City Guide

Four Hours in Gothenburg

31 Aug 2006 by Ciprian Hirlea

Gothenburg’s history is set deep in the swell of the Scandinavian waterways, but the rest of the city should not be missed. Felicity Cousins picks up a city pass and explores Sweden’s second city


1. Konstmuseum (Museum of Art)

Gothenburg is an easy city to take on – either on foot or by bicycle. Start at Goteplatsen, at the top of the main avenue Kungsportsavenyen (Kings Gate Avenue). Demanding full attention in the centre of the square is a fountain of Poseidon – supposedly the most photographed man in Gothenburg. Climb the steps of the Konstmuseum and you have a clear view straight down the main avenue to the sea. Inside the museum is the Nordic light exhibition, which features Ernst Josephson, PS Kroyer, Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn and Richard Bergh’s Nordic Summer Evening. The museum is also home to the Hasselblad Centre for Photographic Art, which shows temporary photography exhibitions. Open Tues/Thurs 11am-6pm, Wed 11am-9pm and weekends 11am-5pm, konstmuseum.goteborg.se. Entrance40SEK (£2.92).

2. Kungsportsavenyen and Haga district

From the square, walk along Kungsportsavenyen towards the sea. This is the main shopping street, with cafés and bars stretching out onto the broad pavements. Head left down Vasagatan, and walk for about 10 minutes into the Haga district. The city’s oldest suburb is defined by the traditional three-storey “County Governor” houses. Elegant houses like this were built after a law was passed in 1854 by the county governor that prevented houses being made only of wood (due to repeated fires). The district is pedestrianised, with cobbled streets and quiet courtyards. It’s a good place to enjoy a filka – a coffee with a cake or cinnamon bun. If you are short on time, jump on a tram or bus.

3. Restaurant Wasa Alle

Gothenburg has plenty of gourmet restaurants to choose from, especially where fresh seafood is concerned. But for something a little different, walk along Vasagatan until you see Wasa Alle on the left. Inside, it’s modern and funky, with chandeliers made of clustered light bulbs, and rugs and soft jazz. In his open kitchen, chef Mats Norstron creates off-the-wall masterpieces. The concept behind his restaurant is to make eating out an exciting experience, and more interesting than the usual process of scanning the menu, choosing and eating. Norstron’s menus are constantly changing and part of the intrigue is his novel combination of flavours. Indeed, when I had dessert I wasn’t expecting melon and dried Parma ham ice cream to float my boat, but the salty chunks were strangely refreshing. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, dinner Mon-Thurs 5.30pm-11pm, Fri 4pm-1am and Sat 6pm-1am. Tel +46 31 13 1370, wasaalle.se.

4. Boat down the moat

Back on Kungsportsavenyen, turn left and walk down to the old moat and Kungsportsplatsen. From here, take the Paddan boat tour, which passes beneath 20 bridges as it winds through the old moat and 17th century canals. The “cheese slicer” bridge is so low you have to get out of your seat and crouch as you go under it. A guide tells Gothenburg’s story in several languages. The city walls were fortified in 1621 with four gates, and the boat passes the main square, where 17th-century King Gustav Adolf’s statue stands, pointing to where the new city was to be built. It then tours the harbour, with the old shipbuilding yards and the new “IT village” on the north side of the river, as well as the newly opened opera house and the famous “lipstick” building, designed by London-born architect Ralph Erskine and Heikki Saerg in 1989. The trip lasts one hour and is free with the Göteborg pass after 3pm (95SEK/£6.95 without). Tel +46 31 60 96 70, paddan.com.

5. Tradgards-Foreningen horticultural gardens

Back on dry land, cross the road by the King’s Gate and head for the Horticultural Gardens – a 19th-century park that houses the city’s rosarium. Gothenburg has more than 175sqm of green space per person. The park runs along the moat where there is a large screen for events. The glass Palm House in the gardens, built in 1878, was based on Joseph Paxton’s 1851 Crystal Palace in London – although the Swedish version was a little luckier in situation and stands in the sunlight, housing tropical plants and butterflies. At one end of the park, bright roses dot the winding paths like paint spattered on an artist’s palette. The park has a 15SEK (£1) entry fee; the Palm House is 20SEK (£1.50).

The 24-hour Göteborg pass costs 210SEK (£15.40) and gives free access to public transport and admission to the sights mentioned above. (It also includes free hire of a bike to cycle this route.) You can buy the pass from the tourist office at Kungsportsplatsen 2, or from most major hotels. To buy the pass online visit goteborg.com.

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