Take a tram ride northeast from Gothenburg’s commercial heart and you’ll soon arrive in Kortedala – a very ordinary Swedish suburb, and one of the countless ‘new’ neighbourhoods developed in the 1950s and 60s to help deal with the country’s housing shortage.
Apartment blocks from that era still dominate the street scene in Kortedala, though most of the flats have been refurbished (or at least given a new lick of paint) to keep up with modern times. But there’s one apartment, in one of the buildings, which looks like it hasn’t been updated in more than half a century.
For a few hours each Sunday, this apartment opens to the public as a kind of free, living museum, decorated in exactly the way it would have been back in the 1950s.
It can be hard to know that you’ve tracked down the right building – these old apartment blocks all look pretty similar, so keep an eye out for the little wooden sign that’s left on the pavement outside.
The outer door to the apartment block is left unlocked but once you’re inside the building you’ll have to read the little labels on the letterboxes to make sure you’ve found the right flat (it’s marked ‘museum’ in small letters). The other apartments in the same building are still inhabited, so don’t go around trying to open any old door.
Stepping into the apartment museum, it might feel as though you’ve just crashed a stranger’s house party. When we visited there were a couple of small groups wandering around, admiring the old interiors.
Two very knowledgeable (and very sweet) old ladies said hello, and then made sure we heard interesting tales about the lcoal neighbourhood and life in times gone by. These volunteers moved to the area when it was new, and have watched it evolve since the very beginning.
Everything inside the apartment has been carefully chosen to replicate the feel of a 1950s home, with around 1600 different objects filling the shelves and cupboards. Swing open the cabinet in the mint-green bathroom and you’ll find tubes of old shaving foam, medicinal lotions and potions, and even a squeezy breast pump.
The kitchen cupboards are filled with clunky electric appliances and old cans of food (the contents of which would apparently still be okay to eat, if they weren’t now museum pieces). Soft toys and dolls clutter the only bedroom.
This apartment is a classic example of what Swedes still refer to as två rum och kök – that is, a flat with two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. Although small, this apartment would have housed a whole family in the 1950s and 60s, with two or three kids sharing the bedroom. To allow the kids more space, parents would have slept on a sofa bed in the living room.
Although the whole apartment feels authentically old-fashioned, there are certain pieces of furniture inside that are still very much in vogue among Scandinavian designers. The ‘string’ bookcase in the hallway still crops up in glossy interior design magazines, and the thin-legged coffee table in the living room still looks super-cool.
Fans of Swedish design and all things retro will definitely have a great time here. For everyone else, this place provides a rare chance to see how ordinary people lived when the building blocks of Sweden’s welfare state were falling into place.
Free (you can make a donation if you want to).
Take tram 6, 7 or 11 to Kortedala Allhelgonakyrkan. See our guide to getting around Gothenburg for a tram map and details of how to pay for journeys.
When you step off the tram at Kortedala Allhelgonakyrkan, head under the bridge and towards Adventsvägen, one street north. The apartment block you need is the grey one at the start of the street, on the right-hand side (it’s marked on the map below – choose Street View to see the exact location of the outer door).
Kortedala Museum (Två Rum och Kök)
Open Sundays only, noon–3pm