Man, this is going to be amazing.
These were the first words I uttered when I finalized my grand Scandinavian train trip with Eurail which had me spend considerable time in Sweden, the country I had been dreaming of visiting for years. With hindsight, I can honestly say that Gothenburg was, I think, the perfect introduction to Sweden.
Although not quite as stylish as Stockholm and not quite as ancient as Malmö, the city is extremely friendly by Nordic standards, and is easy to explore thanks to a compact city centre — far from being a downside, the fact that the city isn’t quite as trendy as its counterparts made it far less intimidating to visit, in my opinion. All the more room for me to be surprised, I thought!
And I wasn’t wrong. Starting from my incredibly stylish room at Hotel Flora Gothenburg had indeed quite a few surprises for me.
48 Hours in Gothenburg — The Main Sights
Far from being the ugly step-sister to shiny and glitzy Stockholm, Gothenburg has plenty of sights to keep anyone contended. Starting with the city’s coolest neighborhood, Haga, which is filled with picturesque wooden houses dating back from the 19th century. Most importantly, though, it’s home to the what I presume are the world’s largest kanelbullar or cinnamon rolls, at Cafe Kringlan. And if for some reason they aren’t the largest, they are quite certainly the most delicious.
One of the things that must also be done in Gothenburg is a cruise in the archipelago few things can measure up to this trip to paradise on a sunny day. And while the word cruise has an expensive connotation to it, this particular cruise is actually done via public transit and only costs a few kronor. Undoubtedly one of the most cost-efficient things to do in all of Sweden, if you ask me!
And this is where I realized exactly why Swedes are such outdoorsy people; honestly, if my hometown had such a lovely waterfront, I wouldn’t think twice about spending all my free time outdoors.
Alternatively, Gothenburg also has a lot going for itself when it comes to culture. Being a bit of a science and flora geek myself, I paid a visit to Universeum, a modern museum with a strong focus on the environment that spreads over seven floors and in which visitors can go on a safari and walk freely among animals from different ecosystems.
On the other hand, the Gothenburg Museum of Art features the Nordic masterpieces of Edelfelt, Josephson, Krøyer, Larsson and Munch, as well as a few classics by Monet, Picasso Chagall.
History-wise, Skansen Kronan is not to be missed — a 17th-century fortress situated on top of Risåsberget hill (built as part of the defense against possible Danish attacks) which not only provides insightful information on Sweden’s history but also a fantastic viewpoint over Gothenburg.
Unbeknownst to me and a lot of travellers, Gothenburg is actually the culinary capital of Sweden. And the best place to start a culinary exploration would, of course, be at the historical fish market, right in the heart of the old town. Built in 1874 by famous architect Victor von Gegerfel, the building resembles an unusually modern stave church — a questionable choice that would raise a few brows in other parts of the world, but not in Sweden. Fishing is more of a religion than a simple way of life over here. Ask any local for a dinner recommendation and chances are it will be a seafood restaurant — understandably so. The city is proud of its fishing heritage, and this pride translates into delightful dishes like gravlax (raw spiced salmon), coincidentally one of the biggest staples of the Swedish cuisine, which has been exported abroad a long time ago but that simply taste better in their homeland.
After just 36 hours in Gothenburg, my visit had come to an end as I made my way to the train station en route to Stockholm. It wasn’t until well after I left Sweden that I realized that despite my excitation to visit Stockholm and Malmö, Gothenburg made quite an impression, with its beautiful architecture, its welcoming locals, the tranquil atmosphere of the archipelago and, most of all, its delicious food scene.