I can’t believe I’m writing a “Things to do in Gothenburg” post, because our trip almost didn’t happen. And if you know just how obsessed we’ve been with Sweden in the past couple of years, you’ll know just how much this meant to us. Our obsession with all things Swedish probably began a million years ago with Ikea (just like everyone else) but went on to mean much much more as we discovered more about Swedish design, Swedish values and living styles, and then Swedish Mythology. We’ve watched every single episode of Vikings on Netflix (highly highly recommended if you’re into period stuff). So while our original itinerary involved an extensive trip across Gothenburg, Stockholm and all the way into Kiruna and Swedish Lapland, unfortunately our day jobs got in the way. We ended up having to postpone our trip, making it too late in the year for an opportunity to catch any Auroras, so we decided to change our main destination to the Netherlands and Belgium. However we did have our tickets booked via Gothenburg, so we decided to spend a few days there anyway. So we checked in our hotel, and found a sweet little package from Go:teborg Tourism waiting for us. Filled with lots of neat things to do, itineraries, brochures etc, it also had a pair of very important cards – our Gothenburg City Cards, which would give us access to several of the below attractions in Gothenburg.
Our top picks of things to do in Gothenburg
Stadtsmuseum (Gothenburg City Museum)
Given our Viking obsession was the reason we wanted to visit Sweden in the first place, we had to rush to the Viking section of the old Stadtsmuseum first. And right in the middle of the room, lay the remains of an old Viking ship – Äskekärrskeppet. We spent hours studying its skeleton, blackened with time, shrunk with age, this mammoth cargo ship from 900 AD would’ve spanned 16 meters, quite mind boggling for its time. This exciting exhibit had lots of little artefacts that revealed rituals, beliefs, customs and lifestyle in the Viking times. Apart from that the rest of the museum was pretty interesting as well. We’ve had very little exposure to Swedish history, and considering the Gothenburg City Museum (included with the Gothenburg City Card) was inside the old East India Company building, we thought it apt that there were several exhibits tracing the nation’s past from pre-historic times to 19th Century lifestyles of the rich traders, noblemen and commoners (a recreated filthy toilet included) as well as the new industrial world.
2. Sundown in Haga
We’d heard all about Fika, the Swedish ritual of a coffee break, but not just any coffee break. Swedes like to step away from work for a bit of coffee, enjoying a chat and some downtime as well as a large cinnamon bun – Hagabullen. Now think of a fun day of shopping in local design stores, and the kind of coffee break where you rest your weary feet, and hands that have been lugging heavy shopping bags. Yep, sounds just like my kind of day. And that’s what the neighbourhood of Haga is best for. This pedestrian-only street is lined with old wooden houses and plenty of shops and cafes. As one of the oldest areas of Gothenburg, this once was the neighborhood occupied by working class people. We certainly enjoyed their cobblestone pedestrian streets, quaint restaurants and cafés, and antique shops enough to stick around till a wonderful sunset.
3. Domkyrkan (Gothenburg Cathedral)
Since Charles was the one who’d done all the research on our Gothenburg Itinerary (we split up the task of mapping out day-by-day itineraries between the two of us), I had no choice but to follow him, as he dragged me out of bed early on a cold morning, and made me walk to a church set within a garden. Sadly, the church was yet to open (giving me the opportunity to grumble at Charles’ early morning enthusiasm) and we found ourselves copying the locals. There was a nip in the air, and several of them had settled down on park benches in the sun, enjoying the warm glow as they eased into the day. We did the same, and enjoyed just taking in a feel of this beautiful country on our first morning there. Unlike most churches we’ve seen across Europe, Domkyrkan’s Neoclassical exterior was nothing to write home about. The interiors were lacking in elaborate paintings, sculptures, stained glass or frieze ceilings. The altarpiece was opulent, but different. The cross bears no Jesus, and his clothes lie strewn about. Seemed very very avant garde to me.
4. Konstmuseum (Gothenburg art museum):
The other big museum in Gothenburg is a double treat. (Check the next point for another museum hidden within the same building that’s a must for enthusiasts of Photography like Charles). But we made our way past the sprawling fountain outside, circle it a couple of times, watching the mammoth bronze sculpture of Poseidon. We climbed the steps, showed our Gothenburg City Cards, and entered the Konstmuseum. With barely any people around, we were overjoyed at the prospect of spending time with our favourites like Rembrandt, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Gaugin and Monet without having to jostle with others, as well as having the opportunity to take our time discovering Nordic artists as well. I had no idea the Nordic art scene was such a thriving one!
5. Hasselblad Centre:
As we entered the Konstmuseum, we noticed another exhibit downstairs (entry included with the Gothenburg City Card). And I know Charles had been itching to get inside (he probably zipped through the exhibits in the Konstmuseum in absolute impatience, as I ambled along slowly). Even if you’ve heard of the Hasselblad Camera, there are fascinating things you’ll discover in the archives at this gallery. Like the fact that they were the first camera retailers in the country, developed their first cameras for aerial photography during WWII and then later for consumer use. Even NASA used these cameras for space missions, so some of the earliest influencers showcasing this product were astronauts! They hold regular photography exhibits in this space, and when we visited, we saw a wonderful exhibit titled “Don’t Start With The Good Old Things But With The Bad New Ones” by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, juxtaposing some amazing war photography against poetry. Stepping out, we discovered other tenants of the same square also worthy of mention when it comes to things to do in Gothenburg, the Gothenburg Concert Hall and Gothenburg City Theatre, as well as one of our favourite Sweden cafes – Mr. P.
6. Michelin Star Restaurant KOKA
Speaking of food, we couldn’t wait to sample the Michelin star cuisine of Sweden. We’d seen an episode of Chef’s Table starring Faviken, but since we weren’t venturing all the way there, we trawled through Gothenburg’s list of seven restaurants with Michelin Stars, and zeroed in on Koka. We’d just finished a meal at Spisa Mat Bar and were languishing in the aftermath, in a sort of food coma when we noticed the menu telling us about their big sister Michel Starred outfit – Koka. We quickly Googled them, and liked what we read, so booked a table for the next day. Koka focuses on fewer ingredients, fewer dishes, but excellence in each. We enjoyed a 3 course menu that was absolutely divine, in a typical minimalist setting. Gothenburg chefs work with local, organic, seasonal ingredients like berries, mushrooms, and game in gourmet restaurants around the city, so no matter where you go, you’re sure to have a memorable meal.
8. Feskekôrka Fish Market
Clearly food was big on the list of things to do in Gothenburg. And seafood couldn’t be far behind. It’s a culinary city by the sea, so naturally that means the amazing fruits of the cold sea were going to be bountiful. The name of their fish market, Feskekôrka, translates to fish church. Where do we sign up for this religion! We made a beeline there and discovered an indoor fish and shellfish market housed in a market hall that was built in 1874 in the shape of a church. We figured it would probably mean us staring through the glass cases, drooling over the raw and fresh produce, wishing we had access to a kitchen. We were pleasantly surprise. The market has a couple of restaurants at which travelers can dine on the freshest Swedish seafood. We grabbed a cold salad with the freshest shrimp and sat outside on the benches in the sun, savouring every mouthful.
Continuing our food trails around Gothenburg, Charles had a secret breakfast destination in store for me. A marketplace. The forty odd shops in this covered market were just setting up shop for the day, and we took our time walking around, taking in all the exotic produce on display, wishing we had more space in our luggage. Charles specifically took his time admiring a beautiful minimalist poster (in true Swedish style) that chalked out all the different cuts of meat available in a specific stall. Saluhallen should be right at the top of things to do in Gothenburg for any foodie worth their salt!
The trendiest neighbourhood we’ve seen in a while, Magasingatan was a fantastic day out and had to feature on a list of things to do in Gothenburg. All those wonderful design stores we see online, food trucks (!) and more, this was a brilliant way to spend the day. We took a break from ogling at beautiful home and decor stuff by sitting down on benches in a courtyard, having some hot-dogs from Korv United, Sweden style, with Lingonberry topping!
10. Stora Teatern
While we didn’t actually step inside it, the Store Teatern is at the very top of our list of things to do in Gothenburg on our next visit. (And we know we’ll return to Sweden) This 150 year old theatre looks gorgeous on the outside and offers some wonderful shows (all in Swedish) within. It’s right in the middle of central Gothenburg, with a beautiful location.
So there you have it, our top 10 things to do in Gothenburg. And if you hadn’t gathered by now, let us leave you with our favourite Gothenburg Travel Tip: For easy access to all Gothenburg has to offer, we’d recommend you grab a Gothenburg City Card at the airport, from a tourism office, or order online to receive free entrance into attractions, free travel on public transportation, and free parking. We’ve mentioned which of the things to do in Gothenburg listed above are covered by this card available in in 24, 48, and 72 hour durations.
This post was made possible by Go:teborg Tourism. Opinions, as always are our own.