For those considering where to escape to, once travel restrictions have lifted, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, is located by the sparkling waters of the Kattegat Sea on its western coast, and as the sole gateway to the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the largest of the Nordic ports.
Gustavus Adolphus, founder of Gothenburg and King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632, endorsed the royal charter in 1621 and the city was designed and constructed by Dutch engineers, admired for their skill in draining and building on marshes. The Dutch held political authority until 1652, when the Swedes attained power, and in 1676 King Charles XI of Sweden ordered the construction of a series of zigzag shaped walls, lined with blasted rock, to protect the city. The fortifications were destroyed between 1807 and 1817 but a remnant of the bastion Carolus Rex XI remains on Esperantoplatsen, near to Feskekörka, one of Gothenburg’s many attractions.
Feskekörka is an indoor fish market, known locally as the ‘fish church’ as the building resembles a Gothic church. Dating back to 1874, the fish market remains a hive of activity and is the ideal spot for a tasty luncheon. Visitors are welcome to select a pre-cooked fish dish from one of the little stalls, a microwave is on standby to heat it up, and most head for one of the little tables outside to take part in the popular sport of people- watching whilst admiring the enchanting views of the canal. Fishing remained the dominant industry until the Swedish East India Company, founded in 1731, opened up trade with the Far East and Gothenburg’s harbour became Sweden’s main port.
The Swedish East India Company was responsible for constructing the charming stone houses around the canals. The East India House, located on North Harbour Street, is a fine example of the Classic style, and in 1861 it became the Gothenburg City Museum. A number of exhibitions provide the visitor with the opportunity to follow the history of Gothenburg from the prehistoric era to the present day, covering 12,000 mind boggling years. To learn more of Gothenburg’s seafaring history, the Maritime Museum, which floats on a pontoon in the Göta River, is popular. A fleet of ships, boats and barges with military and civilian ties, attracts hordes of visitors and includes a cargo ship, a destroyer, a lightship, a minelayer, a patrol boat, a port ferry, a tow boat and a submarine. Tours narrated in English take place at 11.30, 13.00 and 15.30 hours. And next to the museum stands the Seamen’s Tower, built to honour the memory of 684 Swedish souls lost on board vessels during WWI. Follow the 194 steps up to the top of the tower, which soars 49 metres into the sky and you will be rewarded with a close up view of the bronze sculpture ‘Woman by the Sea’, created by Ivar Johnsson, which stands at the top of the tower, looking out over the briny.
Gothenburg’s two million annual visitors are keen to explore and admire an abundance of attractions, including Liseberg, Scandinavia’s largest amusement park and recipient of two Michelin Green Stars. Features include Aerospin, a Venetian carousel; very popular with the ‘little ones’ and for brave hearts the Helix rollercoaster is the fastest and longest in Scandinavia and if that ride doesn’t raise your adrenalin take a seat on Mechanica, which spins 360 degrees and soars 30 metres above the ground. For those of us without a head for heights, Lisegerg’s Lustgård is an extensive park area which features hundreds of trees, plants, waterfalls and artworks. It’s the ideal spot to take a breather and plan the rest of your day.
For art lovers, the Museum of Fine Art, located on Gotaplatsen, is a must. Feast your eyes on masterpieces created by Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Cezanne and Gauguinl. Lose yourself in the depth of colour of Monet’s 1907 painting of water lilies and then take a leisurely stroll around the Fürstengerg gallery to view Nordic art dating from the 1880’s. Should you intend to purchase gifts for loved ones and like to rummage for a bargain in quirky little independent shops, then hop on a street car and head for Haga, Gothenburg’s first suburb, established in 1648 by Sweden’s Queen Kristina, daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus. Wander around the little cobblestone pedestrian streets, admire the charming wooden houses and explore the intriguing antique shops overflowing with treasures. You’re sure to be tempted to succumb to their charms.
And of course the Swedes are famous all over the world for their interior designs and you’ll find a wide array of interesting household goods and gadgets in department stores such as Designtorget, located on Vallgatan and Lagerhaus on Postgatan. Should you fancy a spot of up market and personal retail therapy, Avenyn, Gothenburg’s main boulevard, is crammed with chic boutiques enticing the most resistant passers-by to part with large amounts of Swedish Krona.
For travellers seeking luxurious accommodation with the highest level of comfort and service, the Dorsia Hotel and Restaurant is ideal. The interior of the property reflects a modern fusion of Belle Epoch amid sumptuous fabrics of silk and brocade, and it is only six minutes walk from Gothenburg Central Station. This beautifully furnished boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms with Carpe Diem beds swathed in crisp, Egyptian bedding, internet-connected Lava Invit TV’s, the world’s most modern hotel TV’s, and with free movies and the all-important minibar it’s a hit. Accommodations range from the small classic rooms measuring 16 m2 to the large exclusive doubles measuring from 45 to 48 m, which include a spacious shower and a huge bathtub, which is the ideal spot to relax after a long day exploring the city. The hotel features two popular restaurants, the main dining room and a bistro offering Nordic and international dishes.
Should you wish to dine out, there are lots of cafés and restaurants within walking distance and serving all manner of fare. Kometen, a very popular restaurant with the locals, is located on Vasagatan. Opened in 1934, Kometen serves Swedish dishes including the most delicious pickled herrings and deep fried anchovies on toast with béarnaise. Be sure to book a table well in advance.
Or you may prefer to take a quick Fika break; the Swedish term for a coffee break, which should also include a selection of sandwiches and/or pastries including the famous kanelbulle; a tasty cinnamon bun or a Lussekatt, which is an ‘S’ shaped bun flavoured with saffron. And for the ideal afternoon tipple, it has to be a glass of Schnapps. And, you simply must hold your glass aloft and offer a toast to Gothenburg, it truly is a Swedish jewel.
Travel Tip: Avoid airport queues and book your airport transfers on line with Blacklane for a reliable, punctual, first class service. Visit www.blacklane.com for more information.
Summer Season Tip: Visit Gothenburg between late March and mid October, head for Kungsportsplatsen and embark on one of the open top ‘Paddan’ boats. Sailing at a leisurely rate of knots beneath twenty bridges, passengers are rewarded with waterside views of the harbour, traditional shipyards, the fishing harbour and the maritime museum. For more information and departure times for vessels offering English narration visit www.stromma.se
Images, excluding accommodation, courtesy of imagebank.sweden.se and accommodation shots courtesy of the Dorsia Hotel and Restaurant and Dejan Sokolovski.
Designer shopping:Marie Ullnert
Gothenburg Harbour: Göran Assner
Fika Treats: Tina Stafrén
Kayaking: Henrik Trygg
Local oysters: Tina Stafrén
Gothenburg skyline: Per Pixel Petersson
Fish Church: Simon Paulin
Gothenburg sightseeing: Simon Paulin