Things to do in Gothenburg

Must-see Gothenburg sights

Gothenburg might be Sweden’s ‘second city’, but most natives (and visitors) will tell you they prefer it over Stockholm, the country’s capital. It’s not really hard to see why; Neoclassical architecture, sculpture-strewn parkland and a welcoming, relaxing spirit. The historic heart of the city is the old town, which is the best place to start your sightseeing, while heading further south brings you to its modern centre, Avenyn, Gothenburg’s showcase boulevard. Alive with flashy restaurants and quirky bars, crammed-full museums and impressive cultural institutions, Gothenburg is also a great place to come to eat, drink and shop.

  1. Get your bearings in Avenyn
  2. See great art at Gothenburg’s Museum of Art
  3. Scream your heart out at Liseberg
  4. Meet the animals at Slottsskogen
  5. Act natural at the Botanical Gardens
  6. Bathe and Bronze on the coast
  7. Explore south of the Avenyn

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Rough Guides

1. Get your bearings in Avenyn

Avenyn (Kungsportsavenyn) feels more like a French boulevard than a Swedish street. Lined with trees, shops and cafes spilling out onto the wide pavements, it’s always bustling with people - musicians, street vendors or locals just out for a wander and a chat. And why not join them? Sweden’s ‘second city’ doesn’t need to be explored at a fast pace, so you can take your time as you figure out what to do in Gothenburg. It starts at busy Kungsportsavenyn, where a statue of Karl IX stands. Be sure to also check out the splendid 19th-century theatre, Stora Teatern.

Best for: Nightlife, shops and restaurants.

Don’t miss: Thanks to its proximity to Gothenburg University, there are plenty of reasonably-priced restaurants in the area.

2. See great art at Gothenburg’s Museum of Art

The Konstmuseum, or Gothenburg Museum of Art, sits behind a Poseidon statue in a rectangular-shaped orange building. Inside, it houses a brilliant collection of Scandinavian paintings, many from the Nordic Light period at the turn of the 20th century, when young artists met at Skagen in north Denmark. This era is best portrayed in the Hip, Hip, Hurra! by P.S Kroyer, which depicts the artists toasting each other.

Best for: The masters and contemporaries housed under one roof.

Don’t miss: As well as regular admission tickets, the museum offers an annual ticket that also gives you entry to the City Museum, the Aquarium and Rohsska Museum.

3. Scream your heart out at Liseberg

For a day of letting your hair down, up and all over the place, don’t miss Liseberg. This amusement park is one of the best things to do in Gothenburg, and is the country’s biggest amusement park. Ready to see a whole new side to Sweden? Rides include the 145km/h (90mph) wooden rollercoaster, Balder; and AtmosFear, Europe’s second-tallest drop tower ride. Gulp.

Best for: Kids and fearless adults.

Don’t miss: Recover on ground by sprawling out in the parks’ spacious gardens.

4. Meet the animals at Slottsskogen

Gothenburg’s largest park is 137-hectare (340-acre) Slottsskogen (Castle Wood), reached via Linnégatan, with its own penguin pool. Here too is the Natural History Museum ( Naturhistoriska Museet ), the Djurpark (one of Sweden’s oldest zoos), as well as a children’s zoo in the summer, where the little ones can meet goats and pigs.

Best for: Penguins, pigs and picnics.

Don’t miss: The Canil Cafe; dogs pad around this cafe, fussed over by canine-crazy customers who buy them treats, and there’s a minimum spend which will just about get you a coffee.

5. Act natural at the Botanical Gardens

To the southeast, across Dag Hammarskjöldsleden, is Gothenburg’s Botaniska Trädgård (Botanic Garden), one of the largest botanical gardens in Europe, with more than 4,000 species in its massive rock garden. As well as blossom-speckled ponds, stone steps and a gushing waterfall, this huge hulk of space includes Finn Mosse, a natural reserve where the stillness of the lake is hemmed in by tall, thick trees, long grass and uneven trails.

Best for: Getting back to nature.

Don’t miss: Stop for a bite to eat at the Botanical Pavilion.

6. Bathe and Bronze on the coast

The coasts on either side of Gothenburg are brilliant spots for bathing, lazing… and Bronze Age history. This whole region is popular with Swedes, who come to stay in their stugor (rustic summer retreats) and is home to a whole host of things to do in Gothenburg. There’s Marstrand, Sweden’s ‘sailing capital’, which is dominated by the impressive Carlsten’s Fortress. Meanwhile, Bohuslän, to the north, is an ancient province - Bronze Age rock carvings can be seen at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tanum. If you want to explore this ancient era, hit up the Vitlycke Hällristningsmuseum (Rock Carvings Museum), who organise guided tours.

Best for: Exploring Gothenburg’s history.

Don’t miss: The evening tours of the unearthly petroglyphs – but bring a torch.

7. Explore south of the Avenyn

Back at the south end of Avenyn is Götaplatsen square. It’s guarded by Carl Milles’ fountain statue of Poseidon, which shocked citizens at its 1931 unveiling for being too big, too naked and too beardless. While the must-visit Art Museum sits just behind it, plenty of other cultural institutions flank the square. The Stadsteatern, the City Theatre, is a rather drab building and most events are in Swedish, so don’t feel guilty if you pass on this one. Move onto the Konserthuset (Concert Hall), home to the city’s Symphony Orchestra, then onto the achingly Scandi Stadsbibliotek (City Library). Round the day off with a performance at the theatre, Lorensbergsteatern. Looking for cheap holidays to Gothenburg? Hotels like Hotell Liseberg Heden, a green area within easy walking distance of the Avenyn, provide discount tickets to Liseberg theme park and is a popular choice for families.

Best for: Culture vultures.

Don’t miss: Keep this for an afternoon so you can visit one of the many delicious restaurants in the surrounding area for dinner.

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