With its historic parks and gardens Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, is a must-visit city for anyone with a love of plants, gardens and open spaces. In fact, there is estimated to be a whopping 175 square metres of green space per citizen, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking for the perks (and parks!) of a city break without the hustle and bustle associated with larger cities. Built on an archipelago, on the southwest coast, this is Sweden’s ‘second city’ (after the capital Stockholm), with a population of some 800,000.
Though it wears its long maritime history with pride, Gothenburg is a vibrant modern city, with Michelin-starred restaurants and a thriving theatre and art scene. It has all the buzz you’d expect from a city that has two universities and supports acclaimed annual book, science and film festivals.
The area is laced with a system of canals and a slow, guided cruise around the network is a must-do to appreciate how its heritage has made its mark on contemporary Gothenburg.
There’s plenty to see and do in Gothenburg, and if you pick up one of the the City Cards you’ll be able to get free entry into many of the city’s attractions and free public transport on bus, tram and boat.
Gothenburg Botanical Gardens
A visit to Gothenburg’s incredible Botanical Garden (Göteborgs botaniska trädgård) is a must. It’s one of the largest and most important botanical gardens in Europe, at about 430 acres. The 100-acre garden proper is made up of areas for native Swedish plants, a Japanese garden, rhododendron valley, perennial garden and much more.
Step inside the impressive greenhouse for some rare and unusual plants, including orchids, cacti and the extremely rare (and now extinct in the wild) Easter Island tree Toromiro (Sophora toromiro) that was saved from extinction in the 1950s by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl when he brought seeds back from the last known wild-growing tree on Easter Island. Outside the ornate garden lies a further 350 acres of parkland and an arboritum where moose, wild boar and red squirrels can be seen.
Open: Every day except holidays. Times vary according to season.
Admission price: Adults 20 SEK voluntary fee for garden, 20 SEK mandatory fee for greenhouse.
Included in City Card: Yes
For more information: Botaniska.se
Slottsskogen park and zoo
Slottsskogen is a beautiful city park with winding paths, grassland for relaxing with a picnic and herds of wild deer. As well as the wild animals it is also home to Sweden’s oldest zoo, where visitors can see seals, penguins, elks and more. Children can visit the children’s zoo for a ride on a Gotland pony. Entry into the park and zoo is free but pony rides cost 20 SEK. Fans of ancient history should look out for the jättegrytorna - holes made in the rocks by our ancestors around 12,000 years ago.
Opening times: all year, every day
Admission price: free
More information: goteborg.se
For shopping, people-watching, cafes, restaurants and galleries visit Gothenburg’s most famous street Avenyn (The Avenue). 1000 metres from end to end, the tree-lined boulevard stretches from the oldest part of Gothenburg to Götaplatsensquare, home of Carl Milles’ iconic statue of Poseidon and Gothenburg City Theatre, Gothenburg Concert Hall and the Museum of Modern Art. A visit to the Museum of Modern Art is free with the City Card or a very reasonable 40 SEK without and inside you’ll see one of the finest collections of Nordic art in the world, as well as international artists such as Monet, Picasso and van Gogh.
See our gallery of Avenyn's pop-up gardens
Liseberg theme park, where amusements meet landscape design
Liseberg theme park
This all-ages theme park has something for everyone. Admission fees are staggered - you can pay a small fee to step inside and just enjoy the beautifully sculpted gardens, buy tokens for the rides you would like to go on or buy a wristband for all-you-can-do enjoyment. Although the park is enormous it has been carefully designed to allow plenty of secluded pockets so if you are travelling as a family with teenagers in tow they can be free to enjoy the many rides while you wander the gardens and coffee shops. Gardens include a poison garden and a garden designed for blind people featuring gently winding paths, scented plants and the sound of trickling water.
Open: Varies, check website for details.
Admission price: 95 SEK for garden only, 355 SEK for all-day pass. See more about pricing structures.
Included in City Card: Yes
For more information: Liseberg.com
Take in the sights of Sweden’s beautiful coastline with a boat trip to the picturesque and car-free islands of the archipelago, including Vrångö, a tranquil island with a small fishing community, nature reserve and beautiful bays for swimming in when the weather is good. Find out more about getting to the islands.
Open: See timetable.
Admission price: Varies, but many trips included in City Card.
More information: goteborg.org
Gunnebo House and Gardens
A beautiful Swedish take on a traditional English manor house (think 'marble' sculptures carved from local wood), Gunnebo House is an 18th Century country house surrounded by landscaped parkland, kitchen garden and formal gardens. Currently on display are some stunning land art sculptures by international artists such as Will Beckers and Rainer Ross. Fans of historical buildings and landscaping methods can see a wood-heated orangery being built using historic plans and a solid oak framed pleached tree tunnel. Be sure to allow time for lunch at their fantastic cafe for a taste of locally food and organic vegetables grown in their own kitchen garden.
Opening times: All summer, winter restrictions.
Admission price: Guided tours are 100 SEK. Entry to the gardens is by optional donation.
Included in City Card: Yes
More information: gunneboslott.se
Petrolheads rejoice, Gothenburg isn’t all about greenery - it’s also a city of industry and technology. One of Gothenburg’s most famous exports is on display in the Volvo Museum on the island of Hisingend, West of Gothenburg city centre. On display you’ll find many of the brand’s cherished historic models going back to prototypes of their first car, 1927’s Volvo ÖV 4. You can stop off at the Volvo Museum during a boat trip, and while there take a stroll along Hisingend’s beautiful beaches.
Open: Tues-Sun except public holidays.
Admission price: Adults 100 SEK, 65+ 80 SEK.
Included in City Card: Yes
More info: Volvo Museum
The Fish Church (Feskekôrka)
The ‘Fish Church’ might look like a converted place of worship, but this unusual-looking riverside building was purpose-built in 1874 to celebrate one of Gothenburg’s specialities – seafood. The cold, clean waters of west Sweden are ideal for seafood and autumn is the perfect time to visit the market and restaurant for a taste of seasonal, locally caught lobsters, oysters, prawns and, of course, plenty of herring.
Opening times: 10am - 6pm most days, 10am - 3pm Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
Admission price: Free
More info: www.goteborg.com/en/feskekorka/
Garden Society of Gothenburg
The beautiful gardens and palm house (modelled on Crystal Palace) of the Garden Society of Gothenburg (Tradgardsforeningen) couldn’t be more easily accessible. They are right in the city centre - a calm oasis away from it all. Greenhouse highlights include the camellia room and aquatic plants. Outside a fabulous rose garden features more than 2,000 different kinds of roses - heavenly when they are blooming in summer.
Opening times: Every day, times vary according to season.
Admission fee: Free
More information: Tradgardsforeningen.se
Need to know
Flight time: 1 hour 50 minutes from London airports
Time difference: 1 hour ahead of UK
Average temperature: October 9c
Getting around: A 24-hour City Card (375 SEK) will get you admission to most of the city’s attractions as well as transport by bus, tram or boat.
Beer in a pub: 57 SEK (500ml)
Glass of house wine: 65 SEK
Exchange rate (autumn 2016): £1 = 11 SEK