A Beginner's Guide to Gothenburg, Sweden's Second City 

© David De Vleeschauwer

An industrial powerhouse has added culture and cuisine to its repertoire.

While Stockholm is Sweden’s center of power and wealth, Göteborg (also known as Gothenburg) was developed as a base for trade and industry. But unlike in similar cities, Göteborg’s core industries remain active. And their modern adaptation is key to its charm. 

The city’s cargo port remains the largest in Scandinavia, and scores of cruise ships bring tourists into docks from which 1.5 million Swedes emigrated to America a century ago. Now ateliers, bars, parks, and art spaces like the cutting-edge Röda Sten Konsthall and restaurants like Sjömagasinet line the shore in repurposed warehouses and breweries. 

Shipwatching remains a pastime, and residents love seafood in a way that approaches reverence. The daily catch can be bought as soon as it comes in at Feskekôrka (“fish church”), the main fish market, but a deeper taste of the sea exists at Tullhuset, a restaurant in Hönö Klåva, an old fishing village across the port. Superb vegetarian restaurants also abound, such as the lovely Open New Doors on the Tyska Bridge.


From left: The Volvo Museum; the Göteborg Art Museum. David De Vleeschauwer

The city is also home to Volvo Cars, founded here in 1927 and still the area’s largest employer. The company’s recently expanded Torslanda Works factory is open for public tours, and the company’s history can be explored at the Volvo Museum in the old shipyard. A plan to make Göteborg a test bed for self-driving Volvos is in the works. 

Also decidedly last-century is Hasselblad, a premier manufacturer of cameras. Although the company recently shifted to digital optical devices, its products are still assembled locally. The Hasselblad Foundation funds an exhibition space at the Göteborg Museum of Art. One of the city’s iconic landmarks, a statue of the sea god Poseidon, bestrides the nearby square, known as the Götaplatsen, which also features the delicious Mr. P, local chef Stefan Karlsson’s informal counterpart to his Michelin-starred SK Mat & Människor.


From left: Cod with salmon roe and boiled potatoes at Tullhuset, in Göteborg, Sweden; Feskekôrka fish market. David De Vleeschauwer

 For analog diversions, the local amusement park, Liseberg, is hard to beat. Opened in 1923, it remains one of the most popular attractions in Sweden, in part because of its old-school thrill rides, and in part because of an expanded range of entertainment, including concerts, festivals, and upscale dining like the Lisebergs Wärdshus as well as vegetarian restaurant the Green Room. Hotels crowd the nearby canal; the Clarion Hotel Post (rooms from $187) occupying a former post office, combines luxury, convenience, and quiet with quirky art-installation decor and a lively outdoor bar scene. 

The workers for Göteborg’s old industries once lived in the Haga district, filled with densely packed wooden buildings on cobblestoned streets. Many were abandoned decades ago, but the area has been repopulated and refreshed, and now exemplifies local creative life, with bustling international restaurants and cafes for the daily fika coffee and pastry breaks—such as Café Husaren, which features flaky cinnamon buns the circumference of the Arctic Circle. Banners throughout Haga proudly proclaim, “Cosy Shopping and Fika Since 1648.”