City break in Gothenburg, Sweden

Posted by Anouk van den Eijnde at 09:00 on Monday 27 September 2010

Bikes and outdoor terraces were the theme in Gothenburg. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeBikes and outdoor terraces were the theme in Gothenburg. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeGothenburg is Sweden's second city, situated on the south-west coast just three hours by train from both Stockholm and Copenhagen. I couldn't have picked a better weekend to visit - the city was in full festival swing. Both the annual city Culture Festival and Way Out West music festival were taking place (see previous article about WoW).

As I stepped off the train, I wandered through nearby Garden Society Park also known as Trädgårdsföreningen, one of Europe’s best preserved 19th century parks and where much of the culture festival action was taking place. Set amongst rose parks, floral displays and leafy woodlands, were arts & crafts stalls, music performances, local Recycling and talking bins everywhere at the Culture Festival. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeRecycling and talking bins everywhere at the Culture Festival. Photo: Anouk van den Eijndefood stands, capoeira demonstrations and painting workshops. I noticed recycling bins everywhere, talking bins encouraging you to recycle and get this, even a Think Choir - a group of people going around singing about minimising waste. According to Anki Sande, operational manager of the festival, it's a cleaner city during the festival. I was impressed, and charmed.

With a population of only half a million, and with its many parks and wide boulevards, it's a spacious and is pleasantly accessible by foot or bike. The city's bike hire scheme Control & Set was conveniently launched a couple of weeks before my arrival in early August. The city houses Sweden's biggest university, so it came as no surprise to see many stylish young things sipping coffees at the numerous terraces, whizzing around on their bikes, and come nighttime, queuing up outside trendy bars and clubs.

Browsing records and stopping for coffee at Santo Domingo record shop/cafe. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeBrowsing records and stopping for coffee at Santo Domingo record shop/cafe. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeAlternative Gothenburg
With such a large concentration of students, I set out to uncover Gothenburg's alternative edge. First stop the much recommended Röhsska Museum of Fashion, Design and Decorative Arts which houses a great collection of innovative Swedish handicrafts and design. The inner courtyard was taken over with a vintage clothes stand and second hand furniture upholstering workshop - again another sign that sustainability is top of mind for Swedes. Next I wandered over to Andra Langgatan Street with its trendy cafes, quirky art galleries, record shops and bars.

I browsed records at popular Santo Domingo record shop/cafe and had a tea break at Two Little Birds, a lovely cafe/gallery with retro mismatched furniture serving organic teas, coffees and vegan treats. It's well worth walking down Linnegatan, a leafy avenue with cafes, large outdoor terraces and restaurants, which leads to the city's favourite park Slottskogen. Just off this street, check out Sveagatan (also the name of the street), a vintage designer clothes & jewellery boutique that serves complimentary popcorn and watermelon slices to visitors. Final stop is Roda Sten Centre for contemporary art and culture on the edge of the Klippan cultural reserve, a revamped industrial area just beneath the impressive Alvsborgsbron bridge. A graffitti-covered old boiler house, Roda Sten houses a range of innovative exhibitions, a cafe, bustling restaurant and workshop space.

Graffiti-clad Roda Sten Contemporary Art Centre. Photo: Roda StenGraffiti-clad Roda Sten Contemporary Art Centre. Photo: Roda Sten

Local Food
Gothenburg's coastal location and proximity to the freezing waters of the North Sea make it an ideal spot to enjoy fish and shellfish. It is known as one of Sweden's gastronomic hot spots and has no less than five Michelin-starred restaurants.

My original and tasty starter of bleak roe and buckwheat pancake at Familjen. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeMy original and tasty starter of bleak roe and buckwheat pancake at Familjen. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeThere seems to be a real pride in local seasonal produce - I enjoyed visiting the central Saluhallen Market where artisan producers sell a range of homemade jams, farm vegetables, fresh fish and seasonal fruit. On saturday mornings, there's a farmer's market in the little square of Gothenburg's charming historic quarter Haga. Make sure you try a typical cinnamon bun (Hagabulle) while you're there - Cafe Husaren in Haga serves the biggest and tastiest in the city. In the evening I headed to Familjen Restaurant , which translates as 'Family' and meant to feel like an extension of your living room. The atmospheric red tones, black and white photographs, and friendly service definitely contributed to the home-like feeling. I feasted on a local bleak roe starter from Lake Vavern with a buckwheat pancake, red onion & sour cream washed down with a local golden ale followed by a delicious Plaice seared on the bone with fennel, crab and pearl barley. All the ingredients are locally-sourced where possible and many are organic.

The peaceful cove just outside Escape Outdoors Kayak Centre. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeThe peaceful cove just outside Escape Outdoors Kayak Centre. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeActivities
On sunday morning, I took the bus and headed a few kilometres south of the city to try my hand at sea kayaking. I was amazed at how remote the cove where the sea kayaking centre 'Escape Outdoors' was, with its typical red fishing huts dotted along the coast overlooking the archipelago.

I was greeted by my guide Peter Kane who patiently showed this first-timer the basics: how to get into my kayak, how to position my legs with my knees facing outwards (easier said than done) and the best way to use the paddle. Lucky for me it was one of the hottest days of the summer and so with these great conditions off we went. Before I knew it we'd left the cove behind and were paddling between little islands, chatting away about Peter's passion for sea kayaking. We passed healthy-looking Swedes on their boats, basking in thesun on the rocks and swimming in the crystal-clear waters. Just as I was getting the hang of it, the wind picked up a little and I lost control of my steering. Crisis averted though as Peter steered me safely to our own little island for lunch. After a quick dip in the water, we enjoyed a typically Swedish packed lunch of smoked salmon, potato salad, bread and cheese finished off with a sweet cinammon bun.

Anouk enjoying the calm waters around South Gothenburg's archipelago. Photo: Anouk van den EijndeAnouk enjoying the calm waters around South Gothenburg's archipelago. Photo: Anouk van den Eijnde

A 3-4 hours guided trip, like the one I did, costs 495 SEK (£46)
A 7 hour introduction course costs 1495 SEK (£138)
Email info@escapeoutdoors.se for more details

Accommodation
I stayed at the convenient and family-friendly Hotell Liseberg Heden, just a couple of minutes walk from both the popular Aveny shopping street and the Garden Society Park. They have been awarded with a Swedish environmental certification and serve only organic, seasonal and local produce in their restaurant. The rooms were comfortable and the buffet breakfast was generous - I especially enjoyed the make-your-own muesli feature. On the last night I stayed at the funky central Scandic Rubinen with roof top terrace and stylish rooms.

Getting to Gothenburg by train:
I took the train from London to Gothenburg via Brussels, Cologne and Copenhagen. Return fares from London to Gothenburg are from £253 in standard class. All prices are per person subject to availability. For more information on timings and to book tickets, see our rail journey planner: Train from London to Gothenburg.

For more info on Gothenburg, and to book hotels online: www.goteborg.com
For more info on West Sweden: www.westsweden.com

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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