We never had big plans to visit Gothenburg, which is Sweden’s second biggest city located in the southwest of the country on the river Göta Älv. This river feeds into Kattegatt, an arm of the North Sea. We chose Gothenburg because it was the departure point for some of the best sailing in Scandinavia. Coincidently, the weekend that we returned from our yacht charter, it so happened that the Volvo Ocean Race was in town, having ended its penultimate Leg 10. We’ve been following this exciting race and these amazing boats for a few years already and this would be a chance to experience some in-harbour racing and examine the boats up close and personally. So that’s how we came to spend a weekend in the busy Port of Gothenburg, the largest in Scandinavia.
On the Saturday afternoon, we checked into the delightful Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, which was conveniently located across from the station and within walking distance of the city centre and shopping areas.
Gothenburg is a great city for walking. In mid-June it was already green everywhere and brimming with displays of spring and summer flowers. The city is spotless, the restaurants overflow onto the pavements and squares, the trams and canal boats move up and down transporting visitors and locals and overall the city seems small enough to get to know reasonably well.
We took a walk along Vallgraven canal aiming to reach the Feskekôrka (Fish Church) which is a large indoor fish and shellfish market in the heart of the city. Before we reached it we passed a Fish and Chip food truck that was doling out the most inspiring looking portions of battered fish and generous portions of chips with remoulade. We couldn’t hold ourselves back and ended up sharing a portion. Well worthwhile!
We meandered on towards the Fish Church which is housed in what actually looks like an old gothic church. It was built in 1874 and is appealingly situated on the banks of the canal. People order from the food halls inside and then perch in the sun, munching on seafood and watching the world go by.
Our afternoon stroll took us towards the bohemian district of Haga. This is the oldest area of the city with lovely old timber buildings and cobbled streets. It seemed that all the cool people were sitting in the sun enjoying a fika.
The idea of fika appeals enormously. Basically it’s about enjoying a coffee and most likely a cinnamon bun, while spending time with friends or family. It made me think of Danish hygge. These Scandinavians know how to smell the roses!
We bought enormous chocolate-chip cookies and saved them for having with coffee that evening.
On Sunday we decided to visit the magnificent Botanical gardens. It was easy to reach by tram and although we only spent a couple of hours there, it’s vast enough to spend a full day if you take a picnic. The admission is free. The gardens are impressive and are laid out so that you pass areas of rock plants, forests, orchids and beautiful parks and waterfalls. At the highest point you have a wonderful view across the area. There are plenty of places to sit peacefully and admire the surrounds.
We spent the rest of the day at the Volvo Ocean Race Village. We ambled along the water’s edge passing the seven team bases and shopping the merchandise. Most interesting to visit was the domed Sustainability Centre where we discovered more about the horrifying and growing problem of plastic pollution in our oceans. Escaping a downpour, we also watched some hair-raising videos on life aboard the 65ft racing yachts.
At midday we were able to watch the in-harbour race. Enormous screens had been set up so you could enjoy the close up details of the race together with the broadcast explanations of the activity, while also seeing the boats return one by one, right beside us! Watching the crews, shimmy up the masts, de-rig the boats and carry the enormous sails was quite something.
After another great cup of Scandinavian coffee and a delicious pastry (we were getting the hand of this fika thing!) we headed back to our hotel.
That night we decided it was time for Swedish Pølsa (hotdogs) and the foodhall at the station did not disappoint.