West Sweden is made up of three provinces, each with its own identity, history, and charm. The rugged beauty of the rocky cliffs, islands, and coast in Bohuslän make it one of the most popular areas of the country for a summer holiday, both for Swedes and Norwegians, while Dalsland is one of the smallest provinces of Sweden, but with vast forests and woodlands. The fields and farms of Västergötland lie between Lake Vänern, the third-largest lake in Europe, and deep Lake Vättern.
When’s the best time to go to West Sweden?
Summer is the high season, with sunny days and warm weather. August is the traditional crayfish season, and in late September, the lobster fishing season starts. In November and December, everything centers around Christmas and the traditional festivities leading up to Christmas Eve with Lucia parades and Christmas markets. Be prepared to drink a lot of glögg—mulled wine with cinnamon, cardamom, and clove, often served with gingerbread and Stilton cheese.
How to get around West Sweden
In the Gothenburg and Bohuslän archipelago, trams, buses, some of the trains, and even boats are part of the Västtrafik public transport network, so you can use the same ticket for all the different modes. Download the Västtrafik app to buy tickets and use the route planner. For travel from Gothenburg to towns in Västergötland and Dalsland, it is easy to take the train or rent a car, and inside the provinces there are buses that travel from town to town.
Can’t miss things to do in West Sweden
Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, is the place to go for live music, craft breweries, and cultural events, as well as top restaurants and nightlife. Along the Bohuslän coast, stop in at a bath house for a traditional sauna or seaweed soak, and visit the beautiful Kållandsö peninsula on Lake Vänern to experience Sweden’s countryside and castles.
Food and drink to try in West Sweden
The soaring space of the Gothenburg fish market is filled with the very best and freshest fish, shellfish, and other seafood from the local waters. For wild game, foraged chanterelles, and berries from the forest, head to Dalsland. Try a moose stew, served with black currant jelly or the omnipresent lingonberry jam—Swedes eat it with everything, including meat, oatmeal, and fried fish. In Västergötland, you will find local hard cheeses of the very best quality.
Culture in West Sweden
Explore Sweden’s early history, from the Viking era through the early years of Christianity, at the museums in Vitlycke and Lödöse and the church ruins at Varnhem. Don’t miss the many unique events across the region, such as the open-air sculpture park at Pilane on Tjörn; the street art in Borås during the No Limits festival in September; and the Lights in Alingsås festival in November.
It’s easy to travel with kids in Sweden. You will find high chairs in all restaurants as well as cribs and cots available in hotels. Parents feel comfortable taking their little ones out for a meal. Explore the wilderness in Dalsland and Tiveden or get a glimpse of Viking life, noble knights, and country peasants in the local museums. Gothenburg is home to the Liseberg amusement park and the Universeum science museum.
Local travel tips for West Sweden
The Allemansrätten (The Right of Public Access) allows everyone to pick berries, flowers, and wild mushrooms, hike and camp, even in privately owned forests and fields (nature reserves and protected species excluded, of course). Just remember, this is a right that comes with a responsibility, so read up on the rules when you are planning your excursion.
The phrase “Let’s eat out” might not mean what you think. Swedes loves to eat outside, even when it‘s freezing cold. “You can always put your sweater on” is the motto!
If you love music, but are on a budget, check out the local churches wherever you go. Most of them offer public concerts for free all year round, but especially in November and December when they hold Lucia parades and Christmas concerts.
Official tourist guide to West Sweden
Official guide to Gothenburg
Guide to public transportation
Guide to trains
Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, for information on national parks and the rules for the Right of Public Access
Marie Oskarsson is a freelance journalist, wine writer, and children’s book author living in Gothenburg. She loves seafood and the archipelago, especially the little island of Käringön.