Gothenburg on your own? Buy our easy DIY guide!

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It includes over 100 tips for places to see and things to do.

I’ve lived here since 1992 and having moved here highly interested in this country and the region, I travel a lot, and I’ve been to a great many places. I’ve helped visitors discover Gothenburg and the west coast ever since. I know a thing or two about the area. While my speciality is to guide people with very distinct tastes and the highest demands, I understand that there is a market for other types of tours, from walking tours of an hour or two, to hop-on-hop-off tours etc. All good.

“I’m a backpacker…” or “I just don’t need a guide”

Spring is in the air, and the sun is shining.
Spring is in the air, and the sun is shining.

I hear you. I’m not unlike you. I love to discover places on my own. Not always, but sometimes. A couple of years ago, heading to Madeira, we got in touch with a local guide who’d put together a list of his fifty personal favorites. With that list we were able to prepare for an amazing vacation, all by ourselves.

I figured, why not provide a list of my personal favorites as well. And not just include sights, but also include a couple of personal favorites when it comes to hotels, restaurants, cultural places, even sporting arenas. And I’ve been to each and everyone, so I know what I’m getting you into… Although, with sports, there’s no guarantee your team will win!

100+ places, and it’s yours if you want it.

The cover page of the guide
The cover page of the guide

In this first edition, there are over one hundred places listed. Some you’ll see in five or ten minutes, others might take you weeks. Some are within the city, some are almost 200 km away. Still West Sweden. It’s a large country.

Some are expensive, some are dirt cheap, free even. I think there’s plenty for most people. And here’s how it works. Send me a donation of your choice and you’ll automatically be sent to a page where you can download the twenty-five-page document. Super easy and convenient. And you don’t need a PayPal account for this to work. Any credit card will do.

So why would anyone still need a guide?

Easy! A lot of people don’t want to sieve through a ton of information, read tourist guides, etc. Also, they want to be able to ask questions, learn details about each site. Sometimes I don’t know the answer, but I know where and how to find it, in a timely fashion, while the guest enjoys their stay.

Most of my guests will simply tell me about their interests, likes, and dislikes and they trust me to prepare a tour that will satisfy those expectations and hopefully exceed them. To prepare for every guest individually takes time, and that time needs to be paid for somehow, hence a higher cost than for an off-the-rack tour which requires no preparation, as it’s the same, every time.

I hope you’ll enjoy this guide. As always, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call me.

The best partners make a tour truly great.

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The statue of the founder of the current "incarnation" of Gothenburg, celebrating its 400th anniversary in two years.
Downtown Gothenburg.

Last week, I had the privilege of guiding a group of VIP travelers for a couple of days. Distinguished individuals, well educated and widely traveled, they were asking for a tour guide to show them Gothenburg the way an official guide never could: 100% flexible, with the ability to hold a conversation not just about historical details of a particular building or a king’s birthday, but also talk about the big political trends, socio-economic trends and things happening elsewhere in the world. Today’s global travelers expect nothing less.

Being a great guide isn’t enough…

While I pride myself in my work and can see how pleased my guests are with the service and the attention they get, entirely customized on their needs, my services have limits. I require partners to work with. I’m no restaurant (and even if I were, I’d just be one), I’m no limo or bus, no museum and I’m certainly no yacht. To provide my guests with a seamless experience, I need help, and last week was exemplary.

Arranged by their hotel, Sweden’s finest, the Upper House, the guests also had access to a driver for their time here and on Saturday, we took a tour of my home turf, the archipelago, in a beautiful yacht.

The best partners are the ones you don’t notice…

Traditional boathouses on the island of Brännö.
Traditional boathouses on the island of Brännö.

For a guest, the best partners a guide can have are the ones that go unnoticed. To be a driver means to take the guest from A to B as comfortably and safely as possible. It was a delight to work with Gothia Transfer. Our driver was probably the best one I’ve ever experienced. As a guide, sitting in the front passenger seat of comfortable and perfectly clean luxury vehicle, with my neck turned back to my guests, I didn’t even notice how we were crossing town, or what way our driver took. Suddenly we were there. Perfect. And the communication between ourselves to make the experience for our clients as smooth as possible couldn’t have been better. Highly recommended and I hope to work with them again soon. I’ll most certainly recommend my clients to work with Gothia Transfer from now on.

The company we used on Saturday, the Sealife, is a truly magnificent vessel. Clean, in perfect shape and a skipper family completely dedicated to their guests. They take the best possible care of their clients and just like I had with Gothia Transfer, to work with Gothenburg Coast Charter was a pleasure and perfectly seamless. Our guests were really happy with their tour.

Restaurants, museums, etc.

Guests need to eat, they want to see museums, and nobody knows their collections better than the curators who created them. I was really pleased to see how the people I worked with were welcoming us and did their utmost to be flexible and help me make sure the clients were happy. In my own travel, I’ve had far too many experiences when you end up at the guide’s cousin’s husband’s restaurant, making me wonder if we ended up there because it was good or because the guide got a kick-back. My take is different (I have no cousins in Gothenburg…) I will only take my guests to a place I’ve been to myself, where I can vouch for the quality of the food and service.

When can I show you my town and introduce you to some amazing partners? Gothenburg is open and welcomes visitors…

#GothenburgTours: “But if I don’t know what to visit?” #tourism #gothenburg #sweden

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Good question: what if you don’t know what to expect, what to see?

In a previous post here, I underlined the importance of talking to your tour guide, to let them know what you want to see, do. This has prompted some reactions, both online, on social media, but I’ve also received an e-mail, from Paul, living in Manchester. He writes:

“…but what if I don’t know what do see, what to do in a new destination? Clearly then, a standard tour may be a better option for me, to get a flavor of what the place is all about?”

Allow me to clarify…

don't know? Let me know what interests you, and I'll take care of the rest...
There are things to see for anyone and you can get really “nerdy”, e.g. the construction of a new bridge across Sweden’s biggest river.

First a big thank you to Paul for his e-mail. I do understand your point, and tour companies selling standard tours make it very well, in destinations all over the world. I’d not want to see my post or this company as a competitor to those offerings. We’re a complement, for the most part.

If you spend a week or more at a destination, if you have plenty of time, I think those off-the-rack tours can be very valuable. We recently spent two weeks on Madeira and spent one day on one of those hop-on-hop-off buses as a means to get an overview of Funchal.

There are pros and cons to everything

But with every offer, there are pros and cons. With a standard tour, you have no choice. You’re either in, or out. You get to see things you want to see, and you’ll be dragged to see things, or do stuff you don’t care for. As I exemplified in my very first post, one of my personal pet peeves is shopping on tours. For someone else, it may be architecture, or museums, or…

Trust your guide

I've lived in Gothenburg and guided people here since 1992. I know that most people will want to see Carl Milles' famous statue of the sea god Poseidon, even if they don't even know he exists...
I’ve lived in Gothenburg and guided people here since 1992. I know that most people will want to see Carl Milles’ famous statue of the sea god Poseidon, even if they don’t even know he exists…

So what if you don’t know what to do, what to expect. Trust your guide. We’ve lived in our cities for a long time, we know what people tend to like. I’ve guided visitors through Gothenburg since 1992, and I know what people like to see, and what they will wrinkle their noses at.

The whole point of customizing is to provide that little extra. Allow me to exemplify: say you love architecture, building techniques. I could spend days just showing you different buildings here, I could show you differences in Sweden’s building standards, fire safety and even take you to homes to see how we actually live. One tiny topic, we could ‘nerd’ for days!

Any information you provide makes your tour better

I maintain: the more information you provide your guide, the better and interesting your tour will be. You don’t need to know your destination, but I presume that you do know what you like, and if you tell me to just surprise you, I can do that, too. But you’ll forfeit the right to complain about my choices… 😉

Make sense? Welcome to Gothenburg. Contact us here.

Working with your tour guide to get the most out of your trip

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Your tour guide isn’t clairvoyant, probably…

My Tour guide took me to Bukchon Village on my request.
This photo taken the other day might be “old” but no, this is present-day Seoul, as it still – partially -presents herself, if you look closely. My Tour guide took me to Bukchon Village on my request. Photo: private

Greetings from Seoul, where I am currently on a business trip, doing research for a coming novel.

I thought this would be a good time to talk briefly about how important it is for the customer to give their tour guide as much information as possible about the things you would like to experience, to maximize the value of your time together.

After all, your experience of your destination will depend greatly upon the information you impart on your tour guide because they can’t know what interests you or not.

There are different kinds of tours

There are two kinds of tours really: the straight off the rack tours that you can get everywhere, be it by bus or from an authorized tour guide. They are obligated/encouraged to show you a minimum number of things that are considered “must see” or “should see” of a certain place. Then there are customized tours, where nothing is given.

My tour guide took me to his favorite spot in Seoul, this part of the river bank of the Han River, overlooking the city of Seoul.
My tour guide took me to his favorite spot in Seoul, this part of the river bank of the Han River, overlooking the city of Seoul. Photo: private

Most tour guides that I have worked with will ask you the question: what would you like to see. If they don’t, I would already be skeptical. However, sometimes you travel to a destination you know little to nothing about, and knowing what to see may be difficult. In that case, be generic, talk about your interests in broad terms: culture, or architecture. History. Even that will help your tour guide to take you places that will leave you wanting to come back for more.

When you know what you want…

Sometimes, as I did this week, you may have very specific reasons for a visit and you are looking for very specific items. To make the most of your trip, please give the guide as much information as possible. Tell them why you visit, what you want to see, experience, learn.

This week in Seoul, my guide and I had pretty much exhausted “my” needs after day one. I did, however, continue to explore on my own. For the second day, I told him to take me to “his Seoul”, the city the locals live in. I wanted him to show me things off the beaten track. I wanted to see neighborhoods & sights, that tourists normally don’t get to see, aren’t interested in etc. This resulted in a very interesting day. He even took me to his personal favorite by the Han River. From there, I asked that we visit the National Assembly since we were just a few blocks away.

Not knowing is the biggest challenge

Not knowing anything about your destination can be an issue. Or if you don’t really have a clue as to what you want to see/do. That is the biggest challenge, both for you and your guide. You risk being disappointed if the tour guide takes you to places you find boring. It is also really challenging for a tour guide to prepare a tour if they don’t know the client’s interests.

Just because I hate shopping doesn't mean I don't appreciate walking through local markets to learn about the local culture. Important distinction. :) Your tour guide will need to know what you (dis-)like.
Gwangjang Market in Seoul: just because I hate shopping doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate walking through local markets to learn about the local culture. Important distinction. 🙂 Your tour guide will need to know what you (dis-)like. Photo: private

Here’s what you can do to help: tell them about your interests. More importantly, tell them what you do NOT want to see/do. My family and I have a long-held dislike for shopping. We’ve been to far too many “off the rack” tours where frequent stops at various souvenir shops are a mandatory ingredient. These days we always make a point of telling the guide that we do not, under any circumstance, want to stop for shopping. On the other hand, some people want to buy souvenirs. Others may be looking for a cool second hand or vintage store. Some will want to sample local cuisine. Tell your guide what you want. Don’t hold back. You’ll all be happier if you communicate your expectations openly.

Must see

Yes, I have indeed been to Cairo and I have been to the pyramids of Giza. Duh! 😉 Photo: private

All destinations have their “must-see” attractions. Visiting Cairo without seeing the pyramids would be a cardinal sin. Traveling to London without seeing Big Ben would be a bummer or Paris sans Eiffel Tower.

You get my drift. However, it took me eight or nine trips to New York before I’d discovered Central Park. These days, I do not visit New York without a walk in the park. Must see? It’s not the Statue of Liberty, nor the Empire State Building or the Freedom Tower, but it certainly is a must for me. We all have our own definitions of “must-see”. Your tour guide may have their own views. Keep that in mind.

You need a reason to come back…

 

Any tour guide has their favorite spots in their city.
Any tour guide has their favorite spots in their city. This is one of my favorite spots in Gothenburg: Ramberget. I keep taking visitors there, to get a feel of my city, with a great view from above. Photo: private

As my time here in Seoul comes to an end, I reconcile with the fact that even after four visits to Korea’s charming capital, I am still no closer to having “seen it all”. And what a shame would that have been. I’d have no reason to come back. But even in the tiniest of places I’ve visited, such as my beloved Gávtjávvrie (Ammarnäs), where there are no famous “sights”, there are always reasons to go back. I could go hiking, experience the raw beauty of Mother Nature, visiting friends or learn more about the Sami culture.

 

In closing…

The more information you provide your guide with, the better. And even after the tour begins, feel free to provide feedback, based on what you’ve done so far. It helps both you and your tour guide to adjust the schedule and offer you a better experience of your destination. Because after all, that’s in the interest of both of you.

Any questions? Please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to answer them.