MOVING ON FROM STOCKHOLM, Yanyan and I travel to Gothenburg in the evening to experience another side of Sweden. The country’s second largest city is replete of Neoclassical architecture, interesting museums, and elegant pathways that make it one of Sweden’s most beautiful cities. It’s a cosmopolitan place as well, not only because it’s home to the biggest port in Scandinavia and the automobile giant Volvo, but because of the numerous restaurants, cafes, and bars that cater to people from all sides of the globe.
Despite the buzz of activities, Gothenburg retains a very chilled out vibe that makes it an appealing alternative for many Swedes to base themselves in. The easygoing attitude is what endears upon arriving the following morning.
GOTHENBURG WAS FOUNDED IN 1621 by King Gustav II Adolf as part of attempts to consolidate Swedish control of the region. Denmark had controlled the area since medieval times, demanding prohibitively high tolls from all vessels entering the country. Gothenburg would then welcome traders from Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany, who all left their legacies via the architecture found all over the city.
The city’s trade links extended up to the Far East, with the Swedish East India Company owning the monopoly. This trade is the focus of the Gothenburg Museum, a large building fronting a picturesque canal in the city center.
Other parts of Gothenburg’s history come alive in the city’s old town, which is where we start our walking tour a few hours later. The northern part is where the shipyard is located, providing a glimpse to the city harbor’s importance, while the southern part is an eminently walkable neighborhood anchored by Gustav II Adolf’s statue.
WITH THE DUTCH DESIGNING THE CITY, much of Gothenburg features canals as well as large pockets of greens. Its industrial background also means that the city historically catered to working class, who mostly concentrated in the Haga quarter. This neighborhood was scheduled to be torn down until a renovation project in the 1980s turned what once was a decrepit area into one of Sweden’s most popular. Nowadays, its cobblestone paths regularly bear witness to trendy locals and tourists drawn by the numerous cafes and shops.
More modern trappings can be found in Kungsportsavenyn, the most flamboyant part of Gothenburg. Commonly called as simply Avenyn, the area’s 19th century homes now harbor chic cafés, bars, or restaurants. The thoroughfare heads south to a square dominated by a statue of Poseidon, who is surrounded by the Neoclassical buildings of Stadsteatern (Theatre), Konserthuset (Concert Hall), and Konstmuseum (Art Museum).
HAVING OUR FILL OF THE CITY’S HISTORIC CHARMS, Yanyan and I head back to our hostel late in the afternoon. We have planned to visit Liseberg, the city’s famous theme park just across the high way, and the ongoing book fair in a nearby convention center, but fatigue sets in, and the warm bed proves too much to resist.
In the end, we head to the grocery store next door to buy some frozen meals we’ll heat in the microwave and consume for dinner. Hey, who can say no to some Swedish meatballs and mashed potato?