Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Gothenburg. Coming from the concrete jungle of New York City, Gothenburg, Sweden seemed like a fairytale kingdom to me. Even its name, pronounced “Yuh-tuh-burry” in Swedish, sounds vaguely magical. In our last 24 hours in Gothenburg, we visited the main attractions like Universeum and Liseberg.
But for today’s 24 hours in Gothenburg, we will head to some quieter museums, cafes, and places to explore. But don’t worry, those of you who prefer the noisier life. ABBA is joining us too! Mamma Mia, here we go again!
24 Hours in Gothenburg
Where to Stay?
I made a huge mistake booking my hotel in Gothenburg. It was a super sketch hostel in a weird neighborhood, with no staff, and a bizarre fellow guest with a shaved head and no front teeth who kept lurking outside my room, grinning psychotically. It took me less than an hour to realize I should cancel the reservation and find a room elsewhere.
Enter Hotel Royal, which truly lives up to its name. They had one room they hadn’t managed to book, so I got it for half price. The location is perfect, the breakfast is the best hotel breakfast I have ever eaten, and the room was fit for a princess. Also I wasn’t in danger of being murdered by one of my fellow guests, probably. Please stay here. You won’t regret it.
24 Hours in Gothenburg
What to Pack?
Sweden can be on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Sweden.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Gothenburg
Morning: Museum of Gothenburg
Like many “second” cities, Gothenburg is eager to show you that it’s just as important as the biggest and most famous city in its country. So help them prove their point by visiting the Museum of Gothenburg, which is dedicated to Gothenburg’s fascinating history. Stockholm may be older, bigger, more famous…etc. But does it have a gold unicorn statue? Probably not! At the Museum of Gothenburg, you can learn this along with…
three fun facts: gothenburg
The oldest thing in the Museum of Gothenburg is the corpse of a 4500 year old man. I have not shown his skeleton here in case I have any gentle readers with delicate tummies. However, Gothenburg is not nearly that old. There have been people in the area for thousands of years, but Gothenburg itself was not founded until the 17th century. The Viking age in Sweden lasted from about 790 to 1050. So if you’re looking for tales of Viking derring-do, you’ve come to the wrong place.
However, though Gothenburg is not a Viking city, there are Viking artifacts here. Behold the shell of the Askekarr ship, which is the only Viking ship on display in Sweden. It was discovered by a farmer out for a random pleasure cruise in the area. That farmer must have been a sharp one because if I came across some random pieces of wood while I was fishing, I’d assume it was garbage, not a Viking ship. But maybe this is just one of many reasons I have never made a major historical discovery.
2) Happy New Year
Gothenburg has always had an enviable location on the Gota river. Before it received its current name, it was known as Nya Lodose. Because it was such a good natural port, it was attacked many times. Eventually the King of Sweden decided to get the situation under control and make it a proper city. Gotherburgers celebrate the birthday of their city on June 4th, 1621. That’s almost my birthday. (I mean the June 4th part. Naturally I wasn’t born in the 1600s.)
The Museum of Gothenburg proudly states that the city was built to be the perfect modern city with square streets and walls. Soon it was as thriving as a 17th century city could be. One example of its wealth is this shiny gold unicorn, which was merely a sign outside a chemist’s shop.
First of all, that chemist had to be doing really well to afford such a fancy sign. Second, I think CVS would get a lot more customers if they advertised with gold unicorns. I think everyone would want to buy their toothpaste at the Sign of the Gold Unicorn. That’s just science.
3) Money, Money, Money
In the 19th century, Gothenburg was extremely successful thanks to trade. In fact, it was the top commercial town in Sweden. SUCK ON THAT, STOCKHOLM! The Swedish East India Company was founded to handle some of that trade, in the very building that houses the Museum of Gothenburg today. I assume the Swedish East India Company was run by men like the ones in wigs above. Rich guys always look like that. You’d think they’d use their vast wealth to buy some better quality rugs.
24 Hour Treat: Ahlstroms Konditorei
Our 24 Hours in Gothenburg have just begun, but you’ve probably become peckish already. Don’t be ashamed, Internet Stranger. I’m here to feed you. Stop in at the adorable and classy Ahlstroms Konditorei. They specialize in baked goods, but you can definitely find sandwiches here, and of course the bread is scrumptious
I selected a salmon, shrimp, and shrimp roe open-faced sandwich. I always like getting multiple kinds of seafood in one dish. It makes me feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck. Also this sandwich mysteriously has blueberries on it, so my dessert is kind of included.
I usually don’t get dessert with lunch, but since I was at a pastry shop, I felt like getting my patisserie on was mandatory. I selected this shiny, fluffy pastry filled with cream and almonds. In the US, we’d call this a Danish, but in Scandinavia, they call these treats “Vienna bread”. I’m not sure why the Danes don’t want to take credit for this delicious treat! Maybe they’re just too honest to plagiarize from the Austrians.
24 Hours in Gothenburg
Afternoon: Hop On-Hop Off Bus and Boat Tour
I always enjoy taking tours in unfamiliar cities. The guide always knows the city much better than I do and can teach me fun facts and give me restaurant tips. There aren’t a million walking tours of Gothenburg or anything, but fortunately there is the Stromma Hop On-Hop Off Bus and Boat Tour. The bus tour is open air, so you can get good views of the city, and the boat tour out onto the harbor is definitely worth the price of admission. Allow me to present to you what I learned with the…
approximately top 5: gothenburg
1) Fish Church
The Fish Church is one of the most famous attractions in Gothenburg. Emeril Lagasse came here when he brought his show Eat the World to Gothenburg. The Fish Church is not an actual church. According to the narrator on my bus tour, “Swedes are more likely to believe in cod than God.” It’s an indoor fish market that dates back to the late 1800s. It only looks like a church. If you have more than 24 hours in Gothenburg, you should definitely drop in for some fishy bites. But we must keep rolling on.
2) Gothenburg University
One of the things Gothenburg is most famous for is its university. Gothenburg University is one of the largest and most prestigious in Scandinavia. Alumni from the U of G have gone on to work at some of Sweden’s most famous exports. According to the invisible narrator of our tour, that means IKEA and H&M, but I think his invisible tongue was a little bit in his invisible cheek there.
3) Statue of King Gustavus Adolphus
As we learned at the Museum of Gothenburg earlier in our 24 hours in Gothenburg, the city was founded to be the ideal city. And the man who did that founding was named King Gustavus Adolphus. Legend has it that he created the town by pointing to a spot in a swamp and saying that the city would be built there. This…is probably not true. In fact, it is almost definitely not true. But as they say in Sweden, “When the legend becomes fact, BORK, BORK, BORK!”
4) Haircut Bridge
Now it’s time for the bus tour with the invisible narrator to end, and the boat tour with the live and visible narrator to begin. The boat tour begins in the canals of Gothenburg, and on the tour you can pass by the city’s many charming bridges. But my favorite was the highly uncharming Haircut Bridge pictured above. (No points for guessing how it got that name.) We needed to go under the Haircut Bridge to get to the spectacular Gothenburg Harbor. (Gothenburg Harbor is in fact older than the city itself.)
Don’t worry about getting wet while going under the bridge. As you can see, the company provides free ponchos to all passengers. Thanks, Stromma!
5) Lipstick Building
We saw many interesting architectural gems on our cruise around Gothenburg Harbor, but my favorite was this Lipstick Building. The official name is Lilla Bommen because it’s located in the Lilla Bommen district. How dull! I much prefer the name Lipstick Building. In fact, I plan on starting an online petition demanding that the name be officially changed. There definitely isn’t anything more important going on in the world today that deserves our attention.
Perhaps my favorite part of the tour is that any time there was a lull in the sightseeing, our guide Emma would say, “And now, ABBA.” And she’d hit the boom box and the dulcet tones of Sweden’s most famous band would soar out over the waves. I like this idea and plan on stealing it. But I’m from New York City, so any time there’s a lull in the conversation, I’ll just say, “And now, Billy Joel,” and start blasting “New York State of Mind.”
6) Swedish East India Company Ship
Do you remember those rich, old Swedish dudes in wigs from the Museum of Gothenburg? Well, this is their ship! Actually, Emma says that it’s just a replica of the original Swedish East India Company ship. Apparently someone probably sank the original for the insurance money. I guess all that sweet trade money didn’t last forever and those bewigged gentlemen had to choose between committing insurance fraud or letting the world see that they were bald. But life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?
24 Hours in Gothenburg
Late Afternoon: Haga
“But wait, Stella Jane,” you may be asking. “Gothenburg seems swell, but where are all the hipsters?” Glad you asked, Internet Stranger! As usual, we can find the hipsters in the cutest neighborhood in the city. In the case of Gothenburg, that would be the cobblestoned Haga district. Emma the visible tour guide recommended that we come here for snacks and coffee when the boat tour was over. Haga is the perfect place for a Fika, a Swedish coffee break.
24 Hour Treat: Cafe Husaren
I chose to take my fika at Cafe Husaren. It’s famous for its cinnamon buns that are the size of a giant’s noggin, but they were all sold out by the time I arrived. So I had to settle for this beautiful Bounty Brownie, which tasted exactly like a classy Mounds bar, as opposed to the stale ones I buy from the CVS when I have a candy craving late a night.
24 Hours in Gothenburg
Evening: Norda Bar and Grill
Some people might not realize that there is any connection between Gothenburg and New York City. But in fact, one of the most famous chefs in New York, Marcus Samuelsson, was raised in Gothenburg. Samuelsson is most famous for his restaurant in New York City, Red Rooster, that celebrates American soul food. But his restaurant group also runs a restaurant in Gothenburg called Norda Bar and Grill that serves Swedish-Manhattan fusion. As a native New Yorker, there was no way I could pass this up.
My meal began with a classic small gem lettuce, warm goat cheese, beet, and walnut salad. Cheese, beets, and walnuts are a classic combination, but there’s a reason for that. They taste delicious together! Sometimes there’s no need to mess with the tried and true.
24 Hour Treat: Half Special
The specialty at Norda is the Half Special, which is a homemade spicy sausage served with shrimp salad, creamy potatoes, and mustard. This is probably the best choice for a Swedish-Manhattan fusion restaurant. If there’s one thing both Swedes and New Yorkers love, it’s a hot dog. This was significantly better than the dirty water dogs you can find in carts all over NYC. If you’re feeling more New York, schmear the mustard on your sausage. If you’re feeling a little more Swedish, stick to the shrimp salad.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Gothenburg
What would you do with 24 hours in Gothenburg? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Gothenburg? Would you ever sink a ship for the insurance money? And now, ABBA? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Gothenburg. If you have another 24 hours in Gothenburg, try this itinerary.