Somewhere for the weekend... Gothenburg

This Swedish city is often overlooked as people jet off to Stockholm, but its attractions include the cobbled streets of the old quarter and a unique Christmas market
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The Independent Travel

WHY GO NOW?

For some unusual Christmas shopping, head for Gothenburg, where the Christmas market, which has been running at weekends since November, today becomes a daily affair until 23 December. It's held in Liseberg, Sweden's largest amusement park. There are more than 60 stalls, selling tasteful handicrafts, such as bedwarmers made from oat-filled linen cloths, and warming food, such as slices of reindeer in pitta bread. The dark nights are kept at bay by more than three million light bulbs strung from the park's trees - one double oak tree is decorated with 300,000 lights - while there is also an ice-skating rink to add to the festive atmosphere. You won't be alone: over the season more than 600,000 people come here.

Entrance to the park costs 50 Kr (£4). For more information on the market call 00 46 31 40 01 00, or visit www.liseberg.se. In Gothenburg, visit the tourist information office on Kungsportplatsen 2 (00 46 31 61 25 00). For general information, call the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council (00800 3080 3080, www.visit-sweden.com).

DOWN PAYMENT

SAS (0870 60 727 727, www.scandinavian.net) flies twice a day to Gothenburg's Landvetter airport with fares this Friday from £120 return. The airport bus takes 30 minutes to the centre and costs 60Kr (£4.70). A taxi into the town centre costs 310Kr (£24). Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com) flies twice a day from Stansted to Gothenburg's second airport, Save; fares start from £35 this weekend. A taxi from Save airport costs 270Kr (£21), the airport bus costs 60Kr (£4.70).

INSTANT BRIEFING

The largest port in Scandinavia and home to 500,000 people, Gothenburg pushes up against the Gota river, where you will find the old town, divided by two Dutch-built canals. The main thoroughfare, where the showcase shops are located, is Avenyn, which runs for almost a mile to Gotaplatsen, the square in front of the city art museum and a large statue of Poseidon. Just south of the canal system lies Haga, a culturally listed 19th-century district of cobbled streets and wooden houses. Gothenburgers seem to be a uniformly friendly bunch, while another pleasant surprise is to discover the city is surprisingly affordable, with prices generally slightly lower than the UK.

Most points of interest, including Liseberg, are within easy walking distance of the city centre. Walking, in fact, is a breeze: on all but the most major roads, pedestrians have priority over cars. There is a good network of trams and buses and you should consider buying the Gothenburg card (175 Kr/£13.70 for adults for 24 hours, 295kr/£23 for 48 hours). This allows entry to all museums, Liseberg and unlimited use of public transport. Also enquire at the tourist office about the Gothenburg package scheme, which puts together hotel, breakfast and the Gothenburg card. It costs from 485Kr (£37.90) per person.

REST ASSURED

Among the finest addresses in town is the Elite Plaza Hotel, Vastra Hamngatan 3 (00 46 31 720 40 00, www.elite.se), which offers doubles from 1,200Kr (£94). It has a classy, contemporary feel, along with high stucco ceilings and English mosaic floors. A good mid-range choice is the Hotel Riverton, Stora Badhusgatan 26, (00 46 31 750 10 00, www.riverton.se) up by the harbour, which has stylish rooms from 1,000Kr (£78). The pictures of Greta Garbo in the foyer of the recently restored 19th-century Excelsior, Karl Gustavsgatan 7 (00 46 31 17 54 35, www.hotelexcelsior.nu), testify to the fact she once laid her head here, as did Ingrid Bergman. Rooms from 760Kr (£60).

Gothenburg's most unusual bed for the night is to be found in the Barken Viking, Gullbergskajen (00 46 31 63 58 00, www.liseberg.se/barkenviking) a beautifully converted freight ship moored by the opera house. A single cabin costs 500Kr (£39). Prices quoted are weekend rates, and include breakfast.

MUST SEE

The jewel of Gothenburg's cultural attractions is its art museum (00 46 3161 2980, www.konstmuseum.goteborg.se open Tuesday and Thursday, 11am-6pm, Wednesday until 9pm, Friday to Sunday 11am-5pm, admission 40Kr/£3.10). This has one of the world's finest collections of turn-of-the-century Nordic art housed in the Furstenburg galleries, and includes works by Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn. There's also a decent collection of Impressionists and 20th-century masters.

Gothenburg has a strong maritime history. For an insight into seafaring ventures head for City Museum at Norra Hamngaten 12 (00 46 31 61 27 70, open 10am-5pm daily except Monday , Wednesdays until 8pm), in the old Swedish East India Company building. It houses a small but fascinating exhibition on Sweden's exploits in the East Indies, while a whole floor is devoted to the Vikings. Entrance costs 40kr (£3.10). It is also worth taking the Alv-Snabben ferry for a round trip in the harbour. Tickets cost 20Kr (£1.55), free to Gothenburg Pass holders. Also be sure to wander around Haga, with its distinctive houses of two wooden storeys built upon a ground floor of stone.

MUST BUY

Stained glass is a Swedish speciality, and there is a wide choice, with prices typically starting at 780 Kr (£60), in Duka Josephssons, 34 Kyrkogatan. For national handicrafts head for Bohusslojd, Avenyn 25, where those ever-present painted Dala horses cost from around 221 Kr (£17). At Feskekorkan, the city fish market, close to the canal on Rosenlundsgatan, you can buy a kilo of gravad lax - salmon marinated with dill - for around 250Kr (£19.50).

MUST EAT

Hos Pelle, at Djupedalsgatan 2 (00 46 31 12 1031) is a classy neighbourhood restaurant that attracts people from across the city. Three courses and wine cost around £90 for two people. Elsewhere, look out for Dagens lunch, the set meal which can be excellent value. Hemma Hos, at Haga Nygaten 12 (00 46 31 13 40 90) offers a set deal with fish, beef or chicken for just 70Kr (£5.50). Gothenburg's plentiful and excellent cafés are well worth exploring. Froken Olssons Kafe at Ostra Larmgatan 14 offers a good selection of sandwiches and muffins while Jacobs Café at Haga Nygaten 10 offers huge bagels in a Jugend décor setting with beautiful lamps - Swedish art nouveau.

INTO THE NIGHT

Liseberg stays open until 10pm (8pm on Sundays), so you can happily pass the hours with the odd warming cup of glogg. After that, the first block of Avenyn is full of bars; Bryggeriet at no 3 has a relaxed crowd or try the Konserthuset on Gotaplatsen, (00 46 31 726 5310, www.gso.se), home to the national symphony orchestra.

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