Two years ago I visited Gothenburg for the first time and I was charmed by the laid back vibe, quirky shops and cosy cafes, the chic historic district, colourful houses, canals and waterfront. Gothenburg is a fantastic destination for a long weekend with plenty of entertainment and great food. This year I went back to Gothenburg on a press trip with the West Sweden Tourism Board and I had the chance to explore a bit of the surrounding region. Today I am sharing ideas with you for the best day trips from Gothenburg.
West Sweden – a vast area formed by the regions of Bohuslän, Dalsland, Västergötland and the city of Gothenburg – has got something to offer for everyone, whether you love cities or nature, a relaxing holiday or an active trip, if you are travelling alone or with friends or kids.
My tour was mostly focused on food and specifically in learning about fika. Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a break (several times a day) with coffee and often cake. It is a social institution that doesn’t really exist in any other country, although I wholeheartedly support its introduction in England! Fika is part of the ordinary life in Sweden and it is almost obligatory in workplaces to take a break during office hours just to “have a coffee” and socialise. No wonder Sweden has the second largest coffee consumption in the world (after Finland)!
Cake plays an important role during fika too, as you will find out in this post…
Fika tour in Alingsås
It seemed totally fitting that my tour of West Sweden would start from Alingsås, a small town just 40 minutes from Gothenburg which is considered the Fika Capital of Sweden. The local Tourist Information Centre have launched a 90-minute fika tour (in English, running during the summer months), which takes tourists around the town to taste the best coffee and pastries.
There are around 30 cafés in a city of just 25,000 people, so clearly Alingsås has a unique café culture. The fika tour is a must-do if you want to learn more about the local culture and about the Swede’s love for coffee and fika. Among the town’s most popular cafés and bakeries, I loved Ekstedts Bageri & Cafe which serves amazing in-house roasted coffee; Balders Hage where we tasted delicious raw chocolate balls; and Any’s Coffee House for the unmissable Swedish cinnamon buns.
The guided tour ended at Ljungblads Konditori, a bakery and cafe open in Alingsas since 1924. There I tasted for the first time Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake), the famous Swedish green cake that is traditionally served for celebrations.
Princess Cake is made with layers of light sponge cake, pastry cream and a thick top layer of whipped cream covered by marzipan and decorated with pink marzipan roses. The next day I had the chance to taste Princess Cake again at Nordpolen Konditori in Vara and also learn how to make marzipan roses from Pastry Chef Per Larsson. The bakery is amazing, so definitely pay a visit if you are driving through this part of West Sweden.
Lunch at Läckö Castle
Only two hours from Gothenburg by car is the wonderful Läckö Slott, near the town of Lidköping. We arrived here on a glorious sunny day, which made the sight of the 17th century castle sitting beside Lake Vänern even more impressive!
I loved the guided visit of the castle with its baroque work of art and wonderful frescos, but I was also itching to be outdoors under the warm sun. Vänern is the largest lake in Europe with an archipelago of thousands of islands. The new pier outside the Victoriahuset Visitor Centre is a great spot to spend a lazy summer afternoon.
Gardener Simon Irvine gave us a tour of the castle’s vegetable garden (Lilla Slottsträdgården) and explained how the local produce is used to prepare seasonal dishes at Hvita Hjorten (The White Hart). The restaurant is located inside the visitor centre, a modern space with glass walls overlooking the archipelago and gorgeous hotel rooms on the first floor.
Hvita Hjorten’s kitchen sources its raw ingredients from the garden, from local fishermen, farmers and vegetable growers. The restaurant is certified by Taste of West Sweden and this year won an award for sustainable gastronomy in Sweden’s prestigious White Guide.
Stay at Bjertorp Slott
For a blissfully relaxing country escape in West Sweden, I recommend Bjertorp Manor Hotel in Kvänum (1h30′ drive from Gothenburg-Landvetter Airport). Bjertorp Slott is surrounded by landscaped gardens and the Vara-Bjertorp’s golf club.
The grand stone building was completed in 1914 by the Littorin family and is decorated with unique Art Nouveau interiors, oak wood panels and precious marbles details. The first floor of the manor houses 31 individually decorated bedrooms, while on the basement there is a small sauna and relaxation area which I gladly visited before dinner.
The restaurant at Bjertorp Slott is one of West Sweden’s finest restaurants, offering fine dining dishes prepared with local products and game.
Cheese tasting at Sivan’s
On your way back to Gothenburg from Bjertorp Slott, take a detour to visit the dreamy Sivan’s cafe for lunch. This is not just a cafe, but also a bakery and more importantly a cheese shop. The owner Sivan Johansson is one of Sweden’s most famous cheesemongers.
The cafe is now managed by her daughter Sofia Johansson, who we had the pleasure to meet in person. Sofia’s job is to source the best cheese from local dairy producers; this cheese is stored at Sivan’s for 2-3 years to mature and develop, then sold in the shop.
Good cheese changes character with time and it needs to mature for just the right amount of time. It’s Sivan’s skill and experience that enable her to know how each cheese will evolve.
In addition to selling cheese, Sofia also bakes and sell crispbread and has a passion for making chocolate pralines.
Sivan’s supply cheese and bread to 50-60 restaurants every week, in addition to running their own cafe in July and August (open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). You can pre-book a visit to the cafe and shop if you are planning to visit during other months. Everything at Sivan’s is made with passion and the cafe is well worth a visit.
I hope this post inspired you to visit the beautiful countryside of West Sweden and discover all the wonderful food that the region has to offer! For more information follow West Sweden Tourism Board on Twitter.
Like this post? Read my post Midsummer in Gothenburg.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this tour by the West Sweden Tourism Board. All opinions are my own.