August 22, 2016 | West Sweden
West Sweden, with Gothenburg as its gateway, continues to emerge as a culinary hotspot, gaining an international reputation as the ‘foodie’ capital of northern Europe due to its passionate local producers, its growing number of imaginative chefs, and the wealth and quality of its organic, natural produce.
The west coast’s shellfish – in particular its lobster and oysters – is among the best in the world, especially during the autumn season, when the water is cooler and the delicacies come close to shore. Late September sees the start of the lobster season, but oysters and mussels are also delicious at this time of year, too. Visitors can get ‘hands on’, learn more about the region’s seafood by joining a seafood safari with a local fisherman and, most importantly, taste it for themselves.
Inland, the forests of West Sweden provide a variety of game, while the region’s fertile agricultural land is ideal for growing grain and raising livestock in the best organic traditions. The countryside around the Göta Canal is also known for its fine cheeses, beer and schnapps, which are sold at the local farm shops.
As well as the coast and countryside, culinary delights can also be found in West Sweden’s vibrant capital, Gothenburg. The city boasts seven Michelin-starred restaurants, offering a dining experience to rival any of Europe’s better-known gourmet capitals. Gothenburg also has a buzzing café scene, where visitors can join the locals and indulge in fika, the Swedish tradition of taking a relaxing break from the daily grind for a coffee (with or without cake), several times a day.
Tempted? Here’s our pick of some of the best foodie hotspots and places to visit, during a four-day long weekend visit to Gothenburg and West Sweden.
DAY ONE – Thursday
After a short flight (two hours) from the UK to Gothenburg, head straight to the trendy four-star Clarion Hotel Post, next to the city’s Central Station. The hotel boasts two fantastic restaurants, Vrå and Norda Bar & Grill. It also has Post Bar, with Dosa Ivanov as Head Barman – voted the World’s Best Barman in 2015 and Sweden’s Best Barman in 2014 and 2015.
After dropping your bags, take a two-minute stroll to the Rose Café in the beautiful Garden Society of Gothenburg for an afternoon fika, a perfect park for watching the world go by.
In the evening, why not try one of Post Bar’s winning cocktails, produced by Dosa Ivanov, followed by a delicious meal at Vrå restaurant? The food here is a wonderful fusion of Japanese and West Swedish coastal flavours. Then head back to your stylish bedroom for a good night’s sleep.
DAY TWO – Friday
Tuck into a tasty breakfast at the hotel and then head out for your own foodie walk around the city. Start at the Market Hall to discover the wonderful food market, where you’ll find an array of delicious local produce, including the region’s wonderful seafood.
Continue along Södra Larmgatan, through Victoriapassagen and along Vallgatan to Magasinsgatan. At Magasinsgatan square, you’ll find several quirky food trucks selling a great choice: from local fried herring, mashed potato and lingonberry jam to vegan buns from Taiwan, and gourmet sausage & mash. At each food truck, you’ll find ambitious chefs and serious food enthusiasts whose aim is to provide easy and inexpensive access to fine food.
For a mid-morning caffeine boost, head to Da Matteo roastery and café, where you can sit down to enjoy one of the best coffees in Gothenburg – it was voted Best Café in Sweden in 2015 by the White Guide, Sweden’s leading restaurant guide.
It’ll soon be lunch time, so why not head to the wonderful restaurant Gabrel, in the fish market hall known as “Fish Church”? Here you can choose from a selection of delicious fish and seafood dishes, and watch the fishmongers work with the day’s catch.
In the afternoon, wander around the quaint Haga old town which has some delightful cafés and pretty shops. You’ll also find Sweden’s biggest cinnamon bun at café Husaren, which everyone has to try, no matter how full you are!
For visitors planning to be in Gothenburg on a Saturday, it’s worth noting that there is a guided foodie walk (from 1-4 pm) that lets you explore the city through wonderful tastings in several of its cafés and restaurants.
Treat yourself to dinner at one of the seven Michelin-starred restaurants in Gothenburg. For a traditional, classic meal, head to Thörnströms Kök or Sjömagasinet or, if you’re looking for something quirky and modern yet still Nordic, Koka, Bhoga and SK Mat & Människor are highly recommended. Restaurant Koka has a very affordable three-course menu for only £41 pp.
DAY THREE – Saturday
Pick up your rental car at Hertz, located next to Central Station, and drive to Alingsås, known as the capital of fika (approx. 40 minutes). This town has a flourishing café culture, and a history of long-established cafés and bakeries. There are currently around 30 cafés (three of which are in the White Guide) in Alingsås.
Go on a guided fika tour, where you’ll visit five cafés and get to taste some traditional fika delights such as cinnamon buns, mini cookies, homemade crispbreads, regional cheeses and jams, and homemade chocolate truffles, all washed down with delicious locally-produced coffee. One of the cafés on the tour is Nygren’s Café, voted the best fika-café of the year by the White Guide.
Drive to Läckö Castle (1.5 hours’ drive), which is perched on the shores of Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden. Check in to Naturum Vänerskärgårdern – Victoriahuset. The hotel was a symbolic gift to Sweden’s Princess Victoria on her 30th birthday and was officially opened by the princess and her husband, Prince Daniel, in 2013. It also has a visitor museum and a restaurant which serves fresh local produce from the castle’s gardens. The rooms are decorated in a natural style, with beautiful views of the forest, castle and islands of Lake Vänern.
After a wander around the hotel’s beautiful grounds, head out on a guided tour of the castle. Surrounded by park and gardens, it rises majestically in all its baroque glory. The castle’s 700-year-old history, its beautifully preserved ceiling paintings, wood carvings and the parquet flooring dating back to the 1600s, make it a must-see for visitors of all ages.
Enjoy a delicious dinner at Hvita hjorten (The White Heart), which has stunning views of Läckö Castle and Lake Vänern. The kitchen sources its ingredients from the immediate area, using only produce from the castle garden, Lake Vänern fishermen, local farmers and vegetable growers. The restaurant won an award for sustainable gastronomy in Sweden’s prestigious White Guide, where it is also ranked in the Masterclass category.
The owners, Katherine and Stefan, work very hard with local producers, and the menu changes daily depending on what is available in the garden and from their suppliers.
DAY FOUR – Sunday
After breakfast, you’ll leave the countryside of Västergötland and drive to Lysekil (a two-hour and 15 minutes’ drive) on the Bohuslän coast, where there are no less than 8,000 islands dotted along the coast between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border.
Head out on an oyster and mussel tour with Lars and Adrian, which departs from Norra Hamnen (the North Harbour) in Lysekil. You’ll travel on ‘Signe’ – a traditional wooden boat built locally in 1952 – to a mussel farm, where the owners will show you how these delicacies are grown and harvested. Next stop is Käringeholmen island, where you’ll cook mussels collected earlier in the day, shuck some oysters and enjoy both by the shore with a nice cold Swedish beer.
Then it’s time to sail back to Lysekil on ‘Signe’, pick up your rental car and drive back to Landvetter airport in Gothenburg (two hours’ drive) to drop the car off before catching your flight back home, full of good food and happy memories of your visit to West Sweden!
Holidays to West Sweden are available through numerous specialist tour operators, including Discover the World, Green Traveller, Inntravel, Nature Travels, Magnetic North Travel, Off The Map Travel, Simply Sweden, Sunvil and Taber Holidays.
West Sweden can be reached by a short (two-hour) direct flight to Gothenburg with British Airways (Heathrow), Ryanair (Stansted and Edinburgh), SAS (Heathrow), Norwegian (Gatwick), British Airways/Sun-Air of Scandinavia (Manchester) and bmi regional (Birmingham).