gothenburg is sweden's second city - after its capital, stokholm, and this year, after the brexit news was heard around the world, expedia uk were promoting trips for under one hundred and fifty pounds return. so bex and i bought some, and planned to tick off another nordic country in our quest to discover 12 new places in 12 months. for me, it was actually my 13th, which was a nice surprise for me when i sat down to list where else i'd been this year. regardless of how many places came before it, i was most excited to visit sweden for a bunch of reasons, namely that we'd be travelling the same weekend as the christmas markets were opening, and meatballs. once i'd got those two things out the way, anything else was a bonus. as it turns out, there's a ton of other great stuff to see and do in a weekend in gothenburg, so let me break it down for you:
haga is the oldest city and district in gotheburg, and it is renowned for it's pretty wooden houses and oldy-worldy atmosphere and cafes. in the centre of the district is haga nygata, the cobbled, pedestrian road that feels as wide as it is long, and that is lined with plenty of outdoor seating covered in animal furs, blankets, and plenty of heating for visitors who want to sit out and soak up the atmosphere, while not actually soaking up the weather. it's great for a quick bite to eat or some souvenir shopping, but considering the target market, it can be a bit touristy. i say that, but it was dead quiet while we were there...
enjoy a fika
fika is a concept in some nordic cultures which basically interprets to mean "to have coffee". i'm not even kidding. these people have created a whole concept that involves a certain point of the day when coffee is required. it is usually accompanied with pastries or sandwiches, or - at a stretch, even a fresh smorgasboard - another incredible swedish concept that we're already very grateful for. for us, there were many fikas had in our weekend in gothenburg, and usually accompanied by kanelbullar - the very best cinnamon rolls i've ever had.
climb skansen kronen
the skansen kronan is a fortress that sits high above haga. it has 4-5 metre thick walls that are made of granite, ensuring it was thick enough to never be attacked, or easily defended against any danish attacks on gothenburg from the south. it was used briefly as a military museum until 2004, but today is just a private facility used for conferences or parties. we awkwardly let ourselves in after climbing the hundreds of stone steps to reach the base of it, on the advice of some locals to "eat waffles at the top". when we got to the top, it was weirdly empty of people, but full of weird, life-sized puppets that seem to be left over from the museum-age. there were staff on-site, but none appeared to care that we were there. but, with incredible 360 degree views of the city from the very top, it's definitely worth the hike! (free to enter too)
eat all the meatballs
right so i briefly touched on this in the intro, but: i travel a lot for food. some of my greatest dishes have been in various corners of the world, and i'm not ashamed to admit i am sometimes drawn to a country or city for its cuisine. so it should come as a shock to nobody that i was desperately keen to eat my weight in meatballs while in gothenburg. we trip-advisored us some suggestions, and headed to cafe du nord - which definitely sounded french, but also had the best reviews. once there, our mission was simple: meatballs and beer, and don't stop either of them coming. let me tell you this for free: these meatballs had nothing on ikea, and were bigger than the balls of potato that accompanied them. four giant balls in gravy, three serves of mash, and a great big wallop of lingonberry sauce plus a pint of their local ale only set us back 140 sek - about 12 quid. barrrrgain!
hide out in tradgardsforeningen
literally just a stone's throw from the central station, and no more than a ten minute walk from our hotel was the the tradgarsforeningen - or, the garden society of gothenburg. it is the best-preserved 19th century park in the whole of europe, and is based on the original crystal palace in south london. it was wet, wet, wet when we visited, so the rolling flower beds and clipped lawns were not what we were there to see, we had one thing in mind: the tropical house in the centre of the park. palm trees, ferns, and exotic flowers all came to life in the humid greenhouse, and it was the first time we were able to take a few layers off without shivering from the rain.
the plants were all so well kept, and the air was so thick with humidity that while we struggled to breath a little (compared to the outside), it was such a nice relief to be able to walk through and discover the many different types of tropical life being kept in wet and windy sweden. (see also: the universeum, a public science centre and museum that we meant to visit, but didn't)
liseberg is europe's biggest theme park. yeeeep, theme park. not my usual cuppa tea, but come christmas time it doubles as sweden's biggest christmas market! every year since i've been in the uk i've travelled from market to market to find the best; while i don't think these were the best - by any stretch of the imagination, they were certainly the most festive i've come across. i suppose being held in a working theme park is kind of a perk, no? the entry to the park is about a tenner, but that doesn't include rides - just entry. so it's the first market i've had to a) pay to enter, and b) not bought any trinkets from. we did settle for some bier in the biergarten, and a sausage because markets, but the highlight was definitely getting on the ferris wheel when the lights had all been turned on. it was just so magical! there was an ice skating rink, a proper fairy castle, roller coasters.. something for everyone!
it's easy to get around
the biggest thing to note about gotheburg, is that's it's dinky. it's not small, not by any stretch, but it's certainly tightly squeezed in; you can literally walk around the whole city - in a circle, in a day. we walked and walked, and didn't even consider the alternatives (sometimes public transport is harder than it looks), but if i'd done it again, i would definitely have sought alternate modes of transport. there are bike-hire schemes there like those that feature in many cities around the world, as well as easy-access travel cards that can get you from point a to point b with little fuss. i just prefer walking, though, in that weather i definitely wish i'd considered something else.
we were a ten minute walk from the central station, five minutes from haga, and basically right on the waterfront, in the centre of town. the airport shuttle was about 18 quid return, and took about 40 mins. the flight from london is about an hour and a half too, which is pretty reasonable for a city break - at least, i think it is. i don't want to be on a plane much longer than that if i'm only away for a short time. and, while gothenburg wasn't quite the vibrant city i'm used to, rather it was more casual and laid back and considered, it was a pretty little city, and one i couldn't recommend higher.
so, if you're looking for a quick escape, do consider gothenburg. it might just be for you!
thanks to expedia for asking me to share these reasons; all words are my own!