For a short getaway from Copenhagen, Sweden is the destination of choice. It offers cheap(er) shopping and wilderness, something in short supply in Denmark. While Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, is a short drive across the Øresund, it has limited to offer compared to Copenhagen. On the flip side, at 650 km away, Stockholm is a bit of a stretch for a weekend retreat.
Gothenburg (Göteborg) manages to meets both criteria. With a metropolitan population of a million and 300Km from Copenhagen, it is cosmopolitan enough to keep you entertained while close enough for a last-minute trip. With hourly trains between the two cities, connections are good and the trip up the country’s west coast offers panoramic views over the Kattegat.
I went with several friends to Gothenburg for a couple of days last Easter. Situated at the mouth of the Gota Alva River, the city is Scandiavia’s largest port and home to Swedish car-maker Volvo (although now Chinese-owned). Geologically, the city suffers from bipolar disorder, situated on flat, soft terrain punctuated by steep, rocky outcroppings.
The historic heart of the city is situated along the shores of Gota Alva and is dominated by ships, the opera house and a modern highrise known as “The Lipstick”. By far the most picturesque attraction is the Viking, a retired 20th century barque converted into a hotel and conference center.
A short walk away is the Kronhuset (Crown House), one of the oldest buildings in the city (1655) built in the Dutch Renaissance style. Reincarnated many times (from artillery storage to government chambers), the building is currently used for concerts and exhibitions and is surrounded by the Kronhusbodarna, a series of sheds home to numerous artisans and craft shops. Across the street is the Öl Republiken, a superb microbrewery and restaurant where we spent a great evening and even better lunch the following day.
Escaping the downtown core, one arrives at Kungsportsavenyn (commonly referred to as Avenyn), a broad boulevard lined with shops and restaurants. The street terminates at Götaplatsen, a large elevated square surrounded by theatre, library, art museum and concert hall.
Avenyn divides two of the city’s primary parks which are situated alongside the moat-shaped canal and forms a semi-circle around the downtown. While Kungsparken (Kings Park) is unremarkable, Trädgårdsföreningen is a beautiful horticultural garden with its greenhouse (Palmhuset) offering a warm respite in dreary weather.
By far the most quaint district of the city is Haga, with its picturesque wooden houses and cafes. Historically a working class suburb, it has become gentrified in recent years and offers a relaxing stroll away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s core. The most prominent feature of the district is Skansen Krona, a 17th century fortress built on one of the aforementioned steep, rocky outcroppings. Across the canal from Haga lies the unique church-like fish market, Feskekorka (“Fish church”).
All in all, Gothenburg is a quaint little city with lots to offer visitors. Although the weather was not great and the city rather drab when we were there, we had a good time with excellent food and I look forward to going back in warmer weather when the city is at its best.