Sweden’s second city is like the cooler, laid-back kid sister of more established Stockholm. Small wonder it’s known as Little London, says Imogen Lepere
Why go? We’re going to stick our neck out and say that Sweden’s second city has the highest concentration of cool in Scandinavia. Think Helsinki’s food, Copenhagen’s style and Stockholm’s design cred within a small town: with fewer than 500,000 residents, everything’s a stroll or bike ride away. Every August, Sweden’s biggest alternative culture fest Way Out West wayoutwest.se combines film and vegetarian food with big music acts and breakthrough artists.
What to do It may have been nicknamed ‘Little London’, but there’s a key difference: where London has pubs, Gothenburg has cafés – among the boutiques of chichi Haga, in the hipster havens of Tredje Langgatan and along every canal. In fact, there is even a special Swedish concept for meeting up for a coffee and something sweet: fika. Kale’i coffee bar in Kyrkogatan courtyard is a sophisticated gem, while Da Matteo on Victoriapassagen damatteo.se is the city’s original coffee hot spot. For a whistlestop tour of Swedish style, head to Grandpa grandpa.se to stock up on vintage design curios, homewares and clothing from local designers. Street art is everywhere here, but for a more traditional culture fix try the Gothenburg Museum of Art konstmuseum.goteborg.se and enjoy a great collection of Scandinavian artists including Edvard Munch and Ernst Josephson. You can’t beat the Paddan Canal Boat Tour, 00 46 31 609 670, stromma.se as an atmospheric way to explore the 17th-century moat and canals. It’s good value at $22, and you’ll take in sights such as King’s Park, the Opera House and the floating dock. Don’t miss a three-hour food tour with Matvandringen, matvandringen.se where you’ll nibble your way around 40 stalls in The Grand Market Hall storasaluhallen.se and meet some of the city’s finest artisan producers including Flickorna Kanold’s famed sea-salt chocolate.
Where to stay The hotel of the moment is the Clarion Hotel Post, 00 46 31 619 000, choicehotels.com – it boasts a rooftop pool and plush bar area, where locals in duster coats discuss design over a glass of the hotel’s own lager. It is directly opposite Gothenburg Central Station in the heart of the city. Flora Hotel 00 46 31 138 616, hotelflora.se is a boutique offering with a loyal following among the fashion set. Rooms are stylish with oriental rugs and Smeg fridges filled with bottles of bubbly. Walking into the Hotel Dorsia, 00 46 31 790 100, dorsia.se is like wandering into the house of an eccentric 20th-century aristocrat. All 37 rooms are wonderfully decadent and there is a dressing-up box of genuine Twenties clothes if you fancy getting a bit carried away.
Where to eat and drink Gothenburg’s food scene revolves around the bounty that is plucked from the icy waters of the North Sea: Smogen shrimp, lobster, langoustine, silky oysters from Grebbestad – a symphony of seafood awaits. Gabriel’s, 00 46 31 139 051, restauranggabriel.se has been the high priest of the city’s shellfish scene for two generations, and the restaurant is quite simply exceptional; look out for Kalix fish roe on toast (Sweden’s answer to caviar), grilled crayfish and dill-infused hops. Long-established Sjömagasinet 00 46 31 775 5920, sjomagasinet.se is a major player on the west coast food scene, and owner Ulf Wagner was the first in the city to be awarded a Michelin star. Meanwhile, food trucks foodtrucks.se have exploded as a trend in the past two years. The best is Strömmingsluckan, which serves fried herring with a layer of mustard alongside creamy mash and tart lingonberry jelly; very traditional and equally fashionable. Find it in the car park at Magasinsgatan. For a sense of occasion, Atelier in Hotel Pigalle, 00 46 31 802 521, hotelpigalle.se is one of the top destination restaurants in the city for oysters and champagne.
Time running out? Set aside a day to explore the 21 islands of the Gothenburg archipelago. You could see seals playing off the beaches as well as quaint villages and dramatic scenery.
Trip tip City Cards cover all public transport, including boats, as well as admission to plenty of galleries and tours. goteborg.com
Currency is the Swedish krona. Time is one hour ahead of BST. Flight time is around 8.75 hours from Dubai. The cost to carbon-offset is $13.55, for more details visit climatecare.org
The Official Gothenburg Tourist Guide is packed full of practical information about transport and tips on getting good value from your trip. goteborg.com
Death Angels by Åke Edwardson (Penguin, $14) is a perfect example of Scandinavian detective fiction set in Gothenburg, with some great references to local landmarks.