May 13, 2016 | West Sweden
Sweden’s beautiful west coast is most alive at the approach of the summer solstice. After the chilly winter months, people are itching to make the most of the lengthening days, culminating in one of the most traditional Swedish celebrations – Midsummer Eve (on 24 June this year).
And what better way to join the locals this summer than along the stunning, scattered archipelago that stretches up towards Norway or, alternatively, head inland to enjoy West Sweden’s dense forests and pristine lakes?
Gothenburg – gateway to the region – is also a lusciously green city in the summer, with extensive parkland as well as stylish shopping, top-notch cuisine and a lively cultural scene to rival that of Stockholm.
Here are the top 10 must-dos in Gothenburg and West Sweden this summer:
West Sweden is blessed with a coastline full of idyllic islands. In fact, there are no less than 8,000 islands along the coast between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border. There is a wealth of traditional fishing villages, rocky landscapes, nature reserves, inlets for swimming, picnic spots, seafood restaurants, and attractive hotels and cottages to get to know. This summer, a new three-day cruise along the beautiful Bohuslän coast between Gothenburg and Grebbestad (and vice-versa) has been introduced by Simply Sweden. Sailing aboard the classic Göta Canal boat M/S Wilhelm Tham, which dates back to 1912 and retains all of its original features – this is the first time the boat has cruised along Sweden’s west coast, rather than along the Göta Canal.
Some of the biggest names in music will once again take to the stage at one of Europe’s leading festivals – Way Out West – which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Held in Gothenburg’s centrally-located Slottskogen Park from 11 – 13 August, the festival will see a fantastic line-up which includes Jamie XX, Sia, Seinabo Sey, Massive Attack and PJ Harvey. The eco-certified festival also sees eclectic ‘Stay Out West’ performances at clubs and culture hubs around the city. A three-day festival ticket costs £149 pp, including access to all Stay Out West gigs. Visit www.wayoutwest.se/en.
In Swedish culture, fika is simply part of everyday life and means a coffee and cake break with friends. Alingsås – the ‘capital of fika’ – has a flourishing fika culture and is known for its authentic history of long-established cafés and bakeries, which date back as far as the 1700s. Today, the town has around 30 cafés, three of which are in the prestigious White Guide Café guide. Join a guided fika tour (1.5 hours) through Alingsås, learn about the old Swedish tradition of fika and experience the enviable Swedish lifestyle. The tour includes visits to two cafés which are listed in the prestigious White Guide: Ekstedts Bakery & Café and Nygrens Café. Guests will also get to taste cinnamon buns, truffles, pastries and cookies, and to take a little goodie bag of samples away with them. The tour costs £29 pp (330 SEK) and is available every Saturday at 11 am until 29 October.
Fond of fika? While in Gothenburg, be sure not to miss the ‘best café in Sweden’, (White Guide, 2015). Located in the city’s trendy Magasinsgatan district, Da Matteo serves freshly baked pastries and delicious coffee, roasted on the premises.
Hotel Clarion Post is proud to have bartender Dosa Ivanov showing off his talents. Dosa won the ‘World’s Best Bartender’ competition in 2015 and guests can try his cocktail creations at The Post Bar, located on the first floor of the hotel, as well as at the Norda Bar on the second floor. Be sure not to miss the large outdoor terrace on a sunny day – a perfect place to enjoy the summer city at its best. Or soak up the casual 1920s ambience of the hotel’s Norda Bar & Grill, where ‘Gothenburg meets Manhattan’.
Sweden’s biggest Lake District is an awe-inspiring setting for paddling. With a labyrinth of glittering rivers and deep forest perimeters, it provides the perfect location for watersports. The water is so pure that you can drink it and, after the challenge of the Dalsland Canoe Marathon, that might be necessary! Sweden’s largest canoe event starts on 13 August, when competitors will glide along the 55km route, crossing sparkling lakes and waterways; all ages and abilities can take part. For the first time this year, there will be a new relay race where a team of four each take in turns to paddle a section of the race. Registration costs from £59 pp (700 SEK) for adults and £17 pp (200 SEK) for juniors (12 – 18 year olds).
Artscape is an international street art project which officially begins in Gothenburg this summer, bringing eye-catching art to local people and visitors alike. There will be many international artists participating, each creating inspiring pieces of public art on buildings in every district of the city. The artists will start to paint in July and aim to finish their pieces by August.
Walking in West Sweden is an absolute treat for lovers of enchanting natural beauty, wildlife and peaceful, friendly villages. There are many well-marked trails and maps available, and visitors can combine hiking trips with visits to the region’s picturesque fishing villages, enjoying delicious local food and visits to cultural attractions along the way. Excellent walking trails can be found throughout numerous nature reserves in Bohuslän, including the car-free Koster islands in Kosterhavet’s Marine National Park and Marstrand, renowned for its fascinating history, charming buildings and world-class sailing.
Crayfish parties are one of Sweden’s most fabulous traditions, where Swedes celebrate the summer as it begins to draw to a close. These parties are usually rather private events…until now. Join in the crayfish celebrations at Väderöarnas guesthouse on the Weather Islands – West Sweden’s most westerly islands. Here, guests are given the chance to catch seafood delicacies fresh from the ocean before a big crayfish feast is cooked up in a beautifully decorated boathouse, accompanied by schnapps, party hats and traditional drinking songs. One night’s B&B costs from £264 pp (two sharing) including access to the sauna and hot tubs by the sea, boat transfers to the islands from Fjällbacka, lunch and a crayfish party. Available for stays between 18 August and 23 September at the Väderöarnas Värdhus guesthouse.
Or why not take your family to fish for crayfish in the Göta Canal? It’s a fun, easy and child-friendly activity… simply drop the traps into the water from the canal bank and come back later to collect your haul. This is a different fishing method to that used on the Bohuslän coast (there is no need for boats, just a wheelbarrow and torches) and the crayfish you’ll catch are smaller and more reddish in colour. A crayfish fishing package, staying at the Norrqvarn Hotell, costs from £115 per adult / £26 per child including B&B, traps and bait, and a bottle of freshly-cooked crayfish to take away with you.
On 8 June, Gothenburg will premier its new rainforest, at Universeum the Nordic region’s largest Science Centre for children. It’s a place filled with adventures, information and fun for the whole family. The new, improved and enlarged rainforest will show exotic animals in their real habitat, alongside around 600 different species of flora and fauna: from caimans and cacao trees to Aiphanes palms and poison dart frogs.
Gothenburg Green World 2016 is a glorious celebration of horticulture that promises a packed programme of events and fantastic exhibitions for every season. From 4 June, the city’s main boulevard, Kungsportsavenyn (known locally as Avenyn), will be transformed into a verdant avenue with 20 pop-up parks, while Gothenburg Botanical Garden is creating a new ‘wild garden’ area. Several of the city’s parks will have their own Land Art installations, created in collaboration with Arte Sella in Italy, and the renowned Japanese artist, Tetsunori Kawana, is creating an eye-catching bamboo installation. One of Sweden’s finest 18th century estates, Gunnebo House and Gardens, will be restoring its formal gardens and recreating contemporary settings from a bygone age, with highlights including a timber Orangery and a tree-lined walk known as Treillaget.
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).