Lucy Self discovered the fabulous food and understated cool of Gothenburg.
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A good city break requires a certain check list. Short flight for maximum time spent in said city. Small enough so that everything is accessible. A bevvy of buzzy bars. A smattering of superlative restaurants. A few notable points of cultural interest are always a bonus. As is a river running through it, punctuated by a few pretty parks. But most crucially, the most fun are those cities you might not think of first (nothing better than a travelling whim) and one such spot is Gothenburg.
Sweden’s second largest city is still relatively un-tapped by the tourist hoards, generally being the second choice for after its capital Stockholm. But, having spent a long weekend wandering its seductive streets, we can’t think why. A short flight from London (under 2 hours and under £100 for return flights), main attractions dotted around the main easy-to-navigate central avenues (and those that aren’t reached by tram or citibikes), a sprawling park every other neighbourhood, winding waterways and, most importantly, some of the best eating we’ve found in Europe – it’s safe to say Gothenburg has got it going on.
We’re not lying when we tell you, we didn’t have a bad meal in Gothenburg. Starting with the most important, we highly recommend shimmying over the cobbled streets of neighbourhood Haga. Here you’ll find a stretch of cute shops and even cuter cafes serving these brilliant brunch buffets. Ignore everything you’ve ever learnt about the hideous hotel chain spreads and dive into piles of plump scones flecked with berries, silky yoghurt, tart compotes and sweet jams, seeds, nuts, boiled-eggs-in-their-shells and cinnamon-swirled kanelbullar (around seven euros including a hot drink). Our breakfast spot of choice was Le Petit Cafe on Haga Nagata – for its adorable alfresco arrangement of vintage chairs and chintzy cushions and counter piled high with baked goodies.
Few come to Gberg and leave without visiting the Feskekôrka. The market is housed in a building built to resemble a church, leaving visitors in no doubt of the Swede’s devotion to all things fishy. Inside, neatly packed rows of fresh-as-you-like prawns, lobster and the like can be swooned over/purchased via the many vendors. It’s also a great spot for lunch, where you can either grab a salad piled high with crayfish topped and gloriously pungent aioli or book at table at Restaurang Gabriel. Perched on a mezzanine floor overlooking the market, you wont find a better spot to sample Gothenburg’s finest sea creatures.
With four Michelin-starred restaurants (including Bhoga which picked theirs up this year), its not so much a problem finding a dining destination in Gothenburg, but choosing one amounst ‘em. Whilst we love the smears and slicks as much as the next guide devotee, one of our favourites was a little lower key. Levantine is an elegant French bistro on Aschebergsgaten a few minutes walk south from Kungsparken. The interior (round leather banquettes, Gallic prints and cheqerboard tiles) is charming, as is the service whilst every dish we sampled from the brasserie-style menu was flawlessly executed. Our daily special, a crisp-skinned oblong of pull-apart pork belly on a bed of creamy carrot puree and earthy lentils was the dish of the trip, closely followed by the dreamy Baked Alaska. Quick tip: The Swedes eat pretty early so if you want maximum buzz, have a light lunch and make a reservation around 6pm.
Norda Bar & Grill
Another unmissable dining destination is Marcus Samuelsson’s Norda Bar & Grill at the seductive Clarion Post Hotel, where we spent a fun-filled Saturday night being greedy and taking in its unashamed glamour. Drapes of dark velvet, dimly lit booths and plenty of black marble give the restaurant a romantic appeal (though its also good people watching if you happen to be with friends). The Swedish/American menu not only takes advantage of the abundant surrounding seafood, but is packed with guilty pleasures (be sure to sample glossy chicken thighs sticky with BBQ and the indecently buttery potato puree). Once you’re done with dinner, the hotel’s ground floor bar is a great spot for a cocktail or (if our visit was anything to go by) a calorie-burning boogie.
And The Rest…
We may have spent most of our time filling up on Gothenburg’s food offerings but even we need a break and thankfully the city has plenty of inbetween-meal-distractions. Like London, CitiBikes are available to every couple of blocks and are free as long as you have a CitiCard (available to buy online and at the two tourist offices). The card will also get you on all of the trams and buses for free, plus provide discount to many of the touristy bits like the 30-minute Paddan boat ride and entrance to the Liseburg amusement park. There are parks scattered across the city and all are as clean and beautifully set out as one would imagine in Sweden. We enjoyed a sunny Sunday afternoon wheeling around Slottsskogen – a big park on the south west side of the city with sweeping cycling lanes circling the park, lakes and plenty of grassy banks on which to laze in warmer weather.
For more details of Gothenburg’s many attractions visit www.visitsweden.com