Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, celebrating it’s 400th birthday this year, and a big hit with kids. Justine Gosling visited with her family recently and can’t say enough good things, will she persuade you to go?
Welcome to Liseberg Grand Curiosa Hotel in Gothenburg
You may not have thought about a family trip to Gothenburg before, but new attractions and a 400th birthday year, could be just the excuses you need. They were certainly enough to convince me to pack up the kids and try out the city that isn’t Stockholm.
We based ourselves at the newly opened Liseberg Grand Curiosa Hotel, right next to the Nordic region’s biggest amusement park, the Liseberg. The hotel has 457 rooms over 9 floors, all with at least five beds, as well as a large bathroom with double basins.
Expect kids to be amazed every second of their stay
The hotel’s grand 18th century, Asian inspired décor takes families to a time when the world was still being explored and adventure was possible at every turn.
The lobby is filled with replica artworks and fanciful curiosities from travels during this period. Think huge hanging bird cages, hippo sculptures, piles of travellers leather luggage trunks, enormous and delicately painted vases, as well as a children’s sized wood-panelled library. There’s also a full-sized pony carousel in the restaurant, a slide all the way down to the hotel’s lobby and a cinema room. Then, to make mealtimes even easier with kids, in the Saluhallen – market hall – restaurant, there’s a huge buffet staffed by charming robot waiters.
Head next door to Liseberg Amusement Park
Up on the 9th floor is the Hong Kong inspired Mei Rose Rooftop Bar & Bistro. We tucked into sharing dishes, and I’d recommend the blackened tuna with ginger, while the kids devoured fried pork dumplings and crispy pork in char siu glaze.
After dinner, we headed to the spacious outdoor bar for a cocktail and kids mapped their route around the theme park below over an ice cream, not at all off put by the frantic screams coming from the rollercoasters.
Just a few steps from the hotel’s entrance, the iconic Liseberg Amusement Park, celebrated its 100th birthday this year with the opening of an inventor-themed ‘Luna’ section.
The new space rocket rollercoaster, with the same name, took us close the moon by hauling us uphill backwards, and then plummeting us down and back up again to a height of 34m at a blurring speed of 68kmh. Other new rides this year include Tempus, and the more sedate, Turbo: a flying motor bike with side car. As we visited the park mid-week it was relatively quiet and we didn’t have to queue for more than a few minutes for any of the rides.
Getting around Gothenburg is cheap, quick and easy
Getting around Gothenburg is cheap and easy. A 72-hour travel ticket is great value for families, and there’s tram stop right outside the hotel with trams every few minutes.
It’s one stop or a few minutes’ walk from the hotel to the Universeum Science Centre, which is one of the largest museums in Gothenburg and also Scandinavia’s largest science centre.
Throughout its seven floors you can experience a tropical rainforest and its wildlife – spot the sleeping sloth. There are huge aquariums too and children can get involved with exciting experiments in the laboratory. Our kids found it hilarious racing each other by piloting a carrot through a simulated digestive system before exiting as a very loud fart. No surprise this was the main topic of conversation in the centre’s excellent café over a lunch of traditional Swedish meatballs.
You can also catch a direct tram to the bustling centre of Gothenburg and its main boulevard, Avenyn.
Explore the city’s museums and tour its canals
Along this canal stretch you’ll find the Museum of Art, and the City Theatre, as well as shops and cafes with lots of options for eating outside. It’s here you can also rent an electric pleasure boat from Lets Boat to experience Gothenburg from its calm canals: packing a picnic is a good plan for this adventure.
Then jump back on the tram to visit the petting zoo at Slottsskogen City Park. The park zoo is open all year round and admission is free to pet the Gotland ponies, elk and other Nordic animals. Afterwards, let your kids spend a couple of hours playing with Swedish children at the Plikta adventure playground.
Add some island calm to your Gothenburg adventure
Think about an island stay to contrast time in bustling Gothenburg with a slightly slower, less structured experience. An easy 30-minute tram ride, then a 40-minute ferry from Stenpiren brings you to the island of Vargö: an idyllic car free nature reserve since 1986.
Just steps from the tiny harbour, stop at the friendly Ternan café for a fresh prawn open-sandwich or bowl of moules-mariniere, both served with with ocean views on the side. It’s from here that staff from Kajkanten Vrångö will pick you up in their golf buggy, a journey which thrilled our kids, as they got to ride in the open back.
Introduce your kids to floating saunas and Swedish seafood
Kajkanten Vrångö is set on the western side of the small island and guests stay in converted boat houses in the Vrångö harbour, overlooking the sea. The wonderful owners will show you the best crabbing spots to entertain children for hours and also take you on guided hikes or kayak excursions around the island’s sheltered waters. Don’t miss the short and easy walk up to the small, red cabin and lookout spot on Utkiken, the former pilot cabin has become a symbol for Vrångö and has even more fabulous views.
Families can visit the supermarket a 5-minute walk away and prepare their own meals, or have breakfast boxes delivered to your door. Dinner is from the sea and served right by the water’s edge, surrounded by fishing boats and stacks of lobster pots at restaurant Hamnkrogen Lotsen.
For a real treat, on our last night, we booked Kajkanten Vrångö’s floating sauna and hot tub cabin and had a vast box of fresh prawns, crayfish, mussels, pickles and sour dough bread delivered for the ultimate island chill out evening. We took turns daring each other to jump out of the hot tub and into the chilly sea water. An impromptu game that erupted into cheers and earned those brave enough extra scoops of ice cream.
Our island stay was the perfect way to end a Gothenburg adventure which delivered a wide range of activities, and created a good balance between fun, learning and easy-going family time surrounded by nature. It all seemed very exciting to us, but apparently this mix is what Swedish families enjoy most weekends. Lucky them!
How to plan a holiday in Gothenburg
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Gothenburg from 1 hour, 50 minutes
Where to stay
Liseberg Grand Curiosa Hotel, Family Room (2 adults, 2 children) from £142 per night
Kajkanten Vrångö, Family Boat House (2 adults, 2 children) from £205 per night