A historic town with 21st-century attitude
City Slicker: Gothenburg - New flights have put Sweden's second city within easier reach. Sarah Donnelly offers ideas for first-time and returning visitors
Sunday 12 December 2010
Sweden's second city has one foot in its romantic past, another firmly in the present: 17th-century grandeur makes room for post-modern angularity along the tree-lined boulevards, making it a town of two very pleasant halves.
And now it's within easier reach of the UK, thanks to new flights from British Airways out of Heathrow.
Once there, it's also easy to get around. The compact city centre can be comfortably explored on foot, though there is also an extensive tram network, particularly alluring in chillier weather. A Gothenburg Pass allows unlimited use of trams, as well as entry into most of the city's museums and guided boat tours (goteborg.com).
One of Gothenburg's highlights is its outstanding selection of top quality restaurants, five of which have Michelin stars. But even beyond these hallowed dining rooms, there are plenty of chances to enjoy traditional or more avant garde cooking – seafood is inevitably recommendable as this is an important port.
There are lots of cultural offerings, too, including the upcoming Gothenburg International Film Festival (giff.se), from 28 January to 7 February. Film screenings, seminars and workshops will take place in various venues across the city.
The Haga District. Quaint wooden buildings and cobbled streets characterise this atmospheric shopping area. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine in one of its bars, such as Sjöbaren (sjobaren.se). Or drop into a café for a traditional fika – a coffee with cinnamon bun.
Liseberg Amusement Park (lise berg.se). One of Sweden's most popular attractions. Until 23 December, it hosts Scandinavia's largest Christmas market, with a skating rink and ice bar. During the rest of the year, it is the setting for a traditional fairground.
The Göteborg Opera (opera.se). Opera and musicals from around the world are staged here, but even if you don't intend to watch a show, the opera house is worth a look. With the harbour as a backdrop, architect Jan Izikowitz designed the building to resemble a ship's hull in homage to the city's maritime heritage.
The Fishmarket Hall. This cavernous Gothic building is known locally as the Feskesörke or "Fish Church" because it looks more like a place of worship. Here you can buy fresh seafood snacks to take away, or dine on hearty food at Restaurant Gabriel on the first floor (Fisktorget, 411 20, Gothenburg).
The museums. Gothenburg has plenty worth recommending, including the Röhsska Museum of Fashion, Design and Decorative Art (design museum.se). The Röhsska cites London's V&A as its "mother museum", but focuses on Swedish design over the past 150 years. For some family fun, try the Universeum (universeum.se), a kind of miniature Eden Project-cum-science museum.
This chic district – its name translates as Inside the Moat – marks the spot for Gothenburg's burgeoning café culture. The narrow streets are crammed with trendy boutiques and coffee shops, including the newly opened da Matteo Panetteria in Magasinsgatan (damatteo.se). This sourdough bakery is run by Matts Johansson, a local businessman with a passion for good quality produce. Matts is a man on a mission to keep Inom Vallgraven free from mainstream coffee chains, and he seems to be winning the battle. The Panetteria serves fresh bread and ethically sourced coffee in tastefully decorated surroundings.
The Wheel of Gothenburg
Sweden's answer to the London Eye is currently open at weekends, but from March 2011 it will operate daily. Enjoy spectacular views from one of its pods, and see some of the festive light displays that have been specially designed to be visible only from the top of the wheel.
Details: goteborg.com/ wheelofgothenburg.
Linnea Art Restaurant
Linnea originally opened in 1998, but was closed for extensive refurbishment after a recent fire. This year, with the help of seven Swedish artists, it re-opened as an art restaurant. The interior consists of a bar, a bistro and a small fine-dining section, each part containing works from its own dedicated artist, among which is experimental glasswork by Anna Ehrner. The menu has a strong seafood bias, and focuses on traditional Swedish flavours.
This friendly recent addition to Gothenburg's bar scene stocks about 300 speciality beers from Sweden and around the world. Book a beer tasting and let barman Pelle Frost take you on a tour of the extensive beer menu, from treacly stouts to pale ales, some of which come from the nearby Ocean Brewery (ocean bryggeriet.se).
Eve Charbi, Waitress
The bar at the top of Gothia Towers Hotel is very romantic and serves great cocktails. Otherwise, go out to the island of Marstrand. It has an old fortress and, in summer, they stage concerts and plays there.
How to get there
British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) operates twice daily flights to Gothenburg from Heathrow from £56.50 one way. BA also offers three-night stays at the four-star Scandic Europa from £228 per person, for January 2011 departures, including return flights from Heathrow and B&B (0844 493 0758; ba.com/ Gothenburg).
Visit Sweden (visitsweden .com/city breaks).
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