Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden, but it’s probably not a place you will immediately recognize from Pinterest, which just adds to the charm.
I spent 2 days in Gothenburg last summer, staying at a hostel for the first time and exploring the beautiful parks and neighbourhoods. It was the only city I visited on my Europe trip where I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to see and do while there, making it a perfect city to visit to experience Swedish culture.
One of my childhood friends moved to Sweden for University after high school. We had gone hiking in Norway, before driving back to Sweden. As a resident, my friend knew the best cafés and the must-see areas. Now, I’m going to pass it on to you!
Here’s what to do in Gothenburg!
1. Explore Haga
The Haga quarter of Gothenburg was our first stop in Sweden. Haga is a charming little area with lots of sweet cafés and cute shops, occupying beautiful old buildings.
This is one of the cutest, oldest neighbourhoods in Gothenburg. It’s a pedestrian street, and the smell of oven baked pretzels drifts through the air as you walk. Eventually, it reels you in and you realize that you want fresh pastries. Haga is the perfect street for shopping and the perfect place to enjoy a wonderful Swedish tradition called Fika.
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2. Have Fika
Once you’ve done exploring Haga, it’s time for fika.
We settled down in Le Petit Café, right at the entrance to Haga. Fika is a Swedish and Finnish concept meaning “to have coffee,” usually accompanied by a pastry. A normal workday in Sweden will include a Fika break. My advice is to take advantage of this tradition as much as possible, and always get the pastry!
3. Visit the Zoo
Slottskogen is beautiful park that includes a zoo, with everything from penguins to horses. The animals live in 3 different locations and categories; the Barnes petting zoo, the Säldammsbacken birds, and the Djurgårdarna forest animals. The zoo is completely outdoors and free to enter and explore.
We walked past the Säldammsbacken birds where we saw penguins and a couple species of geese, and then took a walk through the forest to Djurgårdarna where we saw elk, moose, goats, and deer.
4. Go for a Ride
One of the best things about European cities is how easy and enjoyable it is to get around on foot and by bicycle. Gothenburg was the same. It only costs a couple of dollars for unlimited access to a bicycle, and you check in at a station every 30 minutes.
I loved being able to get everywhere by bike. The bike lanes are distinct from both the roads and traffic, even having independent traffic signals in some places.
5. Visit Ruins with a View
The only remaining structure from a bastion built around Gothenburg hundreds of years ago can be found at the top of Lilla Otterhällan hill.
The bastion itself is neat, but the best part of this visit is the view of Gothenburg. From the top of Lilla Otterhällan hill you have a 360 view of Gothenburg, with it’s colourful rooftops, church spires, and harbour.
Gothenburg has a beautiful skyline. It’s rainy, though, and my friend said that I was fortunate to have experienced a glimpse of Sweden in the sunlight when we first arrived. The bright red and orange rooftops were chosen to brighten the cities up. It totally works, and makes for adorable photos!
6. Go for a walk along Gothenburg’s canal.
Gothenburg is a beautiful, slow-paced city where the nicest thing you can do is go for a walk. Walk along the canal, venture over to the harbour, and visit Feskekörka, the Fish Church. This old style gothic church has a converted interior that serves as an incredible fish market.
Walking tours of the downtown and along the canal are available as well, perfect if you love history like I do!
- Where: Gothenburg, Sweden
- Accommodations: The Backpackers Hostel booked through Hostel World
- Duration: 3 days (2 in Gothenburg, 1 in Stockholm)
- Price: $ very affordable
- Given one more day, I wanted to take the ferry to the archipelago off of Gothenburg. No cars allowed on the islands!
- Bring a rain jacket and umbrella everywhere, even when it looks warm and sunny it will probably rain at some point.
- More information about Gothenburg.
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