12 Unique Things to do in Gothenburg

by Sian Marsh  |  Published October 21, 2019

Quieter, more laid-back and less touristy than Stockholm, Gothenburg offers many ways to experience the Swedish culture, from trying the local cuisine to alfresco swimming and steaming saunas. Here are 12 unique things to do in this water-side city.

Aerial view over Maritiman and Gothenburg (Photo: Emelie Leetmaa courtesy of Maritiman)

Located in the midst of a mystical land of midnight sun and northern lights, Gothenburg is the epitome of Scandinavian culture. The cobbled streets, vast parks, glassy waterways and fascinating museums are some of the best places to get a feel for what this city is all about.

As with any good adventure, do as the locals do. Cosy up in a coffee house for fika in the winter months, or spend the long summer days lounging on the sun-soaked rocks; Gothenburg offers plenty of ways to enjoy your time, come rain or shine.

Try Fika in Haga

A quaint café in Haga (Photo: Michael Coghlan via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Stroll along the cobbled streets of Haga and take in the sweet, cinnamon-scented wafts oozing from the numerous bakeries lining the streets. One of the oldest suburbs in Gothenburg, Haga is known for enormous, freshly baked, cinnamon buns which can be spotted in coffee shop windows and on street-side stalls. Stop for fika, which is the Swedish word for a coffee and cake break, in any one of Haga’s charming coffee shops to taste this delicacy. Tear open the warm, fresh dough and take a bite, allowing the sugary cinnamon syrup to drip from the pastry. A strong Swedish coffee makes for a great accompaniment.

Visit the Gothenburg archipelago

Styrsö is one of the larger islands in the archipelago (Photo: Pom’ via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

To the west of the city lies the Gothenburg archipelago. Throughout the summer months regular ferries chug back and forth, delivering passengers to these tiny islands. Styrsö, one of the larger islands, is a quintessential Swedish paradise with red, white and yellow clap-board houses, surrounded by colourful wildflowers, birch woodlands and pristine sandy shores. Café Öbergska, just steps from the ferry terminal, is a place for visitors to sample locally brewed beer, a freshly peeled shrimp sandwich and a Swedish ice cream, in the vibrant surrounds of the kitchen garden.

Brattenvägen, 430 84 Styrsö

Sweat it out in a sauna

For the ultimate Scandinavian experience visit the Svettekörkan sauna. Propped on the end of a jetty, the tall, corrugated metal structure is constructed of recycled materials. This stark industrial architecture complements the area’s history as the ship building quarter. Immerse yourself in the dry heat of the wooden-clad sauna rooms, split into men’s, women’s and mixed zones. Throughout the summer you can drop in, but during the winter months sauna slots must be pre-booked. There are also many other activities nearby in Jubileumsparken, including a freshwater pool and a saltwater bath, perfect for cooling off after the heat of the sauna.

Frihamnen 7, 417 55 Göteborg

Explore the Botanical Gardens

Colourful tulips in Trädgårdsföreningen (Photo: Blondinrikard Fröberg via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The well-manicured Botanical Gardens are a haven for plant lovers. Enter near the quaint shop where plants that are cultivated here, along with local crafts, are available to buy. Honey produced on-site is also for sale, with the specially designed, clear beehives close by for interested visitors to see. Meander along the stone paths among the immaculate flower beds, ascending the slopes until you reach a tiered rocky garden, complete with trickle falls and small pools. Climb the jagged slate steps intertwined with this lush, aquatic scene, until you reach the lookout point on the rocks above; panoramic views across woodlands and the city await.

Carl Skottsbergs gata 22A, 413 19 Göteborg

Learn about Sweden’s Maritime past

The Maritiman maritime museum (Photo: Emelie Leetmaa courtesy of Maritiman)

A collection of warships and weapons awaits at the maritime museum, Maritiman. Experience life at sea on the numerous vessels docked here. Board a destroyer, lightships, cargo ships and barges, as well as descending down into a submarine. Roam around the ships at a leisurely pace, or join one of the guided tours available for more insight into the museum’s collection (offered in English and Swedish). There is a café for hungry sailors, serving light snacks, including vegan options, and a shop selling maritime souvenirs.

Packhusplatsen 12, 411 13 Göteborg

Sip cocktails with a city view

Take in views over the Göta älv river while sipping a seasonal cocktail at OGBG Bar in the Comfort Hotel building. The open-air glass terrace offers views across the river to the industrial shores of Lyndbvassen. Classic cocktails are fused with Asian ingredients to create the Asian 75 (made with lychee liquor), the K-pop sensation (inclusive of popping candy) and the five-spice negroni. Relax on lounge seating amid the contemporary décor or perch on a bar stool for a clearer view. Beer, cider, wine and soft drinks, including mocktails, are also available. There is a retractable canopy and patio heaters for cooler, wetter weather and an indoor bar too.

 Skeppsbroplatsen 1, 411 18 Göteborg

Explore the city on a walking tour

Perfect day for a walking tour in Gothenburg (Photo: Courtesy of Nova Fair Tales)

Learn about the city’s history, see the top sights and the hidden spots favoured by locals on a walking tour with Nova Fairy Tales. Small groups of ten or fewer people gather outside the Condecoo Café on Harry Hjörnes Square to set off for the three-hour walk. Take in sights such as Feskekôrka, Gustav Adolfs Torg, Domkyrkan and Kronhuset while touring the neighbourhoods and listening to local lore. Obscure corners of the city will also be pointed out and recommendations of where to eat and what to do with the rest of your time in Gothenburg can be given. Private and customised tours are also available for an even more intimate look at the city.

Fredsgatan 14, 411 07 Göteborg

Take an alfresco summer dip 

A mass of smooth grey rocks, peppered with grassy tufts gives way to the Kattegat strait at Saltholmen, a secluded swimming spot. Clamber down the rocks toward the sea and find a relatively flat patch to set up for the day. Metal steps lead down into the refreshing water, allowing visitors the chance to cool off. Locals gather here with picnics, beverages and music creating a lively vibe, which continues well into the night, as the warm sun shines on. Tram 11 runs from Gothenburg Central Station or Järntorget throughout the day.

Get out of the city

Atmospheric Lake Delsjön in winter (Photo: danniefraim via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Forests of birch, spruce and pine surround the vast Lake Delsjön, roughly a 30-minute drive east of city, where locals come throughout the year to escape the urban environment and inhale the fresh air. Swim from the large beach, the rocks or one of the bathing platforms in the summer, cooking lunch or dinner on the barbeque facilities provided. In winter, partake in the Swedish tradition of taking a walk in the woods. Hiking trails run through the forest, weaving in and out of the trees. Other activities include canoeing and mountain biking (trails for all levels). There is also a café here for hot drinks and other refreshments.

Taste Swedish glass

Blue and white tiles stripe the floor, creating a retro feel in the Lejonet and Björnen ice cream parlour. All white walls and floor to ceiling windows continue the fresh, clean feel where, arguably, the best ice cream in Gothenburg is served. This household brand is revered in Sweden and sold in many ice-cream huts, but here you can try combinations mixed into milkshakes and banana splits. Sprinkles, sauces, jams, nuts and fruits can also be added to any tub or classic waffle cone. Indoor and outdoor seating is available to enjoy your creation, alongside a tea, coffee or soft drink. Blueberry and saffron flavours are local favourites.

Danska vägen 74, 416 59 Göteborg, Sweden

Eat the best shrimp sandwich in the city

An open shrimp sandwich is a traditional Swedish dish (Photo: Maria Eklind via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Small, sweet, juicy hand peeled prawns, seasoned with freshly cracked black pepper, piled high on a bed of crisp mixed lettuce leaves, all placed on a slice of rye bread and topped with thinly cut cucumber, sprigs of dill, a boiled egg, and wedge of lemon, with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side: this is the iconic shrimp sandwich. Known locally as räkmacka this famed dish is a must-try in Gothenburg. Heaven 23, a restaurant located on the 23rd floor of the Gothia Towers hotel, is reputed to serve the very best in the city. The cost of this open sandwich is slightly higher than elsewhere, but it is accompanied by a fantastic view over Gothenburg and a great cocktail menu.

Mässans gata 22, 412 51 Göteborg

Smell the roses in Trädgårdsföreningen

A huge palm house dominates the tended lawns at the Garden Society of Gothenburg. Free to enter and enjoy, this horticultural society promotes lounging on the grass, enjoying a picnic, stopping to smell the roses and touching the plants to feel the varied textures, from silky petals to waxy leaves and prickly stems. There is a carpet of colour to take in, from the vast rose garden to the wildflower area and the decorative metal frames and arches which support climbing plants. The palm house offers warmth in the winter, allowing palms and cacti to thrive. See the mature monstera (cheese plant) which engulfs an entire corner, standing as tall as the glass house.

Slussgatan 1, 411 06 Göteborg