Gothenburg, the Swedish city by the sea

The second largest city in Sweden is known for its Maritime history, seafood, archipelago, and lively nightlife.

Have you been to the Gothenburg?

Gothenburg summer

Getting around Gothenburg is easy! You can take a tram, bus, or ferry.

Surrounded by water and canals, central Gothenburg has a well connected tram system and buses that run throughout the city. It’s city residents also use their bikes to circumvent the streets to get to their destination. One could argue that it would be faster by bike but it really depends if you’re used to biking. The trams will also take you to the nearby islands in the archipelago. If the weather is nice and sunny, I highly recommend that you go to one of these islands. Bring a picnic, a beach towel, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

When you arrive Gothenburg central station, stop by the transport office and get a 24-hour public transport Västrafik card (or more if you are in Gothenburg for longer than a couple days) and travel unlimited around the city and nearby archipelago. Otherwise download the Västrafik To Go app and pay-as-you-go per ride and period tickets using the app. This is probably the most convenient way to purchase your public transport tickets.

Gothenburg, or Göteborg has a rich maritime history that dates back to the 1600s and the Dutch. You can see the Dutch influence in the city’s center with the multitude of canals running through the city. One of my favorite memories of visiting Gothenburg is spending a warm summer’s day on the island of Brännö just south of the city limits and drinking a light fruity cider by the sea. The trams run from the city center to the coast and then you can take a ferry to one of the many islands. Many city dwellers have their summer houses on these islands so the ferries can get crowded on a Friday afternoons. Check the ferry schedules to/from the islands so you can plan your day trip accordingly.

The most popular island destinations are closest to Gothenburg city and can be accessed by tram to the ferry terminal using your public transit card. A short ferry ride to Brännö island or Styrsö island or any of the smaller ones nearby will get you walking and exploring in less than an hour. I recommend allocating a day for a visit.

One of my favorite memories was spending an afternoon on that rocky beach on Brännö island. The water can still be a little cold if you’re used to warm waters of the Mediterranean or beaches of Thailand. But if the sun is out, then a cooling dip in the water is just what you need. I found a little cafe behind a sheep farm on Brännö island that had the best shrimp salad wrap sandwich I have ever eaten. The sheep on that island are pretty friendly and will appreciate a bit of human interaction.

As with all of Scandinavia, when the sun comes out everyone seems to be a little more cheery and come out of their winter hibernation, so to speak. Gothenburg, is in my opinion, a cheerful place in the spring and summer months. Due to the proximity of the city to the west coast, winters can be long and very wet. If you visit in the winter, pack a good sturdy umbrella, water resistant boots or even rain boots, lots of socks, and be prepared to duck into one of the many cute cafes in the city for a nice fika break.

If you happen to be in Gothenburg in the winter. Don’t worry - there are plenty of museums and places of interest to keep you out of the cold rain and cozy. There’s a Swedish or rather Nordic saying: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!

Gothenburg winter Pinterest graphic.PNG

Come inside and have a fika!

Disclaimer: I was invited to come and find out more about the following cafes for my book “In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar”. If you would like to find out more about the cafes check out my book available major online retailers and directly on this site :)

Brogyllen is a timeless classic konditori in Gothenburg

If you have never had a classic Swedish fika, Brogyllen should be your first stop. Its a very popular place so get there early to score yourself a seat. They offer a frukost buffe (breakfast buffet) so you can take your time leisurely looking out into the canal while having your coffee and eggs. I’m not a breakfast person so I didn’t come to Brogyllen for breakfast. I came to have a proper fika!

I interviewed Mimmi about the Fika tradition at Brogyllen in Gothenburg for my book “In search of the Best Swedish chokladbollar” and discovered how busy this place gets at the height of fika time in the middle of the afternoon with Göteborgare and visitors alike. With shelves filled with yummy traditional fika cakes like semla buns (seasonal), prinsesstårta, chokladbollar, wienerbröd, dammsugare, fresh baked breads, sandwiches, it was really hard to choose. Mimmi ordered a sampling of chocolate cakes and of course their traditional chokladboll.

Drop by the trendy coffee roaster, cafe, bakery Gothenburg institution of Da Matteo

When I was reaching out to cafes to interview for my book, the PR person at Da Matteo was really nice and agreed to a fika interview. This is a popular spot for Gothenburg residents and visitors in the heart of the city. There’s not one but SIX cafe locations littered throughout the city. What originally started out as a Italian style coffee roaster, Da Matteo grew to include a cafe (now multiple!), bakery, and of course specialty coffee roasters. In fact, if you visit their website, you can order their coffee and have it shipped to your destination worldwide.

Unfortunately, the PR person couldn’t make the meeting but invited me to come check out the cafe on Drottningatan. I invited a couple friends to join me because fika is more fun with friends!

Located in a trendy shopping district, Da Matteo is that kind of place where you can sit for hours with a friend or come in alone, order coffee and a cinnamon bun. The vibe is chill but not pretentious. Cozy but not nap-inducing. Operating in several locations within a mere few blocks of each other, da Matteo has become a word synonymous with Gothenburg’s fika scene. From coffee roasting to cakes, cookies, tarts, breads – they do it all in house! The da Matteo brand started in 2003 and their most popular fika treat is their kanelbulle cinnamon bun. 

Experience that cozy fika atmosphere at Alkemisten kaffebar just outside of the center in a up-and-coming hip residential neighborhood.

Vegan, specialty coffee, and passionate baristas and staff. Alkemisten kaffebar is a small place but what it lacks in size makes up for it in atmosphere. I like cute little cafes that seem to bring neighbors together in a friendly an unpretentious place. You don’t have to be vegan or into kale juicing to appreciate this place. Alkemisten (pronounced all-she-miss-ten) is easy to get to by public tram system a few stops outside the center city.

Alkemisten’s philosophy is to serve specialty ecological coffee from local roasters and coffee beans that source ethically, homemade vegan food and pastries in a cozy environment. I met the sweet and soft-spoken vegan pastry chef, Felicia Gullstrand, to talk about fika and chokladbollar. Lining the shelves of Alkemisten are bags of coffee beans from Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Colombia from specialty coffee roaster.

I came here hungry and ordered a vegan hummus sandwich that was toasted to perfection. That was the best vegan hummus sandwich I have ever eaten! They offer a variety of raw chocolate balls made from nuts, seeds, oats, and cacao. I got to sample almost all of them. My favorite was a fruity apricot one that tasted so delicate and complex.

Fiskekyrka The fish church

Feskekörka - The fish church

The building was built to resemble a Neo-Gothic church and houses a seafood market with a couple restaurants to enjoy fresh seafood with lovely wine pairings. This building is architecturally stunning from outside and also on the inside. This building is a popular tourist spot in Gothenburg, I went during the winter so it wasn’t crowded but I’d imagine that during the summer this place can get busy.

I really like Swedish caviar (no not from a tube!) from a small Northern town called Kalix. I was quite excited that feskekörka had the very specific caviar I wanted. I bought a small serving of kalix löjrom from one of the fishmongers and some knäckebröd (baked cracker bread) for snacking in my airbnb. If you haven’t had Swedish fish eggs yet, try it!

Kalix löjrom is seriously good!

Kalix löjrom is seriously good!

Fresh seafood

Fresh seafood

Sculptures just in front of Feskekörka

Sculptures just in front of Feskekörka

I like visiting libraries and visited the city’s main library when my hands were literally so cold from walking around and taking pictures.

The architecture inside the building had a very retro Scandic-Vibe straight out of the 60s. I ventured into an exhibition space within the library and saw a Norwegian designer’s interior design art exhibition. It was really fascinating to see every day furniture items turned into an art! If you’ve been following my Instagram account, I really like modern art museums - sometimes its weird, sometimes its political, sometimes it makes you analyze and see things differently, and sometimes its pretentious but lets not get into that! This multi-level library had a lot of seating areas and LOTS of books, magazines, anthologies, reference books, but also a lot of places to sit down.

From the Maritime museum, Gothenburg city museum, to the Gothenburg museum of art - you can certainly find a lot to do in terms of cultural activities in Gothenburg. If you’re on a budget wander around by the main Avenue and around the Maritime museum and seaport to check out the interesting architecture and glimpse of the historical Swedish East India company to present day. A statue of Poseidon resides in front of the concert hall and has become an iconic symbol of Gothenburg city.

While you’re walking around, check out the Göteborg Domkyrkan (The cathedral of Gothenburg)

Most churches in the Nordics (with the exception of Lund domkyrkan!) have very understated interiors and this one particular church has a very zen-like dome structure. Built around the 1600s in its central location, you can find out about the weekly concerts and events held here.

I would like to return to Gothenburg again during the spring or summer months to discover more hidden gems as the city also has quirky boutiques, famous coffee roasters, a growing restaurant and bar scene, and of course discover more islands to spend a day wandering in. Gothenburg is easily accessible by planes through Landvetter airport and frequent trains through its busy central station from other parts of Sweden and Scandinavia. Alternatively, you can also take the economical yet comfortable Flixbus which operates all throughout Europe.

All opinions and pictures are property of Alaine Handa except otherwise stated. All rights reserved. (c)