The Bohuslän Coast Road Trip Part 1: Smögen

GOTHENBURG MAY BE A DESTINATION IN ITSELF, but it’s also a convenient gateway to the Bohuslän coast. Here, lovely coastal towns feature colorful timber cottages, pine trees, and rugged granite rocks that all make for great photo opportunities. In summer, it draws crowds both from Sweden and neighboring countries, while in the off-season it’s either depressingly abandoned or blissfully empty, depending on your perspective. Regardless, the scenery is beautiful, and a drive here can very well be one of the highlights of your trip to Sweden.

Thus, on our last day in Sweden, Yanyan and I rent a car (a Volvo, of course) in Gothenburg to do a road trip to a couple of towns in the region. A car allows us to maximize our mileage, especially since the off-season means that the schedule of public transportation can be highly erratic. Plus, the rental fee’s surprisingly affordable considering that we’re in Scandinavia, so it works out to be much cheaper than having to pay for multiple bus rides for two.

We exit Gothenburg and drive through the E6 highway, which runs parallel to the coast up to the Norwegian border, and head to our first destination: the party island of Smögen.

Long a favorite of the trendy crowd, Smögen has been one of the most popular sites in the Bohuslän region. In summer the restaurants and bars along the waterfront boardwalk fill up with sophisticated crowds who come to enjoy the Nordic sunshine and feast on seafood.

But the rest of the year, when much of the island closes down, the island feels abandoned. As Yanyan and I stroll the boardwalk, we spot only a handful of people, mostly fishermen talking in their native language probably about their trade. Yanyan feels depressed, though I actually like the peaceful vibe. The rhythmic lapping of the waves and the regular calls of seagulls are calm-inducing drugs to the soul. A jellyfish gently floats in the clear water.

We walk further and reach Smögenbryggan at the end of the boardwalk, where we see the row of colorful warehouses that have been an enduring image of the region, if not the whole of Sweden. We take our sweet time exploring the area before deciding to find an affordable restaurant that’s open so that we can have lunch. We spot a seafood restaurant at the other end of the boardwalk, but it exceeds our budget.

Walking further inland, we eventually spot a pizza place. “You like pizza?” Yanyan asks.

“I do,” I tell her. “Anyway, what choice do we have? Let’s go.”

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