When planning a trip to Europe during the colder months of the year, there are some must-see destinations that are popular year-in-year-out: Munich and the skiing resorts, The French Alps and Budapest. With this in mind I decided to go for a more under the radar destination called Gothenburg (known as Göteborg in Swedish). Here are my recommendations to consider when you visit Gothenburg in the winter…
My Christmas 2019 getaway was to the beautiful city of Gothenburg in Sweden. A city that is a lot smaller than Stockholm but offers just as much in terms of things to do although not a mention of ABBA to be seen. I have spent a winter weekend in Stockholm a few years back and found the Christmas ‘feeling’ was more present in Gothenburg especially in Liseberg theme park which was a true winter wonderland.
We went to the Liseberg theme park on the Saturday evening, we caught an open top boat that went from the city centre (close to the food market), which passed through the city. We took the Padden boat cruise (www.stromma.com/…/paddan-christmas-tour/) and as long as the canals aren’t frozen over is the perfect way to arrive especially as blankets, cookies and mulled wine are supplied.
The main entrance to the theme park is visible as you pass under the last bridge and the wonderful sight of sparking lights that lit up the whole area is picture perfect. You can then wander around the rest of Liseberg, go on some rides, try the arcade games, shop at the markets, eat lots of different foods and cakes and warm up with hot drinks next to the fire pits. The whole area is there to cater to any Christmas needs you have and is for adults and children alike with awhile section called Rabbit land for the little ones to enjoy. There is also ice shows, skating and music all around the park.
The lights continue and even when you walk to the exit of the park and you pass through the trees which are lit up and light the way. You can get back to the city centre and our hotel ( Hotel Riverton ... www.riverton.se ) in around 30 mins or via the number 2 tram which near enough goes door to door in 20mins.
Another great place to explore would definitely be Haga. The area of Haga is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Gothenburg. The pedestrian street Haga Nygata is lined with well-preserved houses, many In the traditional style which add to the charm and the cobbled streets line the area. Today the houses are home to plenty of independent shops and cafés bringing a new sense of life to the area. Haga is conveniently located within walking distance of the city centre and only 10 minutes from the hotel but if you are staying further out then you can arrive by tram. There was plenty going on and the shop windows are beautifully designed and great photo opportunities. Also in Haga is the Skansen Kronan, which is a fortress situated on the hill Risåsberget. It was designed by Erik Dahlberg and completed in 1700.
History tells that when Skansen Kronan was built it was fitted with 23 canons and although was ready for battle, was never attacked by enemies but the cannons are fired at selected times of the year.( https://www.goteborg.com/en/skansen-lejonet/)
We went up in the early morning, a walk to get the heart pumping and the views across the city are worth the hike and the winter late sunrise meant that we could witness the sun rising above the building. You can see across the skyline and take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet.
We stayed in Gothenburg in the winter and the weather was up and down. If you are caught in the cold and wet then be sure to head over to the Universeum, it is located in the heart of Gothenburg and is said to be Scandinavia's largest science centre. It is set over 7 floors and it is like no museum I have ever been in as part of centre means you can experience a tropical rainforest complete with monkeys, birds, lizards and plants all around you. It also has a series of huge aquariums complete with sharks and stingrays as well as snake, spider and lizards on display. The centre also offers information on science and technology and is great for all ages. It is truly a totally interactive and interesting experience.
Another landmark is the Palm House. This started as a shelter from the rain but turned into one of the most stunning sights on the Sunday wander around the city. Inside was a wonderful display of plant life across the various rooms.
The Garden Society of Gothenburg, Trädgårdsföreningen, is said to be one of the most we’ll preserved 19th century parks in all of Europe and in the summer it is filled with thousands of roses, glorious displays and beautiful gardens for all to enjoy. In winter it is bare, the woodlands and green is still around but many of the flowers will be not back until the spring. However in the middle of the garden society park stands the grand looking Palm house, modelled upon London landmark the Crystal Palace and has been a popular spot for horticultural fans to enjoy in Gothenburg since 1878.
Due to the glasshouse, plants are on display all year round and the area is approximately 1000 metres squared and is split into 5 sections with a stunning variety of palm trees, exotic plants and the tropical warmth in parts. There is a viewing platform and a seating area to sit and enjoy the views. Coffee and drinks can be purchased outside or you can bring your own. In the summer there is a cafe but in December just the coffee cart was on offer but the coffee was good. Entry is free to the gardens and Palm house and open for all to enjoy and explore and there are often displays from visiting artists and it is worth checking the website and tourist information for what’s happening when you visit.
If you want to escape the city and catch some good sea air then a trip out to the archipelago islands is well worth exploring and Hönö is the right place to head. It’s the largest of the islands in the Gothenburg archipelago and is just north of the city, with a free ferry across running regularly even in winter and a bus from the city will travel directly and easily for a few pounds. Hönö is perfect for cycling but we walked and it’s easy to navigate around. The harbour had great restaurants and a few shops. The houses and architecture are similar to the Stockholm archipelago but it was still full of its own character. The islands were quieter than I’m sure it is in the summer but as it was a Sunday lunchtime the restaurants were still bustling and offering a good selection of different eateries, Gothenburg is definitely a foodie place with fine dining, traditional restaurants and bars offering something for all budgets and tastes.
Another foodie heaven is found in the city centre and as the biggest indoor market in town, Saluhallen, is where you find spices, coffee, cheese, fruit and other delicacies from all over the world. The Market Hall (Saluhallen) is home to around forty shops and places to eat. It is a popular lunch spot and is a great place to grab some good food and shelter from the cold. With some much choice and the many sights be sure to have money and your camera to capture both the looks and tastes on offer. Also when looking at fresh food and photo opportunities then the fish market hall Feskekôrka, (‘fish church’ in Swedish) is located on the riverside and is home indoor fish and shellfish market where you can buy all kinds of seafood delicacies caught the same day. The fish market is closed on a Sunday and Monday so plan accordingly.
One final thing you must enjoy in Gothenburg is taking the time each day to Fika. If you’ve never heard of the Swedish concept of Fika before then you will have it down to a fine art after a few days. The word is literally translated into English as ‘coffee break,’ Fika means so much more than this. The Swedes take their coffee pretty seriously, meaning that many of the prettiest coffee shops in the city are on ever corner of the city and coffee is always good with a sweet treat of which there are many to choose from. are also home to some of the best blends of coffee anywhere in Europe. I enjoyed many cakes in Gothenburg and could not give just one place to try but we had Mr Cake less than a minute from the hotel and Haga is home to some pretty amazing coffee shops including Cafe Husaren ( https://www.cafehusaren.se/ ) Possibly more importantly though the fika also provides the opportunity to chat with friends and to have a social interaction so the art of friendship built around coffee and cake is perfect.
After a long weekend walking around the city of Gothenburg, I have captured some art that was spotted along the way. Along with the graffiti on display which ultimately is ever changing, shops and restaurants display eye catching displays to draw people in and capture the imagination....beauty is all over this Swedish city.
Nick - the thoughtful traveller