Gothenburg has tales to tell of pirates and smugglers, battles against the Danes and Norwegians, and emigrants bound for America. The Gothenburg City Museum is a great place to get a crash course, and you’ll encounter history as you stroll around, from the pedestrian-only streets with timber buildings to the moat and canals. The Göta Canal, specifically, dates to the early 1800s and extends all the way to Stockholm. You can hop aboard a historic cruise along the canal or cycle or walk along its banks. There are 21 marinas and two notable museums along the route.
For another perspective on West Sweden’s past, seek out the island of Marstrand, a popular summer getaway just 45 minutes’ drive from Gothenburg. A fortress still stands guard over the lively harbor, which was founded by a Norwegian king and also passed under Danish rule. Marstrand was once a free port, where trading ships from all corners of the globe converged and freedom of religion flourished; Sweden’s first synagogue was founded here in the late 1700s.
Although many compelling sites will compete for your attention, consider setting aside some time for a soak, whether you head to the beach or to the spa. The hotel Marstrands Havshotell features outdoor hot tubs with panoramic views as well as a pool lined with reflexology-inducing pebbles.