Whenever I have the pleasure of taking guests to show them my city I wonder: will they be happy to see things from the outside or would they rather go inside? This might sound like a weird question to you, but allow me to explain. One of the most frequent things I do is walking tours. I pick up my guests at their hotel and we go for a walk where I show them the beauty of Gothenburg.
Would you like to go inside?
There are so many great things to see in a city, but when you have a limited amount of time, we tend to simply scratch the surface. We walk past some of the most amazing buildings but don’t go in. We point out “here’s this museum, and this is City Hall, and over there is where the local parliament resides, and it’s a beautiful building.” We never go inside which is a shame.
There are two main reasons why: a) most buildings aren’t open to visitors, which is a shame. Our local stock exchange is one of the most impressive places we have to show, but it’s only open once every blue moon at specific times, which never suits visitors from abroad. I can tell them that their president or prime minister had dinner here with our king, but I can’t show them.
The second reason is time. Even if the building were open, if you have four hours for a walking tour, there’s not time to spend one or two hours in just one building.
You need a reason to come back…
This is my MO for every place I visit: I miss something important, simply because I’d like to come back. And on a second visit, I may not have to do the “usual” again, but I can dive deeper. I’ve been to Venice countless times since I was a child, and while I have my “have to’s”, e.g. to drink a glass of Prosecco on St. Mark’s Square after dark and listen to live music, these days, my visits to this amazing city allow me to visit places most first-time visitors don’t see.
As a tour guide here in Gothenburg, I kind of see it as my responsibility to water my guests’ mouths, to make them want to come back for more. It’s a delicate balance and I always make sure to learn about hteir interests ahead of time, to make sure they experience exactly what they want, whether it’s walking past a building or going in (if possible.)
Gothenburg is a heavenly destination for foodies. I’ve always known that. Well, maybe it hasn’t always been, but the chefs here in town have a thing or two for fish and seafood and in the past decade or so, plenty of amazing restaurants serve superb food.
I recently came across this article on National Geographic where they point out Gothenburg as a top destination in 2019 to visit if you love food. Who am I to argue with National Geographic?
They particularly point to “Salt & Sill”, a restaurant about 90 minutes north of Gothenburg on the small island of Klädesholmen. I was there just last week and can confirm that it’s still an amazing place. I reviewed it on my TripAdvisor account.
But that’s not the only great place in the region
There are so many more great places to eat, even in the city itself. Some I’ve written about in my DIY-guide which you can purchase right here on the site. But let me just mention one of my personal favorites. Expensive, but amazing food: Sjömagasinet.
I was there last week and the food is superb. Below’s what my dessert looked like. And it was as delicious as it looks. So come visit Gothenburg, from food trucks to the best experimental cuisine, we’ve got you covered!
What I can promise you though is the unexpected. Something you might not have thought about, or even considered with regards to my town. Yeah, I claim total bragging rights here, I know.
Let your soul dangle for a bit
When people think about Gothenburg, associations vary. Most people probably haven’t heard of our fair city, that we are home of the world’s largest truck manufacturing company, AB Volvo, or that we were once a sneeze away from becoming the capital of all Nordic countries. It’s a long story…
We are a great many things, and we have much to offer. I’m sure you’ll have seen that Gothenburg sits right on the ocean’s edge, on Sweden’s west coast. But did you also know that we are one of the greenest cities on the planet? There are parks, forests, and meadows surrounding the city and permeating it everywhere.
That greenery can also be found on our islands. On Styrsö, where I live, we have some twenty plus kilometers of official hiking trails along beaches, through our villages and the forest. You’d never know you’re on an island. Today, I was out walking and stopped to just listen to the birds singing. It’s a 360º view of what I say, just so I could capture the song. Don’t get dizzy. Close your eyes and let that soul of yours dangle for sixty-one seconds:
No matter what it is you expect to see in Gothenburg, expect the unexpected.
That’s a promise! Feel free to contact us today for a personal quote for your tour of our fair city. We’ll make sure to meet your expectations, and yeah, surpass those…
Eiffel Towers, Taj Mahals or Grand Canyons are all great, but sometimes, a sign is all you need to get excited
I live on an island, off the coast of Gothenburg. Administratively, we are part of the political city of Gothenburg. Yet often enough, the city feels far, far away. I walk a lot (part of my health regimen) and my island, Styrsö, offers miles and miles of treks through the forest, along our beautiful beaches, and through our four neighborhoods.
Just yesterday I discovered that the organization who looks after our forest walkways put up a new sign, a small gem. I hadn’t seen it last week. It made me smile. I love focusing on small details like that.
7,000 years of history on a simple wooden plaque
The sign stood below a meadow in the middle of the forest. The meadow is well-known on the island. Open-air festivals and concerts have taken place for a long time. What I didn’t know was that this was the oldest place where we’ve found traces of human habitation on the island. 7,000 years ago, people took boats out to Styrsö to fish (presumably) and they left behind flint.
What surprised me the most is that back then (not a very long time in the grand scheme of Earth’s history) the meadow was a beach. Where I stood, reading the plaque, my feet would’ve been lapped by gentle waves coming ashore. My imagination had been fired up.
Putting the consequences of global warming in a new perspective
When those first (that we know of) humans visited Styrsö, the sea levels were twenty meters above what they are now. That’s a whopping 65.6 ft. I recently read that if all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, global sea levels would rise by seven meters. But there’s not just the ice on Greenland, let’s not forget about Antarctica.
Our house is elevated some eight meters (26 ft) above sea level. By the end of this century, during my son’s lifetime, we might actually lose our house to rising sea levels. That’s a scary prospect. Yes, over time, and that includes the huge shifts in tectonic plates, sea levels have greatly varied, but the changes that we are experiencing now, are unprecedented in terms of speed. The main reason why our islands have emerged from the ocean isn’t due to sinking sea levels, but rising land (as Scandinavia had been pressed into the Earth’s mantle during the last ice age. It is still rising to this very day.) It took 3,000 years for sea levels to sink ten meters, it might take less than 300 for them to rise again… Details on a walk, but mind-boggling in the great scheme of things.
One small plaque had me thinking for hours…
As a tourist, I tend (like most) to focus on the big things that a new destination has to offer. Yet oddly, it is often the small discoveries that will excite you the most. A flower, a tree, a facade or why not a wooden plaque informing you about an unexpected detail of a place’s history, whisking you away to a distant past, igniting your imagination, almost like a great book.
A great tour guide will be able to show you these small places, these details in the shadow of the grand tourist attractions that beckon us from afar. By all means, enjoy the towers, the monuments, but don’t forget to spend some time hunting for the small details. They might prove to be more memorable in the long run.
It’s fall, and according to the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI), winter is on its way south. Sweden is a huge country, and while the northernmost parts are already snow-covered, the south is still, meteorologically, enjoying summer. I don’t know about you, but to me, these definitions are all a bit academic.
The Swedish Met Office’s strange definition of our seasons
In our country, the met office considers it fall if the temperatures over a period of five days have not surpassed ten degrees, but only (this is Sweden after all) if it happens after August 1. Silly, I know. Same with winter. We can’t have “spring” before February 15, no matter how hot it is.
Personally, I find the astronomical definitions more useful using equinoxes and solstices or even just the calendar: September-November is fall, December – February is winter etc. But I can see the value that SMHI’s definition has to their research and the maps they publish of the progress of a season, e.g. fall.
However, it leads to strange events, such as the fact that we currently have two seasons in Gothenburg: fall in the East and North-East and summer in the South and West of the city, due to the warm ocean waters.
Fall is the advent of colors around here (and elsewhere, and a peaceful and quiet time)
I like fall. Not as much as the summer, but it is a season when things calm down around us. Nature gets ready to go back to a slumber where plants and animals alike recuperate and get ready for yet another cycle of life. Humanity doesn’t really do that. For us, fall usually means back to school, back to work, back onto the treadmill.
In the hectics of our busy schedules with work and school, it’s a boon to be able to go out into nature to enjoy the changes in color, see the quiet ocean, pick mushrooms and just be outdoors. Come winter with its rain- and snowstorms, it’ll be too cold and wet to spend a lot of time outside.
Some pictures of what Gothenburg looks like right now…
To give you an impression of what our fair city looks like right now, have a look at these pictures that I’ve taken in the past couple of weeks. Enjoy!
If you have questions, comments or plan to visit Gothenburg, send me a message. We look forward to showing you our town.
When I first moved to Gothenburg, back in 1992, I was shocked after my first visit to a grocery store: strange looking (and tasting) sausages, five types of cheese, tons of cabbage and apart from that, there really wasn’t much to choose from. I’m exaggerating, of course, but this country and its cuisine have changed so much in the years since.
1995, joining the EU, was revolutionizing for Sweden’s food industry
After we joined the EU and importing food from other countries became easier, our grocery shops changed, radically, and the range of supplies increased dramatically. But not only grocery stores, our restaurants changed, too, from serving “classic” cuisine, based on red meats, pork, venison and locally grown vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbages (we are, after all, a Nordic country, meaning, our climate isn’t ideal for a lot of produce.) and brown sauce and lingonberry jam.
Here on the west coast, people have always eaten fish, often pan-fried, served with potatoes, some vegetable and sauce. And there is something to be said about a delicious home-style cooked classic dish. Sadly, in the past quality was not necessarily something Swedish cuisine was known for.
If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Swedish cuisine, feel free to ask us. From IKEA meatballs to smörgåsbord and “halv special”, we’ve got you covered.
Modern Swedish cuisine is among the best in the world
I say this with pride. Our cuisine is among the top in the world. Our chefs are proud to use fresh ingredients, locally sourced products, and the suppliers are keen on trying out new ideas.
While Sweden may never be a cheese country like my own home country of Switzerland, there are some cheesemakers who produce some amazing cheese these days, a far cry from the industrialized and tasteless, wax-covered stuff you get in your next-door grocery store. For some, like my husband, a cheese plate for dessert is the highlight of a meal.
Fish, seafood and then some
Last night, I served my family a fillet of cod. Just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Delicious. You should see what a real chef can do with cod. One of my favorite fish. Or a catfish… Mouthwatering!
Definitively a favorite of mine is salmon, which you can catch right here in Gothenburg, in our moats. Swedes eat a lot of salmon! Most of it comes from farms in Norway where salmon are kept in huge basins in their deep fjords. Environmentally not without question marks, but things are getting better. If you go to a quality seafood store here in Sweden you’ll have a choice between Norwegian salmon and wild salmon, caught either in Sweden or abroad.
Salmon can be served in many different ways…
It’s a very versatile fish. I’m having a bit of a love story with warm smoked salmon right now. It is pink in flesh, very tender, moist and tasty that I could eat it daily. But that wouldn’t be good. Salmon is a very fatty fish, healthy fat mind you, but still. Lots of calories, and besides, if you eat something as good as salmon every day, you grow tired of it… There’s also cold smoked salmon, which I’m sure we all know, that orange thin slice you find on smørrebrød or canapés around the world. Here in Sweden we also eat cured salmon, which is available year-round, but particularly popular on our smörgåsbord and for Christmas.
Salmon is also easy to fry fresh or from the over. One amazing way to cook your salmon is to cover it entirely in salt and to cook the entire fish in the oven.
Seafood isn’t just shrimp
Shrimp are a staple food and Friday night favorite not just in our house, but all over the West Coast of Sweden. It’s a quickly prepared meal with a good baguette and aioli, paired with a dry, fruity white wine. Great when you have friends over. You can take your time and eat slowly.
But did you know that we have amazing oysters right here on the West Coast? And we also have amazing clams and scallops that are grown here? We even grow our own seaweed for Japanese inspired seaweed salad.
Crayfish or “scampi” is also a Swedish delicacy and while most of Sweden prefers sweetwater crayfish, cooked in dill, the West Coast prefers their ocean-dwelling cousins, bigger, cooked in salt water and with a pink/orange color. Needless to say that we’re about to begin our lobster season, and while our local lobsters may be smaller than what most people remember, properly prepared (which isn’t easy!), they’re an amazing dish.
Where to go? Where to eat?
Luckily, these days, there are few places where you will not eat well here in Gothenburg, whether it’s Swedish or international cuisine. There is a case to be made that you’re more likely to eat well when you eat local cuisine because it’s easier to get fresh ingredients. And more difficult to find a chef who truly knows how to prepare e.g. Szechuan, Salvadorian or Angolan dishes… Having said that, there are people from over 190 countries living in Gothenburg, and they all like to taste a meal from their ancestral home every now and then. You’ll find a lot of international restaurants in town, not just pizza and kebabs.
Welcome to Gothenburg. Enjoy your meal!
PS: Don’t eat meat? We have some excellent choices for vegetarians and vegans, too. Ask us!
The summer of 2018 will go down in Gothenburg history
Spring was late and lasted all but a couple of weeks. An arctic inversion kept cold air pouring down over Scandinavia well into mid-April when suddenly things changed and a high-pressure system decided to park above us for the summer, bringing us virtually three months of unabated sunshine and literally no rain. You should see my lawn!
One crazy summer makes no climate change, but…
As a “normal” citizen I’ve been having the summer of a lifetime, with daily swimming in our warmer than usual ocean, daily meals on the patio and a tan that built up over time, you know, the kind you develop carefully, without overexposure? A tan that lasts. Our farmers, however, have been suffering. Without watering (and we’re in Sweden, right, so who waters crops?) crops all over the country have been withering away, there’s been no hay for cattle to feed on and at its worst, farmers couldn’t even send their cattle to emergency slaughter. The queue to the slaughters were too long.
Papers have been filled with images from NASA satellites showing just how “brown” Scandinavia has become this summer, compared to previous years. And article after article discussed whether this is indeed a sign of things to come or just a “freak” summer.
It IS getting warmer up here…
Scientists all agree that one hot summer is no sign of climate change. However, 2018 is well on track to be another hot and warm year, seen on a global scale, and that is where signs of climate change can be tracked. The four years (including 2018) are the four warmest in recorded history. And if you look at weather phenomenon across the globe, things are crazy, everywhere. It seems to me, we keep saying this, year after year, and at some point, denying the impact of climate change becomes mute.
My memory serves me right!
When I first moved to Sweden, in 1992, August was scorching hot, and I was in heaven. Finally a place with decent temperatures. Two years later we endured a cold and rainy, miserable summer. But what I do remember from the first summers after we bought our house is that we were usually unable to sit outside in the evenings, enjoy a glass of wine on the patio. It would be too cold unless you had some infrared heating device. We’d cherish the four or five nights that were the exception to that rule. Summer evenings could be chilly with temperatures as low as 10-12 degrees C (50-54F)
Nowadays, we would theoretically be able to sit outside almost every night, and still now in August, we wake up at six am and the temperatures outside are 18 degrees C (64.5F.) So yes, things have changed in the past twenty-two years that I’ve lived here on the island.
Climate change and tourism
We cannot deny that climate change is here, nor can we deny that it affects tourism. We have plenty of water (in most parts of Scandinavia) for now, and while our farmers may need help in adjusting their crops and install systems to water them, overall, this peninsula might just be one of the few land areas on the planet that ‘benefits’ from it all. Warmer and probably wetter.
That impacts our offering with regards to tourism. A shorter winter season will gravely affect the north, where skiing and snow draw people from countries without such commodities. Here in the south, we may have to rethink what we offer and when we offer it. We still see people closing their restaurants in mid-August for vacation, while our ferry company is still operating on a summer schedule, bringing hundreds of tourist to the islands, every day.
Accepting that tourists, for different reasons, will visit us all-year round is an important first step. Once that lesson is learned, we can move on to offering different services to our visitors, according to the season.
What we do, offer
As a small tour company, our focus is flexibility. We can guide you walking, or using public transport, or in our own EV, a second generation Nissan Leaf. We can also try to show you just how the changing weather patterns and climate change affect our city if you are interested. From areas prone to inundation to plans of how the city is preparing for increasing sea levels. Ask us, we’re here for you.
Midsummer is only rivaled by Christmas, but summer. It’s summer!
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures from Sweden, people dancing around a colorfully dressed maypole. Unlike its counterparts from Germany and elsewhere, our maypoles are dressed with birch twigs and flowers. The songs we dance to aren’t traditional folk songs, but children’s songs including clever lyrics such as “ooh-ack-ack-a” in the evergreen “small frogs” (don’t ask…)
Midsummer in Sweden marks not primarily the middle of summer, but the longest day, midsummer solstice, this year taking place the day after solstice, always on a Friday.
It’s really the beginning of summer, but even here in Gothenburg, this week and for another week or two, the sun doesn’t set until after 10 pm, and rises just after 4 am. Now imagine further up north. In a small town, I know well, Gávtjávvrie in Sápmi, way up north, but still short of the arctic circle, the sun sets for only one hour. Once you cross the arctic circle, the sun never sets during the weeks around midsummer.
It is our most important holiday, bigger than Christmas. Why? Is it the sunlight? The fact that is is as much an adult holiday as it is for kids? Is it the promise of a long vacation that awaits most Swedes around the corner in July? We’ll never know for sure, but midsummer is “da shit” around here…
Eat, drink, dance, sing, repeat
Long days, sunshine, and flowers are key ingredients in our midsummer celebrations, along with the season’s first potatoes, small, sweet, delicious, herring in sauce, a Swedish delicacy, and strawberries, also the season’s first. And I’m sure you know we consume those with copious amounts of beer and different types of vodka, flavored schnapps etc.
Traditionally, you’d put seven kinds of flowers under your pillow, jump over seven fences and dream of your future partner. These days, you swipe seven times and start over. Sweden is a modern country. LOL
Where to celebrate
There are many places to celebrate Midsummer in Sweden, and if you happen to be here in Gothenburg, I can recommend the celebration at our amusement park. Always lots of people, professional song, and a great maypole.
Here in Gothenburg, there are celebrations, big and small, all across the city. One of the more famous ones takes place just a few hundred feet from our house, on our island, Styrsö. We have a large meadow where they put up the maypole. You can help decorate the pole in the morning and at four pm, the entire island and a ton of guests gather to sing, dance and have fun together, before we return to our homes for a barbeque dinner. There are several restaurants on the island, so you won’t have to starve, even if you’re just visiting…
But there are other places you can visit, all around our city. Check out this list from our tourist office.
The weather? Midsummer usually means moving indoors and outdoors because often enough the weather will be typical for the summer: sunshine and rain, changing constantly. For now, the forecast (the most serious topic we discuss these days) seems okay. Trust me, I checked with four (sic!) weather sites. As I said, the weather forecast for midsummer is not to be taken lightly.
If you live in Gothenburg, you most likely have an affinity for water. The way the river meets the ocean, with its open views toward the west, and the promise of whatever lies out there, has drawn people westward for centuries.
In the nineteenth century, almost a million Swedes left our country to emigrate to the promised land of America. They all left via Gothenburg, and our big port, and the vessels connecting us to New York. Gothenburg is a naval city, always has been, and I see no signs of that changing.
We still love ships, big ships, fast ships, tall ships
Still, in the fifth decade, after the big shipyards closed down and that part of town has transformed into a hip neighborhood filled with fancy condominiums, Gothenburg is still a naval city. The city made its fortune based on trade with China, and our East India traders were so profitable that even a sunken one, just off the coast, was still profitable, even though the majority of the goods were lost. A replica of the Götheborg sailed to China and back in the latter half of the first decade of this century, stirring emotions from Kanton all the way around the world.
When the Götheborg returned, on a gloriously sunny summer’s morning, it seemed as if the entire city was welcoming her back home, with tens of thousands of people watching her sail into the harbor and thousands of small and bigger boats and ships awaiting her and accompanying her in the harbor. You could’ve walked from Hisingen to the Archipelago that day. I was one one of those boats, and it’s a memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Goosebumps don’t begin to describe the emotions when the Gothenburg sailed past us!
Tall Ships Race
There’s something majestic about tall ships, these reminders of a time when sailing the seven seas was a true adventure. I am a big fan of cruise vacations, and I love the comfort of modern cruise ships, but I’ll be honest, the sight of a tall ship makes my heart skip an extra beat.
These tall ships, often maintained by associations and military training units often compete in friendly giant races under the name of Tall Ships Race, and they’ve been to Gothenburg more than once since I moved here, last in 2016.
Not only do we have two permanent tall ships in our beautiful skyline, the aforementioned Gothenburg, but also the hotel barge Viking downtown, a four-mast beauty that is one of the most unusual hotels you can find in Gothenburg. And very reasonably priced.
Volvo Ocean Race
One of the toughest sailing races out there, if not the toughest, is the Volvo Ocean Race. Sponsored by our local car and truck manufacturer, these ships are out on some of the most difficult waters for almost two years, a true test of engineering prowess and human courage. Next month, on the tenth leg of the 2017-18 race, the ships will reach Gothenburg, undoubtedly cause for yet another huge celebration here in town. You can learn more about the race and the stopover here. A week before we celebrate midsummer, this is a great time to pay Gothenburg a visit…
Gothenburg, a naval city
It comes with the territory, and this city owes everything to the sea, our history is one with the ocean, the islands lining our coast are pearls you don’t want to miss, and our sunsets late at night (as late as 10:12 pm) on a beautiful summer’s day are quite something. Why not visit us soon and let us show you around? Contact us today!
Doing research, looking at images is part of the fun of getting ready for a trip
I travel a lot. In fact, as I type this, I have trips scheduled to the UK (2), the Netherlands, Switzerland (2), and the US (3) until the end of the year. Some destinations are new, others I’ve been to before. But no matter what, one of my favorite past-times is getting ready for those trips, researching online about what to do, what to expect, and – last not least – indulging in images.
Long gone (it seems) are the days when you’d venture to a local bookstore and buy a guidebook. I still have an entire bookshelf filled with guidebooks from journeys all over the world. But those books had their challenges: updates! While they’re still being produced (and manually updated every now and then), for those of us who own them, they’re quickly outdated, at least with regards to the important sections about restaurants, hotels and other more volatile information. The Colosseum will always be in Rome, but that quaint restaurant on the corner around the Fontana di Trevi? Who knows.
No matter how old-fashioned a guidebook may be: they don’t require to be online to work. Worth considering in the roaming day and age…
Instead, we use places like TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet, Yelp or just plain good old Google to find information about the places we want to visit. I’ve been a frequent contributor on TripAdvisor, reviewing the hotels and restaurants I visit during my trips, and I often use it to find places during my own trips.
Here’s a tip though: Don’t disregard a place just because it has a few one-star reviews. Look at the reviewer. If it’s their first review, it’s likely just a one-off disgruntled customer. Disregard such reviews. instead, look at the reviews from people with dozens, hundreds of reviews even. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t trusted contributors. Those are the views you can trust more but don’t just focus on the star-rating. What some people dislike may be exactly what you look for, e.g. casual dress v formal dress in a place.
Maps & Images
I could lose myself in pictures. I love to look at pictures from our beautiful planet. If you have an Instagram account, looking for your destination is easy using appropriate hashtags, e.g. #gothenburg. We have this amazing account here in town, a woman who takes pictures for fun, all over our city, and just looking at a couple of them (I follow her), makes me feel proud about living here, and makes me want to visit a particular corner of it. You can follow her here.
I’m not a big fan of Pinterest, but that is also a place where you can find a ton of pictures (and links) about places to visit. Or Twitter, although it tends to focus more on verbal aspects, you can follow places you’d like to visit.
I love to use maps, be it Google Earth or just any map application. It helps me get my bearings, understand where I will stay, where the best restaurants are, what is within walking range etc. It just helps me sort the world. I’m a bit OCD that way, I like a certain order. An example: a few years ago, we visited Disney World and we booked times (FastPass) for certain attractions. Our son was two-years-old at the time and the attractions he could go on, limited. So we booked them online ahead of time. What we had failed to do was make sure we could get from a) to b) in time. We learned that lesson the hard time. Don’t make the same mistake, booking a restaurant you can’t reach after that museum visit across town.
Whatever you do, take time to get ready…
It doesn’t really matter if you prefer an old-fashioned guidebook, or if you go all ‘social media’ in your preparations. In fact, none is better/worse than the other. Just different. My point is this: be sure to actually get ready, not because I don’t like to keep some of the mystery until I get there, but because part of the enjoyment of visiting a new place is anticipation. And nothing helps us build anticipation like looking at images, reading menus and maybe even meeting people online, friends to be. For all the other stuff, you can contact me. I’d be happy to help you prepare an unforgettable stay.