Our favourite things to do and see on Sweden's stunning West Coast
The West Coast of Sweden and its stunning archipalego is a must for anyone who is partial to the lure of the sea and all it has to offer
The many restaurants of Gothenburg and the Bohuslan islands are gastronomical heavyweights; this is a culinary heaven for all foodies. Seafood is obviously a speciality, but there are plenty of other options and the use of fresh seasonal produce is the norm here – be it from land, sea, lake or forest. Enjoy the Swedish tradition of ‘fika’ – aka coffee and cake – the classic ‘kanelbulle’ cinnamon pastry being the popular favourite, or sample some of the local fayre in the local food market. Try the Hugo Ericson cheese stall for traditional Swedish hard cheese and fresh bread, or buy the freshest fish from the Feskekorkan fish market hall.
For those with a sense of adventure, travel up along the Bohuslan coast and visit the island of Kärignön and the Käringö Ostronbaren (Oyster bar) run by the charming and charismatic Camilla Hofsten and her father Kenth. There you’ll be treated to oysters and Champagne while you wallow in a large hot tub of sea water, heated by a wood-fired furnace. Soak up the natural beauty and charm of the Bohuslan coastline and breath in the fresh sea air this surely is the ultimate oyster experience. Perfect for a special occasion, Kärignön has some delightful accommodation options, with a selection of new and old traditional Swedish wooden houses available for hire. Its worth noting, however, that the high season here is between July and early August, so its far better to beat the crowds and visit in springtime to enjoy the peace and quiet they have to offer.
It is no surprise that this 18th-century country estate was once described as the most beautiful and exquisite wooden building in the kingdom, and is well worth a visit. Beautifully restored to its original glory, with a striking formal garden with manicured lawns, exotic plants and perfectly pruned conical trees, the grounds also feature a landscape park, a wild garden and the kitchen garden where produce is grown and cultivated by hand without the use of toxins or harmful fertilizers. Sound good? Head straight to the Gunnebo Coffe House and restaurant, where food from the garden helps supplement the daily menu, helping this destination score 10/10 in the eco chic stakes, too.
For a city, Gothenburg is very green, and boasts a variety glorious parks and gardens. The Garden Society of Gothenburg is breathtakingly beautiful, founded in 1842 to promote horticulture and to create a meeting place for people to enjoy. With its impressive Kew-like palm house, immaculate lawns, fragrant rose gardens, and a diverse range of other flora and fauna, it remains one of the best preserved gardens in Europe. Music concerts, parties and exhibitions are held here, and there is a café and restaurant where you can while away the hours in the summer sunshine.
If you have time, be sure to visit the island of Marstrand, which has a rich history of wealth and a touch of scandal. Once regarded as ‘the wildest town is Scandinavia’, it was also a playground of the Royals. These days, Marstrand is the place to be seen in the summer season where sailing folk and sun-worshippers flock. The island is very picturesque, with some beautiful old wooden buildings, delightful restaurants, cafes and small boutiques. Don’t miss the prominent Carlsten fortress and, if you’ve got time, the entertaining tours within it.
A large proportion of Swedens oysters are harvested from the waters around Grebbestad – a small village North of Gothenburg. If you have got the taste for them, why not take a trip out to sea with the fishermen on their traditional wooden boat on an Oyster safari? Learn about why they are such a delicacy, how they grow and how best to eat them. The Oyster House Grönemad at Grebbestad run tours all year round and, depending on the season, also offer different excursions, including lobster and crab safaris, as well as boat tours of the area and even swimming trips. Best of all though are the lunches in their wonderful wooden boathouse, where you can feast on seafood and glug Champagne – to complement the food, of course.
If your appetite for oysters is still not satisfied, then once a year you can catch the Oyster Opening Championships held at Grebys restaurant in Grebbestad, where you can witness competitors battle it out to be Scandinavias champion. The rules are not for the faint hearted, it is taken very seriously by all involved, but it really has to be seen to be believed and makes for a very entertaining day out.
A relatively new museum to Gothenburg, this award-winning, super-modern building is an innovative cultural arena and forum for the whole community. It holds seminars and discussion groups and family activities – all intended to encourage debate and creativity. The museum plays host to many exhibitions, performances, film and music all within its five main halls that change throughout the year. With a café and restaurant too, there really is something for everyone and it’s free as well!
Satisfy your shopaholic tendencies in Gothenburg, which has a wide range of shops all within walking distance of each other. From the small fashion boutiques, specialist craft shops and antique shops of the old town ‘Haga’, to the more familiar high street names in the city’s modern shopping malls, you won’t be short of places to splash the cash. With Scandinavians famed for their cool, functional design (they did bring us Ikea, after all), you can also find lots of interiors and home furnishing stores, particulary along the streets of Linnegaten and Kungsgatan.
Why not get back to nature and immerse yourself in the wilderness of Dalsland? This area of outstanding natural beauty, full of lakes and rivers and surrounded by thick forest, lies just North of Gothenborg and boarders Norway. You can explore by taking a canal trip along the winding waterways, or follow the old disused railway line by bike or horseback. The choice of activities is vast, from fishing, kayaking and other watersports, to nature safaris, where you might see animals like otters, deers, even lynx and wolves if youre lucky and brave enough.