Gothenburg has enough fun activities to keep you busy for a week or more. Travel a few kilometres from the city centre, however, and you’ll uncover some wonderfully unspoilt places, from grand country houses and car-free islands to huge lakes that double as magical swimming spots during the summer.
This guide will help you find the perfect day trip from the city, whatever time of the year you’re visiting. We’ve given details on how to get to some of these day trip destinations – there’s also a handy map at the bottom of the page to show you where each place is in relation to the city.
The Southern Archipelago
A few miles southwest of Gothenburg, the Göta Älv river empties into a sea that’s speckled with thousands of smooth, reddish-grey islets.
Most of these little islands are uninhabited but there are a few that sustain small communities. Fishing, tourism and a sprinkling of government funding helps to keep the local economy afloat.
From the centre of Gothenburg the easiest islands to reach are those that make up the so-called Southern Archipelago. There are 13 main islands to choose from, and they’re all served by fast boats from the mainland. Cars aren’t allowed anywhere in the Southern Archipelago (only the postman and some other important locals are allowed petrol-driven vehicles) so the whole place feels a world away from the city.
If you’re visiting for the first time it doesn’t really matter which island you choose; they’ll all give you a nice introduction to life on the Bohuslän coast, where life is considerably slower than in Gothenburg and – in summer, at least – seems to revolve around swimming, eating, sailing and generally living the good life.
However, some islands have a few more things to do than others, and are also a bit easier to reach from the city. If you’d like to experience a good mix of natural beauty and local life, the best island to visit on a day trip from Gothenburg is probably Styrsö.
There are a couple of nice cafés near Styrsö’s main harbour, Bratten, and the southern half of the island is given over to a sprawling nature reserve, which offers gentle, well-signposted walks through coastal and woodland scenery.
Another good day-trip destination from Gothenburg is Bränno. Our tip is to hire a pushbike from the harbour when you get off the boat at Bränno Rödsten and then cycle south to the beautiful swimming spot at Ramsdal, passing pretty cottages along the way. If you decide to spend the night on the island there’s a very good bed and breakfast near the harbour.
Getting to the Southern Archipelago from central Gothenburg is easy. Hop aboard any number 11 tram bound for Saltholmen. Get off at Saltholmen (it’s the last stop) then walk with the water on your right-hand side until you reach the ferry terminal – you’ll know you’re there when you see the ‘Skärgårdsbåtar’ sign. Electronic signs show you which boats are going where.
This guide has info on paying for tickets aboard Gothenburg’s public transport system. The same payment system works for trams and boats. You can visit the islands all year round; just be aware that some cafés and services may be closed outside of the summer season.
There are loads of options for swimming in and around Gothenburg, either along the coast or in what the locals call ‘sweet water’ (lakes). Just glance at a map of the area around Gothenburg and you’ll see that you’re spoilt for choice, lake-wise.
If you’re looking for a lake that’s clean, easy to reach, and big enough that you won’t be disturbed by other bathers, we’d recommend Delsjön. Around 5km east of the city centre, it’s actually made up of two conjoined lakes, and it offers everything you need for a fun day of splashing about and making the best of the Swedish summer weather.
Head to the main lake’s most built-up area, near Alfred Gärdes väg, and you’ll find a coffeeshop, a small sandy beach and a shop that rents out canoes. When the weather’s good it’s easy to spend a day here just lounging on the rocks. If you really want to blend in with the locals, buy a disposable barbecue and spend the afternoon grilling in the sun.
There’s a lot of history along the west coast of Sweden, as evidenced by the large number of forts and stately homes that dot the landscape.
One of the easiest historic homes to visit from Gothenburg is Gunnebo Slott. This grand, wooden mansion is just 9km from the city centre and is easy to reach using public transport.
On a guided tour of the building you’ll see some lavish interior design and learn how wealthy Swedes lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are some lovely formal gardens to enjoy, and there’s also a very good café that serves food prepared with ingredients from the mansion’s own allotment.
You can read more about visiting Gunnebo Slott in this guide.
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A little further afield than Gunnebo Slott (see above), Nääs is also more impressive.
It’ll take you around an hour to get there from Gothenburg using public transport, but the setting for this grand manor house is really worth the wait. It’s located high on a peninsular and there are great countryside views off in every direction.
The house itself is well worth a look around, too – Nääs is one of Sweden’s best-preserved 19th-century homes and there are some beautiful rooms to admire as you walk around (photos are forbidden though, so we can’t show any here).
One of several swanky seaside settlements on the west coast of Sweden, Marstrand is a picture-perfect town split in two by a narrow sound and crowned by an imposing fortress. This was once an important strategic outpost, but today is a playground for wealthy boat owners on their way up or down the coast.
Tourists come here to sail, shop, sightsee and eat seafood – or in other words, enjoy all the stuff the makes the west coast such a nice place to visit during summer.
It’s surprisingly easy to reach Marstrand from Gothenburg; direct buses run from Nils Ericson Terminalen (around 50 minutes) and a small ferry shuttles people over towards the fort. Be warned, though – this place gets very busy on hot summer days, so go early if you want to make the best of a trip there.
Moody skies, red fishermen’s huts and tangled lobster pots – there’s a lot to like about Fjällbacka, one of the prettiest little fishing villages along the Bohuslän Coast.
Roughly halfway between Gothenburg and Oslo, this sleepy hideaway is most famous as the birthplace of actress Ingrid Bergman. It’s also the setting for the crime fiction books by local author Camilla Läckberg; volunteer guides here run informal walking tours that take in some of the locations where her characters were bumped off (but trust us, it’s really very safe here!).
Otherwise the main appeal of a trip to Fjällbacka is enjoying the great sea views, eating world-class shellfish and snooping around the local history museum, which has a good overview of life here throughout the ages.
If you decide to stay over, there are cosy rooms at Stora Hotellet Bryggan.
In the summertime this lively, idyllic west coast island is the perfect place to go for a dip – or simply sit back with a glass of a white wine and a mountain of fresh seafood.
Many of the colourful old fishermen’s huts that line the waterfront have been transformed into shops selling all kinds of clothes and souvenirs. Little ones will love clambering around the island’s low-slung coastline and going fishing for crabs (reels and buckets are cheap and easy to find).
While the central area can get very busy during summer (and can even feel a bit too touristy), it’s still easy to find a quiet spot away from the crowds make the most of the island’s special atmosphere. Staying at a hotel here isn’t cheap but there are several simple guesthouses to choose from. Book ahead.
Without a car, the easiest way to reach Smögen is by bus – take #861 from Nils Ericson Terminalen in central Gothenburg (around two hours).
If you really want to get off the tourist trail, try this small town east of Gothenburg – it’s exactly halfway to Borås and has plenty of authentic Swedish charm on its doorstep, including bubbling streams, lush tracts of woodland and two big lakes, joined together by a pretty canal.
You can rent kayaks and go exploring – take a picnic with you if you can and park up on one of the islands for a splendid bit of isolation. The best place to rent is at Hindås Kanot & Friluftsklubb, just north of the village on the western edge of Västra Nedsjön.
There are a couple of places to stay around the lakes, but beyond a couple of small shops and pizzerias, there’s not much else here – which, let’s face it, is really part of the charm.
Pilane sculpture park
For something totally different, consider a trip out to the open-air sculpture park at Pilane on the island of Tjörn, around an hour’s drive north of Gothenburg.
The park is open from late May to early September, and costs around 120 SEK to look around. Guided tours can be arranged but there’s a lot to be said for just enjoying the unique combination of modern sculpture and ancient, wind-blown coastal scenery.
Arriving with public transport is a little tricky; from Gothenburg’s Nils Ericson Terminalen you’ll need to take a ‘Tjörn Express’ bus bound for Rönnäng, and then change to a #357 bus heading for Björholmen. Get off at Basteröd and walk the remaining 600m or so to the park. The whole journey should take you around 1hr 45min. There’s more on visiting Pilane in this guide.
Longer day trips from Gothenburg
Thanks to the region’s great transport links, it is possible to travel further afield.
The handsome city of Karlstad can be visited on a day trip from Gothenburg, as long as you set off early. Trains run throughout the morning, taking around 2hr 30min to reach Karlstad. Book ahead and tickets go for as little as 200 SEK each way.
Oslo is a bit more of a stretch by train, with a journey time of around 4–5 hours, sometimes via Trollhättan. A better option is to take one of the direct bus services offered by Swebus (around 3hr 30min). Again, it’s best to book as far ahead as possible for the best prices.
Malmö is a three-hour journey from Gothenburg by train, and it’s only another half an hour or so to Copenhagen. Trains start early and run until around 9pm (you may have to change at Copenhagen Airport).