Don't tell the residents of Göteborg that they live in Sweden's "second city," but not because they will get upset (people here are known for their amiability and good humor). They just may not understand what you are talking about. People who call Göteborg (pronounced YOO-teh-bor; most visitors stick with the simpler "Gothenburg") home seem to forget that the city is diminutive in size and status compared to Stockholm. Spend a couple of days here and you'll forget, too. You'll find it's easier to ask what Göteborg hasn't got to offer rather than what it has. Culturally it is superb, boasting a fine opera house and theater, one of the country's best art museums, as well as a fantastic applied-arts museum. There's plenty of history to soak up, from the ancient port that gave the city its start to the 19th-century factory buildings and workers' houses that helped put it on the commercial map. For those looking for nature, the wild-west coast and tame green fields are both within striking distance. And don't forget the food. Since its inception in 1983, more than half of the "Swedish Chef of the Year" competition winners were cooking in Göteborg. Göteborg begs to be explored by foot. A small, neat package of a city, it can be divided up into three main areas, all of which are closely interlinked. If your feet need a rest, though, there is an excellent streetcar network that runs to all parts of town. The main artery of Göteborg is Kungsportsavenyn (more commonly referred to as Avenyn, "the Avenue"), a 60-foot-wide tree-lined boulevard that bisects the city along a northwest–southeast axis. Avenyn starts at Göteborg's cultural heart, Götaplatsen, home to the city's oldest cultural institutions, where ornate carved-stone buildings keep watch over the shady boulevards of the Vasastan neighborhood, which are lined with exclusive restaurants and bars. Follow Avenyn north and you'll find the main commercial area, now dominated by the modern Nordstan shopping center. Beyond is the waterfront, busy with all the traffic of the port, as well as some of Göteborg's newer cultural developments, in particular its magnificent opera house. To the west of the city are the Haga and Linné districts. Once home to the city's dockyard, shipping, and factory workers, these areas are now chic and alive with arts-and-crafts galleries, antiques shops, boutiques selling clothes and household goods, and street cafés and restaurants.
Göteborg is filled with people who love to eat and cook, so you've come to the right place if you're interested in food. The fish and seafood here are some of the best in the world, owing to the clean, cold waters off Sweden's west coast. And Göteborg's chefs are some of the best in Sweden, as a glance at the list of recent "Swedish Chef of the Year" winners will confirm. Call ahead to be sure restaurants are open, as many are closed in July or in other summer months.
Stefan Karlsson's fantastic restaurant has one of the best locations in Göteborg, right on the beautiful Götaplatsen; from the semicircular dining room, diners looks out on the square. Almost-bare wooden tables and primary-color linens make an interesting informal contrast to the haute cuisine that emerges from the kitchen. All the herbs and vegetables are grown by a farmer just 5 km (3 mi) from town. Karlsson loves to travel; the flavors he has picked up as a globe-trotter spice up his modern Swedish menu.
The thoroughly modern Pinchos takes into account the country's love for mobile technology by allowing diners to place orders for tapas like fried calamari, bruschetta, and spicy chorizo using an app on their mobile phones. (You can also order the old-fashioned way, of course.) The bite-size plates include Japanese sushi, Lebanese mezes, Italian antipasti, Chinese dim sum, and a variety of Scandinavian plates.
In the same street-corner location for at least two generations, Ströms sells clothing of high quality and good taste.
There are several large food markets in the city area, but the most impressive is Saluhallen. Built in 1889, the barrel-roofed, wrought-iron, glass, and brick building stands like a monument to industrial architecture. Everything is available at this food hall, from fish, meat, and bakery products to deli foods, herbs and spices, coffee, cheese, and even just people-watching.
If you are looking to buy Swedish arts and crafts and glassware, visit the various shops in Kronhusbodarna. They have been selling traditional, handcrafted quality goods, including silver and gold jewelry, watches, and handblown glass, since the 18th century.
Some hotels close during the winter holidays; call ahead if you expect to travel during that time. All rooms in the hotels reviewed are equipped with shower or bath unless otherwise noted. Göteborg also has some fine camping sites if you want an alternative to staying in a hotel.
In the world's largest floating maritime museum you'll find modern naval vessels, including a destroyer; submarines; a lightship; cargo vessels, and various tugboats, providing insight into Göteborg's historic role as a major port. The main attraction is a huge naval destroyer, complete with a medical room in which a leg amputation operation is graphically re-created, with mannequins standing in for medical personnel.
The redbrick buildings that line this street were originally poorhouses donated by the Dickson family, the city's British industrialist forefather; "ROBERT DICKSON" can still be seen carved into the facades of many of them. Like most buildings in Haga, the buildings' ground floors were made of stone in order to prevent the spread of fire (the upper floors are wood). The Dickson family's impact on the architecture of the west of Sweden can also be seen in the impressive, fanciful mansion that belonged to Robert's grandson James, in Tjolöholm, to the south of Göteborg.
This impressive collection of the works of leading Scandinavian painters and sculptors captures some of the moody introspection of the artistic community in this part of the world. The museum's Hasselblad Center devotes itself to showing the progress in the art of photography. The Konstmuseet's holdings include works by Swedes such as Carl Milles, Johan Tobias Sergel, impressionist Anders Zorn, Victorian idealist Carl Larsson, and Prince Eugen. The 19th- and 20th-century French art collection is the best in Sweden, and there's also a small collection of old masters.
This stunning bathhouse was built at the end of the 19th
century by the Swedish philanthropist Sven Renström. Originally used by local
dock- and factory workers, it's now often filled with Göteborg's leisure-hungry
elite. The pretty pool is art nouveau, with wall paintings, an arched ceiling,
and lamps with a diving-lady motif. The Roman baths and the massage and spa area
all exude relaxation, but the architecture alone is worth a visit, even if you
don't intend to take the plunge.
This square was built in 1923 in celebration of the city's 300th anniversary. In the center is the Swedish-American sculptor Carl Milles's breathtaking fountain statue of Poseidon choking a codfish. Behind the statue stands the Konstmuseet, flanked by the Konserthuset (Concert Hall) and the Stadsteatern (Municipal Theater), contemporary buildings in which the city celebrates its contributions to Swedish cultural life.
A statement in steel and glass, the opera house opened in 1994, immediately dominating this section of the waterfront with its bold lines and shape. Set against a backdrop of the old docks, it makes for a striking image. The productions here are world-class and well worth seeing if you get the chance.
This museum's fine collections include furniture, books and manuscripts, tapestries, and pottery. Artifacts date back as far as 1,000 years, but it's the 20th-century gallery, with its collection of many familiar household objects, that seems to provide the most enjoyment.
Beautiful open green spaces, manicured gardens, and tree-lined paths are the perfect place to escape for some peace and rest. Rose fanciers can head for the magnificent rose garden, where there are 5,000 roses of 2,500 varieties. Also worth a visit is the Palm House, whose late-19th-century design echoes that of London's Crystal Palace.
Liseberg Amusement Park
The more than thirty attractions here—carousels, rides, rollercoasters, funhouses, and the like—pull in roughly three million visitors each year. The park is especially mobbed around the holidays, when it throws the largest Christmas market in Sweden, with five million twinkling lights on display along with an ice rink, Santa's World, and stalls selling crafts, mulled wine, gingersnaps, and other seasonal goods.