Gothenburg Christmas market: A smorgasbord of festive fun - Europe - Travel - The Independent

Gothenburg Christmas market: A smorgasbord of festive fun

Christmas in Gothenburg is a light- and food-filled extravaganza

I didn't travel all the way to Gothenburg to seek the spirit of Christmas in an amusement park. Commercialisation was what I'd hoped to leave at home: lights up after Halloween, mince pies in the shops come November, Christmas sales begun before the partridge even settles in the pear tree. The Swedes, I'd heard, showed more restraint. And yet here I was, 12 days before Christmas, standing at the gates of Christmasland. Or rather, Jul på Liseberg. Christmas at Liseberg. "Liseberg amusement park has the largest Christmas market in Scandinavia!" chirped our guide. "Our display uses five million fairy lights! Last weekend we welcomed over 47,000 guests!"

Fantastic. Prepared for the worst, I stepped inside. Rather irritatingly, it was beautiful. It helped that it was a Thursday afternoon, and the sparse crowds comprised happy, well-behaved children and smiling, well-dressed adults. Helped, too, that the park is filled with trees, that its oldest buildings date from the 18th century – and that velvety, forgiving darkness falls early in these parts at this time of year. But more importantly, it was done so well, from the smart red and white huts of the cleverly laid-out market to the pretty bower where good old jul tomta listened to earnest children reciting Christmas wish lists.

Fire pits and torches burned bright, casting dancing shadows across the canal, the ice rink, and the Laplander tepees. Reindeer wandered along the park paths, towing beaming tiny tots on sledges. Even the ice bar, which, let's face it, was created in a giant fridge (it rarely snows in coastal Gothenburg), managed to pass the ambience meter; the drinks, at the very least, were beautiful: luminous berry concoctions served in carved frozen tumblers. We passed on dinner and opted for sweets instead: a giant Toblerone bar the size of a large infant, won on the wheel of fortune. Fuelled on sugar, caffeine and victory, I forgot my earlier misgivings. Surely all Christmases should be about screaming madly on the carousel, and taking on 12-year-olds on the bumper cars, no?

Such joys were just the beginning of this Christmas immersion. Strolling back into town, we stopped at yet another ice rink to warm our hands by the fire pit, our gullets with hot glögg (spicy mulled wine) and to pick up decorations from a charity-run market hut. Charity scored again at the indoor market at Kronhuset, the city's oldest building, where the not-much-younger gentlemen of the local Lions Club charmed us with hot dogs, whisky-infused mustard and yet more glögg; shopping on Oxford Street was never as much fun.

The culinary highlight of the trip, however, was not the hotdogs, nor the glögg, nor the pepparkakor ginger-snaps proffered by every shop and market stall. It was the Julbord. Like a smorgasbord, only with added Christmas, this was the mother of all meals. Ensconsed for the evening in the elegant dining room of Wasa Allé, surrounded by groups of smart Swedes enjoying their office Christmas celebrations, we faced down seven courses of organically grown and locally sourced Swedish tradition. Seven courses is a misleading description, given that each "course" consisted of an entire buffet; the herring course, for example, included 10 types of pickled herring, boiled potatoes, soft cheese and bread.

We rolled back to our hotel along the "Lane of Light", 3km of illuminations. Gothenburg bills itself as "Scandinavia's Christmas city", and each year unleashes a themed barrage of audio-visual displays. "We all need light," explained Kristina Hulterström, art director of these extravaganzas. "It's a dark country."

In fact, in Scandinavia the light bit of Christmas is so important that it gets its own day. We awoke the next morning to a thankfully small breakfast of saffron buns, or lussekatter; the official sign, along with the light-bearing Saint Lucia herself, that the Christmas season has begun. Officially 13 December, though in practice celebrated for most of that week, the tradition features processions of softly singing white-robed blondes led by a Lucia with candles in her hair.

There are Lucia processions in schools and offices; Lucia sing-alongs on television, and popular Lucia services in church. My favourite, though? The SAS staff choir at the airport, calmly weaving through the departures area. As the crowds heard the familiar notes of the Lucia song, they parted reverently and fell silent, until the choir passed beyond the baggage reclaim area. Enchanting.

Travel essentials: Gothenburg

Getting there

You can fly from Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester to Gothenburg on SAS (0870 602 7727; flysas.com), and from Stansted and Glasgow on Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com).

n VisitSweden's new city-breaks site, visitsweden.com/citybreaks, includes the "Brilliant Christmas" package to Gothenburg, starting at £112 per person. This includes one night in a double room, breakfast and a GöteborgPass – which covers public transport, Liseberg entry and a host of other benefits.

Sleeping & eating there

The Avalon Hotel (00 46 31 751 02 00; avalonhotel.se), a member of the Design Hotels group ( designhotels.com), offers B&B from SK1,341 (£116).

Julbord at the Restaurant Wasa Allé (00 46 31 13 13 70; wasaalle.se) is SK395 (£34) per head at lunch, SK595 (£52) in the evenings, and must be booked in advance.

More information

Liseberg Amusement Park: 00 46 31 400100; liseberg.se

In Stockholm, find Lucia celebrations (13 December) and a Christmas market at Skansen (00 46 8 442 82 70; skansen.se), a living heritage museum. Lucia is also in Malmo ( malmocity.se). Note that this year's festival coincides with the climate change summit in Copenhagen, Malmo's Danish neighbour.

visitsweden.com; goteborg.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week