Steve Jack from Inntravel gives us his thoughts on how to make the most of Gothenburg on the run-up to Christmas.
Gothenburg doesn’t hold back when it comes to Christmas. In fact, the whole city seems to sparkle during December, so here’s how to enjoy Sweden’s second city to the full during Advent…
Start by taking a half-hour boat tour to Liseberg amusement park, south-east of the centre. Here, Scandinavia’s grandest Christmas market boasts no fewer than 700 Christmas trees and 5 million lights, and there are 80 rustic stalls groaning under the weight of unique seasonal foods and hand-made arts and crafts. Liseberg is a much-loved Gothenburg institution, and the warm family atmosphere is so magical that you could imagine Pippi Longstocking stepping off one of the fairground rides at any moment.
With aromas of glögg (Swedish mulled wine), toasted almonds and freshly made waffles filling the air, take in an impressive costumed ice show on Liseberg’s open-air rink before following the magical ‘Lane of Light’ a full three kilometres through the city and on towards the harbour. Pause for a while in Götaplatsen, the city’s cultural hub, where a specially-produced festive film is projected onto the grand-looking façade of the Art Museum, before continuing down shop-lined Avenyn (the city’s equivalent of the Champs Elysées), perhaps indulging in a spot of Christmas shopping along the way.
If that isn’t enough to get your festive juices flowing, seek out yet more markets in the Old City Hall (Kronhuset), where the emphasis is on traditional arts and handicrafts, and in the historic district of Haga. Here, the year-round buzz of cafés, restaurants and boutiques along the main street is augmented during December by weekend stalls offering more glögg, sweet treats and all manner of seasonal goodies. You can also try ice-skating on the open-air rink at Heden, and don’t forget to take a peek at the Christmas windows of NK, Gothenburg’s flagship department store, which draws looks of wide-eyed wonder from passers-by of every generation.
At some point during your stay, you should also stroll along to the trickily named (but easy-to-find) Drottningtorget square, right in front of the festively decorated Clarion Post hotel and the central train station. Here you will come across a vintage tram, another charming way to reach Liseberg (but only on Saturdays), and Gothenburg’s famous Singing Christmas Tree. This remarkable human structure is sure to keep you entranced as a local choir belts out a succession of Christmas carols into the starry night sky above the city.
Be sure to make the most of West Sweden’s sparkling reputation for gastronomy, too – Gothenburg’s restaurant scene rivals the best in the world, and there is even a market called the ‘Fish Church’ (feskekörka) where locals are said to ‘worship cod not God’! Now is the time of year to savour the freshest of salmon and shellfish, as well as pickled herring: once seen as a poor man’s food, it is now considered a delicacy and is often flavoured with dill, mustard or caraway, or perhaps a splash of aquavit.
And, as well as indulging in the odd lussebullar (delicious, saffron-flavoured Saint Lucia buns), why not see if you can summon up the courage to tackle the Swedish julbord (‘Christmas Table’)? Served in many restaurants from the start of December, this is perhaps the smörgåsbord to end all smörgåsbords… a traditional feast that includes cold and warm meats, fish dishes, cheese and Christmas sweets – a meal that is fit for a king!
Inntravel’s Magical Gothenburg breaks are available from 16 Nov until 20 Dec. They include three nights’ B&B at the stylish and centrally located Hotel Vanilla, plus lots of local information and recommendations, and a specially devised city walking route. Prices are from £475 per adult, including flights from London.