One thing visitors to Gothenburg will quickly notice is that the city's men and women dress impeccably. In fact, the majority of the city's 491,000 residents look as if they've just stepped off a catwalk. Beards, it appears, are especially popular with the men. Perhaps it's because the city in which they live is equally beautiful - Gothenburg feels more like a rural town than Sweden's second largest city.
Architecture-wise, it's a fascinating mix of old and new. All of Gothenburg's houses were once made of wood, which is partly why the series of fires which struck in the early 1800s wreaked such devastation. Shortly afterwards, it was decided that houses within the river which encircles the city's inner-most district would be made of stone to reduce the fire risk. Because stone was more expensive than wood, only the rich could afford to live within the river, and the working classes took up residence in the wooden houses outside of the river. Many of these areas are now the city's trendiest.
WHERE TO STAY
Walking into the city's largest hotel, the Clarion Post, feels like stepping inside a giant glitter ball. To start with, the main revolving door is set in what appears to be an enormous gold nugget, complete with super-sized golden bubbles. The Clarion Post used to be a post office, and the hotel has managed to incorporate plenty of nods to the building's previous use. The deconstructed chasis of a post van hangs, like a piece of artwork, above the elevator, a red post box stands in reception and rows of pigeon holes line the walls. The hotel's Norda bar is one of the city's most popular hangouts, and where you'll find what is possibly the world's most extravagant sofa - a gold leather affair which stretches almost the entire length of the room. The bar feels achingly-cool yet attracts an incredibly diverse crowd, ranging from tattooed-punk rockers to glamorous model types dressed head-to-toe in Chanel. Most of Gothenburg is like this: tourism officials are keen to point out that the city doesn't have a gay quarter because there doesn't need to be. And it's true - you can literally step out of a grimy, Hells Angel-filled Irish pub and straight into another bar where the barmen all wear rainbow-striped headbands, tiny pink velour shorts and care bear-adorned tank tops. And there's a high chance one of the Hells Angels from the Irish pub next door has popped in for a pint.
FOOD AND DRINK
People love fish in Gothenburg, and the Feskekôrka (‘fish church’ in Swedish) in the city centre is where they go to show their devotion - although if you're still recovering from a night on the Schnapps, it might be best to leave your visit until later in the day. You'll find huge mountains of twitching lobsters, enormous crab claws and piles of herring, cod and plaice, along with pates, dressings and soups made from most types of fish.
The restaurant perched above the market floor, Restaurant Gabriel, is one of Gothenburg's finest. Co-owner and head chef Johan Malm has won first and second place in the World Oyster Shucking Championships and will happily talk to visitors for hours on end about which wine works best with what type of fish. This small, intimate restaurant is only open during the day and the ingredients - whether it's chanterelle mushrooms, lingonberries, cod or oysters - are all locally-sourced.
The multi award-winning co-owner and head chef of Restaurant Gabriel, Johan Malm, below
However it's not all about fish in Gothenburg.
The Swedish also love a fika (pronounced fee-ka), which means "to drink."
In Sweden, it's a social institution. It's more than a coffee break, but a chance to catch up with friends or family while enjoying a snack - usually something sweet.
Da Matteo, on Södra Larmgatan, is a coffee shop famous for its huge range of coffees and visitors can get their caffeine fix while they watch huge sacks of beans being poured into the roaster.
If you've got a sweet tooth, get your fika fix at Café Husaren, one of Gothenburg's most popular cafes, in the Haga district, just a short walk from the city centre. Café Husaren is famous for its cinnamon buns - huge, pizza-sized affairs which should probably carry a health warning.
Those looking for presents for foodie friends should head to Stora Saluhallen at Kungstorget - it's Gothenburg's largest food market and dates back to 1889.
Inside the enormous, glass-roofed building, you'll find fragrant piles of traditional Swedish knäckebröd (crisp bread) alongside carefully-arranged pyramids of salted chocolate squares and surprisingly creative displays of pigs' knuckles.
TOP DRINKING SPOTS
- Swedish Taste: head here to finish some of Sweden's best wines. Sankt Eriksgatan 5 411 05 Göteborg, Sweden
- Ölrepubliken: this city centre bar has a huge range of lagers and also hosts regular beer-tasting events
- Norda Bar and Grill: The Clarion Post's hotel bar is the only place where you'll find Dugges Post Lager, brewed exclusively for the hotel. Drottningtorget 10, 41103 Göteborg
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
One of the best ways to see the city is via boat.
The 45-minute-long river cruise offers a fascinating insight into Gothenburg's history, although a word of warning - you'll pass under several bridges, one of which is so low that passengers are forced to lie down on the floor of the boat in order to avoid accidental decapitation. Afterward, indulge in some retail therapy with a visit to the Haga district, which is just a short walk from the city centre. This is one of the city's oldest areas and the majority of houses are made of wood. Haga's smaller streets are filled with quirky vintage shops, and the tattoo parlours wedged in between them make the place feel like a combination of Soho and Camden. Haga Nygata is home to some of Gothenburg's best cafes along with stores selling traditional crafts, including Liten Karin, which is famous for its wooden toys, and Haga Trätoffelfabrik, which translates as "clog factory." Head to Bebop Antik on Kaponjargatan for Scandinavian lamps, ceramics and textiles from the 1970s.
GOTHENBURG: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- The currency used here is the Swedish Krona
- The city has two international airports: Göteborg Landvetter and Göteborg City. Göteborg Landvetter is the larger of the two
- The app: Cityguide Gothenburg is the official visitors and events guide to Gothenburg, and can be downloaded from iTunes
- The book: Bertlitz's Sweden Pocket Guide (£4.99, Amazon.co.uk) includes an in-depth section on Gothenburg and the surrounding area
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Göteborg Landvetter is the larger of the two airports, although many international airlines, including Ryanair, fly into Göteborg City. There are regulars shuttle bus services from both airports to the city centre and the journey to the city centre from either airport takes around thirty minutes.
The Clarion Post offers double rooms from £115 per night based on two sharing including buffet breakfast. To book, call +46 031 61 90 50 or visit clarionpost.se
Norwegian flies to Gothenburg from Gatwick six times a week, with single fares starting from £39. Visit norwegian.com to book.
Words: Tamara Hinson