When planning a trip to Europe during the colder months of the year, there are some must-see destinations that are popular year-in-year-out: The French Alps, snow-covered Norway, and the ever-changing landscape of Switzerland to name but a few destinations.
With this being said, there are still countless under-the-radar locations you may well not have considered a winter excursion or adventure to before, one of them being Gothenburg (known as Göteborg in Swedish). Here are nine magical reasons to visit Gothenburg in the winter…
#1 You can sample Swedish Glögg
If you’ve ever visited a European Christmas Market during the colder months of the year, then no doubt you’ll have heard of (or even sampled) mulled wine. France has its own version which is known as ‘vin chaud,’ while in Germany this winter warmer is called ‘Glühwein’.
What you may well not know is that there’s also a Swedish version and it’s named ‘Glögg’. Traditionally comprising of warm spiced wine containing almonds and raisins, if you’re a fan of mulled wine, then you’re sure to enjoy the Nordic version. And if you’re looking to bring the taste of the Christmas Markets home with you, here’s my delicious Mulled Wine recipe.
#2 There’s no better time to enjoy fika than in the winter
If you’ve never heard of the Swedish concept of Fika before then now is better than never! Though the word is literally translated into English as ‘coffee break,’ Fika means so much more than this. The Swedes take their coffee pretty seriously, meaning that many of the prettiest coffee shops in the city are also home to some of the best blends of coffee anywhere in Europe.
This perhaps has something to do with the extortionate price of alcohol! Some of the best places to enjoy a coffee break in the city include Da Matteo (there are several locations of this coffee chain), Café Kringlan (this coffee shop can be found in the very heart of historic Haga), and Le Petit Café.
Aside from being a chance to drink coffee and eat cake (no Fika is complete without a sweet treat), fika also provides the opportunity to chat with friends and is as much about the community and friendship it provides and nurtures as the nourishment of the produce itself.
#3 Discover the art of being cosy, Swedish style
And while we’re on the subject of Swedish traditions, now is a great time to mention getting cosy, Swedish style. When it comes to Swedish design, whether it be clothing, interior design, or even your hotel room, everything is well thought out.
Everything has its own place and function and if it’s not functional, then it’s simply not there! However, because you’re in Sweden, everything is designed to also be laid-back, friendly, and of course, cosy. As a result, when it comes to Gothenburg in the winter, there’s no better way to explore the concept of ‘cosy’ than when you have to bundle up in layers and have the excuse of staying warm to drink as many hot beverages as you please!
#4 You can discover the beautiful hotels of Gothenburg
While in the summer you’ll likely want to make the most of the long Nordic days, wintertime provides the perfect excuse to cosy up in your hotel room and discover Gothenburg’s many beautiful interiors. After all, daylight in December is typically around six or seven hours and rain is not uncommon.
Among some of my top hotel recommendations for Gothenburg are Hotel Pigalle (this French-inspired accommodation is also home to a fantastic restaurant with plush interiors and flower walls) and Clarion Hotel Post (for a true taste of luxury during your visit to Gothenburg, book a stay here).
#5 The Gothenburg Christmas Markets are simply magical
From the endless festivities at Liseberg (a theme park on the outskirts of the city) to the stalls selling fresh and local produce in the historic Haga District, Gothenburg is home to some of the best Christmas Markets in the Nordics, if not all of Europe. Here’s your ultimate guide to the top Christmas markets in Gothenburg.
Truth be told, my favourite market of all was that of Liseberg. After all, there’s an indoor section, children’s area, and even a Medieval-style market amongst the traditional wooden chalets that are so synonymous with Europe in the winter. Elsewhere in the city, twinkling lights and Christmas trees are to be found around nearly every turn.
#6 There are fewer tourists in wintertime!
Like the rest of Europe, Gothenburg is primarily seen as a summer destination. And while there’s no denying the plethora of activities across the city and its archipelago during the warmer months of the year, there’s something to be said of having typically popular destinations to yourself during other seasons, especially in snow-covered winter.
The cafés are empty, you’ll be able to admire artworks all by yourself and (perhaps best of all!) your vacation snaps will be largely peopleless. Other perks of travelling in the European shoulder and low seasons include lower airfares and lower hotel rates!
#7 You can head indoors and experience foodie Gothenburg
What many tourists (including myself) often don’t know before visiting the second largest city in Sweden is that it’s a pretty incredible foodie destination. From takeaway joints to fine dining experiences (including Michelin Star Restaurants), there’s no shortage of culinary affairs to be had in the city.
One of the best places to eat in Gothenburg is Restaurang Atelier. This eatery serves wonderful food against the backdrop of a roaring fire all winter long. Elsewhere in the city, at Restaurant Norda staff are friendly and are more than happy to adapt dishes to dietary needs like vegetarian, gluten-free, or lactose-free.
#8 Warm up at the Gothenburg Palm House
In a city as hip and trendy as Gothenburg, it should come as no surprise that one of the best places to visit is the botanical gardens. Come rain, shine, summer, or winter, the Gothenburg Palm House (or Palmhuset as it is so-called in Swedish) provides greenery all year ’round.
Located in the very heart of the Garden Society, which is a large park in the very heart of the city, the botanical gardens were founded by King Carl XIV Johan in 1842. The Palm House itself dates all the way back to 1878 and can be visited every day of the week.
#9 Visit Gothenburg in the Winter and you can experience the best of Swedish Spa
For those looking for a true winter warmer, there is no better time to experience the art of the Swedish Spa. Most spa complexes comprise of numerous saunas (heated to different temperatures; 20, 40, and 70 degrees Celsius are standard), pools at varying temperatures, and of course, outdoor hot tubs.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, then you might even consider partaking in the tradition of following your steamy soak with a jump in the ice-cold sea (I can confirm that I certainly didn’t do this while staying in West Sweden)!
Meanwhile, Gothenburg is so close to the Swedish countryside that a country retreat is never too far away. For example, the Nääs Fabriker destination complex is home to a stunning sauna, hotel rooms, dining experiences and even shopping spots. Just half an hour from the city centre, this escape from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life is too beautiful to convey in words…
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I visited Gothenburg with Goteborg & Co. and West Sweden. However, all photos, words, and foodie opinions remain my own (as always!). A special thanks to Sofie, Kasja, and Steve for making our visit to Gothenburg in the winter so special!