5 [Mostly Free] Things to Do in Gothenburg, Sweden
If Stockholm is the slick, sophisticated city boy of Sweden, then Gothenburg is certainly the bohemian cousin with curls and a wind-swept aspect. Containing historic sections such as Haga, the river of Göta älv, and a variety of business folk in athletic shoes, it provides a cadence to its own beat. Outside the city is the North Sea, a place people go to be reborn. Mental funks are blown clean away and all knots miraculously worked out of one's system, fifteen minutes of its windy ministrations will leave you feeling almost as wholesome as the sheep walking about nearby with bells tinkering in the stiff breeze.
I've developed a little bit of a crush on Sweden. That's not unusual for me in a new country, what is unusual is how delayed it has been. A little over a month later I've discovered I can't get Sweden out of my head. I fell in love on a country walk...
1. A SWEDISH COUNTRY WALK
We arrived in Sweden Saturday evening and spent Sunday settling into our Airbnb. It was a house obviously lived-in with its owners on vacation, so we generally lived around their life. It was hard not to attack the chocolate stash in the cupboard but I exercised great self-discipline.
After laundry and a lunch together (Airbnb'ing with friends is THE BEST) we set off for our walk. One of our group had heard that close to our rental was a path that led back to the sea so we set off in quest of cinnamon rolls at a farmhouse nearby, and this path. The farmhouse bakery was closed, so after some mutual flapping by us and the geese we struck back across the lane to find the pathway.
Found it! I had a premonition this was going to be lovely.
The pricking in my fingers was accurate, as this has become my favorite walk to date. It was about a half hour walk (taking it easy) with little crooks and crannies that hosted a symphony of shadows and light playing, grasses waving in a friendly manner, and every so often barer hilltops of rock and heather. Around bends one was liable to find stone walls with sheep, and green fields in the distance. We had high hopes of encountering the sea because the trail was clearly marked with orange flair.
Then suddenly, there we were. It was breath-taking, and not just because of its beauty. The wind practically tore the breath away from us and the kite surfers were taking advantage of it. Such frolicking and gamboling as we saw! They took many refreshing plunges into the seas as a result of their daredevilry.
We stayed high and dry.
I couldn't find the trail marked on the map so I drew a rough route below. Basically we walked southwest on Gamla Lillebyvagen until there was a small parking lot on the right - just beyond we found the trail by the fence and walked out to the little bay you see on the left of the photo.
2. FOOD TRUCKS IN GOTHENBURG
After all this walking one is sure to build a fantastic appetite, so if you haven't brought a picnic to the seaside head back into town. Near the river, only several blocks away, is a courtyard that hosts 3-4 food trucks, several cafes, Da Matteo coffeeshops and a few stores. It's an excellent place to eat because the food is good and cheaper than most restaurants there. The courtyard is somewhat sheltered, and if the weather is congenial you can sit back, eat and watch the variety of people pour through.
We got the fried herring, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce from the food truck pictured above: Strömmingsluckan. Da Matteo Magansinsgatan is in the same courtyard and has two little cafes close to each other with free wifi and bathrooms. One is where everything is baked and the other is mainly an espresso bar and cafe. There are similar menus at either place. I recommend the bakery; the smells are heavenly.
It was a popular place to meet for lunch, and we lingered there awhile as well.
3. FIKA AT CAFE HUSARAN
Fika is the delightful Swedish tradition of having pastries with coffee several times throughout the day. One of us had read about Cafe Husaran as the place to buy cinnamon rolls as large as your face and, determined to see and eat this phenomenon, it was pushed high on the list of priorities.
The cafe has a rare painted glass roof dating back to the 19th century, comfortable corners and tables inside and out, and is located in the historic Haga district of Gothenburg. Furthermore, it was chock full of sweets; be still my over-sugared heart. "Beauty and a Sweet" would happily be the tale of my memoir if it could honestly apply, or "Beauty and a Swede." It's hard to decide. I considered finding someone to marry here after experiencing this particular tradition of coffee and a pastry.
4. THE ARCHIPELAGO OF GOTHENBURG
I've already done a blog post over here about the day we spent on the southerly archipelago of Gothenburg but it definitely figures into this post as a must-do. The long and short of is that if you are a water, islands, and messing-about-in-boats sort of person you won't want to miss this.
5. THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
If you adore being outdoors in shady, green spots, the botanical gardens in Gothenburg are a must-see for you. They are well-maintained and designed by the hand of masters, with thoughtful variations of color, garden, and plant type. There are rock gardens, cottage gardens, Japanese gardens, formal French-style gardens and just about anything one could wish for occupying ground space of over 432 acres. It's said to be one of the larger botanical gardens in Europe and I believe this, for we certainly didn't see it all.
A tulip water fountain.
One day we stopped by Cafe du Nord at 3 Kungstorget for a great lunch of Swedish meatballs. It was quite cheap at around $10 for meatballs, mashed potatoes, lingonberry sauce, salad, bread and coffee. It was delicious. I definitely recommend this place for their meatballs.
Another fantastic honorable mention were the parks. We went to Slottsskogen and sat in the green to write postcards while the kids played. Scandinavia is not as safety paranoid as the U.S. (thank goodness) so the parks were more creative and fun. This was the nicest day in Gothenburg during our stay and accordingly it felt like the whole city emptied out into the park, though I believe Lana del Rey was scheduled to be there that evening which would account for some of the activity.
Click on the photo to see the slideshow. Most of these photos below are taken by Janel.
Do you see now why I liked Sweden? It was full of things like beautiful walks, scenery, homeyness, good food, cinnamon rolls, and now memories. I certainly want to go back someday and explore more of this country. The people seemed almost as laid-back and friendly as in Norway, and there is plenty to see and do for folks who like taking in amusement park type of fun as well.
For myself, it was enough to walk miles just to soak in the scenery and cubbyholes. Norway was magnificent and more wild; one felt as if a degree in wildlife, hiking, or survival skills were needed to explore the landscape. My takeaway of Sweden is that the scenery felt more approachable and like the kind of place one would set up a table outside and have tea and pastries, and shoo away inquisitive cats and ducks. Of course, I will need several more trips to verify this...