photo of Gothenburg (Goteborg)

A harbour view of Gothenburg, Sweden. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Gothenburg (Goteborg)

Stockholm, on Sweden's east coast, typically falls first on vacationers' lists of place to visit; however, the west coast's Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish) is more than just a pass-through town. It deserves a stay, for its first-rate museums, expansive gardens, and amusement park.

Gothenburg's harbor is the largest in Scandinavia. As early as the 18th century, vessels from China arrived laden with tea, spices, silks, and porcelain. From 1811, when the first commercial shipyard opened, until the 1960s, Gothenburg claimed fame as a major shipbuilding area. Although most shipyards went bankrupt in the 1970s, the harbor remains vibrant with a mix of corporations, shopping, cafes, and museums.

A Padden boat tour along the canal and into the harbor conveys a sense of the city, as you pass office buildings, parks, mega-cranes loading cargo containers, a submarine, and several other vessels from the Göteborg Maritima Centrum (Maritime Museum). The facility also displays figureheads, merchant ship models, and tanks of cod, lobsters, and other local sea life. For more fishy finds, visit the Universeum, Sweden's largest aquarium, displaying more than just sea life. In the Ocean Zone's wall size tanks, zebra sharks, sawfish, eel and other critters swim. The Rainforest has monkeys, poison frogs, piranha, and caimans.

Landscaped with flowers, Liseberg Park, Scandinavia's largest amusement park, exudes the old-fashioned charm that comes from rides that are more fun than fearsome. Although HangOver's a fast coaster, most rides, such as the haunted house or the flying carousel, deliver giggles instead of gut-wrenching thrills.

At the Göteborgs Konstmuseum (Art Museum), view canvases by Monet, Van Gogh, and Rousseau, as well as work by Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson, and other noted Scandinavian artists. The Art Museum fronts the Götaplatsen, a square anchored by the noted Poseidon fountain. From here stroll the Kungsportsavenyn, known as Avenyn, a main boulevard lined with restaurants, shops, and hotels.

Gothenburg also has plenty of green space. Slottsskogen's 272 acres make it the city's largest park. At the children's zoo, kids encounter piglets and goats. It's well-worth the fifteen-minute tram ride from the city center to Botaniska Trädgården (Botanical Garden). Winding paths lead you through a series of beautiful tableaus. The rhododendron garden, in late spring, blooms with fuschia, purple, pink, and lavender blossoms. A waterfall cascades down a series of stone ledges in the rock garden and the simple reflecting pond in the Japanese garden is a study in peacefulness. Trädgårdsföreningen, another park, gains fame for its Rosarium. In season more than 4,000 species of roses bloom. Check the park's schedule for concerts and children's plays.

From Gothenburg, explore Sweden's west coast. Marstrand, a favorite retreat of former Swedish King Oscar II, is a popular summer resort. Potted pansies decorate the cottages and lilac bushes bloom in the yards. Carlstens Fästning (Fortress) dominates the island. Built between 1658 and 1860, the structure is impressive with its drawbridge, courtyards, canons, barracks, and prison cells with authentic shackles—including a 40-pound iron neck collar worn by some unfortunate. On a soldier-led tour, a character in a period uniform tells tales of life at the fort. The island also offers deep sea fishing, kayaking, and sailing.

Tip: Save money by purchasing a Gothenburg City Pass, offering admission to many museums, parks and attractions plus some free transportation. Children's passes for ages five through 16 are available.

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