For some reason, Gothenburg, Sweden is like the green jelly bean of European cities — it’s left off to the side and given little thought despite the fact that it has so much to offer.

Gothenburg is what would happen if a chic café grew up and became a town. There are engaging conversations happening everywhere, and everything feels hip and full of energy yet totally laid-back at the same time. People are up for anything but there’s also no pressure to do more than wander around, see the sights, and indulge in some culinary delights — and there are plenty of places to do all three.

If you’re considering a European vacation and find yourself daunted by the prices in capital cities or the overwhelming crowds in top tourist spots, try Gothenburg. It’s the seaside city you never knew you needed to see.

Book a Room

Pretend you’re being naughty and meeting a paramour at Hotel Pigalle — the turn-of-the-century Parisian-inspired décor is all sultry draping, lush upholstery, and warmly lit corners, providing the perfect space for a romantic escape. Sankt Jörgen Park offers a different type of luxury, with an award-winning spa, 18-hole golf course, and both indoor and outdoor pools all on premises. No wonder the Man U and Arsenal squads both stayed here.

Gothenburg is what would happen if a chic café grew up and became a town. There are engaging conversations happening everywhere, and everything feels hip and full of energy yet totally laid-back at the same time.

The 16-room Hotel Flora marries quirky décor and business-friendly amenities, so you can catch up on emails backed by a huge floral display or check out the in-house workspace equipped with office equipment and an all-day breakfast spread.

Dine & Drink

There are six Michelin-starred restaurants anchoring this flourishing foodie scene, but you don’t have to blow up your bank account or pack your best suit to enjoy good eats.

There are six Michelin-starred restaurants anchoring this flourishing foodie scene.

Fuel up for a full day of sightseeing with kanelbullars and coffee at Café Husaren. The famous Swedish cinnamon rolls are to die for, but if you want to skip the sugar there are healthier options like boiled eggs and muesli with yogurt.

Dessert at Café Husaren.

Kafé Magasinet brings nature indoors, with plants strewn from wall to wall and fur blankets available for diners interested in a mid-meal swaddle. The menu itself is inventive without teetering into self-indulgence. Try the vegan pizza and surprise yourself with how much you don’t miss the meat.

Discover “modern Swedish gastronomy” at Koka, where local ingredients are treated to forward-thinking methodologies transforming humble, lovingly foraged ingredients into mouthwatering works of art. As you’d expect from the largest port city in Europe, seafood is a big deal in Gothenburg. Get yours at the iconic Gabriel Fisk- & Skaldjursbar, otherwise known as the “Fish Church”, where freshly shucked local oysters share the slate with fried herring, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry (classic!).

As you’d expect from the largest port city in Europe, seafood is a big deal in Gothenburg.

For drinks, get weird at Steampunk Bar, where industrial doodads and Victorian fashion collide (the beverages are just as eye-catching and cool), or relive your club kid days at Yaki-Da, a bar that looks like an apartment but serves up live music (band or DJ) plus coffee cocktails, a tasty snack spread, and more twinkly lights than a planetarium.

See the Sights

Surprise! Gothenburg has islands. The Gothenburg Archipelago is jam-packed with coastal charm. Take a ferry over (there are several points of departure depending on whether you want to take your car and where you want to end up) and check out the seafaring side of local life.

The Universeum showcases the science-y side of nature, with seven floors packed with interactive exhibits highlighting everything from your brain to outer space.

Ditch your itinerary and head to one of Gothenburg’s oldest neighborhoods. Haga is flush with cobblestone streets that lead up to wooden houses and tiny restaurants and shops. This is also where you’ll find Skansen Kronan, an early 18th-century fortress turned prison turned military museum turned jaw-dropping spot to eat some ice cream with a view.

Stop & Shop

The Market Hall, aka Saluhallen, is a light and bright indoor market that has been connecting vendors and shoppers since 1888. The facility has been greatly modernized, providing a comfy welcoming place to shop more than 40 stalls stocked with cheese, fruit, spices, coffee, and other goodies.

Shops at Saluhallen

Film and music buffs will browsing the bargain bins at Dirty Records, where you can also grab a latte and a pastry in case your search for the one Pixies LP you need to complete your collection goes a little long.

In addition to a plethora of independent boutiques, you’ll find huge buildings renovated into sprawling malls. Arkaden encompasses three floors and about 20 shops while Frolunda Torg has a little bit of everything, including sports swag and trendy fashion.

What to Know Before You Go

  • The Best Way to Travel: Gothenburg is an easy train ride from Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen, or you can fly into Landvetter airport and take a shuttle bus into the center of the city.
  • When to Go: The city is at its greenesy in the middle of summer, but winter is also special thanks to some of the best Christmas markets on the continent.
  • Local Currency: Krona
  • Native Language: Swedish
  • How to Get Around: Trams, boats, buses — they’re all part of the public transportation in Gothenburg, and you can use the To Go app to manage it all. There’s also an efficient bike rental system with stalls around the city and plenty of parking if you want to rent a car.
  • Plan To: Make like a local and search out the “half special”, a hotdog topped with mashed potatoes and shrimp salad.
  • Here’s a Hint: If you visit in winter, warm up with a canal tour complete with hot mulled wine, ginger biscuits, and a warning to duck as you go under the uber-low “cheese-slicer” bridge.

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