash’s murals).
9. The Size
If it isn’t already evident, Gothenburg really has a lot going for it. The city has no shortage of historical sites, impressive views, exciting and affordable attractions, and quality cafés and restaurants. With a population just over 500,000, the city is quite small. This means that most sites and attractions aren’t too far apart. (You won’t have to spend much time getting from one place to another.)
Here’s a map pinpointing many of places described in this post:
With Gothenburg’s city centre located a 30-minute tram ride away from the coast, the city is a super convenient point of departure for visiting the nearby archipelagos. As well, Gothenburg is about halfway between Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, and Norway’s capital, Oslo. Therefore, Gothenburg is in a perfect spot for a multi-country Nordic adventure.
After three wonderful days in Gothenburg, I hopped on to the train back to my little Swedish town. On the train, I kept thinking (in disbelief) about how it took me 3 years to discover Gothenburg. Was it because the “East-coasters” around me always raved about Stockholm? Or was it due to the proximity of Sweden’s capital city?
Well, on thing is for sure: it’s time for Stockholm to share the spotlight with its west coast sibling. Don’t you agree?
Have you visited Gothenburg? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
Considering visiting Stockholm?
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