It’s a little-known fact that Gothenburg , Sweden’s second largest city, has been working hard to become one of Scandinavia’s gourmet hotspots. Its success is largely due to the fresh ingredients which are readily available just off-shore.
There has always been a special relationship between Göteborg (the English call it Gothenburg), Scandinavia’s largest port, and the sea. Signs of their idyll are visible throughout the city, from Neptune, god of the deep, who presides over Avenyn, the town’s main avenue, to the ‘sailor’s wife’ who watches the waters from atop a 50-metre high column on the banks of the Göta River. Even the opera was designed to evoke a ship at sea.
Local chefs naturally make the most of the fresh marine cornucopia available every morning at the century-old wholesale fish market, the Fiskeauktionen. The kilos upon kilos of brill, prawns, halibut, lobster, salmon, flounder and other deep-sea treasures pulled from the icy depths of the North Atlantic make quite a sight. Since most of the catch is destined for Göteborg’s many restaurants, why not follow it to the city’s best tables?
The town’s chefs are justly proud of their expertise when it comes to marrying sea food with gastronomy - a match that has been gaining momentum over the past decade or so. Göteborg boasts no fewer than five restaurants with one Michelin star, along with a good many other tempting establishments which do their best to serve dishes prepared from fresh and, whenever possible, native ingredients; all local menus feature fish and shellfish. Moreover, organic or biodynamic dishes and drinks are often on offer - ‘ekologiskt’ gourmets will be in their element!
This preference for ecologically viable cuisine is shared throughout Göteborg, the city behind the Kungsfenan Swedish Seafood Awards for sustainable fishing, maritime gastronomy and innovation. In 2009, France’s Paul Bocuse, one of the world’s greatest chefs, was awarded the Kungsfenan for maritime gastronomy - a highly symbolic gesture in a city where all the best cooks are intent on giving Swedish cuisine its gourmet due.
Of course, fish is not reserved for posh menus alone; seafood is the local religion, from Michelin-starred restaurants to Göteborg’s family kitchens. The denizens of the city have their own fish market: the Feskekörka or ‘temple of seafood,’ a building reminiscent of a Protestant church. Everyone comes here to stock up on provisions or grab a snack, while trying their best to follow the green and red lists. Green list: seafood which can be bought and enjoyed in good conscience; red list: endangered species. Visitors should ask for help if the signage seems baffling...
Epicurean escapades are certainly among the most pleasant ways to discover the tranquil town of Göteborg. To wrap up your trip, keep going till you reach the source: the sea. Hop on a tram and then grab a ferry to the archipelago’s islands - in summer they become little corners of paradise where fishing, swimming and enjoying sizzling barbecues featuring the freshest of fish are the perfect activities. The water may not be as warm as in Eden, but it does feel like a slice of heaven...
Where to stay
Tel: (46) 31-24 16 20
A simple and friendly inn set in a 19C seamen’s hostel. Rooms from 210 SEK in low season, 225 SEK in high season; discounts for youth hostel members.
Tel: (46) 31-711 62 20
This welcoming hotel in a 17C manor is located next to a café with a pleasant patio.
From 1045 SEK per night; 745 weekends.
Tel: (46) 31-725 77 77
Just ten minutes by boat from the centre of town, a very handsome hotel with a nautical ambiance. Rooms begin at 1300 SEK weekdays, 1000 SEK weekends and summer.
(Note that many restaurants close at some point during summer.)
Tel: (46) 31-130 450
A popular brasserie in the covered market, ideal for lunch. Main dishes start at 60 SEK.
Haga Nygata 25
Tel: (46) 31-711 97 80
A restaurant in the charming Haga quarter serving typical Swedish cuisine with an accent on seafood. The small, shady courtyard is open in summer. Main dishes from 119 SEK.
Tel: (46) 31-775 59 20
Göteborg’s best-known seafood restaurant is found in an inviting 18C wood house with a summer terrace overlooking the estuary. One Michelin star. Dishes from 150 SEK at lunch, from 325 at dinner.
Fiskeauktionen, Sweden’s biggest wholesale fish market, is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6.30 am.
Feskekörka, a popular seafood market, is open from 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, and from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Upstairs, the Gabriel Restaurant serves seafood lunches. Dishes from 145 SEK.
Saluhallen, the covered market, is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm.
A useful tip:
The Göteborg Pass gives free access to all of the city’s tourist attractions, museums, trams, buses and ferries as well as shopping discounts and more during 24 hours for 245 SEK (170 for children) or 390 SEK for 48 hours (270 for children).
More information at:
Tel: 020 7108 6168 (U.K.) or 01 247 5440 (Ireland)
100 SEK (Swedish kroner) = £ 8.90 or € 10.35