Much of the western side of Sweden is a mountainous land border shared with Norway. But if you keep travelling south, there is a stretch of this border where the high peaks of the Scandinavian Mountains flatten out and eventually give way to the North Sea. This portion of the country stretches for a few hundred kilometres, from Sweden’s westernmost point on the islet of Stora Drammen to its southernmost at the fishing village of Smygehuk.
Along this stretch is the province of Bohuslän, a part of the southern land region of Götaland. Stretching from Gothenburg to the edge of the Norwegian border, this province is made up of unique geographical features and is also home to the second-largest city in the whole of Sweden. Whether you decide to do some island hopping and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer here with some prime fishing, or you fancy an urban escapade through the city of Gothenburg or visiting one of the many summer resort towns along the coast, there are many reasons why you should make Bohuslän your next holiday destination.
So, what are the best coastal cities/towns to visit?
Most of what Bohuslän has to offer comes in the form of picturesque towns and villages. Many of the settlements here have some connection to the sea. Gothenburg is the crowning jewel of Sweden’s west coast, being the largest city in this region and serving as a historical trading hub throughout the centuries. From here, there are many different fishing towns and villages. Marstrand is an idyllic little town which shares the same name as its parent island. Fjällbacka is a village that belongs on a postcard. Another island worth visiting is Tjörn, which has some beautiful art installations to enjoy along with the natural beauty. There are many other different fishing villages and towns worth visiting in Bohuslän, which offer unique cultures and seaside excursions, including the likes of Smögen, Lysekil, and Grebbestad.
Getting to Sweden’s West Coast
The best way to get to this area of Sweden is by flying. Gothenburg is the main hub of the region, and Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport is the main international airport, as well as being the second largest in the whole country after Arlanda in Stockholm on the other side of the country. Chances are, if you’re flying out to visit the rest of Sweden, you’ll likely have a connection in Gothenburg.
If you want to travel here by ferry, Stena Line has ferries which connect Gothenburg to the rest of Europe, including but not limited to Germany, Poland, Latvia and Finland. You can have a look at what your options are here. It used to be that you could travel to Sweden from the UK, and though the last ferry route was discontinued some years ago, there are some rumours floating about of a new route opening up in the future.
There are a number of train routes that connect the west coast of Sweden to the rest of the country, and you can easily get the train internationally. Sweden’s geographical location means it has many neighbours, so there is a train route between Oslo and Gothenburg which is only a couple of hours long, and another one connecting Sweden with their southern neighbour Denmark via Copenhagen.
There are numerous bus routes that connect the different towns and villages of Bohuslän. Many of them are run by Västtrafik. You can visit their website here to organise your trip, plus they have an app which you can download for buying tickets. This province is also serviced by national bus companies like Flixbus and Bus4you.
Driving might be the best way to experience everything Bohuslän has to offer. The E6 road, which runs from Trelleborg in the south of Sweden to Nordkapp in Norway’s Arctic circle, travels along the Swedish west coast, and there are plenty of turnoffs for travellers to visit. With Goboony, you could pick up a campervan in Oslo and make a road trip out of Sweden’s west coast.
Situated on the Göta älv River is Gothenburg. As the largest city on the Swedish west coast, its location and position as a trading hub have shaped its development, being heavily influenced by both Dutch and Scottish immigration. This is reflected in the Gothenburg that we see today, as there are a series of Dutch-style canals throughout the city, and the local Chalmers University of Technology was named after William Chalmers, a Swedish merchant who was the son of a Scottish immigrant. If you want to see what unique events are going on throughout Gothenburg, feel free to check out their visitor website here.
Gothenburg is one of the greenest cities in the world, with hotels and apartment complexes which are wind-powered. But it’s the relationship with the land and sea which has helped Gothenburg develop into such a notable city. So why not take yourself on an amphibious bus tour around the city and see the best of both worlds?
Best Things to Do in Gothenburg
Haga Old Town
While there is plenty to see in Gothenburg, a good place to start off your trip is Haga Old Town. Built as Gothenburg’s first suburb, there were originally only wooden houses here, with the oldest building in Haga still standing dating back to the 18th century.
Eventually, these got replaced with buildings more typical of Gothenburg today. It is mostly a car-free area, and though it can be busy due to the shops and restaurants here, it is a little quieter compared to Gothenburg’s city centre.
One of the cool things about Gothenburg is that there is a museum for everyone. As well as the previously mentioned Gothenburg Museum of Art, some of the must-visits include: T
- The Volvo Museum, which showcases the Swedish-made cars from their earliest vehicles built in 1927, tracks their development to the modern day and is a must for any car enthusiasts.
- The Museum of Gothenburg, which follows Gothenburg’s history and displays the only exhibited Viking ship in the country, the Äskekärrsskeppet.
- The Maritime Museum and Aquarium, which focuses on the maritime history of Sweden.
If you consider yourself something of a thrill seeker, then you should check out the amusement park Liseberg. Opened in 1923, this amusement park is one of the most visited in Scandinavia and is regularly rated one of the best in Europe.
Among their rides and amusements is Valkyria, the longest dive coaster in all of Europe. There is only a limited number of guests allowed into Liseberg per day, so pre-book your tickets here to avoid disappointment.
On the western edge of the city is the Gothenburg Archipelago. These islands other a unique cultural perspective and are split into two halves. Depending on your trip, there are several factors that go into which ones you should visit.
If you’re short on time, visit the southern islands as they take less time to get to but be wary if you’re travelling with a car, as these islands are car-free. They can also get very busy during the summer. The northern islands are larger and more likely to be open year-round but are a bit more of a distance away.
Places to Stay
Budget - Hostel Snoozemore
While Gothenburg isn’t the cheapest of cities to stay overnight in, this hostel is ideal if you’re travelling on a budget, with the equal comforts of more expensive establishments.
Mid Range - Kvibergs Vandrarhem
As a slightly more lavish hostel, this family-run business offers private cottages and rooms while being a ten-minute tram ride away from Gothenburg city centre.
Luxury - Scandic Göteborg Central
With comfortable rooms, a rooftop terrace which overlooks the river and private parking, this is one of the more luxurious places to stay in Gothenburg.
To the northeast of Gothenburg, less than an hour’s drive away from the city, is one of the many larger islands within the Bohuslän province. Marstrand is the name of both the port town and the island. While many coastal locations in Sweden feature great opportunities for watersports, Marstrand is one of the best, if not the best, locations to go sailing in the country as it holds Sweden’s largest guest marina. Founded in the 13th century for its location as an ideal harbour, Marstrand has been a hub for sailors for a long time and an attractive place to visit for locals and internationals alike. This, like Gothenburg, is an ideal place for any visitor, whether they want to enjoy some quiet tranquillity or go out on the town after dark. Go out on a fishing trip with one of the local fishers, or go for a hike around the island.
Best Things to Do in Marstrand
Most people go to Marstrand to enjoy the sailing or boating available, and overlooking the town is the fortress that defended this settlement back when it was a medieval port. When Carlsten Fortress was constructed, it was not just the main guard point of Marstrand but also served as the town’s prison.
Nowadays, it serves as a museum, documenting the history of the fortress and the town that it defended. One of the unique aspects of Carlsten is that you can even spend the night here and sleep in one of the same rooms as the soldiers who had previously manned it.
Places to Stay
Budget - Marstrand
There is limited accommodation on Marstrand, and the ones that are trading are on the more expensive side. However, this one-bedroom lodge is just the place to stay if you’re travelling on a budget.
Luxury - Nautic Hotell
Located on a smaller island neighbouring Marstrand, this hotel is just a short ferry ride away and offers lovely views of the sea, as well as a continental buffet breakfast included in the price.
The next island is Tjörn. Much like Marstrand, this is a great place to visit for yachting and sailing. Unlike Marstrand though, there are several towns and villages here, the largest being Skärhamn and others include Rönnäng, Klädesholmen, and Kyrkesund. Connected to the Swedish mainland via the Tjörn Bridge and Almö Bridge, Tjörn has a permanent population of about 15,000 occupants, but during the summer, this number triples in size. In addition to hiking and sailing, Tjörn also has a reputation for art that makes it a unique tourist spot in Bohuslän. There is the Nordic Watercolour Museum in Skärhamn, and the Skulptur i Pilane, which is a sculpture park open between May and September, and a new art exhibit is revealed every summer.
Best things to do in Tjörn
Nordic Watercolour Museum
Opened in 2000, the Nordic Watercolour Museum is just that, a museum which exhibits contemporary and historical examples of watercolour while promoting work from Swedish artists. There are no permanent exhibitions. Instead, the art is regularly swapped so that more artists can be displayed to the general public.
The museum is open daily between 11am and 5pm, but this space doesn’t just function as an art museum. They also offer a residency program for artists who are in some way connected to watercolour media in a way of continuing the establishment's goal of promoting the art form.
Skulptur i Pilane
When it comes to visiting art galleries, there are few more unique than the Skulptur i Pilane. As well as a protected nature reserve and historic Swedish landmark, this area is a sculpture park spread over eight hectares on the northwestern corner of Tjörn.
As previously mentioned, in addition to the exhibits on display there, every summer, a new one is revealed. To follow what is on display at the Pilane Sculpture Park, click here.
Though there are quite a few different towns and villages to check out around Tjörn, one you must visit is the town of Åstol. Compared to other villages in the region, it’s absolutely minuscule, with only around 200 permanent residents year-round. However, it is one of the most remarkable, occupying a small island all to itself
It may be a tiny settlement, but it’s a unique one. This old fishing community has picturesque houses stereotypical of Sweden, as well as a relaxed atmosphere. While you explore the island or perhaps go out sailing, there are also plenty of places to eat, like the smokery Åstols Rökeri which seeks to preserve the local history of this community, as well as providing amazing seafood
Places to Stay
Budget - Hav & Logi Skärhamn
If you want to stay in Tjörn on a budget, a room in the hostel at this establishment is just the place for you.
Mid Range - Stuga i naturskönt område på västra Tjörn
This holiday home is an ideal place to stay whether going solo or travelling as a family.
Luxury - Salt & Sill
Though this a very expensive stay, the price tag is worth it as this modern hotel is Sweden’s first floating hotel, with comforts such as a sauna boat, a seaside restaurant and bicycles available to rent.
Next up is the town of Fjällbacka. Located between Uddevalla and Strömstad, with a permanent population of less than a thousand people, Fjällbacka is a summer resort which dates back its origins to the 17th century. More contemporarily, it is also the setting for the Swedish noir novels by Camilla Läckberg. Though this town is typically associated with summer, when people come up to sail or enjoy the seaside during the hottest time of the year, there are events which occur throughout the year which make this town a destination worth visiting year-round, like lobster fishing in autumn and ice hockey/ cross country skating in winter.
Best things to do in Fjällbacka
One attraction worth visiting near Fjällbacka is a small group of islands to the west of the town.
Väderöarna, AKA The Weather Islands, is a nature reserve and the most westerly archipelago in Sweden. These islands are a great spot for animal lovers and adventurers alike. You can either sail to the islands yourself, or there is a ferry from Fjällbacka.
Though they are small, these islands have a lot of history and character behind them. As well as hiking, fishing and swimming, visitors can watch the native seal population and seabirds. If you want to try seasonal seafood dishes, then check out the Väderöarnas Guesthouse for a bite to eat.
These two attractions are hiking trails which take you through the natural beauty that can be expected of the Bohuslän. The first one is a coastal trail, Kuststigen, which is over 400km long but is split up into different sections along the Swedish west coast. If you want to know more details on these sections, click here.
The next is the Veddöleden, a 3km hiking trail that takes you through the nature reserve of Veddö. Though this is a beautiful pass, which takes you through land and by the sea, it can be a tricky one. There are proper paths along the route, but there are steep stony slopes which get slippy when it rains, so be careful if you undertake this route.
The Rock Carvings of Tanum
About a 15-minute drive north, is one of the more unique attractions of the Bohuslän province. The Rock Carvings of Tanum represent a key landmark in Swedish history. Found just outside the town of Tanumshede, these creations may be reminiscent of prehistoric drawings elsewhere in the world. However, these hundreds of carvings are actually from the bronze age.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994, these petroglyphs (pictures carved into the rock) stretch over different areas along 25km. All the rock carvings are protected by law, so don’t go touching them. Most of them are located on privately owned land except for those found on Vitlycke Farm, which is owned by the Museum of Rock Carvings at Vitlycke.
Places to Stay
Budget - Långesjö lillstuga
As one of the cheapest stays within the area, this country house property is the perfect place for solo travellers or families visiting on a budget.
Mid Range - Vetteberget Anexet
This two-bedroom house is a perfect location for a family to stay at, especially during the summer when you can use the barbeque facilities.
Luxury - Vetteberget Fjällbacka
Finally, this deluxe villa is the ideal location for a group of friends to enjoy a summer getaway together, with an outdoor seating area and free parking.
Another town to visit in Bohuslän is Hamburgsund. Though it has a similar population size to Fjällbacka, one of the unique things about this town is that it is spread across the mainland and the nearby island of Hamburgö, with a cable ferry connecting the two sides. As with many of the villages and towns in this region, Hamburgsund is a summer resort that is known for its sailing, swimming and hiking in the summer and draws many visitors during this time. Among the boat tours you can book here, you can even visit the weather islands from this town. There is also scuba diving around the weather islands available here.
Best things to do in Hamburgsund
Hornborgs Castle Ruins
One of the landmarks around Hamburgsund is a set of castle ruins to the south of the town. Hornborgs Slottsruin, or the Hornborgs Castle Ruins, is all that remains of the old fortress of Karlsborg. Centuries ago, when Sweden and Denmark were at each other’s necks, this was just one of the fortresses that were built to defend the country. It was destroyed in 1531 when Christain II of Denmark conquered the area.
After the neighbouring countries stopped fighting with each other and peace fell, these castle ruins fell into obscurity and were forgotten for the longest time until it was rediscovered by archaeologist Wilhelm Berg at the end of the 19th century, where he found artefacts from the historical period as well as the ruins themselves.
Places to Stay
Budget - Monekil 8
This eco-friendly two-bedroom apartment in Hamburgsund offers a green stay for tourists. Located near one of Hamburgsund’s beaches, free private parking is also available.
Mid Range - Apartment 1 Hamburgsund
This cosy cottage is an ideal place to make the most of your summer visit to Hamburgsund, with a private terrace to enjoy the sun and free parking.
Luxury - Harbour House
While the previous property had an outdoor terrace, this apartment has a rooftop terrace which allows for stunning views of the surroundings while soaking up some rays.
Due north of Gothenburg, is the third largest island in all of Sweden, after Gotland and Öland, and the largest in the Bohuslän province. Known for its maritime culture as much as the rest of the province is, Orust is about an hour's drive away from Gothenburg, and it shares its borders with Tjörn, so you can easily visit both. As well as the other pass times that you can expect from the rest of the province, Orust also makes for a great area to cycle around. At around 346 km², you can easily do this island over the course of a couple of days, cycling through picturesque towns, the largest of which being Henån, with under 2000 permanent residents.
Best things to do in Orust
Much like Åstol with Tjörn, though there are towns and villages worth visiting in their own right, their smaller islands are also perhaps a more worthwhile excursion, even just for a day. Ten minutes away by ferry from Tuvesvik, Gullholmen is Bohuslän’s most densely populated island and also hosts one of the oldest fishing communities in the country, dating back roughly to the 13th century.
When you arrive on Gullholmen, there is a lovely vibe to the place, with old fishing cottages and boathouses dotted throughout the island. While car traffic can be limited in Orust, this island has no cars at all. There is plenty of eating spots to choose from in the harbour area, so if you want a break from cycling around Orust, coming out here to relax is an excellent idea where you can enjoy the local cuisine and survey the activity in the harbour.
Places to Stay
Budget - Henåns Vandrarhem/Hostel, Henån
This hostel in Henån is one of the cheapest places to stay in Orust, with family rooms and additional bicycles and a powerboat available to rent.
Mid Range - Villa Frideborg, Henån
A more comfortable stay, this bed and breakfast also has family rooms
Luxury - Destination Bokenäset, Uddevalla
Across the water from Henån, this establishment offers luxury apartments with all the comforts you could ever expect from a hotel of this quality, including a private beach.
While there are many small towns within Bohuslän, one of the places to learn about the province is in the larger city of Uddevalla. Northwest of Orust, Uddevalla offers visitors a nice mix of natural beauty and cultural experiences. There are quite a few attractions to enjoy here, like Strandpromenaden beach promenade, where one can enjoy breathtaking views of the sea and relax on sandy beaches. Uddevalla has a nice balance between cultural attractions and nature like the Bohusläns Museum, which showcases the fascinating past of the Bohuslän region, while outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the Gustafsberg Nature Reserve and go hiking.
Best Things to Do in Uddevalla
If you are visiting the province of Bohuslän, why not learn about it? One of the main attractions is the Bohusläns Museum which displays exhibitions for the purpose of education about the area. On the first floor, there are temporary exhibitions, which are swapped out every year, and there are about 10-20 of them. There is also the art gallery, the boat hall, which has maritime exhibitions, as well as a steamboat-themed playroom.
On the second floor are the permanent exhibitions which showcase the life, art and nature of Bohuslän, as well as Uddevalla itself.There is usually free entry to the museum unless otherwise stated. The museum opens at 10am and, depending on the time of year, closes at either 4pm or 8pm Tuesday to Thursday unless it’s a national holiday.
A promenade that consists of wooden decking, Strandpromenaden is a beach promenade that winds its way around the coastline of Uddevalla. Though it also does go through some industrial areas, it also goes by some naturally beautiful areas.
Though you can enjoy being on the promenade year round, the best time to enjoy it is on a summer evening, when you can watch the sunset on the horizon. There are even stretches of the promenade where you can go for a small dip in the sea!
Places to Stay
Budget - Bången 276
Do you want to visit Uddevala, but you also want a bit of peace and quiet? This accommodation sits on the edge of the golf course and provides a cheap stay in the city.
Mid Range - Quality Hotel Carlia
This modern hotel sits in the middle of the city centre, and while there are more expensive rooms for travelling as a family, the moderate rooms allow you to access all the comforts of this establishment.
Luxury - Destination Bokenäset
This luxurious property represents the height of relaxation, a perfect place to conclude your adventures in Uddevala.
There are many different islands that offer something new to travellers along this part of the Swedish west coast, and Skaftö is a paradise for those who are looking for a tranquil retreat. Characterised by its rugged coast and picturesque fishing villages that are typical of the region, there are many secluded beaches for you to share a private moment with a partner, as well as seafood restaurants where you can sample the local produce. This island offers a perfect escape for those who want a peaceful getaway in nature.
Best Things to Do in Skaftö
One quaint fishing village worth visiting is the small community of Grundsund. Lying on the westernmost point of the island Skaftö, this village is around a 45-minute drive from Uddevalla. As well as a summer resort town, it is also where much of the filming for the Swedish series Saltön was done.
As a thriving fishing town, you can buy fish and other manner of seafood directly from the fishermen. If you want the best view of Grundsund, there is a great view of the harbour canal on the bridge to Ösö and from the church. There is also a sea-front promenade which has recently been constructed that connects with a footpath, expanding your options for exploration here.
If you want to visit the north side of Skaftö, Fiskebäckskil is the place to do it. This seaside town was founded in the 16th century and grew off the herring trade. Located on the Gullmarsfjorden estuary in Bohuslän, the way the town is laid out has small boathouses facing out towards the sea on the waterline, while there are bigger grander houses with glass verandas and balconies on the hillside.
One of the most famous places in fiskebäckskil is the summer residence and studio of the artist Carl Wilhelmson (1866 - 1928), who was born in this town and travelled throughout Europe but passed away in Gothenburg. You can visit the studio, but advance notice is required, and entrance is cash only.
The last major seaside resort on this list is on the south tip of Stångenäs peninsula, the town of Lysekil. A larger town with just under 8,000 permanent residents, Lysekil established itself as one of the more prominent resorts in Bohuslän, and centuries later, many tourists visit this town to enjoy what it has to offer.
This settlement is just north of Skaftö and can provide plenty of great photo opportunities, whether that be walking out to Stångehuvud, a nature reserve and the outermost tip of Lysekil, where the pink granite landscape that has been eroded into smooth shapes, or kayaking around the town.
Places to Stay
Though many different properties on the island are in the luxury price range, this is the cheapest accommodation on Skaftö and is ideal for a couple or solo traveler coming to the island on a budget.
Luxury - Slipens Hotell, Fiskebäckskil
This hotel is ideal for a family venturing to the island, from a playground for the kids to a nearby restaurant for convenience.
Across the water, miles northeast of Skaftö, Smögen is one of the most picturesque coastal villages in Bohuslän. Among the town's attractions is its wooden pier Smögenbryggan where visitors can stroll along the harbour, exploring boutique shops and waterfront restaurants. The village has a vibrant maritime culture, from bustling fish auctions to the annual Smögen Seafood Festival. An idyllic postcard village surrounded by nature, Smögen is an absolute must-visit.
Best Things to Do in Smögen
Nordens Ark Zoo
About a 20-minute drive away from Smögen is the Nordens Ark Zoo. Opened in 1989, this zoo is a conservation project that sits on Åby manor, one of Bohuslän’s oldest farms, spread out over a total of 383 hectares, including pasture, woodland and animal facilities. The manor’s barn is the largest timbered building in the region.
Here, they help preserve 60 different endangered species which are at risk of extinction, including the Scottish Wildcat and the Red Panda, as well as providing a research centre for experts in animals. They also have native breeds alongside rarer animals. To buy tickets to the Nordens Ark Zoo, click here. The zoo is open every day from 10am to 4pm.
Just north of Smögen, is another small tourist resort. Situated on Soten Fjord, Hunnebostrand boasts a stunning coastline which, unlike most of the coast in this region, is characterised by smooth granite rocks and sandy beaches. This is a great spot for boating and sailing, as there is a nearby archipelago that provides breathtaking views and island hopping.
Though the town centre of Hunnebostrand is small, it is lively, and you can have a gander at the local handicraft while sampling traditional Swedish treats at the cafes and bakeries. There is also the Hunnebostrands Kyrka, an 18th-century church, which stands at the centre of this picturesque town.
Located west of Smögen, is the rocky island of Bohus-Malmön.This is a rocky island in the county of Sotenäs, a bit more than 4 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide. You can easily clear this island if you follow the Kuststigen trail, which should take you a couple of hours, passing through reminders of this island’s function as a source for pink granite.
Though the island isn’t used for stone cutting anymore, the trade started during the 19th century, and eventually, this island became one of the most important providers of pink granite, shipping across the whole world. Nowadays, though, it’s a little slice of paradise. If you’re hiking in the summer, take a dip in one of the many lagoons on the island to cool off.
Places to Stay
This hostel in Hunnebostrand has a garden, free private parking and a restaurant, as well as a children's playground if you’re bringing your kids with you.
Luxury - Rösholmens Havsboende
Situated on a small island by itself between Smogen and Kungshamn, this luxury property features an open-air bath and an outdoor fireplace, as well as family rooms.
Just south of the border Sweden shares with Norway, is the last stop within Bohuslän, Strömstad. Though this is a small town, it is a busy one due to its proximity to Norway and its function as a ferry port, especially during Easter and the summer months. From here, you can turn back around to Gothenburg and conclude your trip, or you can push onward to Sweden’s neighbour, either by a road trip or the international ferry to Sandefjord. To see the events which are going on in Stromstad, click here.
Best things to do in Strömstad
Kosterhavets National Park
The most noteworthy attraction around Strömstad is the Kosterhavets National Park. Covering approximately 400km², it is Sweden's first and largest marine national park of its kind. The park was established to conserve this unique part of the coast while providing a sustainable form of tourism.
The park provides a protected haven for the local wildlife, and visitors can observe the many species that call this park home, whether that be birdwatching the native birds or diving and swimming amongst the sea life If swimming isn’t your thing, Koserhavets National Park also has islands within its borders, which have hiking trails where you can watch seals basking in the sun.
About a half hour's drive south of Strömstad is the town of Grebbestad. Grebbestad exudes a laid-back ambience, which makes it an ideal place if you want to take a break from the business of the ferry town. A quiet fishing community surrounded by nature, this is one of the nicer places to just relax in Bohuslän.
Places to Stay
Budget - Guest Haush Ånneröd
This guest house in Strömstad is the best place to stay without hurting your wallet, and ideal if you’re on a road trip as there is free parking.
Mid Range - Guest House Stare
If you want more space and less noise, then this one-bedroom lodge is the place for you.
Luxury - Scandic Laholmen
Finally, this luxury hotel has a popular restaurant that offers views of Koster Fjord and the Skagerrak Sea, as well as live music every weekend.