Next to Christmas, Midsummer is the most important event for Swedes, a festival dating back to the 1500s, which is traditionally held to welcome summer and the season of fertility.
The iconic Midsummer never-ending lunch party formula involves raising a maypole, where people gather to dance and sing, alongside wearing flower crowns, drinking schnapps and devouring a selection of delectable food. With traditional fare including smoked salmon and pickled herring paired with new potatoes, chives and sour cream, along with summer’s first strawberries and cream, as Midsummer fast approaches on 20th June, we’re certainly dreaming of Swedish summers.
A trip to Gothenburg and West Sweden is the perfect summer combination of city and island life. Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden and the world’s most sustainable destination (according to the Global Destination Sustainability Index 2016, 2017 and 2018), is replete with cafes, restaurants, food trucks, Swedish design and fashion boutiques.
Enjoy the green and leafy parks in the city centre, laze by the canal, or visit historic forts and castles. Head from Gothenburg, the gateway to West Sweden, to the Bohuslän coast and islands, which stretches from just outside Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast, all the way up to the Norwegian border. This place is ideal for kayaking through the pretty coastal villages to discover lobster, oyster and other shellfish delights.
Here are five of our favourite things when it comes to visiting Gothenburg and West Sweden – when the time is right of course.
Gothenburg is awash with open, green spaces and the Gothenburg Botanical Garden is one of Europe’s biggest and best. Discover 16,000 species of plants amongst the greenhouses, which have the largest collection of tropical orchids in Sweden, carnivorous plants and the rare Easter Island tree, which is extinct in its natural environment.
The Bohuslän archipelago runs almost 280 kilometres up Sweden’s west coast and is an area of outstanding natural beauty. All the way from the Gothenburg archipelago in the south to the Kosterislands in the north, is a paddler’s paradise of marine national park, nature reserves, deserted isles, fishermen’s huts and clear blue waters.
Head out of the city centre to Gunnebo House and Manors and dine at the spectacular Edible Country table. The Edible Country launched last year, as a 100 million acre DIY gourmet restaurant initiative, with the goal of highlighting the healthy and nutritious food abundant in Sweden’s natural environment. The experience consists of a nine-course menu that visitors can prepare and cook themselves in the wild, using ingredients found in Swedish nature and following recipes provided by Michelin-starred chefs Titti Qvarnström, Niklas Ekstedt, Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr.
Everts Sjöbod is a small, family run business with its roots in Grebbestad, one of Bohuslän’s most popular seaside resorts. Grebbestad is famous for good seafood, and at Everts Sjöbod guests can experience oyster and lobster safaris as well as crab and mackerel fishing. Ninety per cent of all Swedish oysters come from Grebbestad and Hanna Karlsson Thorén runs an ‘oyster school’ on the quayside at Everts Sjöbod’s fisherman’s hut. Take a boat trip to discover different species of oyster, learn how to expertly open them and sample a selection.
Haga is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Gothenburg. The pedestrian street Haga Nygata is lined with independent shops, interiors, fashion and antiques, a multitude of cafés, and is the location in Gothenburg for shopping and Fika. One of the most famous pastries in town – Hagabullen – a plate-sized cinnamon bun, is found at Café Husaren at Haga Nygata.
Alternatively, Magasinsgatan is Gothenburg’s trendy inner city shopping neighbourhood and is home to many local or Swedish fashion brands including Acne, Velour and Emma och Malena. Make sure to do your shopping in the city, before heading out to West Sweden.
Experience the traditional Swedish ritual of sauna at the sauna in Frihamnen, just across the river from the city centre. Characterised by the old ship building industry, it was created by German architect collective Raumblabor Berlin and is constructed from recycled material. Warm up in the sauna, before cooling down in the refreshing pool.
Marstrand is a charming island, located an hour’s drive from Gothenburg, and is well known for its sailing. Formerly a playground for the royals, visited exclusively by the rich and famous, Marstrandis now a place that holiday-makers come to sail, relax and enjoy the island’s jet-set feel. The port buzzes with activity in the summer, with people spilling out from restaurants, bars and shops onto the pretty cobbled streets. The island is dotted with ornate wooden houses and there are fascinating sites to visit such as Strandverket Art Museum, Carlstens Fortress and the Pater Nosterlight house. It is also surrounded by excellent hiking routes.
Hotel Pigale is a boutique hotel in the heart of Gothenburg, inspired by 1920s Paris. The fourth floor restaurant, Atlier, serves local and organic produce. Alternatively, check in to Upper House at the top of the Gothia Towers, a five-star hotel, with a Michelin star restaurant and a rooftop spa.
Following a Swedish study whereby participants reduced their stress levels by 70 per cent by living alone in a glass cabin on an isolated island for 72 hours, the glass cabins in Dalsland were opened up to tourists for rent for 72 hours and have been a huge success.
Now, in summer 2020, a 10th custom-made glass cabin will be launched in Halleberg, a plateau mountain on the tip of Sweden’s largest lake, Lake Vänern in West Sweden. Where better to wind down amongst raw, natural beauty? Cabins start from SEK 3,995 (£321) per person for 72 hours, based on two sharing and including most meals, a basket of equipment, and access to other equipment such as a canoe or rowing boat and fishing rods.
Fly direct from London to Gothenburg, hire a car and drive out to West Sweden.
Image credit at the very top of the article: Per Pixel/Westsweden.com