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Where to shop, eat, and drink when you visit Gothenburg

Gothenburg is Sweden’s hidden design gem, with some of the best shopping available – plus dozens of hip cafés, restaurants, and bars. Local creative Ali Davoodi shares his insider tips for how to get the most out of a visit.

Where to shop, eat, and drink when you visit Gothenburg
Artilleriet at Magasinsgatan in Gothenburg is top interior design shop. Photo: Kim Svensson/Göteborg & Co

Stockholm may be Sweden’s bustling capital, while Malmö is the country’s diverse and delightful food hub. But what about Sweden’s second-largest city – Gothenburg?

“Gothenburg is less showy,” admits Ali Davoodi, who grew up in Gothenburg and now owns a design shop there.

 

A post shared by Ali رضا Davoodi (@alidavoodi) on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:44am PDT

“It’s less about image. Stockholm brands are great at PR, whereas people might not know about all the brands that come from Gothenburg – and yet they’re thriving.”

Gothenburg is bursting with Sweden’s best-kept design secrets… and Ali has his thumb on the pulse of the city’s creative community.

He's the founder of Fresh Fish, an annual fashion fair and contest that puts the spotlight on upcoming Swedish designers. He's co-owner of Miksaĵo, a little design shop that packs a punch with its blend of Swedish and international design. And he's the brains behind ArtMadeThis, an urban art project which gave female artists the chance to paint on buildings in Sweden's four largest cities. 

Inside Ali Davoodi's Miksaĵo design shop. Photo: Miksaĵo

So where does he hang out – and what places should be at the top of your list when you visit “Sweden’s coolest city”?

Shopping

Compared to the glitzy, bloated Grand Old Brands of French and Italian design, Swedish design is a lean, clean creative machine. Its profile may be more understated, but Swedish design is slowly but surely taking over the world.

Have you noticed how Fjällräven backpacks have suddenly appeared on the backs of hipsters all over the world? Or how everyone on Instagram is sporting Daniel Wellington watches, Tom Hope bracelets, and phone cases from Ideal of Sweden or Richmond & Finch?

Yeah, they’re all Swedish.

“Swedish design is about being nice without shouting,” Ali explains. “It’s a whisper, not a scream. It’s calm, almost melancholic – and it’s also practical.”

And Gothenburg has more than its fair share of this laid-back, open-minded creativity.

“Nudie Jeans, Twist & Tango, shoe brand Axel Arigato, Velour, Maska, Bow Club…”

For many Gothenburg brands, Ali jokes, the only people who know they’re from the city are the residents themselves. But the quality speaks for itself.

Dr Denim is doing very exciting things right now,” Ali adds. “Their products are amazing. Axel Arigato is a rising star in the sneaker world – they sell more on the web, but they’re designed here.”

 

A post shared by Dr. Denim OFFICIAL (@drdenim) on Jun 16, 2017 at 5:33am PDT

Ali describes his own shop, Miksaĵo, as an eclectic mix of “unestablished Swedish brands and big international names”.

“I also recommend Linnégatan 2 – the shop that that shows the modern man the importance of quality,” he says.

Östling Schedin is an interior design shop with a unique hand-picked selection in a fantastic environment – and Artilleriet has very quickly become a given destination for anyone who loves interior design.”

Norrgavel for unique, handpicked and sustainable furniture, or Bebop Antik in the Haga neighbourhood, specialising in 20th century Scandinavian design.

And don't forget to pay a visit to Emma & Malena, for gorgeous Swedish clothing inspired by the Gothenburg archipelago and the fantastic ‘50s!

 

A post shared by emma och malena (@emmaochmalena) on May 26, 2017 at 2:18am PDT

Dining

But after you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve dropped in the lighthearted city by the sea, where do you recharge?

Fatima is my favourite Moroccan restaurant,” Ali says. ”It offers warm Moroccan food in an inviting, cosy little living room. There’s a lot of love in the food, even though it’s simple.”

Besides offering plenty of local delicacies like seafood and traditional Swedish fare, Gothenburg also has a budding food truck scene, and one of the first you should try out is Jinx, which sells Asian fusion food with flair – or, as the chefs themselves call it, “bastardized Asian street food with influences from the whole world”.

Little Meats is another local favourite, full of equal parts love and spice,” Ali says. The South American restaurant is known in Göteborg for its “luxurious tacos”, organic tortillas, homemade lemonade, and touch of “magic” – no seriously, it’s a word that pops up in quite a few reviews.

And if it’s time for a drink to wash it all down, there are plenty of bars which will welcome the curious visitor.

“The best bar in my opinion is probably Studio HPKSM,” says Ali. “It’s an incredible place – an experience unlike anything else, from the service to the environment.”

 

A post shared by StudioHPKSM (@studiohpksm) on Mar 6, 2017 at 11:10pm PST

He also recommends Aperitivo, a popular coffee bar which transforms into Bar Centro at night. “They have fantastic coffee too – but when night comes they show they’re more than that!”

Where to hang out

There are plenty of other great spots to get a taste of creative Gothenburg – but we asked Ali just to give us the highlights from each area. So if you’re visiting for a few days or more, here are a few others to add to your list…

”You’ve got to visit a gallery. Galleri Thomasen and Galleri Box are simply magical, and really put thought into their exhibits,” Ali says.

Need a place to have a quick meeting or get some work done?

Tony’s Coffee Bar, Bar Centro, and Gridelli all have great character. These are truly inspiring places you can sit all day,” says Ali. “Another great meeting spot is Hotel Flora – and Hotel Dorsia.”

Inside the Hotel Dorsia – one of Ali's favaourite Gothenburg hangouts. Photo: Hotel Dorsia

And finally – don’t miss the incredible islands of Gothenburg’s archipelago. It has its own unique character, with a much different atmosphere than that of Stockholm.

Taking a dip on Amundön. Photo: Steampipe Production Studio AB/Göteborg & Co Fri användarrätt av GBG&Co

”I especially recommend the islands of Amundön and Brännö,” Ali says. “You just have to experience them – no words can do them justice.”

Read also: The Stockholm design hot-spots you have to see

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Visit Sweden.

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SWEDISH HISTORY

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s ‘Little London’?

With ties to Britain dating back more than 200 years, the city of Gothenburg has long been known as Sweden’s Little London.

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s 'Little London'?

Grey skies, rainy days, a wide-mouthed river, and a love for English pubs. At first glance, it’s no wonder that Gothenburg has long held the nickname of Sweden’s own “Little London”, or Lilla London

But what are the origins of this British title?

“The nickname ‘Little London’ was first used in a newspaper in 1766,” explains Håkan Strömberg, educational officer at the Museum of Gothenburg.

“The Brits were the largest immigration group during the 1700s and early 1800s, mainly because Sweden was a country close by, it was economically underdeveloped compared to England and Scotland and had a lot of raw materials. To put it simply, could make some money here.”

The city’s reputation as a British enclave dates back to the 1700s when trade brought many foreign influences to the Västra Götaland region.

As merchants and shipbuilders like Charles Chapman, David Carnegie, and James Dickson moved to the area, local residents began to notice a growing list of similarities between the Swedish port city and the British capital.

Indeed, even one of Sweden’s most renowned scientists, Carl Von Linné, is said to have commented on the similarities between the two cities when he visited Gothenburg in the 1700s.

 “Being a group of upper-class immigrants, the British merchants made sure they had access to all the good things from their home country. But the feeling of Gothenburg as a Little London was most likely something the Swedish citizens had, rather than the Brits,” adds Strömberg. 

The historical roots that connect the UK and Gothenburg are still evident today, with many spots in the city still alluding to British names, like Chalmers University – founded by the son of a wealthy Scottish industrialist, or Chapmans Torgnamed after a family of sailors and shipbuilders once well-established in the area. 

Catriona Chaplin, a British expat turned Gothenburger, only began to see the similarities and know of the nickname after relocating to the region for work. Growing up in Leicestershire, central England, she’d never heard of London’s Swedish sibling city.

“We came to Gothenburg 17 years ago. We’d never heard about [the nickname] until we moved here, but there is a bar on Avenyn called Lilla London, so that’s when we started to know about it,” she says.

Today, as the membership secretary of the British Club of Gothenburg, she brings a taste of the British Isles to life in Gothenburg.

The Club, which organises social events like concerts, quiz nights, and theatre performances, has a membership base of nearly 200 families. And although less than 0.5 percent of Gothenburg’s population today was born in the UK, the club welcomes members from a range of nationalities.

In fact, the only membership requirement is having some kind of interest in the UK, be it from a cultural standpoint, a past tourist experience, or a love of the language. 

“People come to the British Club just to socialise in their native language. It’s also about the culture, like the banter, the jokes and playing on words,” she says. 

Although the city’s British roots run deep, questions remain about modern-day Gothenburg’s status as “Little London”.

To some, the west-coast maritime hub’s industrial legacy, strong working-class culture, and amiable nature are reminiscent of a different English city. “They ought to call it ‘Little Liverpool’!” says Chaplin, with a smile. 

Lasting Landmarks

Evidence of Gothenburg’s British connections can be found in many of its landmarks, shops, and of course, pubs. Some of the historical hotspots still apparent today include:

Haga – The British ‘hood 

The area of Haga, just outside the old city, was once considered a slum, but changed character thanks to British philanthropist Robert Dickson (1782-1858), who built public baths, a library, and other landmarks with the typical red bricks found in Britain at the time.

St Andrew’s Church 

A key part of the British community is the Anglican church of Saint Andrew’s, also in Haga. Dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland, it was built and to date funded by ‘The British Factory’, a British society founded in the 1700s to help expats in Gothenburg that remains active even today.

The Victorian gothic style of the church is in line with the architectural trend in Britain at the time. 

John Scott – a legend among Gothenburgers

One of Gothenburg’s most well-loved establishments is John Scott’s, a local pub chain named after Pastor John Henry Scott, an Englishman and prominent landowner in 18th century Gothenburg. 

The “English quarter”

The square of buildings delineated by Teatergatan, Storgatan, Kungsportsavenyn and Vasagatan was once known as the city’s English Quarter. The buildings in this neighbourhood are influenced by British design, and the original landowners were in fact English pastor John Henry Scott and his wife, Jacobina.

By Alexander Maxia, Lisa Ostrowski and Sanna Sailer

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