Stunning natural attractions, beautiful architecture, a vibrant arts and culture scene—these and more draw millions of people to visit Gothenburg every year. Sweden‘s second-largest city (after the capital, Stockholm) offers a wide array of activities and experiences for visitors of all ages. For instance, travelers with young children will find much to see and do in the city’s amusement parks and playgrounds. For history and architecture buffs, there’s no shortage of old and fascinating buildings to explore. Meanwhile, culture vultures will find plenty to occupy their days and nights in Gothenburg’s museums, art galleries, and theaters. Finally, nature lovers will delight in the city’s parks and gardens and the picturesque islands just a short boat ride away. Want to know more? Read on for the top 10 things to do in Gothenburg.
Liseberg Amusement Park
Young and old visitors alike make a beeline for Liseberg, one of the most popular amusement parks in Scandinavia. Roughly 3 million fun-seekers pass through the park’s gates every year, drawn to its myriad attractions. Thrilling rides like the Balder wooden tracked roller coaster and the Valkyria dive coaster await those who need an adrenaline rush. However, visitors with kids can opt for more sedate pastimes, such as the Venetian Carousel. In addition to rides, Liseberg is also home to a lovely botanical and sculpture garden, concert and entertainment venues, and various cafes and restaurants. For easy access to the park, book a room at Upper House, a gorgeous luxury hotel less than a mile away.
Just a stone’s throw from Liseberg, Universeum is a public science center and museum that’s the largest of its kind in Scandinavia. Its gigantic dinosaur statues are certainly eye-catching but there’s much more to see and do. You can observe exotic birds and butterflies in The Rainforest, watch sleek sharks gliding silently in the Ocean Zone, and marvel at venomous snakes in the Reptilarium. Kids and adults alike can also learn from fun experiments in the Chemistry Lab. Meanwhile, in Job Land, the little ones can dress up and pretend that they’re what they want to be when they grow up. And if you take advantage of the 24-hour hop-on hop-off bus ticket, getting to Universeum and other famous Gothenburg landmarks is easy as pie.
Gothenburg Botanical Garden
Thousands of plant species blanket the 175 acres that make up the Gothenburg Botanic Garden. Inaugurated in 1923, it’s one of the largest in all of Scandinavia. And with more than half a million visitors annually, it’s also one of the most popular. Among the standouts here are the Änggårdsbergen nature reserve and the arboretum with trees from other countries. In early summer, the Rhododendron Valley perfumes the air while dainty wood anemone flowers provide natural carpets in springtime. The Rock Garden, Japanese Glade, and Herb Garden are also areas that shouldn’t be missed. Those who visit Gothenburg on a shoestring budget will be pleased to know that the garden is free to enter. There’s a small admission fee for the greenhouses, where you can see colorful orchids and carnivorous plants. However, guests under 18 years can come in for free.
Many travelers make their way up Risåsberget hill to this 17th-century fortress when they visit Gothenburg. The hexagonal structure, built on the orders of King Karl XI in 1641, features a gilded cross at its peak. On the other hand, its twin fortress—the Skansen Lejonet—boasts a figure of a lion. The primary purpose of both buildings was to guard against a potential invasion by Denmark. However, no attack ever took place and the cannons never fired a single shot. When you travel to Gothenburg in summer, you can beat the heat with home-made ice cream at the cafe within the premises. And for a truly memorable experience, try a 3-hour private walking tour. A local guide will take you and your group on an exclusive, personalized journey through Gothenburg’s historic and cultural landmarks.
A 15-minute drive from the city center will bring you to this tranquil lake area, a popular site among locals and those who travel to Gothenburg from afar. It’s a great place for outdoor pursuits for everyone. You can take a romantic stroll beneath the leafy trees, take the kids on canoe rides, or work on your tan on the beach. Jumping from platforms and rocks is also a cool way to enjoy the lake’s waters. Novice and seasoned cyclists can take advantage of the scenic biking trail. And if you plan on bringing your furry friends when you travel Gothenburg, they can join in on the fun in this pet-friendly site.
What started out as architect Victor von Gegerfelt’s experiment in the 1870s is today one of Gothenburg’s most popular attractions. This indoor fish market resembles a Gothic church (hence its name, which translates to “fish church”). It’s a vital part of the city’s centuries-old fishing trade, and buying freshly caught fish, shellfish, and other types of seafood here is among the top things to do in Gothenburg. Participate in a 3-hour small group walking tour and learn more about how Feskekôrka and other important landmarks helped shape Gothenburg’s trading history.
For fans of anything related to automobiles, a visit to the Volvo Museum is one of the best things to do in Gothenburg. This seaside museum lies in the Arendal industrial park, about a half-hour’s drive east of the city center. On display are cars dating back to Volvo’s genesis in 1927, including the Volvo ÖV4 and the iconic P1800. But the museum isn’t all about cars. It also showcases Volvo buses, Volvo Aero aircraft, and inventions such as the three-point safety belt.
This spacious, beautiful zoo is part of the 137-hectare Slottskogen park in central Gothenburg and is among the oldest zoos in Sweden. Domestic and wild Nordic animals are the focus at Älghägnet, whose residents include moose, forest reindeer, and Humboldt penguins. In the summertime, some of the animals are transferred to the Slottskogen Children’s Zoo. Visitors can watch the animals eat during feeding time and listen to the zookeepers tell stories. These activities are part of the zoo’s efforts to educate both children and adults about wildlife and nature. If you plan to visit Gothenburg Zoo, the Linnéplatsens Hotell & Vandrarhem is a good choice for accommodation. This clean and charming hotel is just across from Slottskogen Park and to public transportation stops.
Oscar Fredrik Church
The amazing spires of this neo-Gothic style church seem to reach for the sky, an unmissable sight to those who visit Gothenburg and find themselves in the Olivedal district. The Swedish architect Helgo Zettervall, famed for church restorations, designed this building in the late 19th century. Named for King Oscar II, whose full name was Oscar Fredrik, the church features a roof with elaborate patterns and two-toned bricks. It’s just as colorful inside, with stained-glass windows and bright paintings of Biblical scenes. The church has undergone several renovations over the years, with the latest scheduled until December 2020. This and many other landmarks are worthy of great photographs when you visit Gothenburg. Go on a private photography tour, one that’s led by a professional shutterbug, and learn to create postcard-perfect images of the city’s most memorable landmarks.
Archipelago of Gothenburg
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, a trip to the Archipelago of Gothenburg might just be what you’re looking for. Go on an island-hopping jaunt to discover the gems that lie hidden along the coast. On the island of Brännö, for instance, there are lovely biking trails as well as calm beaches where even children can frolic safely. For excellent kayaking in summer, visit tiny Rivö. And if scuba diving is your thing, a trip to the island of Hönö is in order.
Just So You Know:
- Gothenburg is one of the world’s greenest cities; sustainability is a major priority. An example of the city’s environmental practices is the use of renewable wind energy to power Liseberg Amusement Park’s rides and attractions.
- Gothenburg is the birthplace of Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander, who starred in movies such as The Danish Girl (2015) and Tomb Raider (2018).
- One of the city’s nicknames, Little London, owes to the fact that many English and Scottish industrialists moved to Gothenburg in the 19th century.
- Gothenburg is home to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, which is also the National Orchestra of Sweden.
- Gothenburg restaurant employees Torbjörn Lilliebjelke and Anders Jonebring set a Guinness World Record for the tallest stack of tortillas (76.5 cm) in February 2019.
- The Danish city of Copenhagen is about a 3-hour drive south of Gothenburg. Meanwhile, Norway‘s capital, Oslo, is a 3-hour drive to the north of Gothenburg.
Where to Stay:
- ⭐⭐⭐ Hotel Royal – A lovely 18th-century establishment with ornately decorated rooms that also feature modern amenities, this family-owned hotel is a great choice for those wanting great value for money. Guests can enjoy free coffee or tea plus homemade cakes each afternoon, perfect for relaxing after a day of shopping at the nearby Nordstan Mall.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Avalon Hotel – Sleep in a smart and stylish room that has a big LED TV, oak or stone tile floors, and 4 different types of pillows. Take a dip in the rooftop pool to cool down on a hot day, and feast on delectable seafood in the chic, high-ceilinged restaurant.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Dorsia Hotel & Restaurant – Stay in the lap of luxury when you visit Gothenburg. Rich, vivid decor, Egyptian cotton bedding, and Internet TVBooking are just some of the rooms’ features. The restaurant, offering a fusion of French and international cuisine, is just as elegant.
Get Some Culture:
- Gothenburg Book Fair – What began as a trade fair for teachers and librarians in 1985 is now Scandinavia’s largest literary festival. It usually takes place in late September and showcases seminars, book/poetry readings, and meet-and-greet sessions between readers and writers.
- Museum of Gothenburg – The museum building itself is a piece of history, being the headquarters of the Swedish East India Company in the 18th century. The exhibitions cover a vast span of Gothenburg’s history from as far back as the Stone Age.
Grab A Bite:
- Kometen – This Michelin Plate restaurant has been delighting patrons with traditional Swedish dishes since 1934. There’s an extensive wine list to choose from, and meals are relaxed in the old-fashioned, comfortable atmosphere.
- Café Husaren – When you visit Gothenburg, don’t forget to try out this restaurant’s giant cinnamon buns, called Hagabullen. And look up while you’re sipping your espresso so you don’t miss the 19th-century glass roof. The café is located in a lovely listed building and is one of the most talked-about destinations in the historic Haga neighborhood.