3 Days in Gothenburg, Sweden: The largest city on Sweden’s west coast

Charlie Ceates | Live the World

June 28, 2023

See what the largest city on Sweden’s west coast has to offer.

Situated on the Göta älv River on the western coast of Sweden is the city of Gothenburg. This is the largest settlement on the Swedish west coast, and the second largest in the whole country, after the capital of Stockholm. Founded as a fortified trading colony in the 17th century, Its development was heavily influenced by immigration due to its location facing out to the North Sea, particularly from the Dutch, English and Scottish. This is reflected in the Gothenburg that we see today, as there are a series of Dutch-style canals throughout the city, and Gothenburg even has the unofficial name of Little London.

There is plenty to admire about Gothenburg, from being one of the greenest cities in the world, with hotels and apartment complexes which are wind-powered, to the celebration of its history as well as being full of trendy restaurants and nightclubs. There is something here for every kind of tourist, and though you might want to save up if you plan to go for a night on the town due to Sweden’s high alcohol prices, Gothenburg is a worthwhile city to visit.

Know Before You Go

Gothenburg

Getting there

If you’re flying to Gothenburg, you’ll be landing at Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport. This is the second largest airport in Sweden after Stockholm-Arlanda, and is serviced by airlines like Ryanair and TUI fly Nordic. You can also get here by ferry since Stena Line connects Gothenburg to countries including Germany, Poland, Latvia and Finland.

Public Transportation

There are a number of buses, trams and trains operating within Gothenburg, and one thing we’ve mentioned in previous itineraries about Sweden is that each province typically has its own transport company operating. In the case of Gothenburg, it would be Västtrafik, and in addition to ticket outlets, you can use the Västtrafik To Go App to buy tickets. A couple of things to note is that you can get tram tickets on board the trams, but for buses, you need to pre-purchase your ticket.

Driving

To rent a car in Sweden, you must be at least 18 years old and have held your license for at least two years. Drivers under the age of 25 may incur a young driver surcharge. Seatbelts are mandatory, and cars travel on the right-hand side.

Weather

Sweden is hot during the summer and cold and snowy during the winter. The best time to visit Gothenburg in terms of weather is between May and August, as most of the attractions are open as well as the city is at its warmest, but seeing as this is also the height of tourist season, visiting later in the year means thicker layers but fewer crowds.

Money

The national currency of Sweden is the Swedish Krona, or Krowns. Gothenburg is a decently priced city, you will be able to use your credit or debit card for most situations, but as always, we recommend carrying some cash in case of emergencies or if certain places don’t accept cards.

Day 1: Gothenburg City Centre

For the first day of your adventure, you should start within the beating heart of the city, and that is, of course, Gothenburg City Centre. Gothenburg is very walkable, and a lot of the main attractions are within a short distance of each other. One way to get around is by travelling across the roads and canals that line Gothenburg on an amphibious bus tour.

Gothenburg City Centre

Gothenburg has a lot to offer, both culturally and touristically. There are many different cafes where you can treat yourself to the cultural pastime of fika, which is the perfect way to take a break. Walk along the street Avenyn which is one of the main arteries of the city, and is where you’ll find a couple of attractions, such as the Gothenburg Museum of Art. From the different museums to the gardens and parks that make up the greener parts of Gothenburg city centre, there is more than enough for the first day of your new adventure in this beautiful city.

Where to Eat

As with any new place, you might feel overwhelmed with the options available for food! A good restaurant for this is Bar Bulot, which features West Swedish ingredients in their cooking and provides an excellent value meal.

Haga

If you want to learn a bit about Gothenburg, a good place to start is one of the oldest neighbourhoods known as Haga. This area of the city is centuries old, with the most ancient building still standing dating back to 1790. It’s a pedestrianised area in the middle of Gothenburg, and is lined with different shops, restaurants and cafes.

If you want one of the best views of the district and the surrounding city, climb the Skansberget Hill. You’ll recognise it from the old fortification of Skansen Kronan, which along with its twin Skansen Lejonet (which is about an hour's walk away from Kronan), was part of a fortification network to defend Gothenburg against possible attack, but was never used. There are also events throughout the year which make Haga bustle with activity, such as the Christmas markets in winter

Gothenburg Museum of Art

Describing itself as “one of the foremost art collections in Northern Europe”, the Gothenburg Museum of Art is a must-visit for any cultural tourist. There is a vast array of different works within the museum, ranging from historically famous artists like Picasso and Van Gogh to contemporary Swedish artists, like Lina Salendar, who studied at a fine art university in Gothenburg, Valand Academy.

This museum is a cash-free establishment, and entry is about 65 krowns for adults, while it’s free for those under 20 and if you’re a student. Another way of getting entry is with the Gothenburg: City All-Inclusive Pass, which allows you access to Gothenburg’s most popular attractions. One thing that should be noted is that this is probably best bought at the height of tourist season, as not all attractions throughout the city are open year-round.

Liseberg Amusement Park

Want to check out an amusement park in the middle of a city? Then you need to visit Liseburg Amusement Park. Opened in 1923, this amusement park started off as part of the Gothenburg Exhibition, an event which celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city. Nowadays, Liseburg is one of the most visited amusement parks in Scandinavia and is regularly rated one of the best in Europe.

There are over thirty different rides at Liseburg, among them is Valkyria, the longest dive coaster in all of Europe, as well as a number of different venues, including arcade halls. There is only a limited number of guests allowed into Liseberg per day, so pre-book your tickets here to avoid disappointment.

Gothenburg Botanical Garden

Stretching over 40 acres with thousands of different plant species, the Gothenburg Botanical Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in Northern Europe. Also opened in 1923, this garden is split up into smaller sections, including a kitchen garden, a herb garden, and a rhododendron valley.

Gothenburg Botanical Garden (Photo by Michael Caven)

This garden is also connected to a nature reserve called Änggårdsbergen, which provides great opportunities for hiking. There is also the nearby hill of Håberget., which is a great place to get a view of Gothenburg. There are a couple of ways in which you can make the most out of exploring the gardens. If you want to navigate around the garden, click here for a map in pdf form, or you can download the Botaniska app.

Gothenburg Cathedral

Sweden does have its religious ties, and one of the examples in the city of Gothenburg is the Gothenburg Cathedral. Originally constructed during the mid-17th century, the Cathedral was burnt down twice, and this version of the building was consecrated in 1815, a year after the architect in charge of the restoration, Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, died. The work would be continued by one of his students.

Carlberg was an architect who constructed his buildings in the classical and neoclassical styles. This cathedral is a good example of the former, and it is also the largest and most grand of the three cathedrals. While it may not be the most notable of Sweden’s cathedrals - that honour probably goes to Uppsala Cathedral - it is still worth a visit.

Stora Saluhallen Market Hall

Within Gothenburg, there are four market halls - Feskekörka Market Hall, which is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen in 2023 or 2024, Briggen Market Hall, Kville Market Hall is the newest, and the largest is Stora Saluhallen Market Hall. Saluhallen officially opened up in 1889 and has since become a social hub.

The history of Sotra Saluhallen was that there were stalls that used to trade on The King’s Square, one of the main squares in the city. Eventually, these stalls wanted to move their business indoors to protect their wares from the elements and make it a more comfortable experience for shoppers and traders alike, which the city invested in. Now, this indoor market is host to dozens of shops and eateries.

Museum of World Culture

Near the Universeum and Liseburg is another establishment worth checking out, the Museum of World Culture. As you can probably guess by its name, the museum seeks to educate about both historical events and current issues going on in the world relating to different cultures, featuring permanent exhibitions of items collected from all over the world.

Built in 2004, this museum was designed by the architects Cécile Brisac and Edgar Gonzales, and is one of Sweden's four National Museums of World Culture, alongside the Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, and the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm. While all are worth visiting in their own right, and Stockholm is only a train ride away from Gothenburg, the Museum of World Culture is a good place to start your learning journey.

Universeum

Universeum (Photo by Stefan Linder)

There are many different museums that celebrate different things in Gothenburg, and the Universeum is Gothenburg’s science museum. Open in 2001 and built by the postmodernist architect Gert Wingårdh, the museum is split into six sections:

  • Crime-investigation, lasers, and space.
  • Humans and technology.
  • The native species in Sweden’s waterways
  • Marine animals
  • A rainforest hall
  • Deadly and venomous reptiles.

This museum is the largest of its kind within the Nordic countries, and promises an adventure-filled day for all the family.

Garden Society of Gothenburg

One of the parks in Gothenburg is the Garden Society of Gothenburg. Also known as the Horticultural Society, this park was founded in 1842, and is one of the best-preserved parks from this period. Many of the buildings in this park have remained mostly untouched since this time, among them a palm house that was built in 1878.

The best time to visit the Garden Society of Gothenburg is in July, when all the flowers are in bloom, but there is also a rose party organised. It is not the only event that is held here though, and the Garden Society is a hive of activity all year round.

Where to Stay

Mid Range - Hotel Lorensberg - Gothenburg may not be the cheapest place to stay, but this reasonably priced hotel is within walking distance of many of Gothenburg’s attractions, and includes additional comforts like breakfast included in the price and private parking.

Luxury - Gothia Towers - Opposite Liseberg Amusement Park, this hotel is one of the most luxurious stays in Gothenburg, with three different restaurants and a sky bar that offers stunning views of the city.

Day 2: Majorna and Hisingen

For day 2, the itinerary is going to be split into two different districts - Majorna, which is right next to the city centre, and Hisingen, the fifth largest island in Sweden, which is where the northern half of Gothenburg sits. This day will promise more opportunities to learn about Gothenburg.

Majorna (Photo by Per Johansson)

The attractions are split equally between each other, and it’ll take an hour by bus to travel between the furthest points of interest, so don’t worry about missing out. Also, don’t rush to try and see everything, as these attractions - like the rest of the city - are places which are worth enjoying by taking your time.

Where to Eat

While you’re walking along the Göta älv River, you might want to check out Restaurang Piga. Open in 2015, this is a lovely restaurant where you can chill and take a break while travelling between districts.

Volvo Museum

For the petrolheads, you should visit the Volvo Museum. First opened in 1995, this museum is owned by the Volvo company and seeks to educate the public on a unique aspect of Swedish culture from the 20th century. With over 100 exhibits on display, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.

Even if you aren’t a particular fan of the Volvo brand or its cars, it is still an interesting place to follow the development of cars and technological history, ranging from the first Volvo cars from the 1920s to more contemporary designs, including aircraft engines and industrial equipment as well as vehicles.

Gothenburg Maritime Museum

Want to learn more about Gothenburg’s history through its maritime trade? Then you should check out the Gothenburg Maritime Museum. Also known as the Maritiman, this museum seeks to recreate a bygone era of Gothenburg’s shipping past after the inner port fell into disuse during the 1970s recession.

Opened in 1987, this museum is a floating museum consisting of historical ships, both civilian and military. As well as exhibitions detailing the ships used by Sweden, you can also participate in a themed escape room. You can get tickets here, and it makes for a nice counterpart along with a visit to the Maritime Museum and Aquarium, which is a three-storey building that goes into more detail about the history of Gothenburg.

Slottskogen

If you want to take a moment to relax, take a walk through Gothenburg’s main city park of Slottsskogen. Spread over 140 hectares, this urban park is a great place to relax, whether it’s a pleasant stroll in the winter or a picnic in the summer. This park is also host to the Way Out West music festival, which takes place every August.

Seating area in Slottskogen (Photo by Alicia Fagerving)

The park also has a zoo. This is one of the oldest in Sweden, which is open all year round with free admission, but if you’re travelling with your kids, come between April and September, since there is the petting zoo and pony rides open.

Gothenburg Museum of Natural History

While you’re visiting Slottskogen Park, you can also see the nearby Gothenburg Museum of Natural History. Though this building was opened in 1923, this is Gothenburg’s oldest museum, with its origins dating back to 1833. This museum also has free admission and details the world’s natural history from life’s origins almost 3.8 billion years ago to modern times.

Among the exhibitions are stunning displays which include dinosaur fossils and a blue whale skeleton. There are also temporary exhibitions which are regularly swapped out throughout the year and bring something new with each visit.

Götheborg of Sweden

If you’re learning about the maritime history of Gothenburg, you might want to go to the Götheborg of Sweden. Launched in 2003, this wooden ship is an exact replica of East Indiaman Götheborg, which sank off the coast of Gothenburg in 1745 (all the sailors survived). The thought for reconstructing the ship came in 1984, when the shipwreck was excavated.

The Götheborg of Sweden is the largest wooden sailing ship still working in the world. When it’s in port, it is a great place to learn about shipbuilding and the history of the Swedish East India Company. However, one of the unique things about this ship is that it is taking part in exhibitions, and while there doesn’t seem to be any more dates for 2023, keep an eye out - this could provide the experience of a lifetime! You can learn more about Götheborg here.

Where to Stay

Mid range - Quality Hotel 11 & Eriksbergshallen - This waterfront hotel is set in a restored shipyard building in Gothenburg harbour, offering panoramic views over the Göta Älv River and the city from the rooftop.

Luxury - Linnéplatsens Hotell & Vandrarhem - Though this hotel has many economy rooms, their family rooms are the perfect place to stay when you’re travelling as a group of friends or with your small humans.

Day 3: Outside Gothenburg

While Gothenburg has plenty of attractions to visit within the city, there are quite a few paces of note worth visiting outside of Gothenburg. For one thing, Gothenburg sits on an archipelago within the Bohuslän province of Sweden which offers a unique view into Swedish culture.

Outside Gothenburg (Photo by Anver Hisham)

We’ve previously mentioned places you can visit within the province, but for this itinerary, we’re going to talk about places close to Gothenburg, from Cold War era military facilities to nearby island fortresses and settlements. And if you have more time, you can venture further into Bohuslän and explore more of Sweden’s West Coast and islands with our ultimate guide here.

Where to Eat

Before or after your adventure visiting the attractions off the coast of Gothenburg, you should splash out and check out the River Restaurant On The Pier for amazing food and gorgeous views of Gothenburg.

Gothenburg Archipelago

Gothenburg is well known for its relationship to the sea, and if you feel like going out on the water, then you should visit the nearby Gothenburg Archipelago. Made up of more than 20 islands, they offer a unique cultural perspective of this part of Sweden and are split into two halves - North and South.

There are several factors that go into which ones you should visit. The southern islands take less time to get to, but these islands are car-free and get very busy during the summer, while the northern islands are larger and more likely to be open year-round but are a bit more of a distance away by ferry. You could spend a full day jumping between both sections, but there is so much the area surrounding Gothenburg has to offer.

Aeroseum

Just outside of Gothenburg is the Aeroseum. Set in an underground hangar that finished construction in 1955, this facility from the Cold War has a lot of exhibitions from this era, from the aircraft from this period to pieces on atomic warfare and what would happen in case nuclear war struck during this time.

But there are also a lot of other displays dedicated to both military and civilian aircraft. This museum seeks to educate all ages - unlike most museums, there are no do not touch signs, and you can even sit in the cockpit of some of these planes! It’s about 20 minutes from Gothenburg, and it can be a bit tricky to reach by public transport (but not impossible), so make sure you’ve got a way to get to and from, as there aren’t many taxis from this area.

Gunnebo Palace and Gardens

Going back to Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, the architect who designed the Gothenburg Cathedral, another one of his works is the Gunnebo Palace and Gardens. This neoclassical house is a preserved example of an 18th-century home, which previously used to belong to a merchant family called the Halls.

Gunnebo Palace (Photo by Arild Vågen)

After John Hall Jr passed away in 1830, the property passed between different owners until, when the last private owner passed away in 1948, the mansion became a museum. You can walk through the baroque gardens, which are free to access or take a guided tour inside the house, which include drawings and design plans like Carlberg’s original designs.

Delsjön

If you want a natural break from the urban sprawl, you might want to go to Delsjön. Situated on the eastern side of Gothenburg, this is a nature reserve that has two lakes which serve as the reservoirs for the city and is easily accessible from Gothenburg. It is perfect for a short excursion or spending the full day in nature.

You can hike around this area - one trail is the Stora Delsjön loop trail, a 7.5 kilometres walking path which finishes at the cafe Kaffestugan Lyckan - mountain biking, and even do watersports at Delsjöbadet beach like canoeing or swimming. There are also fishing opportunities, if you have an appropriate license, and rowing boats are available for rent

Nya Älvsborg Fortress

The closest to Gothenburg but still a very interesting place to see for yourself, the Nya Älvsborg Fortress sits at the mouth of Gothenburg’s port. Construction of the fortress was completed in 1677, and since then has served many purposes - first as a defensive structure during the Great Northern War in the early 18th century, then as a prison, before finally becoming a monument.

You can only visit the island between the months of May and September, but it is a popular tourist destination when it is open. Walk around the island, try out some archery, and then pop into the cafe for a simple lunch before visiting the rest of what this part of Sweden has to offer.

Where to Stay

Budget - Solhem Bohus Björkö - If you’re visiting the islands north of Gothenburg, why not stay there overnight before heading back home? Situated on the island of Björkö, this accommodation provides great opportunities for enjoying the island, like hiking and fishing.

Mid range - Évika boutique hotel - Easy to get to by car, but hard to reach by public transport, this accommodation nonetheless allows visitors to stay at a camping ground by a lake and is a short drive away from Gothenburg airport.

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