Gothenburg is the top Christmas destination in Sweden. On a couple of occasions I have been able to visit the capital of the West Coast of Sweden during Christmas and enjoy the attractions it offers. My experience has already been broadcasted on radio interviews for different Spanish media. Now I am writing about them here in case you want to prepare a Christmas trip to Gothenburg and enjoy Swedish traditions.
In this article I will explain firsthand what you can do and see on a weekend or any random days of December in Gothenburg.
1. Visit the Christmas Market at Liseberg
Christmas in Gothenburg is intimately associated with the Liseberg amusement park. Located in a very central location with regard to transportation the amusement park is full of life both in summer and in winter.
From mid November until December 30 you can enjoy the Christmas market of Liseberg, one of the best Christmas markets in Gothenburg, with more than 80 stands selling decoration, crafts, design products, viking products, etc. You will also find the typical Swedish roulette where after paying 20 SEK you get 5 numbers (out of 100) to try and win a giant two-kilogram Daim, Marabou or Geisha chocolate.
In Liseberg you can try glogg, the Swedish version of mulled wine with almonds, clove and cinnamon, or lussekater, a kind of cat-shaped saffron pastries, and other kinds of fika typical during Christmas. You can also taste and buy products from other parts of the country such as cheeses, reindeer and moose meat from Lapland, knotberry marmalade (hjortron in Swedish) and other types of Swedish berries or juices made from trees such as birch or maple.
Some of the rides and roller coasters remain open during the season. And if you go with children you will be able to enjoy a space suitable for the little ones called Kaninlandet, the World of Rabbits, revolving around the pet of Liseberg, a green rabbit, and their white cousins that arrive there in time for Christmas.
The ice skating rink is transformed into an outdoor theater where every day of the week there is a children’s story on skates. On weekdays there is only one session while on the weekends there are two of them. A few years ago the play was the Swan Lake, then the Nutcracker and recently Dicken’s A Christmas Carol was the chosen one.
Some years you get free entry to Lisberg with the Go City Gothenburg tourist pass and you will only pay for the presents you buy or the rides you take. Check the list of attractions included in this pass this year. The Christmas Market at Liseberg is the largest in Sweden and has nothing to envy to the markets of other European capitals and cities.
At Christmas you can reach Liseberg on board the julpaddan, a large boat that crosses the city’s channels on a guided route and allows you to contemplate Gothenburg at night. It’s an adventure that neither children nor adults will forget. We did it in 2018 and had a lovely time. More information and prices here.
2. Go Shopping in Haga
Another thing to do is to stroll through the cobblestoned historic neighborhood of Haga and check out many of the wonderfully decorated boutiques (Swedes have an special taste for this). See if you can leave without buying any souvenirs or gifts. I bet you won’t be able.
Clothing stores, antiques, decorative and interior design objects and even Swedish clogs and soaps. Surely you’ll find something interesting to bring back home.
If you want to enjoy stunning views of the city walk up to Skansenkronan. When I went there last time the fog had just arrived so there was practically nothing to see and I preferred to continue visiting the different stores. But on another occasion I have been able to enjoy the sights that is why I recommend you to do it.
3. Try the julbord at Sjömagasinet
The julbord is the perfect occasion to taste Swedish culinary traditions at once. At Sjömagasinet, a Michelin-starred restaurant located in an old warehouse next to the port of Gothenburg where products arriving by boat used to be stored, you can enjoy a variety of more than 140 different small dishes.
This Christmas buffet is eaten by rounds: first a variety of marinated herring, then salmon, then cold sausages, the julskinka (a ham marinated with mustard), then hot meat (Swedish meatballs or köttbullar, prinskorv sausages), the temptation of Jansson, a delicious dish based on potatoes, anchovies and vegetables. There are also eggs and cooked potatoes.
Finally you will also enjoy the gottebord, a table with a exquisite dessert buffet.
All this food is accompanied by some beverages like julöl, a beer made specially for Christmas or julmust, a must similar to Coca Cola that Swedes find delightful, and schnapps a local spirit drink.
4. Views and Cruise through the Archipelago
One of the things you can do in Gothenburg is go up to the 22nd floor of Lilla Bommen – or also Läppstiftet (Lipstick), the nickname for the red-and-white building presiding over the port of Gothenburg. Go up and see the 360º panorama view with everything you can see perfectly explained in informative posters.
An interesting activity is to embark on a cruise through the archipelago in one of the Strömma ships like the ones depicted on the left in the photograph below. In some of them you can also enjoy the Christmas buffet on board.
5. Have Lunch or Dinner at Hotel Pigalle
Next to Gothenburg’s central shopping area by the Nordstan shopping center you will find Hotel Pigalle. Located on the top floor of Hotel Pigalle, Restaurant Atelier offers a daily menu costing about 15 € / $17 / £13. At night, dinner is à la carte and offer an exquisite tasting menu. Atelier is a very cozy place with an eye-catching space and movie-like decoration. There is a fireplace and sofas inviting you to enjoy dining or having a drink.
6. Buy Local Products in Saluhallen
This market dating back to 1888 offers local and international products. You will find Swedish cheese and reindeer and moose meat both smoked and stuffed. Annually more than 2 million people goo to Saluhallen to buy groceries and local products or to admire the architecture of this singular building in Sweden.
7. Taste Gothenburg’s Most Famous Sandwich
Gothenburg’s most famous sandwich has its own name: räkmacka or shrimp sandwich. You will find it throughout the city in different versions and prices but a place to eat it in its XXL version is Heaven 23 a restaurant and cocktail bar located on the 23rd floor of tower nr.1 of the Gothia Towers hotel. For about 25 € / $28 / £22 you can enjoy the specialty of the West Coast consisting of Swedish spiced bread, lettuce and green sprouts, a lot of prawns, Kalix caviar, mayonnaise and dill. Accompany it with one of the many local beers. In my case an “A ship full of IPA” by Brutal Brewery. Delicious!
8. Visit a Local Museum
If you are tired of being on the street you can enter one of the many museums in Gothenburg. At the Stadsmuseum, the Gothenburg Museum, you will find several interesting exhibitions about the city, the Vikings and their lifestyle or the importance of music for the city of Gothenburg which is internationally known for the metal bands. I personally loved the exhibition about the Vikings.
Also the Göteborgs konstmuseum,Gothenburg Art Museum, is very entertaining. This museum is located in front of the beautiful statue of Poseidon in the Götaplatsen square at the end of the city’s most famous avenue, the Kungsportsavenyn. Next to it you will find the Hasselblad Museum with a very interesting exhibition about the most famous Swedish camera in the world and its presence on the Moon. Gothenburg’s Theater and Concert Hall is also right there.
Children will love 7-storey Universeum, located next to Liseberg and containing an Amazon rainforest with tropical fauna and flora (monkeys, birds, piranhas, eels, etc.), a terrarium with snakes, spiders and reptiles and a aquarium with sharks, starfish, and both Swedish and tropical fish. All this is presented at Universeum with the idea of raising awareness about the importance of preserving the natural diversity of the planet.
A little further there is Världskulturmuseet, the Museum of the World Culture, a free-entry museum that focuses on presenting different exhibitions about the cultural diversity of the different peoples of the planet. When I visited there was an exhibition about children stories from Afghanistan and about clothes and accessories from many different countries.
9. Traditional Dinner at Familjen
Familjen is a traditional Swedish restaurant specialized in local food. A few minutes walk from Götaplatsen the restaurant offers a lively atmosphere at affordable prices. The focus on proximity products is noticeable even in its beer menu which details the mileage to the brewery where each beer is produced.
I had an excellent cream of celeriac with turkey meatballs and pieces of cheddar with whiskey, baked pork loin with anchovy sauce and onions, hazelnut butter, lemon and amandine potatoes. Finally for dessert ginger sponge cake, cream cheese, carrot and sea berry sorbet.
10. Visit the Fish Church
Seafood and fish are everywhere and indispensable elements on the West Coast of Sweden and in Gothenburg. In the Feskekörka or The Fish Church as this market of seafood is popularly known you can buy a huge variety of local products: caviar, prawns, Grebbestad oysters, crayfish, lobster and much more.
Don’t worry if you start to feel hungry upon arriving at Feskekörka. At the top of one of its ends you will find the amazing Restaurang Gabriel, one of the places where I love to eat in Gothenburg, and where Johan Malm serves you succulent delicacies based on fish and seafood from the area. A special recommendation is to taste the oysters of the West Coast slowly matured due to the colder waters of the North Sea.
The friendly and attentive Johan is the world champion of the oyster opening competition. Let him recommend you what to try for the day.
Where to sleep in Gothenburg
An interesting option for accommodation is the 4-star Gothia Towers hotel, located opposite of Liseberg and with magnificent views of the park. Gothia Towers is less than 10 minutes away from Kungsportsavenyn. If you want something more exclusive try the Upper House, a 5-star hotel located in Tower 2 of Gothia Towers.
In Gothia Towers do not miss the outdoor pool located on the 20th floor of tower 2 with a glass floor. The water inside remains at rest for 10 minutes every hour so you can watch the street from the pool. Not suitable for people with fear of heights!
How to Get to Gothenburg From the Airport
You can reach the city center from Landvetter Airport with Flixbus shuttle buses starting at 4 € / $5.99 + fee / £4.99.
Are you planning to spend Christmas in Gothenburg? Tell me your plans in the comment section below and I’ll give you a hand with the preparations.