Seafood certainly comes to mind when planning a trip to Sweden, and Gothenburg has plenty of it. We snack on fried herring from a food truck, brown paper bags of prawns from Feskekorka fish market and platters at the market’s iconic Restaurant Gabriel. But this city in West Sweden also has plenty of cinnamon buns and a surprising undercurrent of trendy vegetarian restaurants…
Fika, Sweden’s afternoon snacking obsession, isn’t taken lightly in Gothenburg. On every street corner Swedes perch on tiered wooden seating outside hip coffee shops. Throughout the weekend we graze between Café Doppio, Dirty Records, and even enjoy havreflan (Swedish oaty biscuits coated in chocolate) in our retro-Scandi decked out air bnb.
We take a step back into old Sweden and stroll down the film set-worthy cobbled streets of Haga. Large windows piled high with giant cinnamon buns tempt us in to Café Husaren. We slide wooden trays past display cabinets brimming with baked goods before settling into a booth with a hot chocolate, and doughy, sugar-sprinkled cinnamon buns, to take in the café’s stunning 19th century glass roof and stucco work.
For serious coffee geeks, a visit to one of Da Matteo’s branches is a must. We sit high on stools in the original Victoriapassagen branch and watch people squeeze through the tiny passage while eyeing up sleek stationery in Rum for Papper opposite, and have our first taste of cinnamon and cardamom buns fresh from the on-site bakery at the Torrefaziine branch. Interiors in each one fit their Scandi-cool clientele down to a T – concrete, exposed brick and stainless steel are cosied up with Swedish throws and cushions to sink in to.
On the bustling square just outside the latter branch of Da Matteo, an uber-cool black food truck, Strommingsluckan, has set up camp. We pull up a chair and tuck in to paper plates of flash-fried herring, creamy mash and tart lingonberry sauce.
More Swedish fare in takeaway containers is presented to us in the form of wriggling-fresh seafood from Gothenburg’s charming ‘fish church’. (Yes, that’s right!) Any church dedicated to seafood is one we’d like to worship at. Let one of the fishermen at indoor fish market
dish out spoonfuls of pink prawns served with garlicky aioli and lemon wedges and take it outside to eat on wooden benches by the river.
If you don’t fancy eating on the move, hop up the wooden stairs to Restaurant Gabriel’s and enjoy a glass of Champagne while tall, bearded Swedes in woolly hats ferry to-and-fro from the open kitchen with plates of oysters, lemon sole with melted butter and Swedish lobster.
Gothenburg isn’t all seafood. We find a surprising undercurrent of trendy vegetarian spots. Making like trendy Gothenburg locals, we head to Folkteatern and enjoy raw celeriac with basil pesto, hazelnuts and watercress; butter baked cauliflower with mushroom mayonnaise and punchy pieces of fried ginger; and fried butter ice cream with skin-on poached pear topped with crunchy caramelised hazelnuts; all paired with natural wines below the glittering glow of a disco ball.
The following evening, in search of something a bit less camp, we duck into the pint-sized cellar bar of a huge red brick indie cinema, Hagabion’s Café Kino. We weave through artsy folk hunched around low tables on mismatched chairs and perch on a piano stool to enjoy craft Swedish beer with more vegetarian food (goat’s cheese on homemade walnut bread and wild mushroom tortellini with a cream sauce).
After dinner we mooch up and down the network of Gothenburg’s three buzzy ‘long streets’. Andra Langgatan (second long street) is the destination for Olstugan Tullen, a popular pub that dates back to 1892. We play sardines at the long, beer tap-lined bar and then take our pale ales out to the wooden bench that hugs the building’s exterior (we definitely needed to throw blankets over our laps!).
There is plenty to keep us occupied in Gothenburg’s city centre, but we hop on the rickety tram that takes us to the coast for a bit of island hopping. I sit next to a tiny blonde girl totally enraptured by a bright yellow flower as the city makes way for quaint summer houses and fresh sea air. We hop on the ferry to find one of the most idyllic pockets of Swedish life imaginable. But that’s a story for next time…