Taking it back to nature in the most peaceful and rawest forms, we hired bikes and started a six day cycle and bivvy between the two great lakes Vänern and Vättern, and along the Göta Canal. With the Swedish camping laws allowing you to camp anywhere, the Lantmäteriet (O.S. map) becomes your ‘Best of BnBs’ guide. Look out for the patches of land marked ‘Open Land’ next to the lakes (avoiding Sankmark [Marsh]!), and surrounded by forests and you’ve found Eden. Your home for the night looks out onto lakes feeling as endless as the sea, you’ll fall asleep to the gentle slosh-slosh of the waves with no fear of rising tides, and the sun slowly setting, and in the morning you can take a wonderful swim in your own private ocean. Don’t expect anyone to bring you a cocktail at the side of the pool, this holiday is not for the faint-hearted, but for those looking for the true beauty of Scandinavia, this is the way to find it. And the best time of year is as close to June 21st as you can get, finding your camp spot at 10pm, cooking at 11pm, and eating as the sun (almost) sets at midnight. Bliss.
The Haga district in Gothenburg is like stepping into a fairytale town. Having explored Kungsportavenyn (the Avenue) and the inner city area of Gothenburg, I was starting to get tourist fatigue. Craving some greenery, we headed for Slottsskogen, a vast and beautiful open space littered with open-air zoos, restaurants, and grand oak trees. It was on our walk there that we inadvertently stumbled across the Haga district. It was like walking straight into a fairytale; cobbled lanes with secrets to tell, tired looking shop fronts dripping with vintage nick-nacks, and row after row of delicious coffee shops. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the Haga district emanates calmness and coolness, welcoming both tourists and locals alike. It felt like I'd wandered into the heart of a local Swedish tow, and was being welcomed as a regular, rather than just another visitor. Besides soaking up the atmosphere of the Haga district, it implores you to engage in the serious business of 'fika', right beside the locals. Fika, the Swedish practice of taking a break usually with coffee and cake, is best enjoyed in Cafe Husaren where they offer great coffee and the biggest, most generous cinnamon rolls. They were literally bigger than my head - not for the faint hearted. Although, after exploring the many cute cobbled streets and shabby chic shops, it's a well-deserved break. The attitude of this place offers a really unique edge to the city of Gothenburg, I would strongly recommend a visit, no matter how brief your trip.
Haga Nygata 28, 411 22 Gbg
+46(0)31 136 378
Google map: bit.ly/rstpLh
Gothenburg's Southern Archipelago is a cluster of eight verdant islands not dissimilar to the Isles of Scilly. But whereas the Scillonian ferry costs around £100, the boat to Brännö, the island we stopped at, cost the equivalent of £1.20. Situated a gorgeous cycle ride down residential Gothenburg's clapboard-clad coast toward Salthomen, the island has around 380 inhabitants (though where they were on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon is anyone's guess), a fleet of curious bicycles with huge loading pallets mounted on the front, and a crystal clear, unfettered coastline. There are designated beach areas, but if you want to escape the maddening crowd of the 15 people sunning themselves there, a little adventurous initiative takes you around the island's coastline to vast green spaces, and craggy, rocky lagoons of opalescent, crystal clear (if cool) water. It's like a mini personal paradise.
In the summer season several boat excursions depart from Lilla Bommen harbour in the city center. Tickets and information: Göteborg's Tourist Information Centres + 46 31 61 25 00 or at Kungsportsplatsen and in Nordstan Shopping Centre (taken from goteborg.se)
Or, cycle down the clearly signposted coast to Salthomen and catch the ferry from there. We went in September, and the boats were running fairly regularly.
A wonderful cottage in the remote forest of Vastergotland, 100kms east of Gothenburg close to Ulricehamn. The cottage has two bedrooms, a living room with views of the nearby lake and a wonderful garden full of wild fruits and mushrooms, and complete with a wood burning hot tub for perfect relaxation. We loved it!
Slottsskogens Vandrarhem is the greatest youth hostel I've ever been to. It's pretty much central to Gothenburg, and it's immaculately clean - from the huge, friendly communal kitchen to the airy, wood-furnished bedrooms. The staff are an absolute pleasure (and handily all speak perfect English), there's free internet and free bike hire, perfect for exploring the city and its glorious coastline. Although we didn't try it, there was a spectacular looking traditional Swedish breakfast on offer for a few Kronor. The atmosphere inside was brilliant too - we went as two girls just visiting for fun, and we met Erasmus students waiting for term to start, people backpacking across the world, and most days and nights we ended up doing stuff with them too. Honestly, I can't recommend it enough. It's also really near the Haga district of the city, the traditional old beautiful town with gorgeous cafes, and it's across the road from a frequent main tram line.
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