The Travel Issue: Gothenburg in August

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Budget airlines have transformed our idea of the weekend break. In just over a decade the cheap flight has revealed the particular pleasures of a great many less well-known European destinations: Gothenburg is one of the best.

Geography is fate for cities. Gothenburg, which is Sweden's second city, was founded in 1621 when it was the country's only direct access to the North Sea – a narrow strip of coast hemmed in by Norwegian territory to the north and the Danes to the south. Its position at the mouth of the river Gota has made it the greatest port in Scandinavia. Dutchmen were employed by King Gustavus Adolphus to drain the marshes and build the canals for his pocket St Petersburg with elegant neo-classical architecture.

They're still mad for boats here. Much of the city's business and pleasure are still based upon the water. A great network of ferries brings the working population in to the centre from islands in the archipelago; tall-masted clippers on the waterfront remind you that the Swedish East India Company was established here in the 18th century, bringing goods from China; yachts abound, as do canoes, kayaks, speedboats and barges. Even the recently built opera house evokes a great ocean-going liner.

It's well worth taking the hour-long boat-trip around the city, through the canals, the river and past the heroic floating dry docks to see how much Gothenburg owes to its maritime past and present. The city's graceful architecture also looks at its best from water. Beyond the city lies the Bohuslan archipelago of islands, with beaches and pretty hamlets, a natural world of simple summer family pleasures easily reached by the ferries. The other great waterborne experience is to take a trip along Gota Canal. You can also cycle or walk or canoe, but the most comfortable way through the green countryside is on a 19th-century steamer with overnight accommodation and first-rate food.

As a trading port it has always been a cosmopolitan place. The Dutch built it and ran it in its early days, it was a Scotsman who founded the East India Company, and another Scot endowed the Chalmers University, Sweden's top university and one of the world's great research centres for science, technology and architecture. The city is also home to several of Sweden's leading companies, including Volvo and Ericsson.

In the two key areas for visitors of food and culture, Gothenburg rivals and possibly surpasses Stockholm. The area has long been noted for its outstanding fish and seafood and this has made it Sweden's gastronomic centre. In the past decade, seven of the Swedish chefs of the year have been from Gothenburg and four of the many excellent restaurants in the city have Michelin stars. The most outstanding is Sjomagasinet, in a beautiful wooden warehouse built for the East India Company in 1775 near the Gota river. Its chef-proprietor, Leif Mannerstrom, is the elder statesman of Swedish gastronomy and devoted to fish, which he selects each day from the fish quay 200 metres along the waterfront from the restaurant. The tender austerity of traditional Swedish cuisine – simple, high-quality ingredients, salt-sugar savouriness – in Mannerstrom's hands becomes a rich and exquisite pleasure, and his pickled herring is a peak experience. For a more adventurous and internationally influenced cuisine try Fond in the heart of the city, next to the Arts Museum. Chef Stefan Karlsson also has a Michelin star.

Culture too has long been important to the city. In addition to the great opera house on the waterfront it is home to the Gothenburg Symphony – the Swedish national orchestra – and its acoustically brilliant Art Deco Concert Hall. The Arts Museum houses a fine collection of works by leading Scandinavian artists like Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson and Peter Kroyer. There's a room devoted to the highly original Ivar Arosenius (1878-1909), whose quirky, folklore-influenced paintings and drawings show that his early death may have robbed the world of a brilliant animated film-maker.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent