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.)
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…
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Liseberg is an amusement park unlike anything you’ve seen
I have a thing for amusement parks. I like them. Not “freaky” like them, but I like a good roller-coaster, I enjoy a great theme ride and to walk around a place that has happiness written squarely across its business idea. Liseberg, the local amusement park of Gothenburg, opened in 1923, the last time we celebrated a big anniversary for the city.
That was almost a century ago, and we’re only three years from the next Jubilee. More about that some other day. The last Jubilee was two years late (for various reasons), and many aspects of our city are still standing. If you visit the park you can also find some ruins of things that no longer are (e.g. a cable car to the city.)
Liseberg is a green park
Unlike most amusement parks I’ve visited, Liseberg is super green. It really is a park. I’ve been to Six Flags (no offense) stateside and they’re mostly concrete and pavement. Same can be said about the park in Stockholm. Liseberg is small by comparison to the big American parks, but there are flowers and trees everywhere. So even if you just go for a stroll, you’ll feel relaxed.
So much fun for kids all ages
When I first moved to Sweden, I had barely set my foot in an amusement park. I was sold and for years, I bought a season ticket and spent many a weekend day there, on the rides, eating in one of the many restaurants or going to a concert. But yeah, after twenty years, there aren’t enough news to keep you entertained. When our son was born, things changed. Suddenly, we saw the park through the eyes of the newborn (the fluffy green bunnies, the park’s mascots were the highlight), the toddler and now the five-year-old, who is so tall that he can already go on many an adult ride.
Liseberg has a special area solely for children, with special rides just for kids and a playground, unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s spectacular. They even have special bathrooms for moms to breastfeed and dads to change diapers. This IS Sweden, after all.
Some of the best roller coasters in Europe, the world?
This year, a new roller coaster is opening, joining three other rides. The new beast is called Valkyria, and you can already go on the ride, virtually. It is in an area of the park which is inspired by Norse mythology, hence the name of the ride. Next door is a wooden roller coaster which has been voted best in the world.
On the hill that separates the park from the city are two more roller coasters, Helix (trust me, it’s amazing) and Lisebergsbanan, the oldest of the coasters, but a fun ride for the family. My son absolutely loves it.
Roller coasters are fun, but there are a lot more rides in the park, including a log ride, floats, a free fall with Sweden’s best view etc. But Liseberg prides itself to be a park for everyone, and there are plenty of restaurants with good food, from fast food, seafood to buffets and a quirky restaurant that resembles a train station where you eat in train wagons.
Many in the older generations visit Liseberg just to walk, or why not dance?
There’s a large dance stage with weekly concerts for people to dance to. Liseberg also has a big main stage and once you’ve paid for the entry fee, all concerts on all stages are included, for free. Great names have played there, including my personal favorites, ABBA, through the years. You can find this year’s concert program here.
A summer in Gothenburg without Liseberg just isn’t summer…
Liseberg opens next Saturday, April 28th for the summer season which lasts until early October. They reopen for a three week Halloween stint (the decor is stunning) and then again in mid-November for Christmas. The park is closed from January to late April. When you come to Gothenburg, and you like amusement parks, make sure to add Liseberg to your itinerary.
What’s the best time to visit? An overcast day I’d say, although you’ll find the longest lines, too. Early in the week or early/late in the season work, too.
PS: This post was not solicited or paid for by Liseberg. I really like the place.
Today is spring equinox, but the weather outside, as sunny as it is, feels more like winter
Weather and climate change, right? Every time the experts talk about climate change, some wise ass mentions the freaky weather outside. Well, they are connected of course, but… It’s complicated, like most relationships. Spring is definitely in the air, even if the weather is currently out of whack over much of Europe due to something strange called Arctic oscillation and which has been disturbed recently, allowing ice cold air to reach places it usually doesn’t (all the while the Arctics were inundated with very warm air.)
Weather ain’t climate
Here in Gothenburg, we’re enjoying super sunny days right now, but the temperatures are still below average for the season. Spring is late, it usually arrives here in the second half of February, and we’re now in the second half of March. Yet just today, the Swedish Met office (SMHI) and our nation NPR (SVT) published data that shows that the country has warmed by 1 C in the past century, on average. That’s quite a lot. And it will only get worse and that has an effect on cities like Gothenburg, with severe consequences.
How climate change might affect Gothenburg
It’s hard to imagine catastrophic scenarios on a sunny day like today. But city planners are working on contingency plans. Gothenburg is built on sea level, and most quays are about a meter (three feet) above the average water line. During a strong fall storm with western winds, the storm surges already surpass that line and low-lying parts of the city flood easily.
Even the island, where I live, sees the nice lawn near the boat jetty flooded every now and then. It will get worse in the future. As Gothenburg has Sweden’s largest river running through its midst, that adds to the complexity. And while London is protected by giant flood barriers to keep storm surges to push river water back into the city, Gothenburg doesn’t really have that option. Our geography just doesn’t allow for such a barrier, or it would have to be placed too close to our harbor and would seriously impact the city.
Today, storm surges push upstream and with water pushing from two sides, the city easily floods. With rising sea levels, even if only ten or twenty centimeters, that is enough to cause severe flooding in more and more areas of the city within just a few decades, all the while the city is expanding and growing near the water (where else?)
Gothenburg isn’t alone
Gothenburg isn’t the only city threatened by climate change. In many cases, we are lucky, as warmer weather also means a more temperate climate. More days to spend outside in the evening with a glass of wine. More rain means we will have less risk of draught (a problem in many other areas of the planet.)
But that is no reason not to act, to leave things as they are because we are all on the same speck of dust traveling through the universe. And as for now, it’s the only one we have at our disposal. We’re literally pissing on ourselves. Not smart.
Sweden is a hotspot for environmental technology
If you’re interested in the environment, climate and what we can do to stop pissing on ourselves, there is plenty to see and do here in this town, from car maker Volvo who pledges to only produce electrified vehicles from next year to our universities and many other companies who are at the forefront of ecological innovation.
Welcome to Gothenburg, rain or shine, spring, summer, winter or fall!