Gothenburg Is The Pride Of West Sweden
A travel destination perfect for LGBTQ Pride and beyond.
Queer cafe culture is just one of the many delights offered by Gothenburg.
Photo by Jennie Smith
Everybody's heard of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, but fewer people have heard of its West Coast cousin, Gothenburg—or Goteborg as it is called by locals. This small-sized city sits on a prized piece of coastline that offers a working port and extends north and south into vacation-worthy coastal escapes. At its heart, Gothenburg offers the cultural delights of a metropolis combined with the green space of parks, the tranquility of canals, and the accessibility and livability that eludes bigger cities. Some years ago, Gothenburg was a working class and sometimes homophobic port city. Today it is a bustling and creative city with a Brooklyn vibe—and the kind of place that hangs out 1,000 rainbow flags during Pride.
Where to stay
The Clarion Hotel Post is a contemporary design hotel located in central Gothenburg, in a refurbishment of a somewhat monolithic edifice that was once the old Main Post Office from the 1920s. The Swedes are very good at architectural renovation of civic buildings, and Clarion Post is no exception, boasting 500 rooms, many with sweeping city views, excellent amenities including rooftop pool, an innovative spa, free Wi-Fi, and excellent restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The Clarion Post is your hipster home away from home, and walking distance from everything you'll need to see. As one of the Nordic Choice hotels, it combines the best of Scandinavian history with contemporary urban aesthetic and all the comforts of home—don't miss the buffet breakfast which offers a true Swedish smorgasbord each morning. And if you're lucky enough to visit during Pride (the second week of June) or EuroPride 2018, expect the property to be decked out with rainbow flags and queer festive attire. This year, the hotel turned over its retro-chic, pink velvet Bon Bon Bar to the girls' Pride dance club night, Lesbian Take Over, starring DJ Gunn. See images from the night here.
PHOTO BY ANDRE LANDEROS MICHEL PHOTO BY MERRYN JOHNS
For a trip back in time, and in the heart of the shopping district, the boutique Hotel Pigalle sets the stage for your visit as a kind of Parisian fantasia at the turn of the 20th century. This beautiful and unique property is full of quirky charm—and if you splurge on the Suite Belle you get to use all the vintage accessories and clothing for your in-room and about-town escapades! This property is thoroughly committed to the idea of you enjoying your European sojourn in the heart of Gothenburg.
PHOTO BY ANDRE LANDEROS MICHEL
Similarly, but on an even more opulent scale, the Dorsia Hotel & Restaurant is the voluptuous vision of restaurateur and art collector Thomas Petersen, who has hand-picked the numerous artworks and many expressions of feminine beauty to grace the halls of this fabulous and romantic establishment. A destination for locals seeking cocktails and dinner in a refined ambience, this is romance and luxury with a flair for the theatrical that is unusual in the normally minimalistic and utilitarian Swedish aesthetic. Plus, the Dorsia is located in a classically charming side street and within walking distance of excellent shopping and dining.
PHOTO BY MERRYN JOHNS
The Dorsia is a popular spot to meet someone special, and during our visit we did exactly that. Mariya Voyvodova, chairman of Gothenburg municipal LGBTQ Council, is working tirelessly to advance LGBTQ rights and visibility in her corner of Sweden. While Mariya is straight, she has a lesbian sister who had to emigrate from their native Bulgaria to a more accepting country—New Zealand. Mariya chose Gothenburg as her home in 2003 and she's worked to advance minorities in the city, including youth and immigrants. She can also take more than a little credit for those 1,000 Pride flags you see flying all around the city, and of course she marched in the parade and will again next year.
Where to eat and drink
Swedes are proud of their fresh and abundant seafood and there's nowhere better to try it straight from the ocean than at the “Fish Church” or Feskekôrka—an indoor fish and shellfish market where you can sample the best of the coast's fresh catch. The lunch menu at Restaurang Gabriel features classic dishes and day boat delicacies such as Swedish West Coast oysters—chef Johan Malm is two-time winner of the World Oyster Opening Championship in which he shucked 30 briny beauties in under 3 minutes!
PHOTOS BY ANDRE LANDEROS MICHEL
While on the subject of seafood, lunch at Sjömagasinet by the harbor is highly recommended. This Michelin-star restaurant is more elegant than the "fish church" and offers a seafood smorgasbord featuring langoustines (aka Norway lobsters), marinated salmon, mouthwatering mussels and much more. Owner and TV personality Ulf Wagner is a local legend—he won Gothenburg's first Michelin star in 1989 and has been named Best Sommelier in Sweden. If you're lucky like we were, he'll stop by your table and recommend a lovely glass of his riesling to complement your seafood selection.
Of course you've left a little room for a coffee break (or fika), with gorgeous gourmet java and a chewy and aromatic cinnamon roll or two! Matts Johansson was a judge in the World Barista Championship and opened Da Matteo Magasinsgatan to bring good coffee to Swedish hipsters, queers, and anyone who appreciates "cafe society." Coffee and chocolate is a natural pairing, and a short walk away is the female-owned and operated Kanold's Chocolate Store. A sweet spot for women to buy a treat for themselves or someone they cherish.
PHOTO BY SUPERSTUDIO
There are so many dining options in Gothenburg but if you want to dine like Swedes, head to the low-key but chic restaurant Familjen, which serves up local produce with a modern twist at reasonable prices. West Swedish gastronomy is a thing, and you might not know that famous chef Marcus Samuelsson hails from Gothenburg and has an elegant flagship restaurant there—Norda Bar & Grill. This grand room, conveniently located on the mezzanine level of the Clarion Post Hotel, serves the best of Swedish flavors combined with New York City aplomb. Can you imagine cod fish so fresh it's almost silken in texture? What about a hot dog in a lobster roll bun topped with seafood? Well, it's all innovative and it all works! And if you're maxed out on seafood, stop by the buzzing Bee Kitchen & Bar for an unbeatable burger and a side of chunky chips, cool cocktails and excellent people watching. It's the place to bee!
Things to see and do
Gothenburg is a thoroughly modern city, but much like New York's Brooklyn it has an appetite for nostalgia. A really fun way of seeing the city is to take a guided Time Travel Sightseeing tour in a vintage Volvo PV 444/544. This is the city that made (and still makes) one of Europe's classic cars. Deck yourself out in vintage accessories and get behind the wheel of an old automobile and slip back into a less complicated time. Your guide will direct you with the help of CB radio and a few friendly honks of the horn—don't worry, you're in safe Swedish hands!
PHOTOS BY ANDRE LANDEROS MICHEL
Was there ever a more pleasing feast for the eyes than the Gothenburg Museum of Art? From cutting-edge contemporary works examining gender, to classical sculptures and paintings celebrating independent women and erotic nudes, the museum boasts paintings and sculpture from the 15th century to the present day, with a focus on Nordic art and its mystical qualities, especially the unique Scandinavian light and the power of the human form.
PHOTOS BY MERRYN JOHNS
While at the museum, browse the gift shop (many books on queer and feminist art are available) and have lunch at Mr P, a trendy meeting place popular with locals—enjoy the outdoor seating especially in the short, sweet summer weeks, and sup on Asian fusion dishes featuring local produce. As a bonus, you also have a point blank view of the lovely city fountain and the culmination of the Pride parade route.
Gothenburg is full of hip boutiques and design stores well worth browsing, especially along Södra Larmgatan and Magasinsgatan. But as you might have guessed by now, the provenance and production of food is a source of Swedish pride, and to get a better grip on that head to the Market Hall, housed in a charming 19th century building. This is where the locals shop, and it's also where I got to sample the firm and nutty Swedish cheeses that I personally prefer over French fromage! But don't tell anyone my little secret. Do tell them, however, about Sweden's best kept secret, Gothenburg. And here's a tip: when the city hosts EuroPride 2018 jointly with Stockholm, it'll probably be the gayest party you've ever been invited to. My advice is to pack your rainbow swag and go!
PHOTOS ANDRE LANDEROS MICHEL
And did we mention the girls are gorgeous? Gorgeous, friendly, open to all expressions of age, class, gender, and cultural background. For more about EuroPride 2018 in Gothenburg go here. To see images from this year's West Pride parade, go here. To plan your Gothenburg itinerary go here.
Fly the always-excellent Scandinavian airline SAS to Stockholm's Arlanda Airport and take the connecting SAS flight to Gothenburg. From New York, the flying time is a total of 9 hours. It's an easy and pleasant flight especially if you go overnight and it's but the briefest investment of time to embark on such a voyage to one of Europe's beacons of diversity and culture.