In the 17th century, Gothenburg (or Göteborg) was envisioned and created to become the most important trading port in Scandinavia. Now the second-largest city in Sweden, it’s a lively travel destination full of museums and galleries, modern industrial design, indie coffee shops, and an array of picturesque islands right off the coast.
Often overshadowed by Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, Gothenburg has a relaxed atmosphere everywhere you go. While its transformation over the past few decades has brought a plethora of new cultural venues and Michelin-starred restaurants, the city retains its down-to-earth charm.
Before you get to know all the things there are to do in Gothenburg, it’s worth mentioning the Gothenburg Pass. If you pick up one of these electronic cards at the beginning of your trip, you’ll receive free entry to over 30 attractions in the city, including many mentioned below. Passes can be valid for one to five days and include unlimited travel on the Hop On – Hop Off buses and boats. For adults, they cost from 395 to 1135 Swedish krona (SEK) and include the option of an additional travel card. If you want to see as much as possible while in Gothenburg, the pass will certainly make your trip easier and save you a lot of time and money.
Now, it’s time for you to get inspired and start planning your trip! Here are fun and fascinating 20 things to do in Gothenburg, Sweden.
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Table of Contents
Gothenburg Museum of Art
The prestigious Gothenburg Museum of Art is one of the finest museums in Northern Europe. Among the permanent exhibitions are masterpieces by both Nordic and international artists, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso, Edvard Munch, Albert Edelfelt and many others. In 2018, it was awarded the title of “Museum of the Year” in Sweden for its variety of collections and creative research.
One of the most fascinating parts of the museum is the Fürstenberg Gallery, featuring Nordic art from the beginning of the 20th century. Of course, there are always interesting and diverse temporary exhibitions held too. The museum store sells a range of books on different art styles, as well as posters, prints and postcards to take home.
The Gothenburg Museum of Art is closed on Mondays and on all public holidays. It opens from 11 a.m. with differing closing times, so avoid going too late in the afternoon. Free entry is offered to visitors under the age of 25. Anyone older or without a Gothenburg Pass is required to pay 60 SEK as well as an additional cost for any special exhibitions.
One of the most entertaining attractions in Gothenburg is Liseberg Amusement Park. Founded in 1923, Liseberg has since been chosen by Forbes as one of the top amusement parks in the world and has grown to be one of the best in Scandinavia.
Within the amusement park are several iconic rides such as Balder, which was twice awarded “Best Wooden Tracked Roller Coaster” in an international poll. There’s also Helix, the longest and fastest steel roller coaster in Scandinavia; AtmosFear, the longest free-fall drop in Europe; and Mechanica, a star-shaped attraction spinning 30 metres in the air.
In addition to the adrenaline-inducing activities, the park has arcade games, children’s rides, restaurants, landscaped gardens and a summer concert programme. With so many things to do for both kids and adults, there’s definitely something here for everyone. Liseberg also gets into the Christmas spirit with festive decorations, markets and shows, and even turns extra spooky for Halloween.
Entry to Liseberg is free with the Gothenburg Pass or 110 SEK without.
Gothenburg Botanical Garden
Gothenburg’s botanical garden is one of the largest and most extravagant in Europe. Across its nature reserve and arboretum are over 16,000 different species of plants. Walking through the garden, you’ll come across natural beauty from all parts of the world.
The Botaniska app can suggest routes and take you on a mini guided tour through the garden. Marvel at the stunning waterfall at the rock garden, watch the koi fish swimming in the reflective pool, admire the gorgeous rhododendron valley, and relax on the spacious green lawns.
Even more, the garden is home to some rare tree species, including the toromiro or Easter Island tree. 4,000 or so plants are kept within greenhouses, including 1,500 orchids, so you can visit no matter the season. Admission to each greenhouse is free with the Gothenburg Pass or 20 SEK without.
The Archipelago of Gothenburg
One of the best scenic getaways from the city is the Gothenburg Archipelago. Not far off the coast, the 20 plus islands are divided into northern and southern archipelagos. The southern islands are car-free and can be reached by ferry from the Saltholmen boat terminal. The northern islands, however, are connected via highway 155, although you can also catch the ferry from the Lilla Varholmen terminal. If you’re in Gothenburg for a decent amount of time, it’s worth dedicating a weekend trip to both archipelagos.
Hönö is one of the most visited islands within the northern archipelago. There are hotels, restaurants, vintage clothing stores, and even a stunning nature reserve, Ersdalen. Källö Knippla is worth visiting too, with a few nice swimming spots and a walking path circling the entire island.
Arriving at Donsö, you’ll notice the red fishing boats lining the shore. The island’s harbour is considered the heart of the southern archipelago. Enjoy a traditional lunch at the lovely restaurant on the pier and admire the views from the Radarberget hill. If you want to see some unique birdlife, head to the secluded nature reserve on Vrångö, the southernmost of all the islands. For a relaxing end to the day, soak in the floating sauna at Kajkanten.
The city’s main park, Slottsskogen, is adored by locals. Spread out over 140 hectares, the land was once a forest belonging to the former Älvsborg Fortress. On the east side is an English garden with expansive lawns, walking paths and towering trees.
Despite being in the heart of Gothenburg, you are able to encounter fascinating Nordic animals here, such as elks, Gotland ponies and Gute sheep. There’s even a pond with penguins and seals, and a petting zoo during the summer months.
Numerous events are held at the park throughout the year, including the annual Way Out West music festival in August. You can enjoy a cup of coffee or a light meal at Café Björngårdsvillan, one of the park’s cosy cafes that has been around since 1906.
Haga is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Gothenburg and has undergone huge transformations since the mid-17th century. Once a rather run-down neighbourhood with a bad reputation, it’s now one of the most treasured and visited parts of the city.
Come and wander the main pedestrian street, Haga Nygata, which is lined with independent shops, atmospheric cafes and well-preserved wooden houses. The 19th-century architectural style found in the area is called landshövdingehus and is completely unique to Gothenburg.
At the top of Haga is the Skansen Kronan a remnant of a 17th-century artillery fortification. Although you can’t currently enter inside, the view from the redoubt across the city is one to remember.
The indoor fish market (Feskekörka) has been an institution in Gothenburg since 1874. Interestingly, Feskekörka translates to “fish church” rather than market. It received this name for its exterior resemblance to a neo-Gothic church. This design was intentional, inspired by Gothic architecture and Norwegian Stave churches.
Residents come to the market in the morning to purchase fresh fish and shellfish. Tourists, however, might prefer to dine in at one of the two seafood restaurants inside. The market opens around 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday (or until 3 p.m. on Saturday).
Travelling with children? The kids will have a ball at Universeum, the largest science centre in Scandinavia. The museum approaches a range of subjects in a way that is engaging and easy to understand, with exhibitions like an ocean zone with hundreds of fish species and an intriguing space station. The reptile exhibit is home to venomous snakes and lizards from around the world, and the chemistry lab demonstrates how everything occurring around us is a chemical process.
Despite being kid-focused, even adults without much prior scientific knowledge can get a lot out of the exhibitions. One of the best all-ages attractions at Universeum is the rainforest cube, modelled after a rainforest in South America. Kept at the same temperature and humidity year-round, the immersive environment is full of lively animals like toco toucans and red-eyed tree frogs. Even more, it educates visitors about ecological preservation and biological diversity.
The centre also has a restaurant and a vegetarian cafe on level one, as well as a rooftop garden eatery. Universeum is open 365 days per year and is free with the Gothenburg Pass. The normal entry price is 275 SEK for adults and 225 SEK for children.
Gothenburg Opera House
Along the Lilla Bommen section of the harbour is the Gothenburg Opera House (or Göteborgsoperan). Open since 1994, the post-modern building was carefully designed by architect Jan Izikowitz to create unique acoustics.
While the guided tours are in Swedish only, private tours with at least 10 people can be conducted in English. However, some panel discussions and most performance introductions are in English. If you’re here during performance season beginning in August, you can enjoy an entertaining evening of opera or ballet.
One of the best things to do in Gothenburg at night is to attend a concert here at no cost. The free events are held each spring and during the Gothenburg Culture Festival in August. You’ll need to book ahead of time though, as tickets are always in high demand.
Museum of World Culture
Exploring the Museum of World Culture (located next to the Universeum) is one of the many incredible free things to do in Gothenburg. The thorough program offers everything from film screenings, seminars, performances and contemporary art exhibitions. It’s a place to ponder both historic and current issues in the world.
The modern building is worth appreciating too. Constructed using cement and glass, it features a four-storey glass wall that faces luscious green mountains. The museum is open from midday until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekends.
Gothenburg’s Horticultural Society (also called the Garden Society of Gothenburg, or Trädgårdsföreningen in Swedish) offers a gorgeous central park for everyone to appreciate. This picturesque place was founded in the mid-1800s by King Carl XIV Johan.
One of its most notable features is the rose garden with over 4,000 roses that bloom vibrantly during the summer. Take a look around at the historic buildings throughout the park, such as the palm house (Palmhuset) built in 1878. Within the elegant palm house are numerous greenhouses and sculptures, as well as restaurants and cafes.
The Röhsska Museum is focused on design, craft and fashion. Founded in 1904, it holds over 50,000 handcrafted objects from Sweden and Europe, as well as other works of art from Japan and China.
The permanent exhibitions range from 19th-century industrialism and modernism to the influence of East Asian crafts on Nordic contemporary design. You can also view haute couture and designer clothing collections from the 20th and 21st centuries. Temporary exhibitions often cover relevant social issues, such as the role design can play in environmentalism and protecting our oceans.
Open from 11 a.m. every day except Monday, Röhsska demonstrates the ways design is all around us. One of the hosts can give you a quick 15-minute introduction of the museum and its history, including short presentations on all current exhibits. Admission is free with the Gothenburg Pass and for those under 25 or 60 SEK without.
In the outskirts of Gothenburg in the neighbourhood of Mölndal is a charming country house. The Neoclassical Gunnebo House was built in the 18th century as a summer villa. Today, visitors can appreciate the cultural landmark and wander the idyllic, organically-certified gardens year-round. Free guided tours are available with the Gothenburg Pass, although you may need to pre-book for an English tour.
During the colder months, the snow transforms Gunnebo into a picture-perfect winter wonderland. A free Christmas market is held annually, offering unique eco-friendly crafts. While you’re here, enjoy lunch at Kaffehus och Krog inside the house’s service building. Regular opening hours are between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.
In the very west of the city is the Volvo Museum. If you didn’t know, Gothenburg is the birthplace of Volvo and its headquarters still remain here. For those with an interest in luxury vehicles, it’s definitely worth going out of your way to check out.
The exhibits showcase almost every single model Volvo has made since 1927. See some of the classics, as well as concept cars never intended for sale and even a Volvo Aero fighter jet! Of course, you’ll receive free entry with the Gothenburg Pass. The museum is open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekends.
Oscar Fredrik Church
One of the most interesting churches in Gothenburg is the Oscar Fredrik Church in the Masthugget area. Built in the early 1890s, its style is inspired by European Gothic Revival architecture and is very different from typical Scandinavian Gothic structures. It easily stands out as one of the most vibrant buildings in the city, so come and see for yourself what makes this church so magnificent.
One of the best tours offered is a paddan sightseeing cruise. For this tour, you’ll hop aboard a traditional boat unique to Gothenburg called a paddan. These narrow, low-hulled boats are small enough to navigate through all the 17th-century canals and the old moat and pass under at least 20 bridges along the way.
Boats depart along the harbour two to three times per hour and allow you to hop on and off when you like, or you can book your own hour-long guided tour. It’s an excellent way to see the sights from a new perspective.
30 metres below Gothenburg’s Säve Airport is a fascinating underground hangar. Now used as a museum, it showcases historic machines from the Cold War era and provides insights into Sweden’s involvement. The exhibit on Swedish spies is particularly captivating. Also on display are modern aircraft, helicopters and other vehicles.
A popular public square in Gothenburg is Götaplatsen, located at the southern end of the Avenyn boulevard. It is best known for its large statue of Poseidon, which has become one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Built in 1931, the statue stands in the centre of a fountain in front of the Gothenburg Museum of Art.
Inside one of Götaplatsen’s early 20th-century classicist buildings is the Konsthall. Both Swedish and international artists are exhibited at this contemporary centre for art. While much smaller than the nearby Museum of Art, it’s still worth a look around, particularly for lovers of eccentric modern art pieces. Entrance is free for all visitors between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday.
If you’re visiting during summer, you may become eager to escape the city for an afternoon. Askimsbadet is a sandy, shallow Blue Flag beach about 20 kilometres south of central Gothenburg. The open grassy areas and expansive shoreline provide plenty of room for activities like beach volleyball or barbecuing.
Jump into the water from the 259-metre-long pier or soak up the sun at one of the two designated areas for sunbathing. There’s also an indoor pool where swimming classes are held, plus amenities like toilets, showers and a cafe.
Recommended tours in Gothenburg
- Gothenburg Private Walking Tour
- 24h Gothenburg Hop-On Hop-Off Tour by Bus and Boat
- Gothenburg Small Group Walking Tour
- Landvetter Airport Shared Arrival Transfer
- Gothenburg Pass
- Gothenburg – Tasting of Swedish west coast food
- The Paddan Tour
- Archipelago Tour with guide Gothenburg
- Magic Christmas Tour in Gothenbourg
- Daytour to Tjolöholm’s Castle – a perfect place to visit when on holiday
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