Things to Do in Gothenburg
Once run-down and on the verge of demolition, Gothenburg’s oldest district underwent a much-needed facelift in the 1980s and today, the historic quarter is one of the city’s liveliest and most fashionable neighborhoods. With its cobblestone lanes and distinctive 19th-century artisan buildings, Haga oozes character and the largely pedestrianized district is crammed with vintage clothing boutiques, independent designers and quirky antique shops.
Join the city’s creative types for a stroll around Haga and once you’ve finished browsing the shops and admiring the unique architecture, stop by the legendary Café Husaren, famous for its giant cinnamon rolls – a Swedish specialty – or relax at the stylish Hagabadet Spa. Another popular pastime is climbing the nearby Risåsberget hill, where the 17th-century Skansen Kronan fortress offers stunning views over Haga below.
With a history dating back to 1874, the Feskekôrka is Gothenburg’s oldest market hall, Scandinavia’s largest fish market and the much-celebrated focal point of the city’s legendary fishing industry. Owing its peculiar name (literally: the ‘Fish Church’) to its church-like appearance, the Feskekôrka’s unique surroundings only add to its charm and a stroll around the lively marketplace is a popular pastime for tourists.
Today the busy market remains largely unchanged from its 20th-century heyday, with elaborate displays of fresh, seasonal produce and a steady stream of top chefs, local families and visiting foodies haggling over the morning’s catch. From fresh-off-the-boat cod and halibut, to live spider crabs and lobsters, seafood lovers will find everything they need here, but even if you’re only browsing, head to one of the food stalls or restaurants, where you can sample local delicacies like pickled herring, smoked salmon or seafood smörgås (open sandwiches).
Built in 1629 and known simply as Stortorget (Big Square) for two centuries, Gustaf Adolf Square gets its name from the plaza’s statue of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden from 1611 - 1632. Notice how the statue’s finger points to the ground. Story goes, the king rode up Otterhällan Mountain and pointed to the fields surrounding the canal below, saying “The city shall be placed here.”
Snap a pic of yourself doing the same pose as Gustaf, and you won’t be the only one. Said to be one of the great military leaders of European history, the king is said to have steered Sweden to greatness in the Thirty Years War, so Gothenburg’s main square seems a fitting place for his statue.
On the north side of the square, see Gothenburg City Hall, a neoclassical dream of gleaming white pillars, and a popular place to get married. Also look out for the city’s law court. Its 1934 extension, by leading Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, has been much lauded by fans of his modernist style.
At Christmas, a huge Christmas tree lights up the center, and Gothenburg’s most famous winter market fills the plaza, harking back to the 17th century when farmers’ carts filled the square and boats filled with food for sale jammed the canal.
With its dramatic perch on the Gota River waterfront and a façade inspired by its maritime surroundings, the Gothenburg Opera House (Goteborgsoperan) is undoubtedly one of Gothenburg’s most impressive buildings. Inaugurated in 1994, the grand venue is the creation of architect Jan Izikowitz, and its ship-like silhouette and 26-foot tall Bård Breivik sculpture add a modernist edge to the industrial landscape of Gothenburg Harbour.
A large part of the opera house’s popularity is due to its varied roster of entertainment and the 1,300-seat stage plays host to an array of operas, musicals, classical concerts and ballets throughout the year. Behind-the-scenes tours are also available, offering visitors the chance to peek into the dressing rooms, watch the expert wigmakers, stage designers and costume tailors at work, and browse the extensive library, said to contain over 15 tons of sheet music.
Whether you prefer a nostalgic ride on the spinning teacups or a stomach-churning rollercoaster descent, there’s something for all ages and tastes at Liseburg amusement park, Gothenburg’s most thrilling attraction. Since opening its doors back in 1923, Liseberg has been consistently voted among Europe’s top amusement parks, drawing in over 3 million annual visitors and hosting a range of live music, dance and theater events during the evening hours.
Of course, the main draw is the amusements and there are around 40 hair-raising rides to choose from. Thrill-seekers can defy gravity on the award-winning Balder wooden roller coaster or the 1.4-kilometer Helix roller coaster; brave Europe’s tallest free falling ride, the AtmosFear; or enjoy the views atop the iconic Liseberg Ferris Wheel.
Liseberg is also the center of Gothenburg’s yuletide festivities with the amusement park getting a festive makeover during the holiday season, serving up seasonal delicacies, mulled wine and traditional handicrafts at its atmospheric Christmas market, and even erecting an Icebar, built with ice blocks shipped in from Swedish Lapland.
The biggest indoor food market in Gothenburg, upmarket Saluhallen hosts over forty shops and places to dine. Built in 1889 on the site of the former boatyard at Götaverkan, its iconic barrel roof was designed by Swedish architect Hans Hedlund.
Inside, shop at independently-owned delis for spices and cheeses, olives, fruits and chocolates. Look out for tasting samples as you wander! Organic, locally-sourced produce is as big as you’d expect in Sweden: look out for Saluhallen bakery, which sells all kinds of organic breads.
Saluhallen Kungstorget, also known under the name Stora Saluhallen, is located a block from the canal on Kungstorget (Royal Square) in central Gothenburg, There are lots of bistro style spots with daily-changing menus that offer everything from soup to fresh fish. A few of its restaurants stay open late for summer too, and have terrace bars where you can sit outside and enjoy the Swedish sun.
As Gothenburg’s principal marina, Lilla Bommen forms the focal point of the city’s waterfront and the scenic riverside stretch is home to a number of top attractions. The eponymous skyscraper, Lilla Bommen, takes center-stage, a 23-floor skyscraper alternatively nicknamed “The Lipstick” or the “Lego House” for its unusual white and red façade, and its top-floor café offers expansive views along the Göta River.
Additional highlights include the Barken Viking, an early 20th-century merchant ship permanently moored in the marina and now home to a floating hotel and restaurant, the grand Gothenburg Opera House (Goteborgsoperan) and the nearby Maritiman, a floating museum of around 20 restored ships. Lilla Bommen is also the launch-point for boat cruises to the island fortress of Nya Älvsborg.
Whether peeking into the engine rooms and crew’s quarters of a North Sea freighter, learning how to navigate a submarine or sipping coffee on the deck of a 1960’s passenger ferry, there are few better ways to discover Sweden’s rich maritime history than with a visit to Gothenburg’s Maritiman. Much more than just a museum, the Maritiman ranks as the world's largest floating maritime museum, comprising around 20 vessels, which are moored along the Gota River waterfront and linked together by a series of walkways.
The museum’s star attraction is the huge naval destroyer Smålan, measuring in at 121 meters long, but other notable vessels include the Sölve, the museum’s oldest ship, which dates back to 1875; the 69 meter long submarine Nordkaparen; and the 1915 lightship, Fladen. Highlights of a tour include visiting Småland’s secret cryptograph room, getting a glimpse of life at sea in the medical rooms, cabins and kitchens, and stepping onboard everything from fireboats and U-boats to local fishing boats. The best part is that visitors are allowed to freely roam the ships, so you can climb the ladders and ramps, check out the views from the top deck or lose yourself in the labyrinth of cargo rooms, while enjoying the interactive exhibitions.
Buzzing with activity day and night, the grand main street of Avenyn (Kungsportsavenyn) runs for a kilometer through the heart of Gothenburg city center and makes a popular starting point for exploring the city. Laid out in the middle of the 19th century, the scenic parade is lined with stately architecture and crammed with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as offering tram links to all the city’s top attractions.
Start your walk at Götaplatsen square, home to the City Library, Gothenburg Concert Hall and the Gothenburg Museum of Art, as well as one of the city’s liveliest nightlife areas, then follow the boulevard all the way to the Rosenlund Canal, where you’ll find the grand Neo-Renaissance Stora Theatre and the Kungsportbron bridge, from where boat tours set out along the city’s canal ways.
There are few more atmospheric ways to discover Gothenburg’s rich maritime history than bedding down in a stylishly redesigned ship cabin or dining with a porthole view over the waterfront, making the Barken Viking one of the city’s most intriguing attractions. Despite itsname, the Barken Viking bears no relation to the Norse warriors – instead, the boat was built in 1906 as a merchant ship and since retiring from service has been permanently moored in Gothenburg harbor.
Today, the striking four-masted ship floats proudly in the Lilla Bommen marina and has been transformed into a hotel and restaurant, with marine-inspired décor designed to complement the ship’s original fittings. Although the ship is closed to non-guests, many visitors choose to enjoy lunch or dinner at the onboard restaurant or sip a beer at the top-deck bar – the perfect excuse to explore Scandinavia’s largest vessel.
More Things to Do in Gothenburg
Guarding the mouth of the Göta River, the island fortress of Nya Älvsborg was built in the 17th century to protect the city against Danish invaders and boasts a long history of warfare, coming under siege several times during the 18th-century Great Nordic War. Acclaimed as one of Sweden’s best-preserved castles, the sizable sea fortress has served a number of roles throughout the years, used as a prison in the 19th century and later as a storage facility during the First World War.
Since 1971, the castle has been maintained as a tourist attraction and boat cruises to the island are a popular choice for visitors to Gothenburg. Visits to Nya Älvsborg typically take the form of a dramatized guided tour, narrated by historic figures like King Christian IV of Denmark and Admiral Peder Tordenskiöld, while the castle’s prison cells, square tower and chapel provide an atmospheric backdrop.
With more than 20 small islands dotted along the Kattegat sea coast, the southern archipelago is a fashionable retreat for Gothenburg locals, as well as a popular choice for boat cruises and day trips. The car-free islands offer a change of pace to mainland life, with traditional fishing villages, scenic footpaths, and picturesque landscapes.
Gothenburg’s famous Slottsskogen Park contains 137 acres of woodland, open spaces, jogging trails and penguins right in the heart of the city. That’s right, penguins. At 2:30pm every day, you can even see the birds being fed at the lake they share with a group of clapping seals.
Throughout Slottsskogen Park there are open paddocks where you can see Swedish animals like elk, deer, and Gotland ponies. This is a park that doubles as a zoo -- the oldest one in Sweden. There’s also a children’s petting zoo, open in summer, where kids can get to know the park piglets, rabbits, and kid goats. It’s also fun to see the Swedish heritage area with small cottages from different regions.
Once used as deer hunting grounds, Slottsskogen has been a protected park since 1874. Wander the forest trail in late summer, past native beech, maple, and oak trees, and look out for wild strawberries and blueberries -- the perfect trail mix -- right at your feet. Or just relax at one of the park’s three cafés.
Slottsskogen is also home to the Way Out West festival every August, when major acts like Röyksopp and Robyn come to town. You may also see the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra playing a free outdoor concert. Sweden’s Midsummer celebration is another popular time to visit Slottsskogen, when families and friends come to picnic under the midnight sun.
One of Europe’s leading botanical gardens, Gothenburg’s Botanic Garden (Botaniska Trädgård) was opened in 1923, in celebration of Gothenburg’s 300-year-anniversary. Spread over 430 acres, visit the botanic gardens and famous arboretum, and see 16,000 species of plant, from American insect eaters to Himalayan plants.
Botaniska Trädgård is also home to a rock garden which has been given 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide, as well as a Rhododendron Valley, Japanese Glade, and Kitchen Garden. In the greenhouses you can see 4,000 different plants, including 1,500 kinds of orchid. As you explore, keep a look out for the rare Sophora Toromiro tree, indigenous to Easter Island.
Just across the road from Slottsskogen Park, scattered among the garden’s woodland there are plenty of lawns where you can relax and have a picnic. There’s also a restaurant, Botaniska Paviljongen, where you can enjoy lunch, and an art gallery and shop.
Spread over 8,000 square meters on the Gothenburg island of Hisingen, the Volvo Museum takes you from the company’s beginnings in Gothenburg in 1927, to its status today as a world-renowned vehicle manufacturer. You’ll see over 100 vehicles from the Volvo range, from the very first ÖV 4 car, to trucks, marine engines, aircrafts and today’s concept vehicles.
Of interest to anyone who’s curious about cars, engineering, and technology, on a visit to the modern museum you’ll learn all about the history of one of Sweden’s most-loved brands, and you’ll even see founders Gabrielsson and Larson’s joint desk from the early years, as well as displays of Volvo Aero and Volvo Penta products.
Once you’ve seen both floors of the museum and had your fill of sitting in and learning about the gleaming cars and trucks, it’s popular to take a walk along the seashore just west of the museum. At the entrance to the Volvo Museum there’s a café, souvenir store with exclusive Volvo merchandise and children’s playground.
Just off Gothenburg’s main shopping avenue, Trädgårdsföreningen was founded in 1842 by King Carl XIV Johan as a park and horticultural garden to be enjoyed by the people.
Run by The Garden Society of Gothenburg, Trädgårdsföreningen is one of the best-preserved 19th-century parks in Sweden. Visit the acclaimed rose garden, where over 4,000 roses bloom in summer. To sit and smell the flowers while enjoying a bite to eat and drink, head to cafe Rosenkaféet. In summer, the Rosarium also hosts lunchtime concerts and children’s theaters.
At the gardens, you can also walk along the banks of Gothia River on which Trädgårdsföreningen is set. To see the garden’s exotic plants, from the tropics to the Mediterranean, visit the palm house which was built in 1878 and inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. There’s also a children’s playground, and plenty of spots to sit down and relax on the manicured lawns -- no “Do not walk on the grass here” signs here!
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