If I were to ever find myself in a scenario where I had to convert to another nationality, it would probably be Swedish. I think I would fit in well with the Swedes; they love great coffee, enjoy spending time outdoors and their style is impeccably simple and trendy, some of the small things in life that make me very happy. They are also very friendly and welcoming, a trait that appeals greatly to the solo traveller, especially the Irish one who loves to chat.
On my most recent trip to Sweden a few weeks ago I found myself fitting in a little too well. Locals were happily chatting to me in Swedish before realising I couldn’t get past their hello of ‘Hej Hej’ and, as usual, other tourists were asking me for directions – I’m contemplating charging at this stage. But all of this just added to the sense of hospitality and charm exuded by my destination this time around: Gothenburg. Having had a wonderful trip to Sweden last year, albeit a slightly colder one in April time, I was instantly wooed by the country’s second city, a city that reminded me of the cool, slightly rebellious younger sibling to the older more sensible Stockholm.
Visiting in the summertime is certainly idyllic and Gothenburgers make the most of the long bright evenings – everywhere I passed on the Monday and Tuesday night I was there was packed with locals enjoying a drink and bite to eat. It’s a fantastic city for the solo traveller, easy to navigate, very walkable with some fantastic green spaces and the locals are genuinely helpful, laid back and interesting to speak with. The nearby archipelago offers a wonderful getaway from the mainland and I would highly recommend visiting some of these beautiful islands for a day if you have time.
Having only spent three days there, I nonetheless returned home relaxed and at ease, the scandi-cool influence easily rubbing off on me. Sweden is definitely somewhere I want to explore more of at some stage, but perhaps I’ll learn a little more of their language before my next trip. And you never know, I might just get away with passing for a real local – except for the Donegal twang to my Swedish accent of course!
Until next time. . .
Gothenburg Museum of Art
I loved this contemporary art museum and arrived in perfect time for morning opening so I could quietly wander through the spacious galleries absent of any crowds. Their collections are largely of Nordic influence, but I always find it fascinating to get a glimpse of iconic national artists whom I have usually not come across before. Having said that, I was thrilled to also find a small but indulgent selection of paintings from some of my reliable favourites – Rembrandt, Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet to name-drop but a few.
On the ground floor, there is a lovely restaurant called Mr.P (named after Pontus Fürstenberg who assembled a huge collection of art that was bequeathed to the museum). It is perfect for lunch after a morning ramble through the galleries and popular with the local crowd because of its fine international menu. The beautiful interior could in itself be a gallery of contemporary art. It is also open for dinner if you are in the area later in the evening. For a great coffee nearby head to Viktors Kaffe on a small side street just around the corner.
Adjacent to the Museum of Art, the Hasselblad Center houses rolling photography exhibitions and your ticket to the art museum will grant you access. Their permanent display titled Hasselblad and the Moon was a revelation to me, providing a fascinating insight into the history of camera use during the early days of space exploration.
Pictures from the first spacewalk by Edward H. White were taken with a Hasselblad camera and an official collaboration followed between Hasselblad and NASA, continuing until 2003. The exhibition charts that journey through an insightful collection of cameras, photographs and artefacts from the personal collection of Erna and Victor Hasselblad. I would highly recommend this for anyone with even a passing interest in space exploration or photography.
Made in China
The Asian fusion and dim sum menu at Made in China requires a little contemplation in terms of what to choose – literally everything on it reads appealingly. After my deliberations I opted for three small plates; a traditional spicy som tam salad, wok-fried broccoli with garlic and ginger and my top choice, a tuna tartare with mango, chilli and cucumber. All were exquisite – the tuna in particular proved heavenly.
I would say though that if you visit keep in mind that dishes are delivered in the traditional one-plate-every-now-and-then style that is common in Asian restaurants. Nonetheless when all three were delivered, they were the perfect combination for my solo self.
A well-known traditional seafood restaurant in the heart of the Haga district, my meal here was a perfect contrast to some of the trendier and newer eateries dotted around the foodie haven of Gothenburg. I chose the staff-recommended seafood soup and one of their specials from the board – cod that was literally cooked to perfection. The portions were excellent value, the staff very friendly and the atmosphere lively even on the Tuesday evening I was there with tourists interspersed with locals tucking in to the renowned seafood.
En Deli Haga
I had lunch here after arriving in Gothenburg via an early morning flight and I was spoilt for choice with their array of tasty homemade vegetarian dishes. The whole menu is egg free and mainly gluten and dairy free, but by no means any the less exciting for it.
The staff were incredibly welcoming and kindly explained the Swedish menu for me, recommending a selection of salads (delicious rye bread is served with everything). It is perfectly located in bustling Haga and a window or outside seat is a great choice for a little watching-the-world-go-by time.
Located on the island of Styrsö, this was one of my favourite lunch finds and I was incredibly lucky to be able to sit and enjoy my food in their garden on a beautifully warm, blue-skied day.
The retired Swedish couple sitting next to me were curious about how my food was, telling me they visited often as they lived nearby but had never ordered this dish specifically. They happily chatted with me in English about the island and as they sat enjoying an afternoon glass of wine in the summer sunshine, I could certainly understand the great appeal of owning a house on one of these islands as many Swedes do, sailing away from the mainland for the holidays. They have the right idea for sure!
Feskekörka is simply a mecca for fish lovers. Right by the riverside, the literal translation of ‘fish church’ perfectly encapsulates the architectural inspiration for the building that was built in 1874. I visited for lunchtime on my last day in Gothenburg and I am so glad I didn’t forgo a trip here.
There are counters on either side of the open-plan building floor, all selling every type of fish imaginable. Although I had planned to eat at the famous Restaurant Gabriel located inside, I decided to pick up a takeaway box instead and sit by the river in the afternoon sunshine – another good choice. If you love fish then I implore you to visit.
Nothing encapsulates holiday escapism quite like fresh gelato on a beautiful summer’s day and Rada Gelato was a glorious find after a warm afternoon of Gothenburg exploration. It is a small space in the heart of the Linnéstaden (commonly called Linné) neighbourhood with only a couple of seats inside and out.
During the summer, particularly on warmer days, there is a steady trade of visitors arriving to sample their delicious homemade flavours. Their sorbets are all vegan friendly and everything they make in house is from purely organic ingredients. I went for a classic favourite in pistachio along with choklad (Swedish for chocolate) and my choice was spot on. The only quibble I had was that I had to indulge far too quickly before the scoops melted while I sat in the afternoon sun.
Island hop to
This is one of the closest islands to the city and the tram from the centre of Gothenburg to the ferry stop on a gorgeously sunny morning took just over half an hour. Brännö is quite small with some lovely walking routes and no traffic – a heavenly treat for anyone used to hectic city life.
The air is beautifully fresh and I felt instantly relaxed as I crossed from one side of the island to the other. There are cute modest homes dotted along the island’s roads and I could see the appeal of staying here for some rejuvenation – I started to dream of coming here to peacefully write and read with no distractions.
There are a few swimming spots but I must admit the day I was there I wimped out of taking a dip as it was quite choppy and I suspected it might be fairly cold – many of the locals were more enthusiastic though, especially the kids of course. I found a lovely helpful kiosk by the second ferry stop (on the other side of the island to where I arrived) and the chatty owner directed me to the timetable and recommended another island for me to visit that day which was Styrsö. . .
A short hop from Brännö, Styrsö has slightly more inhabitants who love to get around on little golf buggies that just added to the charming community atmosphere everywhere I went. I found a fantastic place for lunch (Café Öbergska mentioned previously) and mulled away in the blissful sunshine.
There isn’t that much specifically to do on the islands but that is the whole point. Take a book or a board game, some cards maybe, but just detach from your phone and simply enjoy the clean air, beautiful scenery and friendly locals. Joy!
For information on getting to and from the archipelago and where to go, visit goteborg.com/en/good-to-know/getting-to-the-archipelago/
A wonderful discovery right next to Rada Gelato, this is a great place for breakfast, lunch and fika, but most importantly for note-perfect coffee. The staff are very friendly and when I found out they only took cash after I had ordered, the barista very kindly allowed me to stay and have my coffee, then pointed me in the direction of an ATM for me to visit and return with the cash.
It feels very neighbourly here with Gothenburgers enjoying catch-ups with friends and the odd tourist like myself stopping by to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Try and nab a little outdoor table as I did when the weather is good and watch the world go by.
An excellent small chain of independent coffee shops in the city, Da Matteo attracts a trendy crowd gathering for fika. I loved the coffee here so much I visited twice during my stay.
The branch I visited in Magasingatan also houses their bakery and roastery so you have the bonus of watching all the action as bakers craft homemade breads and sweet treats behind the counter. If the weather is fine there is a wonderful courtyard area outside where you can while away some time, relaxing among the locals enjoying their favourite time of day.
Clarion Post Hotel
I stopped by the Clarion Post for a pre-dinner drink one evening and my visit was a great, as I like to call it, ‘luxury sample’. If you haven’t tried this then definitely do. Visiting fancy hotel bars for a drink is an excuse to dress up, explore a prime location and get a taste of that luxury without destroying your budget. Personally, I don’t mind staying somewhere modest (but safe of course) as I can then treat myself to a nice evening out inclusive of a pre-dinner drink before a delicious meal; time that I am more likely to make wonderful memories from rather than the room used for a few nights’ sleep.
The décor at the Clarion Post was sleek and modern, with exceptionally comfortable chairs and plenty of space to relax, drink in hand from their extensive cocktail menu. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace area and a contemporary restaurant if you fancy splashing out a little for an evening.
My kind of place! I couldn’t resist stopping here when I passed it by chance on my first day in the city. They have a great collection of well-made t-shirts, shirts, jackets and jeans, all the classic staples any wardrobe would benefit from.
Dr Denim is family owned and began life in Gothenburg in 2004, so buying something here is the perfect piece of scandi cool for your fashion repertoire. Even if you won’t be visiting Gothenburg any time soon, check out their website below for a little online shopping. Yes, I’m an enabler!
My design-loving heart skipped a beat when I walked into Designtorget. From beautiful contemporary homewares to innovative gadgets and cookbooks, this shop is filled with scandi lifestyle goodies that will have you craving a revamp of your interior space. You could spend an age just browsing as I did and it was difficult to resist the urge to pick up something to take home – my lack of luggage space being the unfortunate, or fortunate, deterrent.
I first discovered Grandpa last year in Stockholm and found another branch on my wander through the shopping streets of Gothenburg. The stock is pricey but of the highest quality and it’s a great place to browse for the latest Swedish clothing and lifestyle trends.
The excellent Da Matteo I mentioned earlier is also just outside of the store so it’s the perfect opportunity for a little shopping followed by fika at one of the best coffee houses in Gothenburg.
If I had an empty canvas of an apartment to decorate and unlimited funds to do so, my dream would be to take the contents of Artilleriet and create my ideal living space. If only! Nonetheless one can still dream and that is exactly what I did as I perused their collection of kitchenware, books, furniture and exquisite stationary.
In the weeks since, I have found myself sometimes thinking of their beautiful things when I need a little daydream about decorating – am I the only one who has those?