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things to do in Gothenburg
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

10 Things to Do in Gothenburg, Sweden

From nautical adventures to cozy meals, and from thrill rides to nature walks, there’s an abundance of things to do in Gothenburg.

Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city, may have a name that’s almost impossible for foreigners to pronounce—it sounds something like “Yuteyorgha” to untrained ears (foreigners can stick to the anglicized Gothenburg)—but its abundance of fun is familiar to all. This moated city in the west of Sweden feels more like a large town than a big city, with its inviting tangle of waterways, parks, and squares.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Ride the Paddan Boats

Arrive in Gothenburg and go for a wander and you may get the sense it’s just a tangle of waterways. But on a paddan boat tour, you start to understand the strategic interplay between the river, the moat, and the lock-guarded canal, all while taking in views of the city. Not only is it a great way to get the lay of the land, it’s also an adventure in of itself—the paddan boats are low because they convey passengers underneath more than 20 of the city’s bridges, a few of them low enough that you’ll have to duck (really duck) to make it under with your hat, and head, untouched.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Explore Fiskekorkan

Swedes worship the bounty of the local waters, so it’s entirely fitting that Gothenburg’s fish market is called Feskakorka, which translates to “fish church.” The design of the building, constructed in 1874, was inspired by Norwegian stave churches and Gothic churches. Enter Feskakorka, which sits nestled along the city’s moat, and you’ll discover a wide open space lined with stalls selling the freshest local seafood. Even if you’re not outfitted for cooking, you can still sample—just head to Restaurang Gabriel, which crowns the second floor balcony. It’s an ideal place to feast on oysters, local crayfish and shrimp, herring, and more.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Wander the Botanical Garden

Ready for a surprise? Gothenburg is home to one of Europe’s largest and most diverse botanical gardens. With more than 16,000 species of plants—including the largest tropical orchid collection in Sweden and the rare Easter Island tree—it’s a place where you can wander for hours, enjoying the long summer days (it’s open from 9 am to 9 pm). If you’re, say, looking for a more strenuous trek to work off a few of those cinnamon rolls, venture into the neighboring nature reserve, Anggardsbergen, for peaceful paths that will take you through valleys and up to ridges where you’ll get a spectacular view of the city.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Shop

Swedish design aficionados, local fashion lovers, and anyone looking for a great cup of coffee and a warm cinnamon bun converge on the charming backstreets of the inner city. Magasinsgatan, Vallgatan, and Sodra Larmgatan offer trendy local brands against an unmistakably Swedish backdrop. To escape inclement weather and find all your favorite brands, head to the surprisingly-tucked-away-but-huge Nordstan Shopping Centre, which has more than 200 shops. Cross the moat and stroll to the Haga quarter for hip boutiques, cool bars, and giant cinnamon buns.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Take the Ferry

Catch a ride on one of the ferries that plies the river and you’ll get a mini-sightseeing cruise on the cheap. In water-rich Gothenburg, ferries are part of the public transportation system, and are either free or included in the cost of a day pass. In good weather, it’s one of the best things to do in Gothenburg—you can take in the views from the open deck, and on chillier days you’ll still get a great view from inside. For a nice survey of the surroundings that takes about an hour round-trip, hop the Alvsnabben river ferry that leaves from Lilla Bommen harbor, a 10-minute walk from Gothenburg’s train station.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Eat

Eating well is a big part of life in Gothenburg. Make like a local and browse the stalls at Saluhallen, an indoor market right in the central old city bursting with the freshest local produce and seafood. It’s also a great place to pick up some local cheese (try the Prastost, or priest cheese) and sample a Gothenburg truffle, dark chocolate topped with sea salt.  The fiskekorke, or fish church, has beautiful displays of the freshest local seafood. And Michelin-starred restaurants like Sjomagasinet, Koka, and Bhoga give you a taste of the best of West Sweden.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Visit the Archipelago

Gothenburg’s archipelago puts wild islands and tiny villages within easy reach of city visitors. More than 20 islands stretch along the coast and are an easy ferry trip away. On these islands, you’ll find hiking and biking trails, seal safaris, kayaking, boat excursions, and fishing, all set against a slower pace of life. Build a visit in as a day trip or stay for a night or two to add some serious nature to your city escape.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Scream at Liseberg

Imagine lush gardens … echoing screams of joy. Liseberg amusement park is Gothenburg’s most popular attraction, but it doesn’t just draw in thrill-seekers. That’s because, mixed in among the parks more than 40 thrill rides are extensive gardens, a sculpture park, concert venues, plus nearly a dozen restaurants serving up everything from Swedish seafood to vegetarian gourmet dishes.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Enjoy Fika 

To experience Gothenburg like a local, make room in your day for a few stops at local cafes and bakeries for fika, or coffee break. The Swedish tradition of pausing your day for a bit of socializing, coffee, and a snack fits effortlessly into a long day of sightseeing. Not only is it a great chance to rest between activities, it’s also an opportunity to taste your way through the icons of fika—cinnamon buns, cakes, cookies, and open-faced sandwiches at cafes around the city.

Things to Do in Gothenburg: Visit Museums

Gothenburg museums celebrate not only art but also aviation, history, fishing, sports, and even the country’s beloved Volvo cars. The city’s 22 museums inspire curiosity and many are surprisingly affordable. The Goteborg City Card is a must if you’re planning on visiting a few museums, since it offers admission to many plus tram, bus, and ferry travel.

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Christine Sarkis explored Sweden as a guest of West Sweden Tourist Board and Goteborg & Co. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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