|When we visited Stockholm in 2010, everyone said: “Next time, you must go to Gothenburg.” So we did, the very next summer.
A centrally located hotel is a boon, especially when you have only a few days to see the sights. From the Elite Plaza Hotel, it’s a five-minute walk down Drottninggatan to Kungsportsavenyn. Colloquially known as Avenyn, the main drag is plied by trams and lined with cafés full of java-sippers and beer-quaffers on this sunny August evening.
Apart from the usual hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses, a 50-minute Paddan cruise (SEK145) along the canals and into the harbour is a good way to orientate yourself. The commentary from the gorgeous guides is excellent; it’s humbling how fluently multilingual they are. (And how their blondeness penetrates right down into the scalp.)
Swedish people love Gothenburg for its youthful, university-town buzz, and Gothenburgers are known for their friendliness. Still, I’m surprised how many of the cool crowd sunning themselves on the grassy banks are waving to us. Then I see why: they’re returning the solemn greeting of a flaxen-haired five-year-old on our boat.
Cruising along 17th-century canals, it takes us under no less than 20 bridges, one of which is so low that we have to get down on our knees to avoid a nasty beheading. Once out in the harbour, sited in the Göta Älv river estuary, our guide points out shipyards and The Viking , part of the floating Maritime Museum, and other attractions that we come back later to explore. Fifteen thousand people cross the river every day to work and study at the schools, universities and high-tech industries (Ericsson, for one) on the other side.
A replica of the Gothenburg , an East Indiaman that sank in the harbour in 1745, is a reminder of the city’s seafaring history. Poignantly, she had just returned from China, an 18-month voyage on which an average of 25 percent of her crew would have perished. If you find that interesting, you’ll enjoy the Gothenburg City Museum, housed in the previous headquarters of the Swedish East India Company.
The Fish Church is in fact a wonderful fish market, where we return the next day to buy little pots of various types of prawns in mayonnaise and eat them in the sunshine next to the river. The nearby Gothenburg Wheel is a new attraction; it costs SEK95 for 12 to 15 minutes and is well worth doing.
The 17th-century cobbled streets of Haga are pleasant to wander through, and one of us is relieved of a princely sum for another new Panama hat. Why do we never remember to pack headgear? But my husband is right: the Rip Curl caps are not quite his sartorial style. Later, while we dunk kanelboller (cinnamon buns) into cappuccinos at a pavement café, a teenage trio plays wonderful jazz just up the street.
A handy tram from Brunnsparken, the central hub for trams, takes us Liseberg amusement park, Sweden’s most-visited attraction. The vehicle is crammed with mothers and their hectically excited children; it’s a good way to get into the mood. In the park, the mood is frenetic, the queues long and the place packed; after parting with SEK90 each to get in, we find a peaceful terrace where we can quietly drink beer and admire the musical fountain.
Going for a run is another good way to see the sights here. One crisp, blue-sky morning before the sun is hot, I explore the canal banks and trot through the lovely grounds of the Trädgårds Föreningen (Garden Society) and its famous rose garden; entry is free before 9am.
Rates vary enormously for the wide variety of accommodation: ranging from as low as SEK1,200 for a fairly small fourth-floor room that has no windows (because the heritage façade could not be changed), to SEK4,000 and upwards for one of the enormous suites occupied by the celebrated and well-heeled when not being used for conferences. For the best rates, check the hotel’s own website: www.elite.se.
We also love The Bishop’s Arms, a chain of more than 30 English-style pubs associated with and owned by Elite Hotels. Its collection of about 30 beers on tap plus another 90 in bottles is impressive; it also has an extensive selection of single malts. Over a local India Pale Ale that weighs in at 6.7 percent, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen an English pub this good in England itself.
Swedish people are beautiful inside, too, not just on the outside. The young man next to Roy on the train to Gothenburg realised that we were thirsty, that the vending machine was out of order and that we hadn’t understood a word of the public announcement in Swedish that you could hop off the train at the next stop for refreshments; so he did just that, came back with a life-saving bottle of designer mineral water for us – and then refused to let us pay for it.
When to go:
Like this? Read more at our travel section.