Of the 9 European countries we visited, I’m afraid I’d have to rank Göteborg towards the bottom of the list. Like Helsinki, it was a lovely city, with friendly and welcoming people, but it was also a bit… ordinary. Perhaps it didn’t help that we were supposed to go to Stockholm, the capital, but that was thwarted by a Swedish royal getting married there that day and we were a tad salty about it. Apparently, the cruise line believed that the traffic and congestion in Stockholm, by far the largest city in Sweden, would be way too much. Therefore they diverted the ship to Göteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city.
A city of 617,781 (as of 2021), Göteborg actually has two official names: a Swedish one (Göteborg) and a German/English one (Gothenburg). This was established in the city’s actual city charter in 1621, however, both names were already widely used before the charter was drafted. Even in present day the two names are interchangeable, and you will routinely see both used in the same text, on the same page, in the same paragraph.
Officially founded in 1621 by King Gustavus Adolphus, the city design was heavily influenced by the Dutch, Germans, and Scots. Dutch planners and contractors were hired to map out and build the city, and naturally they drew influence from Dutch cities, particularly Amsterdam and Batavia (capital of the Dutch East Indies). The Dutch held power in Göteborg until 1652, which is when the last Dutch politician on the city’s council died. The Swedish then swooped in and acquired political power over the city. They retained control of the city and Sweden grew into the country we know today.
Our time in Göteborg began by meandering around in some souvenir and candy shops. We then decided to take a boat tour since Göteborg, like Chicago, IL (Chicago, Illinois: Da Bears.), has a small network of canals running through it. The largest and main one, the Göta Canal, was constructed in the 19th century, with its first recorded date of use being September 29th, 1832. It runs about 382 miles all the way across Sweden, through two large lakes, and out into the Baltic Sea.
We took the Paddan Tour through the canals with a company called Strömma. It costs 180 krona per person ($20.57 USD) and is a 50-minute tour of Göteborg from the open water, as well as a brief trip through a smaller canal. We saw the famed Lilla Bommen, aka “The Lipstick Building”, which is Skanska’s (a worldwide construction and development company) Swedish headquarters. It’s aptly named as it does resemble a giant lipstick with the cap off.
We saw and were told about many bridges throughout Göteborg, but the main star was Osthyveln, aka “The Cheese Slicer”. It’s named as such because it’s so low that everyone must practically get on the floor of the boat, crouching down as far as possible, otherwise you will get whacked and very hurt. I want those who cannot get on the floor easily and quickly to know this about this particular tour/tour company.
Next was the “East Indiaman Götheborg“, officially named the Götheborg III, which is a replica of the 1738 Götheborg I, which sunk in 1745, and would have been used by the East India Company back in its glory days. Building of the replica took ten years, beginning in 1995 and officially completing in 2005. Much of this time was spent researching exactly how to best build the replica. There was also a Götheborg II built in 1786, but it was lost near Cape Town, South Africa in 1796.
Lastly, we learned about Stora Nygatan 17 ½, which is an unofficial address location in the Inom Vallgraven district. It’s the only address in all of Göteborg that does not have a complete street number. When the two houses built at 17 and 17 ½ were discovered to be sister properties, one plot but two homes, it was too late, as the addresses were already issued. Therefore it remained 17 ½. Today it is occupied by a psychiatric clinic.
After the boat ride, we walked down Kungsportsavenyn, or “The Avenue”, which is the main street in Göteborg. Here is where we found out how wild and fun Swedish people can be. First, we ran into my very first (and ever) flash mob, which consisted of about 50 young girls and one, single dude. They ran up and suddenly began performing a choreographed dance to Justin Biebers “Baby” (so 2011), with one girl wearing an American flag jacket holding the boombox. It was so entertaining, perplexing, and mind boggling, because you hear about flash mobs and see videos of them every so often, but rarely do you encounter one in real life. I also didn’t understand why the American flag jacket, particularly because Bieber is Canadian and this happened in Sweden. I just put it in the “life’s forever unanswered mysteries” box!
Second, after moving on from our flash mob experience, we ran into two men who were “celebrating a bachelor’s party”. I put it in quotes because I’ve never seen a bachelor’s party celebrated in such a fashion! For one, there was only two of them, and two, the prospective groom was wearing boxers, fishnet stockings, a gimp mask, a blonde wig, had a cup in his waistband and a beer duct-taped to his hand… all while being walked on a leash tied to his ankle by his normally dressed friend. He had something written on his shirt in Swedish, but I we never found out what it said. Based on the overall get-up, I assume it had something to do with “whipping” and “money”. It was a little hard to understand them because of the language barrier, but I’m 99% sure the “handler” said it was the “gimp’s” bachelor party. If you wanted to whip him with his whip, you could drop a few krona in his pants-cup and go to town. Whatever they were doing, they were super nice and let us take pictures with them.
After undergoing my one and only gimp experience, we began making our way back to the ship but stopped at “Wheel of Göteborg”, which is Sweden’s answer to The London Eye. Its official name is the Liseberg Wheel and is located at the front of an amusement park called Liseberg (we unfortunately did not have time to explore the park). It’s a 196-foot (60m) Ferris wheel that opened in 2010 and is open year-round. It offers a complete 360-view of Göteborg and is well worth a visit. It’s definitely not the London Eye, but I enjoyed it.
Overall, while my day spent in Göteborg wasn’t my wildest or craziest day (except for the gimp situation), it still was a great day. We sadly didn’t get to see or do a lot because of the short timeframe allotted to us, but I do feel like I got a decent feel for the city. While Göteborg is rather low on my list of favorite European cities, I still would like to go back to Sweden, especially to visit Stockholm. I think Sweden likely has lots to offer that we missed out on, so hopefully one day, I see you again Sverige!