On some trips, your goal may be to cover many miles in order to see a country’s various landscapes and major destinations. On other vacations, however, there’s something to be said for slowing down and diving deeper. Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, is the sort of place where you will want to linger and not hurry on to your next stop.
You’ll find world-class art museums, a lively dining scene with amazing new restaurants and exciting craft breweries, and some of Sweden’s best shopping. Gothenburg is also a gateway to some of Sweden’s most beautiful islands. It’s a city, in short, that rewards travelers who stay for an extended visit.
Over eight days, you’ll get to know this multi-faceted but always welcoming city and some of the nearby islands of its archipelago. Be aware, however, that when it comes time to return home and you say farewell to the baristas who now know your name, you’ll likely have come to feel that eight days is not nearly enough.
Itinerary / 8 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Arrive in Gothenburg
Gothenburg is home to Volvo—and for anyone interested in making an adventure out of buying one, this is the place to be. When you purchase through the company’s overseas delivery program, you’ll receive two round-trip tickets to Gothenburg, one night in a hotel, shipment services, and other perks. Of course, you’ll also be able to explore Gothenburg and the gorgeous surrounding area with your brand-new car!
If you’re not in car-buying mode, however, the base for your Gothenburg trip will be the Hotel Eggers, the city’s grand dame and one of Sweden’s oldest hotels. While maritime routes long connected Gothenburg to the rest of the world, rail lines built in the 19th century helped integrate it into the rest of Sweden. When 19th-century travelers first arrived in Gothenburg, many walked across the street to the Hotel Eggers—just as you will today. The 69 rooms have all been updated with modern amenities, while respecting the property’s long history and heritage.
After you’ve dropped off your luggage, take a stroll to Brogyllen, one of Gothenburg’s most popular bakeries. The breakfast menu includes yogurt and smoothie bowls, but it’s famous for its pastries and homemade breads. After your fika, continue making your way south into the charming neighborhood of Haga. Originally a suburb of the city but now incorporated into it, Haga is known for its traditional buildings with ground floors of brick or stone and higher floors built of wood. Today, many of them house boutiques, specialty shops, and inviting cafes. Looming over the neighborhood, Skansen Kronan is a late 17th-century fortress that offers views of Haga from its hilltop location.
Afterwards, visit the Saluhallen Market Hall—the city’s largest indoor market—located about halfway between Haga and the Hotel Eggers. The market’s set in a soaring building, completed in 1889, that is one of the greatest architectural achievements of the 19th century in Gothenburg, if not all of Sweden. It’s also home to a number of restaurants where you can enjoy lunch after perusing the market’s stalls. Restaurang Kungstorget has a casual bistro menu for lunch that typically includes at least one or two fish specials; Bee Kök & Bar is as famous for its warm and welcoming atmosphere as its food.
Later, make your way to a unique urban winery, Wine Mechanics. Here, grapes from Germany and France become delicious locally produced vintages that you can enjoy with lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Sit down in the large, industrial-chic space and sample bivalves from the locally sourced oyster bar as well as the extensive array of charcuteries.
DAY 2Gothenburg’s Green Spaces
Adjacent to Slottsskogen, the city’s botanical garden is one of Europe’s largest, measuring 432 acres (of which almost 100 are actively cultivated). Here you can learn about some 16,000 different plant species and varieties. Then enjoy a meal amid the trees and flowers at the botanical garden’s café, Botaniska Paviljongen, which serves produce from West Sweden’s farms.
Dine tonight at Bhoga, one of Gothenburg’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Because the menu is determined by the best ingredients available to the chefs on any given day, it’s constantly changing. Whenever you dine there, however, you can expect innovative, surprising dishes that incorporate local produce and reflect unusual international influences from the globetrotting chefs’ travels.
DAY 3Art and Play
Head next to lunch at Tyska Bron—an outdoor restaurant that’s adjacent to the Göta River and surrounded by Gothenburg’s grand architecture. It’s the perfect setting to relax as you dig into fresh seafood like lobster, shrimp, oysters, crayfish, and char. You’ll be properly fueled up to enjoy a couple hours at Scandinavia’s largest amusement park, Liseberg, which will celebrate its centennial in 2023. It’s 100 percent wind-powered, and one of the rides actually feeds electricity into Gothenburg’s grid. As you ride the rollercoasters or opt for tamer, tot-friendly boat rides, you can feel good about being green.
Your dinner tonight will be a meal to remember. Hoze is about as intimate as a restaurant can get: It has only six seats, and the sushi menu is omakase—in other words, the chef, José Cerdá, leads you through his selections, determined by the freshest and highest quality fish and shellfish he can purchase and prepare each day.
DAY 4Island Hopping
Hönö—a popular option in the northern part of the archipelago—is easy to get to by ferry from Gothenburg; in the summer, there are four hour-long trips every day except Mondays. Once you arrive, the best way to explore the island is by bike. Ersdalen, in the northwest, is a nature preserve famous for its many boulders, left when the ice retreated some 12,000 years ago. Quiet beaches and other swimming spots can be found all along the island’s coast.
When you’ve built up an appetite, the restaurants and cafes near the main harbor will help sate it. Have lunch at Lilling Cottage, a combined restaurant and interior shop.
Hönö (along with nearby Vinga) is also a stop on many seal safaris. Harbor seals are abundant here and live in colonies that number in the thousands. (There are also smaller communities of gray seals, which have migrated over from the Baltic.) Birders will love seal safaris, too, since the area is home to many different varieties of geese, gulls, ducks, and terns.
For dinner, Tullhuset is a favorite of both residents of and visitors to the island. You couldn’t get any closer to the water; the restaurant sits at the far end of the harbor, offering unparalleled views of sea and the sky. The menu is all about fish and shellfish, and at lunch you can choose from the bargain Archipelago Lunch (the fish of the day with salad, bread, a drink, and biscuits) or order à la carte from a variety of seafood dishes, all excellently prepared. You’ll spend the night on Hönö, at the Havskatten Hotel, located in the smaller marina on Hönö. Don´t miss the famous Swedish Hönökaka bread baked at Havskatten.
Though it’s sometimes described as the hub of the Southern Archipelago, Styrsö consists of just four charming villages with a total population around 1,400. Start your visit by getting an overview of the island, and the Southern Archipelago generally, when you climb to the peak of Stora Rös, the island’s highest point. You’ll be ready for lunch after you descend to the village of Bratten, a seaside resort that became popular with some of the city’s wealthier residents in the 19th century. At Café Öbergska, you can enjoy a shrimp sandwich or salmon with potatoes while sitting in the lush garden by the sea.
After your meal, rent a bike to explore more of the island on two wheels, perhaps stopping at some of the beaches along your route to take a swim in the sea. Another option is to explore the paths through Brännholmsviken, in the south of the island, on foot. As you wander through the grasses, you may notice remnants of old stone walls. This area has been visited by fishermen as far back as the days of the Vikings.
You’ll dine—as well as sleep—tonight at the Pensionat Styrsö Skäret. While the menu at the restaurant changes frequently, the stunning sea views are a constant. You can also expect excellent fish dishes that typically incorporate surprising local ingredients, like sea buckthorn or rowanberries. Then enjoy a quiet night: The property’s guesthouse has only 13 rooms, each individually decorated in a comfortably old-fashioned style that draws inspiration from the island setting.
After exploring the harbor and the nearby streets, head to Södra skärgårdens Café for lunch. The menu changes weekly at this restaurant, where you can enjoy views of the sea and boats arriving from the mainland and other islands. Choose from a fish, meat, chicken, or vegetarian entrée. If you are in the mood for something lighter, there’s also a selection of housemade pastries.
In the afternoon, explore the paths in either the north or the south of the island. Whichever routes you choose, you’ll find beaches that some say are the best in the archipelago, as well as a diversity of bird life. If you’re a birder, definitely bring your binoculars.
End your afternoon of trekking around the island with an early dinner at Fiskeboa. The food isn’t fussy here: Whether you order shrimp, fresh fish, or pickled herring, it will be prepared simply and served with, at most, a light sauce and some bread. When seafood is this fresh, it doesn’t require much to turn it into an unforgettable meal, especially when it’s served alfresco with an ocean breeze.
It’s just a minute’s walk to your room for the night— in a genuine archipelago boat-house at Kajkanten Vrångö. Each of the 11 boat-houses has its own shower, toilet, and kitchenette, making for the perfect conclusion to your time exploring the islands of Gothenburg.
DAY 7Shop the City
Shop for exclusive handmade bags from Gothenburg architect Cecilia Eduards at Emma & Malena. Then have lunch at one of the several cozy cafes in the area, like DaMatteo.
You can also visit one of Gothenburg’s largest stores, NK, which offers a broad range of items from kitchen utensils (albeit very stylish Swedish ones) to high-end fashion on four floors and in 45 different departments. NK is located within a newly revitalized area of the city, the southeast corner of old Gothenburg known as Fredstan. Here, the dozens of boutiques and stores brands include the likes of Hugo Boss, Superdry, and Zara, alongside homegrown favorites, like Gothenburg’s own Nudie Jeans.
Another option is Avenyn, the name of both a neighborhood and Gothenburg’s main boulevard—and probably Sweden’s most famous street. The street is bustling with shoppers all day and diners and revelers into the evening. Make sure to take some detours onto the nearby side streets, where you’ll find some of the most interesting stores. Don’t miss Teatergatan, which is a whole new quarter with exciting restaurants and bars.
After spending some more time exploring the city, return to your hotel to rest up. For dinner tonight, head to Isabelle, located off of the Avenyn, Gothenburg’s grand boulevard. The restaurant combines the best of Sweden’s bounty of fish and seafood with French preparations and flavors. Choose from a three-course, prix-fixe menu or order a la carte. Starters often highlight Sweden’s shellfish, like oysters, crayfish, mussels, and shrimp; and many of the entrees feature fish found in the waters near Gothenburg, like hake, char, and cod.