Sure Gothenburg might not be as big as Stockholm, but don’t call it Sweden’s second city. For years, Gothenburg has been known as the capital’s artsy cousin—where start-ups, creatives, and students can all thrive at costs lower than in the capital. It’s also, unsurprisingly, a great place to vacation for fans of ocean air, music, fashion, and food. (That’s all of us, right?) Plus it’s walkable! Strap on your sneakers—here’s a few Gothenburg hot spots worth checking out.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Bellora: A taste of Italy in the heart of Sweden? Sure, why not. Decked out in stripes, florals, and old-school black-and-white portraits (is that you I spy, Sophia Loren?), theirs is not a décor scheme for the meek. Pop downstairs to their flower- and bottle-lined dining area for a full meal (pizza and meat and sweets—oh my!) or head up to the rooftop bar for generously poured glasses of rosé and cotton candy-colored sunset views. After dark, head back to your room for some serious Netflix and chill action—“chill” in this sentence referring to passing out face-first into your bed. (Seriously, who can stay awake on a pile of pillows that soft?)
WHERE TO EAT
Kafe Magasinet: Here you'll find a combination of mouthwatering pizzas, hearty sandwiches, and artfully presented salads, best served with an iced coffee, smoothie, or one of their many craft cocktails. (Translation: No matter what you select, you’re not going to go hungry.) Sit in their understated dining room (dark wood and low lighting, FTW), or take your meal out to their newly built greenhouse patio. It’s full of plants, stone floors, stripped furniture, and light—so be warned, your Instagram is going to get a workout.
Råda Gelato: People in Sweden summer like it’s a verb, with many workers receiving a significant amount of vacation time. Ice cream is practically the season’s official food. Located in the Linnéstaden neighborhood (a few blocks away from the Haga shopping district—more on that next), Råda churns out several different flavors of gelato daily (plus—score one for the vegans—sorbet). You can’t go wrong with chocolate or vanilla (especially when they’re made with all organic ingredients), but more adventurous dessert lovers should try the shop’s custom flavors, like cardamom and rhubarb or burned brown butter, which tastes like childhood and fresh cookie dough.
Da Matteo: The Swedish use the word fika to describe their coffee breaks, which—if you’re doing it right—always involve a little something sweet. Take time out in the middle of your day to stop by a Da Matteo roasters, where you can grab a fair-trade brew and Swedish sweets, like their chocolate balls or cardamom buns. Need a caffeine boost with a side of lunch? The Vallgatan location has you covered with a spate of sandwiches, salads, and pizzas, plus a big courtyard to eat in.
WHERE TO DRINK
Tvinky: This wine bar is located on Andra Långgatan, a street generally considered to be more of a beer district. See—sometimes it pays to stand out in a crowd. The majority of the bar’s red, white, and (yes!) rosé offerings are available in both glass and bottle, and much of their menu—from cabbage to cheesecake is available in half-portions for when you need a little something to snack on.
Hagabion/Bar Kino: Gothenburg’s premiere indie movie theater also has a pretty sweet bar which means, when the weather is good, patrons spill out into the courtyard and lounge on an assortment of picnic tables. (Meanwhile, the eclectic, heavily-mirrored interior recalls David Lynch by way of Wes Anderson—probably not an aesthetic accident.) Come for the generous wine pours and craft beers, and stay for the weekend DJs and people-watching.
Brewers’ Beer Bar: Oh beer, the unofficial drink of Sweden (and, let’s be honest, most countries). You can’t go wrong wandering around Andra Långgatan and window-shopping for a drink. But for a more focused beer situation, try out Brewers’ Beer Bar. From sours to stouts, the punk-leaning pub usually has at least 14 different kinds of beer on offer. Bonus: They have pizza. Oh boy, do they ever have pizza. (Vegans rejoice—they have you covered as well.)
WHAT TO DO
Way Out West: Coachella who? Sweden’s flagship music festival, Way Out West, attracts the headline names (Lana Del Rey, The Knife, Frank Ocean, and Kendrick Lamar have all previously performed) with a quarter of the crowd. They also rep well for the home team, hosting sets from notable Swedish artists that don’t regularly tour through the U.S. (This year’s edition featured Jens Lekman, The Radio Dept, and Tove Styrke). Factor in the deliciously green setting of Slottsskogen park, recycling measures that help keep the area looking lush, and all-vegetarian food vendors to help reduce the event’s overall footprint, and you’ve got a music lover’s paradise.
Cruise in style: Gothenburg is a watery city. If the area’s numerous canals remind you of Amsterdam, know that you’re not far off—the city plan was inspired by the Dutch. For a duck’s-eye view, hop on a Paddan boat tour and enjoy the city streets above your head. (In some cases, just above your head—two of the city’s bridges, including one nicknamed “the hairdresser” are so low, boat passengers have to temporarily sit on the boat's floor.) Enjoy the deep dive into the city’s history as a seaside port—who knew shipbuilding could be so dramatic? Or just lean back and enjoy the sweet sea breeze. (Bonus: If you use the Gothenburg City Card, you also get free public transit and admission to a cross-section of local museums.)
Pay your Respects at the “Fish Church”: There’s a Rosenlund Canal-side building with a series of tall spires that it looks a bit like a church. Well, it is… of the seafood rather than spiritual variety. (Then again, many Scandinavians might argue about the spiritual nature of seafood.) The “Fish Church” or Feskekörka was built back in the day when the men went to sea and the women were left to sell their catches. Rather than suffer through hot summers and icy winters unprotected, the women banned together and had the structure built. (Hello, girl power!) Today, it sells nearly every fruit of the sea imaginable. (A treasure trove or horror show, depending on your views on the subject.) Grab something to cook at home or enjoy a meal in the restaurant, where you might catch sight of head chef and Nordic Oyster Opening champion, Johan Malm.
WHERE TO SHOP
Haga distract: Need to walk off all of the city’s delicious food offerings? Go for a walk through the Haga district. Lined with old-school wood houses (originally built when the street was outside the Gothenburg city walls—anyone inside had to build their homes out of stone to prevent fires), this is the ultimate shopping area, even if souvenir hunting really isn’t your bag. Wander the pedestrian-only street, and window shop at the tea store, soap monger, Japanese specialty store, or any number of antique shops. And hey, if your sweet tooth hasn’t been completely satisfied you can always grab one of Café Husaren famously oversized cinnamon rolls.
T H R I V E: This boutique carries one of the most well-curated fashion selections in the area. The best part, be it beanie or bag, anything you buy from the shop is fair trade, vegan, and, in many cases, organic or made from completely recycled materials. Because—to quote one of their T-shirts—this is no Planet B.
Bengans Fik: Gothenburg is a great city for music. (See: El Perro Del Mar, José González, Studio, and Air France.) Need a point of entry? Try Bengans. Located in an old theater, the record shop houses not only a vast array of vinyl, but T-shirts, random band-related toys you didn’t even know you needed (bobblehead, anyone?), and a stage for live events. Pick up the newest Jens Lekman, and then dissect the troubadour’s signature brand of heartache over a coffee at the in-store café.