TRAVEL: Gothenburg in Sweden
Cycling around the picturesque streets of Styrso, an island in Gothenburg’s southern archipelago, the cool sea breeze whips through my hair and provides much-needed relief from the soaring heat of the sun.
I stop off at a hidden little beach cove to watch the boats sailing across the calm waters, and have to remind myself that I’m actually on a city break.
With green fields, woodlands and beaches on its doorstep, Sweden’s second city is far from being a bustling metropolis. Instead, life here is calm and relaxing.
I base myself at the Avalon hotel, in Gothenburg’s downtown. It’s filled with vibrant pieces of artwork and even has a rooftop glass swimming pool protruding over Kungsportsplatsen. It’s quite amusing to stand at street level and look up to watch swimmers paddling their legs in a front crawl.
Outside, the streets are lined with tables full of people catching up over cocktails and fine food. You won’t find anyone rushing around here; the Swedes are too busy being effortlessly cool and calm.
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Scandinavians are known for their cutting edge design, and plenty of the bars and restaurants in Gothenburg have a 21st century feel. A fine example is Restaurang Kungstorget, where traditional menus have been replaced by iPads.
After lunch I head to Lilla Bommen, where I watch the boats setting off into the distance. I also take the opportunity to do some guerrilla gardening. Instead of flower pots, the dock is lined with planters boasting a selection of free-for-all vegetables.
For a taste of something more traditional, I head to the Haga old town where locals are sat outside enjoying coffees and pastries in the sunshine. I join them and am presented with the largest pastry I have ever seen in my life! It’s a great place to stop and do some people watching.
In the evening, the air is still warm and the streets are illuminated by restaurants and bars along main road, the Avenyn. People of all ages, young and old, are out and about having fun, laughing and dancing the night away.
After enjoying a meal at the Restaurang Familjen, I head down to Cafe & Bar Grindstugan near the river, where a guitar player is entertaining a crowd.
The next morning, I enjoy a refreshing cycle around the southern archipelago. There is no better way to get back to nature and escape life than on these peaceful islands where few tourists roam. Gothenburg is one city break where none of the city stresses apply.
WHERE TO STAY
:: Avalon Hotel
Like much of Gothenburg, a new experience lies around every corner in the Avalon Hotel - whether it’s a painting of a naked female, the unanticipated sound of birds tweeting in a hotel corridor, or the infinity rooftop pool. This is what makes it such an exciting place to stay.
The hotel is located in the heart of the city, within walking distance of best bars, restaurants and shops. The hotel’s own bar and restaurant is also top notch for wining and dining, and the breakfast buffet includes everything from blue cheese to vitamin shots.
:: Doubles from £183. Visit www.avalonhotel.se/en
WHAT TO DO
:: Cruise the islands
Ferries run regularly from Saltholmen to Gothenburg’s scenic southern archipelago. Styrso is the largest of the islands, just 30 minutes away by ferry. Once there, bicycles can be hired for as little as £8 a day.
As there are no cars on the islands, cyclists and walkers have free reign of the roads to explore the picturesque fishing villages, summer mansions and scenic coastlines. There are also plenty of cafes serving locally sourced fish and traditional sweet cakes.
The number 11 tram makes regular trips from the centre to Saltholmen, where you can catch a ferry to the islands. Ferry times can be found at www.vasttrafik.se
:: Learn about fika
The Haga district is Gothenburg’s oldest suburb. It was originally lined with traditional wooden houses, but renovation in the 1980s has given the district an old-world-meets-modern feel. Cafe Husaren is popular with sweet-toothed tourists and locals, who come to enjoy their giant cinnamon buns. Fika - the tradition of drinking coffee with friends - is a large part of Swedish culture, making cafes a good place to learn about local life.
WHERE TO EAT
:: Restaurang Familjen
This warm and friendly restaurant is a great place to experience rustic, gourmet food without breaking the bank. The owners take pride in using local fish and ingredients to produce simple but effective and flavourful dishes. There’s a choice of two three course menus, which cost from £33.
The fish church, known to Swedes as Feskekorka, is an indoor fish market between the city centre and Haga old town. The gothic-looking building is also home to Restaurant Gabriel, famous for their fish soup and grilled crayfish. The food is no-fuss, yet highly recommended.
:: bmi regional operates six daily flights per week from Birmingham to Gothenburg, with fares starting from £82 one-way, to include complimentary food and drinks onboard and a 20kg hold baggage allowance.
:: bmi regional operates up to 300 flights each week, serving 21 UK and European destinations with an 18-strong all-jet fleet. Visit www.bmiregional.com.
:: For more information on Gothenburg, visit www.goteborg.com or www.visitsweden.com