A drab city in a boring country? Far from it. Anybody visiting the world athletics championships that start next weekend in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, or Goteborg, will be in for a pleasant surprise. Trams, trees, canals and some fine 17th-century buildings contribute to the city's relaxed elegance. Walk down Aveny, Gothenburg's famous tree-lined main street, and you could be forgiven for thinking you are in Italy or France. A few streets away a new opera house complements the city's theatre, concert hall and art gallery.

Foodies should make for the market hall (standing on an ancient site, though the current building was constructed in the 1880s). At the stalls inside you can buy everything from freshly baked bread and continental cheeses to glistening Swedish lobster, large prawns and even reindeer meat.

Do bring your suntan lotion. The summers are by no means insipid. The days are long and the sun never really sets - clubbers calling it a night at 1am will find the sky still has a faint orange glow. And if it gets too hot, head for the well-kempt west coast. There are lots of secluded coves, sheltered beaches and attractive fishing villages near the city.

How to fly there: British Airways (0345 222111) flies from both Gatwick and Heathrow to Gothenburg, and SAS (0345 010789) only from Heathrow; the lowest fare on both airlines for August is pounds 186.30.

How to sail there: Scandinavian Seaways (01255 241234) sails to Gothenburg from Harwich (twice weekly) and Newcastle (once weekly). A mini-cruise in summer costs pounds 112 per person sharing a two-berth cabin; a five-night city break costs pounds 199.

Who to ask: Swedish Tourist Office, 73 Welbeck Street, London W1M 8AN (0171-935 9784). Or go to http://www.wca95.org/ on the Internet.

David Cross

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