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Seven reasons Gothenburg may be Sweden's coolest city

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Seven reasons Gothenburg may be Sweden's coolest city
The Way Out West festival is one of Scandinavia's biggest and a big selling point for Gothenburg. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
06:59 CEST+02:00
We all know about Stockholm's polished, stereotypically Scandinavian appeal, but what about the authentic charm of its western neighbour? The Local explains why Gothenburg may actually be Sweden's coolest city.

1. The coffee

There are still gems to be found in the Stockholm coffee scene, but an increasingly dominant network of chains is crowding them out, and even Starbucks now has seven branches in the once-resistant capital. Not so in Gothenburg, where the American chain’s presence is limited to the central train station. Local roastery Da Matteo on the other hand is such a big hit it had to open two cafes on one street, with a bustling square straddling the main branches on hip Magasinsgatan, and a third, more tranquil version only around the corner on beautiful Viktoriapassagen.


Da Matteo on Magasinsgatan. Photo: Beatrice Törnros/Göteborg & Co

If a simpler cup is your thing try Bar Centro on Kyrkogatan, a bare-bones but charming Italian affair, complete with Juventus-supporting barista and buzzing atmosphere. Doppio on Linnégatan meanwhile has an international feel, and on a sunny day offers great people-watching opportunities on one of Gothenburg’s grandest avenues.

2. The bars

Sweden’s capital city has more bars than you can shake a beer bottle at, but it can be surprisingly tricky to find the balance between not too classy and not too shabby, with establishments tending to feel either too cool for school or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, like a dreaded drinking den. Perhaps owing to its strong connections with Britain (the city's nickname is Little London, as the cliche goes), Gothenburg seems to have a far greater number of unassuming, welcoming everyday pubs. The small area around Andra Långgatan alone offers plenty to choose from.


Bar Himmel on Avenyn. Photo: Beatrice Törnros/Göteborg & Co

On the more modern side of things is Bara Magnus on Drottninggatan, which avoids falling into the trap of taking itself too seriously by filling its outdoor terrace with deliberately tacky tiki-style decorations, fake palm trees and all. Even the 2112 bar owned by members of world-renowned local metallers In Flames (more on the music scene later) is completely unpretentious, summed up perfectly in one TripAdvisor review as “Good beer, good burgers”. If you can’t find a comfortable place to have a drink in Sweden’s second city, there’s probably little hope for you elsewhere.

3. The record shops

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, vinyl is back, and whether you’re looking to revisit a favourite record from your youth, or something a bit more specialist, Gothenburg’s range of excellent music shops have you covered. Dirty Records on Andra Långgatan is a local institution, and with a comfy cafe inside you can take your time to mull over a potential purchase. Further along the same street there are second hand bargains to be found at Andra Långgatans Skivhandel, but the jewel in the city’s crown is the Bengans flagship store on Stigbergstorget. From the outside the converted old cinema’s neon facade ensures it is already intriguing enough, but once you descend into its belly the labyrinth of music that opens up is stunningly comprehensive. Being Gothenburg, there’s also coffee available in the cafe upstairs, of course.

4. The restaurants

Stockholm has plenty of good meals, but with the natural resource of Sweden’s west coast on its side, Gothenburg barely has to make an effort, and if it’s seafood you’re after then Sweden’s second city is the place to be. Sjöbaren on Haga Nygata serves the local catch and is surprisingly affordable considering its location in tourist hotspot Haga, while the Feskekörka on Roselundsvägen takes the bizarre initiative of combining what looks like an old church with a fish market and food court, yet somehow makes it work.


The Feskekörka. Photo: Jorma Valkonen/Göteborg & Co

Good eating isn’t limited to fish however, and if it’s world food you’re after try Puta Madre on Magasinsgatan, an authentic Mexican kitted out in a style the proprietors describe as a “tribute to the Mexican brothel mother from 1918”. Next door meanwhile there’s Basque, which as the name suggests, serves small pintxo sized tapas that provide a little taste of San Sebastian in Sweden, accompanied by an unfathomably large selection of world beers.

5. The transport

OK, so public transport may not exactly be at the top of the list when it comes to being cool, but it’s hard not to love Gothenburg’s lengthy, rickety and just about still functioning network of trams. The old-fashioned cars adorned by even more old-fashioned looking advertising boards are far more charming than the more high-tech Stockholm metro system, and there’s a higher chance of entertainment too. Just watch what happens when a ticket inspector gets on board and a mass stampede towards the exit ensues.


Old-fashioned, but charming. Photo: Kjell Holmner/Göteborg & Co

Alternatively, catch any of the lines running west from Järntorget and take in the breathtaking views of the iconic Älvsborg Bridge, via hipster neighbourhood Majorna, then stop for a bite to eat at the Röda Sten culture centre. The former industrial furnace station is an unrivalled vantage point for watching ships leave the harbour towards the sea.

6. The music

Sweden more than punches above its weight when it comes to music, and plenty of the Nordic nation’s best bands come from Little London. Alternative tends to be the key, with the country’s melodic death metal scene bursting out of Gothenburg in the 1990s thanks to seminal acts like At the Gates and the aforementioned In Flames, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Masked collective Goat are one of the most intriguing outfits around right now, and though their fictional back story cites roots in a voodoo tribe from Sweden’s bitter northern wilderness, the word on the street is that they are actually comprised of veteran Gothenburg musicians.

On the more mainstream side of things, the Way Out West festival, which takes over Slottskogen park every August, is widely recognized as one of the best in Scandinavia. The 2018 edition will bring major international acts like Lana del Rey, The XX, Regina Spektor, Frank Ocean, Ryan Adams and Pixies to the west coast in what the fesival's organizers are calling its best line-up ever

The after-parties that occupy the city’s clubs once the bands are finished for the day are legendary too: this year's Stay Out West will take over well-loved local venues like Rondo, Pustervik and Folkteatern, as well as no less than three stages at Bananpiren.

7. The football

Stockholm may have three top flight football teams to boast of, and southerners Malmö FF may have two Champions League appearances to their name from recent years, but IFK Göteborg are by far Sweden’s most-successful club on an international level. The Blåvitt’s two Uefa Cup wins from the 1980s remain the only occasions that a Nordic side have won a pan-European club honour, and they are also the only Swedish team to place in the top four of the modern day Champions League, thanks to a run to second place behind AC Milan in Group B of the 1992-93 edition.


Ullevi (left) & Gamla Ullevi (right). Photo: Skyflyers/Göteborg & Co

The Angels can be watched at 18,000-seater Gamla Ullevi stadium in the city centre, and after falling on hard times in recent years (Göteborg haven’t won the league since 2007) there’s no danger of being labelled a glory-hunter. A two minute walk to the east offers a sight of a far more impressive ground however, the confusingly-named Ullevi, a distinctively seashell-shaped arena that was built for the 1958 World Cup. No less than Pele made his Brazil World Cup debut here, which would make it hallowed ground in most cities, yet for the majority of the year, Ullevi sits empty, with the exception of the occasional concert. It doesn’t get any more nonchalant than that.

Article originally published in June 2016 and updated in August 2017

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