By Isabel Clift
I admit it, I’ve got a crush on Sweden. When I was in Gothenburg this summer for Way Out West, someone asked me for directions in Swedish and I felt a genuine pop of pride. I passed for one of them! Ultimate compliment.
Maybe it’s Swedes’ minimalist sense of style that wins it for me. Maybe it’s the whole concept of fika – I respect a nation that dedicates a word to having coffee and cake with friends. And ok, it could be the cheekbones too. Sweden, I want to be like you – but as a Brit who’s not very good at pretendy accents, I accept the next best thing to do is fake it.
If you’re planning a trip to Gothenburg, follow the advice below on where to eat, go out and shop to fake being as glacier-cool as a Gothenburger. A local might even be fooled into asking you directions! In Swedish! And then you’ll have to stutter and say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak…” and they’ll reply in perfect English. Because they’re still way cooler than you. Ahem…
Eating in Gothenburg
The independent, sustainable, artisan foodie craze is alive and well in Gothenburg. Here’s where to stuff your face with the best of the city’s food nerds…
Strömmingsluckan: Sitting in formerly run-down, now trendily transformed lot in Magasinsgatan, food truck Strömmingsluckan serves up Swedish signature dishes in paper trays to a dedicated hipster following.
Tuck in to the lingonberry, herring and mash while cooing over the owner’s French bulldog, who has a kennel attached to the truck.
A Swedish institution, Fika means having a coffee break – taking time out to drink coffee, eat something sweet and be together with friends. I discovered its joys in three glorious cafes…
Da Matteo: A branch of Gothenburg’s homegrown artisan coffee company, Da Matteo sits on the same square as Strömmingsluckan, opposite fashion boutique Grandpa.
They roast beans and bake bread on site, and rough stone walls and low ceilings give the feeling of being in an extremely gentrified cave. All around you, Gothenburg trendies tap on Macbooks, and fresh beans can be bought by the bag.
Café Hebbe Lelle: If medieval quarter Haga’s cobbled streets and wooden houses haven’t made you gooey-eyed enough, the giant cinnamon bun at Café Hebbe Lelle just might. Seriously, this bun is the size of a hubcap. You could use it to knock out an armed assailant. Or, you could share it with friends – there’s no way you’re getting through it on your own unless you’re being filmed for Man vs. Food.
Haba Nygata 23-19
Le Petit Café: Mismatched crockery and gooey cakes aplenty give Le Petit Café a ‘Grandma’s house in the French countryside’ vibe. Higgledy-piggledy décor throws together wrought iron chairs and warped wooden table-tops that’d laugh a spirit level measurer out the door, and their coffee and deep, sticky chocolate cake is a killer combination. It’s a two-minute walk from Café Hebbe Lelle on Haga Nygata, the city’s prettiest, Toytown-like street.
Haga Nygata 2,413 01
Food halls and markets
Saluhallen: Pick up cheese, bread, pastries and other treats at Saluhallen, Gothenburg’s largest indoor market on main square Kungstorget. Some stalls offer goods to take away, while others have perch-up bars for eating in the midst of the bustle.
Here’s what was drawing the crowds when I wandered round:
- For cheese – Hildas Ost or Hugo Ericssons Ost
- For artisan bread, including Swedish staple cinnamon rolls – Brogyllen
- For meat – Albert Andersson
- For Swedish treats like fried herring and meatballs – Kok & Bar
- For coffee, cake and pastries – Bella Pausa or Steinbrenner & Nyberg
- For gourmet chocolate made in Gothenburg – Flickorna Kanold
- For Swedish fruit and veggies – Frukt Larsson
Stora Saluhallen 46. Kungstorget, 41117
Feskekôrka: Seafood fans will sing praises at Feskekôrka, a market hall dedicated to fish which literally translates at “fish church”.
This chapel-like Gothic building on the banks of the Göta houses tonnes of freshly-caught local seafood, as well as a well-regarded gallery restaurant.
Going out in Gothenburg
See a film at Hagabion
Linne is Gothenburg’s designated hipster epicentre, so after you’ve food-and-bar-hopped your way down Linnégatan and explored the vintage stores on its side-streets, you might be in the mood for a movie at schoolhouse-turned-cinema Hagabion.
This’ll possibly be of the ‘arty’ variety – the program shuns Hollywood in favour of world film – but even if you’re more of a popcorn movie kinda person, you can get a tasty bite at the vegetarian restaurant on the terrace outside.
Cultural events at Röda Sten
An exhibition hall, gallery, theatre, restaurant and night club under one roof, Röda Sten Arts Centre occupies a graffiti-covered boiler house by Älvsborg Bridge at Gothenburg harbour.
Check out the listings for your visit, or try Swedish home cooking at Restaurant Röda Sten (which has no-meat Sundays and plenty of veggie/vegan options).
Cost: Get in for free with a Gothenburg card, or pay SEK 40 (adults) SEK 20 (students and seniors). Under-20s get in free.
Stylish shopping in Gothenburg
Feed your need for Swedish fashion and design in the trendy stores around the city centre streets Magasinsgatan, Vallgatan and Södra Larmgatan. All are within five minutes’ walk of each other…
Twist & Tango: Founded in Gothenburg with six outlets around Sweden, Twist & Tango’s flagship branch offers minimalist clothes, bags and shoes in a rainbow of graduated colour.
This is your go-to for minimalist Swedish fashion that won’t break the bank – especially during sale time in August and January, where you can get your hands on their delicate pieces at up to 70% off (I took advantage of this and bought a pure silk dress for 300 SEK, or around £30).
Haga Östergata 4
Grandpa: A smorgasbord of every ‘now’ trend going, Grandpa mixes Scandinavian fashion with new and vintage homeware in a room that – with its filing cabinets, maps and old rugs – feels like a spruced-up explorer’s study.
Happy Socks displays sit alongside retro radios, while sailor tattoo print crockery sets are found next to clothing labels like Hope, Minimarket and House of Dagmar, plus Brixtol beanie hats and Sandqvist backpacks.
Miss Ragtime: Love Scandi fashion, but don’t have the budget for a huge spree? Miss Ragtime’s your answer. This cute second-hand emporium’s racks are bursting with labels like Ganni and Just Female sold at a fraction of their original prices. Clothes look like new, and there’s also a selection of shoes and bags.
Lagerhaus (Östra Hamngatan 46-48) and DesignTorget (Vallgatan 14) both offer affordable homeware (think coffee cups, cushions and candles) for adding simple-lined Swedish design to your abode. Of the two, Lagerhaus is slightly cheaper.
Gothenburg’s best music festival
Way Out West: Held at Slottsskogen Park east of the city centre, Way Out West is a three-day no-camping festival in the second weekend of August. The line-up runs like a ‘best-of’ of the year’s most popular in musical eclecticism (2013 saw Kendrick Lamar, Grimes and The Knife play), and its late-night program Stay Out West puts on acts in Instagram-able venues like Gothenburg Film Studios and Protestant church Annedalskyrkan.
Stages are relatively close together so there’s no unnecessary traipsing around, sound quality is fantastic and the veggie-only food trucks are delish (and I’m a carnivore!). All this makes WOW feel a cut above yer average mud-and-sweat-covered festie weekend – make sure you’re there next summer.
Cost: 2013 tickets were 1895 SEK, or £190. 2014 ticket prices TBA.
Budget stays in Gothenburg
I’m not going to lie, Sweden can be expensive – but we’ve got a range of well-priced hotels and hostels in Gothenburg that should help you save on your travel budget. Our best-rated accommodation is Göteborgs Mini-Hotel, with private rooms from around €24pppn, and Linné Hostel with shared dorms and private rooms from around €17pppn.
Flying to Gothenburg
I flew to Gothenburg from London Heathrow with British Airways, which offers flights from £140 return.
Have you been to Gothenburg? Leave your tips in the comments…
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