Girls Weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden
A girlfriend and I took a weekend away in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was the perfect place to get some quality girl time and be away from the kids. Gothenburg, Sweden is full of entertainment options, design stores and places to Fika. I can’t think of a better place to relax with a girlfriend.
Arrival in Gothenburg
The city center of Gothenburg is a bit of a haul from the airport. We pre-booked our transfer with Flybussarna. The coaches make regular loops to and from the airport. They have wifi and power plugs. They were quite crowded though and hot, due to the unseasonably warm weather. Pre-booking saved us money and time as we didn’t have to queue for tickets.
We stayed at the amazing Hotel Bellora. The Hotel Bellora would not be a good pick for families, but is a perfect option for couples or a girls trip. The rooms are small, but well appointed. The breakfast was perfect and kept us full throughout the morning.
We spent our first day window shopping and enjoying everything design related Gothenburg has to offer. (Read about our shopping and design tour here.)
The city of Gothenburg has banned bottled water. You will find vendors selling reusable bottles. Water is provided from taps around town and in any restaurant. We filled up at the Tourist Information Center on the corner where the airport bus drops off. This is also where we picked up the Gothenburg Pass.
The Gothenburg Pass
The Gothenburg Pass offers most of the city’s attractions as part of the pass. We were ecstatic to see so many boat tours included. The big problem though is that you cannot make advanced reservations on any of the boats. People not buying the pass are able to purchase tickets for the boat rentals ahead of time. Thus, although the pass includes the boat rides it is possible you won’t get a spot, or worse spend all day waiting for tickets on one of the big ticket boat rides only to find out they are sold out. I was able to get reservations only after e-mailing the company and telling them I wanted to write about the boat. This is a problem! Thus, you are better off just paying for and booking ahead the things you want to do.
In order to make the Gothenburg Pass work for us I researched all the sights in advance and had an intense itinerary. Attractions had goofy hours and were only open on some days. (Seriously, this is what my itineraries look like for every trip!)
Another disappointment with the Gothenburg Pass was that it did not include the rental bikes. You will need a separate card for these. The bikes are a great way to get around town though. The stations are convenient to most tourist attractions.
Paddan Boat Tour
The Paddan Tour provides a city tour from the water. You sail under the city’s low bridges, the 17th century moat and out into the harbor. We saw iconic buildings from the water, which honestly offers the best view. The tour has a live narrator who we found incredibly informative. These tours tend to fill up. With the Gothenburg Pass we luckily grabbed the last tickets for the sailing we wanted. You will want to make your reservation ahead of time or pick up tickets earlier in the day.
Unlike other boat tours in other cities, you really get a unique view of the city from the Paddan boat tour. It was a great way to understand the layout of the city.
Archipelago Boat Tour
The Evening Archipelago Tour is another must. This tour takes you out into the archipelago for sunset. You will need an advanced reservation. If you have the Gothenburg Pass you can get a reservation by calling and reserving a dinner table.
If you’ve reserved a dinner table there is no need to arrive early as tables are pre-assigned. If you are just taking the cruise then you’ll want to arrive early to secure a seat.
The dinner menu is limited (you can view it online) but everything was delicious. We should have pre-ordered the seafood platter. We saw most other tables getting that and it looked amazing. I had no idea it needed to be ordered ahead! We were very happy with our food selection though and shared a bottle of wine while we had stunning vies of the port and the Northern Archipelago.
The Archipelago Tour is supposed to make a circle. Unfortunately a train was stuck on a bridge and that prevented us from getting out of the harbor into the river so our tour was a lollypop instead of a circle. We had beautiful views nonetheless.
When the cruise ended we opted to walk home along the harbor. This turned out to be one of my favorite things we did. The sun was setting and the boats in the harbor were just gorgeous. There are also plenty of places to enjoy a drink or a light meal along the water.
Gothenburg Museum of Art
My appreciation for Art has really grown thanks to Larissa. Every chance I get to visit a museum with her offers new perspectives. The Gothenburg Card includes admission into the regular galleries of the Gothenburg Museum of Art. The Special Exhibition was an additional cost.
The Gothenburg Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in Sweden. It is host to a variety of interesting collections as well as some very famous works of art.
One of my favorites is the self portrait collection. This private collection was donated to the museum in 1950. It features both well and lesser known Scandic artists’ self portraits.
Among the collection are French Impressionists, Swedish Modernism and Northern 19th Century. There is even a Picasso Room and one for the Gothenburg Colorists.
There is also a sculpture hall with contemporary works.
These two watercolors were some of my favorite finds.
We also visited the special exhibition which was Chiharu Shiota.
The exhibit included a hands-on area where you could practice stringing your own art. I found this incredibly therapeutic. They also had a time lapse video of the installation being installed that was really fascinating to watch.
Gothenburg Botanical Garden
The Gothenburg Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to explore. You could easily spend a full day here. We had beautiful weather and loved soaking up the sun along with the sweet smell of the flowers.
We took public transport to the Botanical Gardens. You’re dropped off across the highway. It’s a bit of a walk to reach the bridge that passes over the overpass and then back toward the botanical gardens. Luckily you walk through this darling neighborhood that will put you in the mood for your visit.
The garden has several houses located on the property. Many of them are private residences, but you can explore the manicured gardens. The homes add a completely different feel from your typical botanical garden.
While the kids would have loved running around and exploring the gardens, without them we were free to wander aimlessly. We both lost ourselves in the garden for a bit. Our favorite place was the Scandic Wildflower garden. The bees were so happily buzzing here and it was full of new-to-me plants soaking up the summer sun.
You won’t want to miss the short hike up to the lookout point. All of this was once the King’s hunting ground. The vantage point from the top of the hill over the city was just lovely. The air was so fresh. I loved the details of the iron holds in the rocks to assist you on the climb.
There is so much to explore in the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens. I highly recommend this be part of your Gothenburg itinerary. There are so many lovely picnic spots that you can easily make this a full day trip, or just pop by.
We opted to get some lunch at one of the garden cafes. The meal was lovely, there were a plethora of seats outside in the sun. We honestly didn’t want to leave.
The Garden Society of Gothenburg
The Garden Society of Gothenburg has preserved a 19th century garden inside the city. It is a reprieve from the city, that at the very least you should take a walk through.
The cafe in the garden is perfect for Fika or lunch. We were too stuffed to even give it a go, but everyone sitting in the warm sun watching their children frolic in the garden seemed quite pleased.
The Palm House is the gem of the garden. This glass and iron greenhouse has welcomed visitors since 1878. It is a tropical oasis in the middle of Gothenburg.
The greenhouse features plants from around the world. It also offers a glimpse of the 1900’s gardening style. You feel as if you stepped back into time as you enter the greenhouse. The statues throughout the Palm House are worth a visit on their own. One reminded me so much of my Big and Little Littles.
We missed the peak bloom of the Rose Garden, but still found plenty in bloom. The garden just evokes such a 1900s feel that we linked arms and went for a turn to enjoy the fresh air.
Alfie Atkins’ Cultural Center
I couldn’t resist checking out the Alfie Atkins Cultural Center, located at the far end of The Garden Society of Gothenburg Gardens. This is most certainly a children’s attraction, filled with play spaces based on a popular Swedish book character.
It was hot the day we visited, but typically I think this would be a wonderful retreat from the cold with the kids. There were so many fun play spaces to be enjoyed. The outside deck was perfect for a picnic and had viewing platforms for the kids to watch the boat tours go by.
The attic had the most amazing window seat nestled into the eaves. Something out of my dreams!
Gothenburg Heritage Tram
These vintage trams, some over 100 years old, are a great way to see the city. The trams are run by volunteers and thus have goofy hours. You will really need to plan in order to work this into your visit. They are a fun way to see the city though and my train loving kids can’t say no to a ride.
Final Thoughts on Gothenburg
Gothenburg had a completely different feel than our trip to Stockholm. While Stockholm was packed full of attractions I felt a bit more relaxed in Gothenburg. It is certainly smaller and less crowded, making it easier to explore.
You never know what you might find when you walk the back streets of Gothenburg. I guarantee though that you will find something just for you.