This is an autumn getaway I made to Gothenburg and the West Coast of Sweden in the region known as Bohuslän which extends to the Norwegian border. In this article I go into detail about beautiful locations and interesting places, historic villages like Kungälv, islands like Marstrand or Smögen, and fishing villages such as Hunnebostrand, Fjällbacka, Grebbestad or Strömstad, each of them with some particularity that I will highlight.
Take the reading calmly because it is a long read with many details and especially with many photos. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The idea behind this route through Gothenburg and the West Sweden is to visit the area for 6 or 7 days dedicating two or three of them to Gothenburg. If you still haven’t checked my article about what to see and do in Gothenburg in three days I strongly advise you to do it because in the current article I will focus on some other places to visit in Gothenburg and especially on what to see and do on the west coast of Sweden. As always, I have mixed discovering new places and visiting others in which I have already been years ago.
How to Get to Gothenburg and Get Around the West Coast
I flew to Gothenburg Landvetter Airport with Norwegian departing from Barcelona but the company flies from many European cities. Tickets are well priced if bought in advance. During this trip I moved on public transport in Gothenburg where I also bought the Gothenburg Pass and rented a car with Hertz as I left the city picking it up by the central station and leaving it at Landvetter airport.
When to Visit Gothenburg and the West Coast of Sweden
An interesting question to deal with in the first place is the time for the visit. As I have explained on other occasions in the blog, Sweden is a country opening to tourism, so the schedules of museums and other attractions are still very adapted to the Swedes. In summer the opening times are usually from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. In winter they may range from 10:00 am or 11:00 am to 5:00 pm or 6 pm. This is something to take into account when planning your sightseeing.
As for when to travel I can say that each season has its particularities and I have been in Gothenburg in all of them. In summer the west coast of Sweden is fully packed. For example the town of Fjällbacka goes from 1000 inhabitants to 12000 and the prices of the accommodations soar accordingly. From mid-August (around August 10) when Swedish children start school the crowd and prices decrease. It is also at the end of August and entering the autumn when the season for lobsters, oysters and other seafood begins. After that things calm down a little until the arrival of Christmas in Gothenburg*, which has a prominent place in the city. Finally the spring with the explosion of color, greenery, sunny days and long is another good time. So it is not that July and the beginning of August are bad months but it is true that the destination is crowded.
Other Things to See and Do in Gothenburg
The first stop point of this route is (1) Gothenburg. I assume that you have read the article I linked before about what to do in Gothenburg in three days. Some other things you can do during your visit are:
Get to know the city on board a boat: Paddan’s boats, very short but huge, take you through the canals of Gothenburg while you are told the history of the city and its bridges. Every other time you are warned not to get up or raise your head (in fact you will go fully crouched through two bridges with very original names). In addition you will sail on the Göta river and you will be able to see the island of Hisingen, one of the largest in Sweden. These boats and other attractions are included in the Gothenburg Pass, the tourist card of Gothenburg.
Visit the Eriksberg neighborhood: go for a visit to the Eriskberg neighborhood in Hisingen. My recommendation is that you do it at nightfall. Here you can see the transformation of the old industrial district dedicated to boat construction since the mid-nineteenth century and that was in operation for 100 years. At the moment it is a residential complex where about 10,000 people live still having reminiscences of the past since cranes, dikes and other old necessities have been conserved. In addition, sculptures and works of art have been added, as well as a very careful lighting that makes it a pleasure to go for a night walk around here. You get there by bus nr. 16 to the Eriksbergtorget stop. If you want to stay for dinner here further down the article I recommend a good restaurant in the area.
photographing Kuggen in the Lindholmen district: if you love architecture a Mecca in Gothenburg is the unique Kuggen building which is located on the Lindholmen campus of Chalmers University and was designed by the successful Swedish architects Gert Wingårdh. The name Kuggen means “tooth” of a gear and got it because of the peculiar shape of the five-story building.
watch moose and other Nordic animals in Slottsskogen: it is true that the people in Gothenburg go in masse to the free-entry Slottsskogen Park for sports both weekdays and weekends as well as to go for a walk, play minigolf included in the Gothenburg Pass, and other activities.
However, for tourists a very interesting part, especially if you go with children, is to walk up to the children’s zoo where they can become familiar with domestic animals and continue walking until you reach the area withNordic animals such as deer, penguins, geese and, of course, the magnificent moose among others.
visit the Frihamnen area: if you are looking for the new icon for sustainable architecture in Gothenburg, it is a public sauna made of recycled materials and is located in the Frihamnen area, on the other side of the river, in front of the «lipstick» building. It is reachable through the Frihamnsporten bus stop with bus nr. 16 from the Nordstan shopping center or Brunnsparken. Next to the sauna there are also swimming pools for public use in summer and a playground as well as an area for urban gardening.
Frihamnen, once a port, is on its way to becoming a social residential district in the center of Gothenburg. In the year 2021 – for the 400th anniversary of the city – it is expected that 15,000 people will live there and that there will be more than 1000 work places. If you walk through Eriksberg first, you will get an idea of what Frihamnen will become soon.
get to know Gothenburg by car: if you have already visited the Volvo Museum an still are thirst for cars there is a tourist activity in Gothenburg available for some years called Time Travel Sightseeing where a group of people drive old Volvos through Gothenburg following a guide car.
Having done the vast majority of these activities on this trip it was time for us to travel north of Gothenburg towards the West Coast of Sweden.
Car Itinerary Along the West Coast of Sweden to Norway
This is the map of the itinerary that we made. We traveled for four days but they were really intensive as it was a trip with journalists and I had already seen many things in Gothenburg. That is why my advice is to plan for at least 7 days and include nature activities and maybe other beautiful locations.
What to See on Smögen
The first destination on the route along the west coast of Sweden is the (2) fishing island of Smögen, located about 130 km / 80 mi north of Gothenburg and belonging to the municipality of Sotenäs. Smögen is accessed through a bridge where you can take beautiful panorama pictures of this part of the island.
Smögen is an ideal place to enjoy seafood and fish from the West Coast of Sweden but also to embark on a seafood harvesting safari and get to know first-hand what life is like and the challenges that local fishermen face. We went to Smögens Fiske & Skärgårdsturer – located just entering the island on the right in the big red house closest to the bridge seen on the image above these lines – and contacted Tommy who took us to one of his boats and after dressing properly and putting on our life vests we were ready to go and collect crabs, crayfish and lobsters.
Ah remember that the weather in Sweden changes a lot (look at the previous and subsequent photos and see how the weather changed in about 5 hours). Another suggestion for the boat trip: take a pill against seasickness, just in case!
After the harvest comes the time of tasting and Tommy’s fisherman’s cabin is ready for our snack while we wait for the seafood to cook. The formula: cook it for a short time in salt water to which more salt has been added. Then let them sit for 45 minutes.
Of course you can’t leave Smögen without visiting the town center – full of shops and restaurants open in high season and on weekends – and get to one of those special places on the west coast of Sweden offering one of the most beloved photo spots. This place is no other than Smögenbryggan or the Smögen pier and its colorful fishermen’s houses and moored boats.
In the summer Smögen is crowded – in autumn, as it was the case, only on weekends – and there are many things to do, such as a boat trip to the Hållö lighthouse on an impressive granite island or go shopping in downtown stores. By the way, Swedish crime-novel scene has as writer, Anna Ihrén, featuring her books on Smögen. I wonder if she is known abroad!
Just opposite Smögen is another interesting village for a visit: Kungshamn. We did not have any more time and after eating and taking a walk we left Smögen and headed to Hunnebostrand located some 10 km / 6 mi away.
What to See in Hunnebostrand
(3) Hunnebostrand is another coastal village that is reached by crossing a scenic road (in Swedish utflyktsvägen) that runs through villages, bays and bridges along the coast. All the area in Sotenäs and Hunnebostrand is not an exception has a great tradition of working the granite stone with quarries and artisans that emerged mostly in the nineteenth century. This, in addition to the natural landscape, is reflected in the industries that existed in the area and in the museums and exhibitions that can be visited.
A couple of interesting places in Hunnebostrand are the Stenhuggerimuseet (the Stonemasons Museum) located at the entrance to the village arriving from Smögen and, very closely related, the Udden sculpture park located in an old granite quarry that collapsed. We went to see Udden and take a walk around the town.
Udden is a temporary sculpture park that every year renews its works with Swedish and international artists. The park has been a cultural destination for some years when it decided to bet on stone art in a maritime enclave. It consists of different statues located next to the sea as well as a concept called Art up against the walls! where they install sculptures on an impressive granite wall 40 meters high.
Currently Udden and his sculptures can only be seen in the summer season between July 1 and September 30, but the idea pursued by its creators is to make the site a living center dedicated to stone art. After visiting Udden we took the opportunity to climb to the viewpoint from which you can take panoramic photographs of the town.
Those of you who travel with children or love animals can visit the animal park Nordens Ark (The Nordic Ark) by Hunnebostrand open between 10:00 and 16:00 every day of the year. Also the Ramvikslandet nature reserve offers hiking in a peculiar environment. In our case being a short trip we reduced our stay in Hunnebostrand since our next destination was going to be a much better known town: Fjällbacka, the village of Camilla Läckberg’s novels.
What to See in Fjällbacka
(4) Fjällbacka is located about 30 km / 18 mi north of Hunnebostrand. We arrived ready to go straight to the hotel and enjoy a good dinner (bear in mind that in Sweden at 6:30 or 7:00 pm you can already start dining in the restaurants). The central theme of our visit to Fjällbacka was – as it is to so many avid readers of crime novel – to get to know thoroughly the village and the locations of the books and, who knows, if meeting Camilla live …
Our accommodation, to begin with, was the famous hotel Stora Hotellet Bryggan – the one that appears in the books – with oriental-style rooms facing the sea. And on top of that we were lucky that we were able to finish the day with a beautiful sunset over the sea.
The next morning we would have a guided tour in English “The Murder Mystery Tour” with a person who knows the ins and outs of the town and took us to some of the places that appeared in Läckberg’s novels: the Stora Hotellet Bryggan, the food store, the church of Fjällbacka – which we visited – or the tomb of the German soldiers (I uploaded the photo of the cemetery instead of the tomb to not reveal the related mystery). Even from a distance she pointed to us the different scenarios of some of the crimes that appeared in her novels.
Going down the church on Utsiktsgatan street you will also have a good view of the village and you will get to the two houses closely related to Camilla Läckberg: her old family house and the fisherman’s house that she continues to maintain in the village and which is where you can find her if she happens to be there … since Camilla usually lives in Stockholm.
Fjällbacka is more than just Läckberg. A world cinematographic icon, Ingrid Bergman, attracts thousands of visitors. Since 1958 following her marriage to Lars Schmidt, Ingrid continuously visited Fjällbacka and the island of Dannholmen. In summer there are themed-walks through Fjällbacka. Meanwhile as a witness Ingrid’s presence is remembered in a small square dividing the new and the old Fjällbacka
A third place to discover in Fjällbacka is the Kungsklyftan rift that separates Mount Vetteberget in two. At the top of the crack are three giant stones that act as a roof. They say they are redoubts of when all this was a huge lake under plates of ice. When the ice was discarded, these rocks were transported to this place.
On the other side of the stones, after passing under them, there is the stair to the top of Vetteberget from where you can enjoy spectacular views of Fjällbacka, the old Fjällbacka and the beautiful archipelago.
Fjällbacka can be the starting point to discover other parts of the northern part of the West Coast. As for example our following destinations Grebbestad, Tanumshede and the museum of Vitlycke or Strömstad.
What to See in Grebbestad
(5) Grebbestad is another fishing village 15 km / 9 mi north of Fjällbacka. This place is well known on the west coast of Sweden as the best place for tasting oysters. Not only can you taste them in restaurants but you can also embark on a boat tour to harvest them and harvest lobsters (like those organized by Everts Sjöbod) as well as sailing on seal safari.
In fact, Grebbestad’s relationship with oysters is such that the Oyster Open World Championship is held here (yes, there is such a thing) and one of the recent champions is the chef of Restaurang Gabriel in Gothenburg.
In the surroundings of Grebbestad you can visit the Greby cemetery with more than 180 tombs dating from the Iron Age (400-500 BC) as well as the Ulmekärr labyrinth probably from the same period. On Otterön Island accessible by boat from Grebbestad is Röö runestone with inscriptions in this alphabet that tell the story of someone who was betrayed. Also in Otterön you will find, in season, the majority of lime plants from all over Bohuslän with special mention to orchids.
In the village of Grebbestad the church in the style of the Gothic Renaissance dating from 1890 deserves some attention.
If you want to try the fish and shellfish or the oysters in the area, a good restaurant is Greby right at the entrance to the village. Grebbestad also has several very popular beaches in summer as well as activity centers for kayaking, diving, sailing trips on RIB boats, etc.
If you are traveling as a family and are interested in establishing your accommodation in the area of Grebbestad you should know that on the outskirts of the village there is the Tanumstrand tourist resort where you can find everything you need for your holidays: cabins for rent, spa, gym, golf, yoga, organized excursions by boat, gastronomic packages and much more.
What to See in Tanum
The next destination on the route takes us to (6) Tanumshede, a place that also appears a lot in the books of Camilla Läckberg, but in our case we didn’t go directly to the village but to the Vitlycke museum and to the engravings on the rocks of Tanum. These rock carvings are one of the Unesco World Heritage Sites in Sweden .
The Vitlycke Museum takes you into life during the Bronze Age thanks to several characters that show you how life is believed at that time thanks to the remains of objects and other archaeological elements.
On the outskirts of the museum there are different locations where there are carvings in rock dating from the Bronze Age. It is believed that formerly the sea reached that area and the carvings were made in what was then the shore. It is curious, at least, to observe the landscape that surrounds you and imagine that “all this was the sea”. Another remarkable thing is that the carvings are always open to everyone so it is possible to visit them at any time. Thinking as a citizen of a southern country like Spain, leaving a world heritage exposed to vandals is not something you are used to doing, but in Sweden it seems that there are not many problems with this kind of people … At Vitlycke Museum there are also guided tours in English during the summer.
The visit to the carvings can be done walking or renting a bike so you can move easily between the different sites.
Finally the museum has a place called Bronsåldergården – a Bronze Age garden – with farms and an activity space for children to play and learn as well as a natural space around to walk along the forest in search of other prints in rock.
After the walk through the forest and load our batteries with the natural energy necessary provided by beautiful landscapes like the one above these lines we decided to take the car head to the furthest point of our route, Strömstad.
What to See in Strömstad
In just over 40 minutes on the motorway we were already in (7) Strömstad, the last big town before the Norwegian border, and a place where many Norwegians go to spend the summer.
Here our destination was (8) the Maritime National Park of Kosterhavet, the only aquatic national park in Sweden, and we wanted to go around the Koster Islands even if it was only by boat. Because of the short duration of the trip we could not disembark but an interesting activity is spending a day on the Koster Islands crossing them on foot or by bike and having your picnic there. You can disembark on the northern island, walk around, see the nature, beaches, etc. and head to the southern island with a free and automatic ferry connecting them.
The boat departure to the Koster Islands is located in front of the tourist office that is open all year. The price of the round trip ticket is about 13€ / $12. In the tourist office you can find out more about everything you can do in Kosterhavet.
One of the things that you can visit on the southern island near one of the return quays to Strömstad is the Naturum center, which like others spread around Sweden, is responsible for explaining the details of the specific flora and fauna of the place.
In Strömstad and surroundings, in addition to walking around the center, you can hike through what is the highest mountain on the west coast of Sweden with 222 meters (!) Called Björnerödspiggen or visit a place «in the style of Stonehenge» called Blomsholm with 49 stones erected remembering the clashes with the Norwegian neighbors. Also in the city you can visit the Strömstad Museum or the old district of Bukten. Walking about 10 minutes from the city center you get to Korpeberget a viewpoint from which you get fantastic views of the coast of Bohuslän. Also next to the Koster Islands are the Ursholmen Islands which have the most western lighthouse in all of Sweden.
Those of you who want to enter and visit Norway should know that Oslo is just 1 hour and 45 minutes away by car. We headed back to Gothenburg but stopped at two historical sites that I wanted to visit: Marstrand and Kungälv.
What to See on Marstrand
(9) Marstrand is also 1h 45 minutes from Strömstad and only 50 minutes from Gothenburg by car. This would be our penultimate destination and our last accommodation before heading to the Landvetter airport to return the car and return home.
The arrival at Marstrand is a dream landscape. Unfortunately I was driving and I could not capture it with my camera but with my retina: a road winding between villages, tiny peninsulas and bridges on island, after island, after island. So it is until you reach the fifth island, Koön, where the road ends and only a ferry lets you visit the island Marstrandsön where the Carlsten Fortress is located.
We took the ferry and we went to visit the fortress and take a walk along the nature trails of Marstrand while we saw the magnificent landscape of the west coast that the day partly sunny partly cloudy offered us.
Special mention deserves the hotel Marstrand Havshotell where we stayed overnight. Later in the article I discuss the hotels for this trip but this is sensational. A typical sailor hotel with spa and rooms as I like them: modern.
What to See in Kungälv
The last stop of the trip was (10) Kungälv 25 minutes north of Gothenburg and about 50 minutes from Landvetter Airport. Kungälv was a destination that I wanted to visit for two reasons: one historical and one “gastronomic”. The historical one has to do with another fortress, the so-called Bohus Fortress dating from the 14th century with free entry with the Gothenburg Pass and which gave name to this region.
Of course, when we visited (autumn) the Bohus Fortress only opens on weekends or for large groups so I had to settle for making the outside visit and read the informative posters with the story of the 14 times they besieged it but never managed to conquer. And there it has been standing for 700 years.
After that, we unsuccessfully searched for a lookout to try to emulate a photo of the fortress we had seen on the sign.
As for the “gastronomic” reason, the idea was to visit the outlet of Göteborgs kex, the company producing cookies that were sold at IKEA for some years and that the Swedish furniture company now simply copies. They are called Ballerina or Singoalla. The outlet is a real outlet with awesome prices. A box of cookies costed 3 SEK (0.30 €) or 9 SEK (1€). They also sold gift packages with many kinds of different cookies and metal boxes to store cookies and maintain their quality intact. Obviously I had to buy one. The outlet is also very close to the fortress (a couple of roundabouts away). Type “Bräckboden Göteborgskex” on Google maps and you’ll get there.
This was our last stop before returning with the car to the Landvetter airport and returning home.
Other Things to See in the Trip
Those who love bridges have many who offer good views of the Bohuslän coast as well as the fjords of the area. For example: the bridges that lead to the island of Marstrand of which I have already spoken, the bridges Tjörnbron and Skåpesundbsron near Stenungsund that join the huge islands of Tjörn and Orust, the bridge Uddevallabron on the same E6 highway that has breathtaking views of the Havstensfjorden fjord and, finally, to the north of Strömstad the Svinesundsbron which is the natural and political border between Sweden and Norway and for which you will surely pass if you dare to go to Oslo.
On the island of Tjörn in Skärhamn there is the Nordiska akvarellmuseet or Nordic watercolors museum which is an inspiring site for all those interested in art with world-class exhibitions.
In Uddevalla is the Bohuslän Museum, which offers exhibitions related to the history and culture of the region.
If you are interested in beer and artisan production in Gothenburg and its surroundings, there are more than 200 local producers. So although alcohol in Sweden is expensive it seems less if at least one has the experience of tasting craft proximity beers. In Gothenburg you can try them at: Dugges Ale & Porterbryggeri, Oceanbryggeriet, Rådanäs, Göteborgs Nya Bryggeri, Beerblioteket or Stigbergets bryggeri.
Where to Sleep on the West Coast of Sweden
In Gothenburg there are three hotels that I can recommend to book accomodation. These are Gothia Towers, Avalon and Pigalle. Each one is different. The Gothia Towers is very modern, very large and in front of the incredible Liseberg amusement park.
Avalon is in the city center of Gothenburg and is very focused on art which is present in all its spaces from the dining room to the hall or the corridors. It also has, as Gothia Towers, a heated “hanging” outdoor pool.
Pigalle is a Barocque boutique hotel whose entrance and reception already lets you realize that we are in a unique place.
In Fjällbacka we stayed as it could not be otherwise in the Stora Hotellet Bryggan which is also the only hotel in the village that remains open all year.
Finally, an interesting accommodation option for families are the cabins I mentioned earlier at the Tanumsstrand resort near Grebbestad.
Where to Eat at Every Destination
First remember what I always mention to people traveling to Sweden for the first time. Dinners are expensive. If you want to dine cheap you should look for alternatives within fast food: pizzas, kebabs, hamburgers, sausages or dinner at home if you stay in an apartment.
It is not true that you can’t eat great food in Sweden. There are many things in Sweden regarding the restaurants and food that generalizing are better than in Spain. For example: the manners of the waiters, their knowledge about the products served or the ingredients, the availability of the chef to go out and explain how a dish is made, the possibility of vegan alternatives, gluten-free, lactose-free, etc. . the elaboration and presentation is very carefully taken care of to the detail in any restaurant, the decoration of the spaces … and, of course, all that needs to be paid for.
For lunch you can find every price you want. Look for the dagens lunch or dagens rätt. You will find menus from 80 – 90 SEK (9 €-10 €) being the normal 130 – 150 SEK (13 €-15 €). This is a one dish menu with free salad buffet (usually), bread with butter and water (sometimes a drink or a lättöl beer with a very low 2.1% graduation).
For lunch and dinner in Gothenburg I must add the John Scott Pub to those already mentioned in the other article as a place to taste the räkmackor – shrimp sandwiches typical of the area. At the John Scott Pub located in downtown at Brunnsparken they also make their own beer. A huge shrimp sandwich and an IPA beer almost as big came out for just under 30 €.
A restaurant for dinner located in a special environment – the old Eriksberg shipyard district, as I mentioned, now completely transformed into a residential area with art and decorative lighting through the streets – isn Restaurang Piga in which the traditions of the Swedish husmankost are mixed with new culinary techniques and where one of his cooks, Luis, a Swedish son of Chilean parents explained to us in great detail what we were eating at each moment.
My menu consisted of: pickled fried oysters with pickled onion with dill and rowan gel.
Västerbotten cheese and potatoe fish and seafood gratin, mushrooms sautéed in butter, green peas, parsley root in dill accompanied by Manitoba bread and charred baby roman salad.
I paid about 35 € drinking sparkling water made by themselves.
We also ate lunch at Sjöbaren fisk & skaldjur specialized in fish and seafood in the historic Haga neighborhood. In addition to the free salad buffet and the bread with butter I ordered fish Wallenbergare. One of my companions ordered a delicious seafood soup.
Finally, the Atélier restaurant in Gothenburg, located on the top floor of the Pigalle hotel, deserves a special mention. I had already tried lunch menu here but now we went for a four-course tasting dinner. I leave a picture of the restaurant and its environment and do not go into detail in the food because I want to write an article about restaurants in Gothenburg where I will discuss more. I didn’t just onlye enjoyed dinner there but asked for the recipe of their wonderful rye bread with maple syrup called rågsurdegsbröd and got it!
In Fjällbacka we ate at the hotel restaurant located in a nearby building next to the harbor and called Café Bryggan. As a curiosity they told us that every summer there are many Spaniards working there, during the season, as cooks and waiters.
In Marstrand we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, called Ottos Kök, a cold starter based on carpaccio, some vegetables cooked with dill and a fish-based dish that you can see under these lines.
And at the airports, as always and as I recommend, go for MAX my favorite Swedish burgers where for around 10 € you have a better quality menu than other world-renowned chains. Don’t forget to order Bearnaise sauce!
And that’s all folks! It is a long article to read and re-read if you are planning a trip along the West Coast of Sweden. I hope my route will help you prepare your own.
If you need more inspiration and places to visit just leave me a comment below and I will try to help you enjoy a great stay in Sweden.