Gothenburg: 16 top picks for chilling, dining, and shopping
Hipster, green, and multicultural – these were my first impressions of Gothenburg, when I visited the city earlier this August. If you have a passion for food and a heart for the creative type, it’s hard – as in impossible – not to fall in love with Gothenburg.
Göteborg or GBG – as the city is known locally – is located on the Swedish Westcoast midway between Copenhagen and Oslo. So, if you’re driving between the two, as I was, it makes for a perfect stop. Greater Gothenburg is home to about a million people, making it the fifth largest city in Scandinavia.
I’m from Copenhagen, but I’ve actually never been to Gothenburg before this August. We used to think of it as being in another country (!), even though Gothenburg is just a three-hour drive from my home town (much like a skip and a hop between cities on the east coast). Come to think of it… I don’t recall knowing a single person growing up, who had gone to Gothenburg. City weekends in Stockholm, certainly – ski vacations near Oslo, check; but Gothenburg just wasn’t on the radar. So, I really didn’t know what to expect. Wow, turns out I’ve been missing out!
With 7 Michelin Stars awarded, Gothenburg is a gastronomic hotspot in Scandinavia. There are lots of hidden courtyards and hip neighborhoods to explore, and you’re never far from culinary delights. From classic fish restaurants – as expected from a port city with a long and impressive seafaring history – to the best bánh mì I’ve had since I lived in Vietnam, eating in Gothenburg is a foodie-lover’s paradise and a testimony to the multiethnic make-up of the city.
A chef is brushing chanterelles in preparation for tonight’s dinner guests. Practising the art of slow food has earned Gothenburg 7 Michelin stars in recent years.
The Swedes love to do fika, and chic cafes line the streets and fill the courtyards of Gothenburg – actually the best coffee shop in Sweden is in GBG (White Guide).
The beautiful palm house in the center of the city is a showcase of the diverse architecture, which defines the city.
Gothenburg was built and governed by the Dutch as a fortified city with a moat around it. For years, it was Sweden’s only point of access to the North Sea and the Atlantic, and it was under constant aggression from the Danes and Norwegians. Dutch city planners were contracted to design and build canals like in Amsterdam – and perhaps it’s from the Dutch forefathers that the city first got its laid-back vibe.
Walking the streets within the moat, the first thing I noticed was the curious omission of traffic lights in places, where I would normally expect them. Many of the larger boulevards in Gothenburg are crossed at pedestrian walk paths based on the expectation that cars are going to stop. I got the hang of it pretty quickly (and no, you don’t need to have lived in Vietnam to figure this one out)… but more than that, to me it signalled something about the character of the city: chilled and collaborative, without the need or desire for rigid rules.
Gothenburg was founded by the Dutch, who built canals around the city centre to protect against enemies. Today the green banks are the perfect spot for a picnic or an apéro.
The city centre is dotted with old covered pedestrian passages (architectural evidence that it probably rains quite a bit) reminiscent of those in Paris.
Beyond the moat, there are lots of cool neighborhoods to explore. Haga is the oldest and most charming with lots of vintage shops and laid-back cafes.
Some of Sweden’s finest creative talents hail from Gothenburg. Designers, artists, and fashionistas rub shoulders in this cosmopolitan melting pot of influences. From the Goths to the Dutch, Gothenburg is historically an open-minded city that still today finds amble room to embrace new immigrants. This spirit is reflected everywhere… on the streets, in the cuisine, in the shops.
You’ll find no shortage of vintage boutiques, street concerts, interior designer shops, artists’ workshops, and collaborative spaces for cooks and creators alike. Green spaces line the banks of the canals making them the perfect spot for a picnic and an apero. Playgrounds – both indoor and outdoor – and amusement parks will keep the children entertained. On a rainy day, the quaint old covered pedestrian passages will keep you dry.
Oh, and one last observation – apparently “the Goths” are obsessed with hair! An unusually high concentration of hairdressers and wig stores line the streets. You might want to give it a go and schedule an appointment… where else can you acquire the look of a Swedish pop star from the 1980s with a gothic hairstyle in less than an hour?
… and so, we present you the list:
16 top picks for chilling, dining, and shopping
FASHION & DESIGN
02 Nudie Jeans
Repair, reuse, reduce.
The mantra of Nudie Jeans.
The care for denim elevated.
Get your pair in NYC.
A Scandinavian open-faced sandwich,
prepared the traditional way.
Brogyllen serves a classic selection of smörgås.
A modern interpretation of the
traditional Scandinavian smörgås
with seasonal and local produce.
Kale’i Kaffe & Mad was also voted
best coffee shop in Sweden
Is it a lunch restaurant, is it a bar,
or is it ethnic cuisine?
The name doesn’t hint at it,
but Smörgåsbaren serves a mean bánh mì.
The wisdom is in the bread and
the oven baked iberico.
Hits all the spots.
FIKA & SWEETS
FIKA & SWEETS
Husaren is the kind of place
that hasn’t changed in centuries..
or at least since the 1980’s.
Biscuits, cookies, pastries and Hagabullar
– an oversized cinnamon swirl
named after the neighborhood – and coffee.
FIKA & SWEETS
Can one do fika without coffee?
This golden roots smoothie from
Juicekällan is rejuvenating.
Go all out and sign up for a
juice cleanse while you’re there.
FIKA & SWEETS
Made with 100% fresh Swedish goat’s milk.
Saltkola comes recommended.
Look for the pink ice cream cart
BouleBar overlooking the canal
takes the spot for best apéro.
Pick a colorful drink,
take up a game of boule,
let the kids run around the playground,
and enjoy the view.
That’s it… see you next summer!
Why not make your happy hour your green hour?
Bring some chilled bubbles and
claim your spot on the turf.
(Ps: Keep it clean)
13 Magnus & Magnus
“Fun dining” at m2 is no joke.
Nordic cuisine with a twist recognized in the
Michelin Guide and the White Guide.
Come for the decor alone.
The bar is second to none, bar none.
Loved the hake.
14 Made in China
What more is there to say?
excellent Chinese cuisine.
Try the tasting menu!
15 Alfons Åberg
Have you ever heard of Alfons Åberg?
A.k.a. Alfie Atkins?
On a rainy day, step into his cultural house
for a full day of play.
Kids will love it and so will you.
That’s the Garden Society of Gothenburg,
and possibly Gothenburg’s best asset.
A palm house, a rose garden cafe, and
a beautiful playground – they even thought
to have the metal slides face northwest.