Monday 22 January 2018

The Getaway: Gothenburg

West is best!

Gothenburg: Barque Viking and harbour (Goran Assner)
Gothenburg: Barque Viking and harbour (Goran Assner)
Gothenburg's 'Cheese slicer' bridge
Gothenburg: fika (Susanne Walstrom)
Gothenburg: Sensational seafood!
Padden canal tour. Photo: Simon Paulin

Tom Sweeney

Tom Sweeney has gone and fallen in love with Gothenburg - and with new direct flights from Dublin, who could blame him?

Joke-a-minute tour guide Annika Nilsson could enjoy a glittering career as a stand-up comedian if it weren’t for Gothenburg’s ‘Cheese Slicer’ bridge.

With only six inches of sitting-down headroom as the open-top sightseeing boat ( passes underneath, she’d be decapitated if she even tried to stand up (see gallery above).

When Annika says “duck”, you’d better do so.

Compact enough to explore on foot, gorgeous Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast is just as winsome from the harbour, where the much-photographed four-masted barque Viking (above) is moored. With a 55-metre foremast, this magnificent vessel (now a hotel) is a permanent fixture – her passage to the sea is barred by a 45-metre tall bridge that wasn’t there when she arrived in 1950.

Sweden’s second city is a lot more laid-back than the capital, Stockholm, where the fashion-fixated citizens can take themselves a bit too seriously. The grounded Gothenburgers, however, favour substance over style, and are never slow to remind the snooty folk from the Smoke that “west is best”.

I’m inclined to agree.

Guilty pleasure

Gothenburg: fika (Susanne Walstrom)

Fika, a Swedish institution

The uniquely Swedish tradition of fika is a social institution.

We’d call it a coffee break, but to the Swedes it’s almost a religious ritual. Fika is a feelgood, informal experience involving convivial company, coffee, cookies and cakes. Pop in to any of Matts Johansson’s four Da Matteo coffee shops ( and savour the cinnamon buns while sipping the best coffee you’ll ever drink.

Hotel Intel

The 456-room Scandic Europa Hotel ( is slap bang in the centre of the city – and the action – and has free wifi throughout. The hotel’s HAK restaurant – where the seafood is sensational – and bar are hugely popular and hopping most nights, with live music at the weekend. This is where the cool kids hang out.

Cheap Kick

Padden canal tour. Photo: Simon Paulin

Padden canal tour

Gothenburg’s oldest and cheapest pub, Olhall 7:an (Kungsgatan 7, next to Hotel Avalon), is a gem, with more than a few rough diamonds among the regulars and a Hibernophile Swedish manager who speaks English with a broad Belfast accent. It doesn’t sell wine or spirits, only beer, in Smithwicks glasses. Nor does it sell food – just help yourself to free salami rolls and sausages from the bar.


The Swedes are crazy for their cocktails, but you won’t get a Spanish measure of spirits. The standard is a miserly and hardly-detectable 40cl, which can lead to complaints of there being “no Bahama in my Mama”. If you want to taste the liquor, ask for 60cl, but never 80 – they’ll think you’re a raving alcoholic.

Tom's Top Tips

1. Don’t rush to the ATM for kronor. Swedes pay for everything, including taxis and street food, with a debit or credit card, and there’s no minimum spend.

2. Don’t presume it’s okay to smoke on a bar’s open-air terrace. Ask first to avoid triggering a cacophony of indignant coughing.

Get me there!

SAS Scandinavian Airlines ( has Dublin-Gothenburg direct flights from €78 one way including taxes and charges. This new route operates weekly on Saturdays until the end of June and from mid-August to the end of September, and twice weekly on Sundays and Wednesdays from the end of June to the start of August.

For more information on fun-loving Gothenburg’s many attractions and to buy a money-saving City Card, visit

Book the best value city breaks with Independent Travel here!

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