The Drive’s City Guide to Gothenburg
Volvo’s hometown is secretly the coolest city in Sweden.
It might be the hippest little town you’ve never heard of. Add car culture to busy cobbled streets, great food, and long summer nights, and the mix makes Gothenburg a perfect destination for the first of our Volvo record runs. Here’s what you need to know about Gothenburg, whether you’re trying to set a record, or trying to soak up the long summer solstice in style.
Breakfast in the historic center of the old city can start cobblestone-cutesy, with fantastic local bakeries and cafes lining the street. Come noon though, the Haga plays host to some of the best streetside bars in town, making it a perfect place to sample the local brew. There’s no need to fear Swedish beer. Local breweries have taken off in Gothenburg and Stockholm, taking inspiration from Sweden’s traditional wheat crop and a healthy admiration for the American craft brewing scene. Paired with traditional dishes like herring, elk, or just with a burger, a cold beer in the Haga is a perfect start to a long wander around Gothenburg.
Just adjacent to City Hall and the riverside, Gothenburg’s tree-lined central square is a city-wide transit hub. Besides playing host to fountains and historic architecture, Brunnsparken is the key to the city’s brilliant streetcar system which can get you just about anywhere in town, riding everything from vintage electric cars to the modern climate controlled trains. Enjoy the bustling social scene, putter towards the massive Nordstan shopping center, or do what we did and hail a ride sharing service for the fifteen-minute ride to the Volvo Museum just west of downtown.
The short trip to the Volvo Museum yields a big payoff: In addition to the usual suspects – beautifully preserved classics like P1800’s and Amazons – the Volvo museum hosts everything from Paris Dakar racing trucks to a gallery of Volvo Ocean Racing boats. The most famous son of Gothenburg, Volvo has designed and manufactured cars in the city since their founding in 1927. Sprawling over two big floors, the museum also includes Volvo’s working vehicles and maritime engines as well as a roundup of their race cars, from classic rally beasts to a British Touring Car Championship winning 850 wagon. Nearby, a display featuring all of Volvo’s station wagons will appeal to American Volvo fans in particular.
Just a ten-minute drive to the north, Volvo’s Torslanda factory offers popular hour-long production line tours. Be sure to book your tour in advance – Volvo fanatics swoon at the historic factory, which has built everything from Volvo Amazons and 144’s to current second-generation XC90’s and new S90’s on a recently modernized production line.
Bike Rental at the Gothenburg Opera House
Back in town, a quick walk takes you down from Brunnsparken to the side of the Gota river and the spectacular Gothenburg Opera House. Soak up the view of Gothenburg’s busy port from the harborside, or rent one of the city’s ubiquitous grey bikes at one of many nearby stands for a trip past the Maritiman museum, where you can tour ships from steam-engined monitors and lighthouse boats to Draken-class submarines. If the boats don’t hook you, continue down the quai and head into town for a little tour of Swedish design.
Design Around Town
Keep biking south and you’ll swing past the Gothenburg City Museum. Housed in the old headquarters of the Swedish East India Company, the Museum covers the history of Gothenburg dating back to the days of the Vikings. Fascinating stuff to be sure, but if Gothenburg’s present and future is more interesting, it’s well worth a visit to the Röhsska museum. Dedicated to arts, design, and fashion, the Röhsska museum dates back to 1914 and contains everything from Parisian and local couture to Apple desktops.
More interested in a piece of design to take home? Keep wheeling for Vallgaten 12, where you can end your evening with multiple floors of local culture. Upstairs is the place to hunt for the next big thing in Swedish furniture and clothing, while downstairs, a cafe stocks local eats and a good variety of those aforementioned Swedish beers.