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West Sweden Is Europe's Most Instagrammable Road Trip

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West Sweden Is Europe's Most Instagrammable Road Trip
This dreamy, less-traveled region is the perfect laid-back getaway.

From the January/February 2017 issue
By Andrew Richdale, AFAR Staff
Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
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    Swede Dreams
    A meandering drive north from Gothenburg, up Sweden’s west coast, leads to the country’s best seafood, hikes in wildly beautiful nature reserves, and the sort of dreamy small-town, rural living that Scandinavia nails.
    Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
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    Start in Gothenburg
    Check in to a decadent room in Gothenburg’s Hotel Pigalle, a Swedish slice of 1920s Paris. The hotel is around the corner from such shops as Designtorget, which showcases chic and functional design objects including watering cans, salt graters, and other housewares from independent Nordic makers. Among the city’s seven Michelin-starred restaurants, Koka is top-notch: Chef Björn Persson crafts an affordable tasting menu of delicate modern dishes such as scallops with lemon verbena. After dinner, hit Andra Långgatan, a block-long strip of laid-back bars. Café Publik draws in an especially lively crowd of locals who keep the party going even on weeknights.
    Photo by Frida Segel
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    Hit the Road
    Two-way roads in these small towns don’t always have painted lines, so stay alert.
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    Live Like Kings
    The fortress that King Carl X ordered to be built in the mid-1600s still presides over the seaside village of Marstrand, 28 miles from Gothenburg. Unplug from modern times in one of many homes available on Airbnb. Charter a boat to sail in the morning and, in the afternoon, take a proper fika (coffee break with sweets) at harborside Bergs, where you can feast on chocolates and more than a dozen different traditional sweet buns. Right outside town at Keramik, artist Markéta Schätzová fires up handmade clay creations in an oven in front of the shop.
    Photo by Andrew Richdale
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    Take a Load Off
    Smögens Havsbad is the rare resort that does everything right: The rooms are clean and modern without being cold; the spa, with its multiple saunas and pools, looks out on the North Sea; and the restaurant serves superlative platters of the town’s famed crayfish and shrimp. Hike into Fykan, a nearby coastal nature reserve with heather-covered rocks and rolling hills, for one hell of a picnic site.
    Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
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    Break for Oysters!
    The town of Grebbestad is Sweden’s bivalve capital.
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    Explore the Wild West
    Drive up to Strömstad, which cuddles the border of Norway, to catch the ferry to Syd-Koster, Sweden’s carless, westernmost town. Check in at the recently renovated Hotel Koster, with 42 rooms full of charmingly simple wood walls, blue curtains, and nautical kitsch. Rent a bike down by the dock and take the only road—past a yoga studio and grazing cows—to Kosters Trädgårdar, an organic restaurant and bakery run by two scientists who grow all the crops themselves using permaculture methods. Pedal on to explore hiking trails, ogle Crayola-box fisherman huts, and properly soak in the quiet life.
    Photo by Andrew Richdale
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    What's Next. . .
    Photo by Steve Rokks
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