After a packed 2 days in Stockholm, we headed to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. Situated on the west coast of the country, it’s diverse, green, artsy, and absolutely packed with industrial landmarks – so I couldn’t wait to explore.
Some travelling real talk here: 1) things don’t always go to plan, and 2) sometimes because of this and sometimes just because, you might not fall in love with every single place you ever go.
Everyone who is cool always says how much they love Gothenburg and I really wanted to be cool by being head over heels with it too. It is a very cool place, there’s no getting around it (have you read the word ‘cool’ enough times now?), but unfortunately our exceptionally poor planning did not really allow for Gothenburg to have the chance it deserved.
I’m sorry Gothenburg – we fucked up. Turns out that when you plan your train journeys, you kind of need to take into account that the journey actually takes some hours and it’s not just a case of hopping on a train in one location and arriving there 5 minutes later, so guess which pair of idiots ended up scheduled to arrive in Gothenburg at 8pm on one day and leave at 1pm the next? That’s right…
Our own stupidity aside; sometimes when you’re travelling, things don’t go smoothly. Our train from Stockholm arrived an hour late. We knew which bus to get in which direction, but you can’t pay on the bus so we had to do some wandering around trying to figure out how to obtain a ticket (its not hard – you can use an app or buy them from one of the public transport operator’s sales outlets but both our phones were dead by this point). It was raining. We got soaked. We arrived at our accommodation at 9:40. It was not quite how it had looked in the photos.
We dumped the bags and raced over to Blackbird, a vegan restaurant and bar that Rob had looked up. The kitchen had closed. This is when I started crying – seriously – because I’d seen vegan mac and cheese on the menu and girl needs feeding. Seriously though, you know when you’re just so frustrated and tired (and in my case also damp from trudging around in the rain) then one thing tips you over the edge? That’s what happened I guess – or maybe I’m just THAT food orientated.
I would still massively recommend Blackbird though, because the staff were very nice, the decor was dark and trendy, and they ended up knocking up some sweet potato fries and vegan chilli cheese bites for us. Maybe it had something to do with how much of a baby I was being, I don’t know – but the little bits we did eat were EXCELLENT. Honestly so delicious. If only I got to try that mac and cheese…
Since it had all been a bit of a wash out so far and was now dark, we woke up early the next morning determined to make the most of our very short amount of time there. Here’s what we got up to:
On a hill not too far from where we were staying sat a fortress, and that fortress was Skansen Kronan. Since I always like to head to a vantage point in a new city, particularly when pressed for time, that was our first port of call. It’s an easy wander up that offers striking views over Gothenburg from the top, even in persistent drizzle and mist. So many terracotta rooftops!
You can also go inside Skansen Kronan and I believe it is free, but an event was taking place while we were there so we weren’t able to. It’s still very cool though, and well worth making the effort to do since it doesn’t take long and makes you feel like you understand the layout of the city a bit more. Plus there were cannons, and I love stuff with cannons.
Haga is the oldest district in Gothenburg, an absolute must-visit, and in walking distance of the city centre – it’s also super close to Skansen Kronan, so it was next on our agenda. There’s one main road which goes through the area with smaller ones branching off on either side, and given that’s it’s also very pretty, it’s the kind of place you can just have a relaxed wander.
Lined with cute independent shops and cafes that are housed in traditional old buildings, Haga is also the perfect place to stop for a Fika – which literally means to stop for coffee but is also about taking a break to socialise and chat. I would love to return here for an afternoon – we were there really early on a Wednesday, and it was seriously quiet, but the cobbled streets and charm of the place made for a lovely start to the day anyway. We also saw cinnamon buns bigger than my head. Just saying.
Paddan boat tour
After a couple of hours wandering around in the rain, it was clear that my usual method of exploring (on foot) wasn’t working as well as usual given the weather and timeframe, so we decided to take one of the paddan boat sightseeing tours. Although a guided tour isn’t my usual way of exploring, it was scheduled to be 50 minutes long and there was the promise of seeing far more of the city than we could have managed walking.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this tour. It was undeniably touristy – obviously – but the guide was hilarious, saying quite literally everything with a hint of irony in his voice, and we ended up having a great time. You board in the centre of the city, and the trip takes you along old moat and canals of the city under some seriously low bridges – you need to sit on the floor rather than your seat to go under some of them – which was a lot of fun. We passed the opera house, gorgeous green parks, the iconic fish market Feskekorka (which means ‘Fish Church’), and were told all about the city’s history and key sights. The tour then heads out into the harbour with its old shipyards and docks, so it was cool to see these from the water.
Its an open topped boat so would probably be a no go in a downpour, but at this point it was just a bit grey and drizzly, and we actually had such a good time on it; plus it allowed us to see way more of Gothenburg that we could have ourselves in 50 minutes.
Pleased to be ending our time in the city on a good note, we rushed back to the hotel to grab the rucksacks then hopped on one of the blue and white trams (super rickety and no working ticket machine but fun anyway) to get back to the train station.
So, would I go back? As you’ve probably gathered – I kind of feel like I need to! Gothenburg seemed like a great weekend break destination; I enjoyed the things we did there, but I’d like to see more of the arts scene, to visit the archipelago, and preferably have more non-sleeping hours available to explore in. I will end this with this extra special photo of me, which sums up very well how this leg of our trip went:
Still – you can’t win them all! Things don’t always go exactly as you want, particularly if you’re backpacking through multiple destinations in the same trip. And that’s okay.