Gothenburg is Sweden’s coolest city, home to effortlessly hip pavement cafés, free-thinking artists and craggy windswept islands. And, believe it or not, it gets pretty warm in the summer.

If you know where to look, you can shop, party and sightsee your way through a weekend here without breaking the bank.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Shop ’til you drop

A walk down Andra Långgatan, Gothenburg’s trendiest street, reveals uber cool junk shops and record stores jostling for space alongside student-friendly drinking dens.

A rattling tram ride takes you to the city’s sun-drenched main thoroughfare, Kungsportsavenyn, where you’ll find cheap Swedish clothing outlets, such as H&M, cosying up to top-end department stores. The food here can be expensive, so when you feel the first pangs of hunger, make a beeline for the nearby streets of Kungsgatan, Vallgatan and Magasinsgatan, where you’ll find charismatic coffee shops at the foot of traditional buildings.

South of Kungsportsavenyn is the imposing Gothenburg Museum of Art, housing works by Van Gogh and Picasso. All of the city’s main collections, including the Natural History Museum – which creaks under the weight of the world’s only stuffed blue whale – are free for under-25-year-olds. Röda Sten, the city’s best modern art gallery, shows photography and video exhibitions in a defunct red-brick power station by the river.

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Great outdoors

When you’ve had your fill of culture and want to soak up some sun, follow the crowds down to Kungstorget, by the canal, where you’ll find locals picnicking.

From here it’s a short walk to the city’s beautiful free parks, including Botaniska Trädgården, Sweden’s biggest botanical garden, and Slottsskogsparken, which provides a peaceful home for an unlikely collection of penguins, elk and horses. When the sun’s out, it’s the best place for interacting with Swedish students, who meet here.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Out of Town

Gothenburg’s real beauty lies outside the city centre and on the wonderfully serene islands that make up the southern archipelago. You could easily while away a day on each, eating seafood, swimming and sunbathing.

Don’t stay too long, as you’ll need time for Liseberg, a huge theme park in the city centre, heaving with gravity-defying rides and the smell of cotton candy. If you can stomach Balder, a towering rollercoaster that hits speeds of up to 90km/h, you’ll be rewarded with a million-dollar view of Sweden’s coolest city.

Essential information on visiting Gothenburg

WHEN TO GO: Gothenburg usually has warm summers, but winters can be bitterly cold. Spring and autumn can also be quite chilly.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair flies to Gothenburg City Airport, while SAS and BMI fly to Landvetter Airport. Both airports are about 30 minutes from the city centre. Easyjet will begin flying to Landvetter from September 6.
GETTING AROUND: Gothenburg is a sprawling city but has an excellent tram system. The Gothenburg Pass, which gives free access to most museums, discounts at major shops, and unlimited rides on public transport, is great value.
VISAS: South Africans need a Schengen visa.
CURRENCY: Swedish krona. 1 GBP = 11 SEK.
LANGUAGE: Swedish.
GOING OUT: A pint of beer costs about 35 krona.
ACCOMMODATION: Hostels cost about £25 per night, while hotels start at about £60.

Words: Steve Vickers