48 Hours In: Gothenburg

Sweden’s second city takes its chance to shine during the long days of summer, says Nick Boulos

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Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Summer in Gothenburg is an enticing prospect. The days seem infinite, the air is balmy, and the city's half-million people make the most of the parks and outdoor cafés.

The Cultural Festival (kulturkalaset.goteborg.com), a six-day carnival with over 1,000 acts performing for free, kicks off on 14 August followed closely by the annual Jazz Festival (gothenburg jazzfestival.com) – three days of swing, gospel and blues starting on 24 August.

Touch down

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies from Stansted and Edinburgh to the most convenient airport, Gothenburg City, 12km north-west of the city. Buses to the centre (00 46 77 141 4300; flygbussarna.se) leave roughly every hour from 6.45am-8pm, taking 25 minutes for a return fare of 129 krona (£12.50). A taxi will cost Skr300 (£29) one way.

Other flights from the UK land at Landvetter airport, 30km east of the city centre. SAS (0871 226 7760; flysas.com) and British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) fly from Heathrow while Norwegian (020-8099 7254; norwegian.com) operates from Gatwick. Flights from Manchester with BA affiliate Sun-Air start on 27 August.

Buses from Landvetter leave about every 20 minutes from 4.50am-12.30am and take half an hour. A return ticket costs Skr189 (£18). A one-way taxi will set you back Skr400 (£39). All buses arrive at Nils Ericson Terminal (1) next door to the Central railway station.

Get your bearings

Sweden's second city – located at the mouth of the Gota River on the south-west coast – was founded almost four centuries ago by King Gustavus Adolphus II. Most of the points of interest are conveniently located within the compact heart of the city, with the port to the north.

A network of 13 tram lines criss-crosses the city, making it easy to explore the outer suburbs. A Skr25 (£2.40) ticket covers unlimited rides within a 90-minute period.

The main tourist information centre (2) can be found at Kungsportsplatsen 2 (00 46 31 368 4200; gothenburg.com; open 9.30am-8pm daily). A 48-hour Gothenburg City Card costs Skr395 (£38) and includes unlimited public transport, city tours and admission to most museums.

Check in

The Avalon Hotel (3) at Kungstorget 9 (00 46 31 751 0200; avalonhotel.se) has gone to great lengths to ensure a comfortable stay. The "feng shui certified" property features soft corners throughout, art by native painter Ernst Billgren and Swedish-made beds. There's also a glass-walled rooftop pool. Doubles from Skr1,495 (£145), including breakfast.

For something more traditional, try the Hotel Royal (4) at Drottninggatan 67 (00 46 31 700 1170; hotelroyal.nu). It's been welcoming guests since 1852, making it the oldest hotel in the city. Doubles start at Skr995 (£97), including breakfast.

Le Mat (5) at Kristinelundsgatan 13 (00 46 31 20 4800; lemat.se) offers decent accommodation on a budget. Housed on the top two floors of a nondescript office building, the 29 minimalist rooms are spotlessly clean and have flat-screen TVs. Bathroom facilities are shared, unless you manage to book room 15: the only one with an en-suite, available at no extra cost. Doubles start at Skr770 (£75), including breakfast.

Day One

Take a hike

Lording over Avenyn, the city's main thoroughfare, is Carl Milles' statue of a naked Poseidon (6). It caused quite a stir when it was unveiled in 1931; the Greek god's nether regions were deemed too prominent and some reshaping was ordered.

From here stroll along Avenyn and veer left at Kristinelundsgatan. After two blocks turn right on Gotabergsgatan, a quiet street with independent art galleries including Galleri Nils Aberg (7) at no 24 (00 46 31 20 12 83; gallerinilsaberg.se; noon-6pm Sat-Sun, to 6pm Weds-Fri). Back on Avenyn, wander past the flowerbeds towards Gustav Adolfs Square (8), where two bronzed lions guard the steps to the canal.

Continuing north you'll emerge at the port, the largest in Scandinavia. Directly ahead, colourful flags billowing from its masts, is the Barken Viking (9). The four-masted barque first set sail in 1907 and is now a hotel and restaurant. Turn left and head past the Opera House (10) until you reach the quayside Maritime Adventure Centre (11) (00 46 31 10 5950; maritiman.se; 11am-6pm daily May-Sept; Skr90/£8.75). Docked here are 20 historic vessels, most notably the Nordkaparen submarine that served the Swedish navy until 1983.

Lunch on the run

Stroll back to town to Strommingsluckan (12), a black burger van stationed at Magasinsgatan 17 (strommingsluckan.se). Ask Thomas for stromming, a snack of fried herrings with parsley butter, mash and lingonberries (Skr55/£5.30). Open 11am-3pm Mon-Fri, to 4pm Sat, closed Sundays.

Window shopping

There's something for everyone along Sodra Larmgatan (13), from cutting-edge clothes by local designers at Whyred at no 13 (00 46 31 7 11 30 00) to chocolatiers Kanold at no 14 (00 46 31 13 0561).

More retail therapy awaits on the adjacent street of Vallgatan (14) – accessed via a small alley lined with exotic plants. You'll find innovative trinkets at contemporary design store Krypton Form at no 17 (00 46 31 13 63 66). Shops are typically open 10am-4pm on Saturdays and closed Sundays.

An aperitif

Housed in a former school, Kino (15) at Linnegatan 21 (00 46 31 42 6332) is a small bar with a large outdoor terrace overlooking the boulevard. It's a lovely spot from which to watch the blue and white trams go by. The drink of choice is Vega, a cloudy ale from a microbrewery down the road. Open 4pm-1am daily; pints from Skr65 (£6.30).

Dining with the locals

Familjen (16) (00 46 31 20 7979; restaurang familjen.se) is the latest venture by Bjorn Persson, who also owns the nearby Michelin-starred restaurant, Kock & Vin (17) at Viktoriagatan 12 (00 46 31 701 7979; kockvin.se). The food at Familjen is sophisticated and, as the name suggests, diners are made to feel at home. Try the grilled pike perch from Lake Vanern (Skr245/£24).

Bhoga (18) (00 46 31 13 8018; bhoga.se) is a trendy bistro that opened in March. Diners can expect seasonal Scandinavian cuisine with an international twist such as local beef with artichokes and chimichurri spices. Mains from Skr175 (£17).

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Designed by Carl Wilhelm Carlberg and named after the acclaimed king who laid the foundations of the city, the Gustavi Cathedral (19) at Kyrkogatan 28 (00 46 31 731 6130) has a gilded timber altar flanked by Baroque angels. The cathedral that stands today is the third incarnation after fires in 1721 and 1802 destroyed the previous structures. Sunday mass is at 11am.

Out to brunch

Cafe Husaren (20) at Haga Nygata 26 (00 46 31 13 6378; cafehusaren.se) is something of an institution in Haga, the city's oldest neighbourhood. In a previous life, this listed building was a pharmacy, bank, bar and hat shop. Today, it serves the best fika in town – the Swedish tradition of a gossip over a coffee and cinnamon bun. The indulgent treats, made from a secret recipe and piled high in the window, are the size of dinner plates (Skr38/£3.70). Rolls, salads and smoothies are also on the menu.

Cultural afternoon

From Viking settlement to modern-day metropolis, Gothenburg's radical transformation is documented at the Gothenburg City Museum (21) located at Norra Hamngatan 12 (00 46 31 368 3600; stadsmuseum.gote borg.se; 10am-5pm daily except Mondays, to 8pm Weds; Skr40/£3.90). A ticket also allows entry into four other recommended museums including the Museum of Art (22) at Gotaplatsen (00 46 31 368 3500; konst museum.goteborg.se; 11am-5pm Fri-Sun, other days vary). An exhibition of works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol continues until 12 August.

A walk in the park

Located along the quiet banks of the Rosenlund canal is the Gothenburg Botanical Garden (23) at Carl Skottsbergs 22A (00 46 31 741 1100; gotbot.se; 10am-8pm daily). Gravel paths weave through woodland and rose gardens behind which statues peer. Meanwhile, the greenhouse contains exotic specimens from as far and wide as Madagascar and Pakistan. Make a pit stop at the Rosenkafeet Café (24) (00 46 31 80 9780; rosenkafeet.se) for a slice of soft gingerbread cake (Skr25/£2.40).

Take a ride

Sightseeing cruises with Paddan Boats (00 46 31 60 9670; stromma.se) depart up to three times an hour between April and October from the Kungsportsbron bridge (25). They travel along the canals taking in the shipyards and port while passing under 20 low bridges. Cruises last 50 minutes and cost Skr150 (£14.50).