Once a blue-collar shipping port, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city on the western seacoast, now has an up-and-coming social scene and burgeoning culinary cred. Fresher-than-fresh seafood, beautifully verdant public parks in the city center and the most happening live events calendar in the country make this city popular with travelers seeking the ‘next big thing’ in Scandinavia.
First of all, foodies, set your expectations properly: Gothenburg doesn’t do it all or even try to when it comes to food. Stick with the cuisine of the region, whether it be from street carts, the local market or one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants — seafood is the star of all menus.
You may think you’ve had crayfish in Louisiana or the Carolinas, but until you’ve had fresh-caught, sustainably harvested jumbo crayfish from the Baltic, you have no idea. It tastes almost exactly like lobster, is a fraction of the cost and nice specimens like the ones pictured (from renowned fisherman Peter Olsson) measure nearly a foot from head to tail.
Known throughout the EU for his sustainable fishing methods, Peter Olsson sorts through each crayfish trap by hand, tossing out the bycatch and smaller crayfish, so only the biggest, juiciest crayfish come back in his daily haul.
Another Swedish menu staple is herring, prepared in a myriad of different versions from pickled to deep fried with chips to smashed on toast as pictured. Chef Johan Malm does a great job with this simple yet savory appetizer.
If salty-marine doesn’t suit your palate, on the opposite end of the spectrum the other edible category that Gothenburg does really well is sweets — from cakes to giant cinnamon rolls to traditional butter cookies.
Props to local chocolatier Flickorna Kanolds for combining salty and sweet, spicy and sweet, liquor and sweet…in short, just about every flavor permutation in the chocolate crossover spectrum (except for fishy and sweet, which we assume she tried but could not make work).
If you’re worried that Gothenburg only has humble, understated seafood eateries and student pubs, let us reassure you: this city’s Millenial scenesters are ready to go out, see and be seen. They usually have to fight with the weather, but when summer hits – wow! Places like the city-center terrace bar at Clarion Post get absolutely thronged.
For a more intimate occasion, the enchanting courtyard restaurant at Belle Epoque-inspired Hotel Dorsia is perfect for a modern-times Midsummer Night’s Eve dream date.
The Gothenburg Botanical Garden, often voted most beautiful garden in Sweden, is right in the heart of the city, which means that as soon as the sun peeks out, Gothenburg locals arrive en masse.
There are multiple cafes within the 430-acre park, but a lot of people choose to just pick a pretty spot somewhere on the grounds and relax. Children, four-legged friends and picnic accoutrements are all welcome.
If you want to experience classic small town coastal Sweden, seemingly unchanged for decades, the Southern Archipelago is a perfect daytrip and easily accessible by tram and a 45-minute ferry ride. Some locals make this commute daily, but most out-of-towners don’t realize there’s an undiscovered chain of quaint, grassy islands with unspoiled beaches and no-cars-allowed villages.
Pictured here, the Southern Archipelago version of an off-road vehicle. This is the last word in convenience when your summer cottage is on Styrso (or neighbor islands Vrango and Branno). But because the islands can be traversed on foot in mere hours, and everyone knows everyone, even valuable property like this can be left by the side of the path unguarded.
Lena Katz is the author of the Travel Temptations series (SIP, SUN, SNOW), published by Globe Pequot Press in 2009. Lena is also a travel expert for Celebrations/1800FLOWERS and WEtv (online and on-air). She contributes to the South China Morning Post and ABC News online. Lena is a former Orbitz Travel blogger and former columnist for the LA Times. She's been published in Brides Magazine, Robb Rep...(Read More)