The best boat trips and canal tours in Gothenburg

Sweden’s second largest city and Scandinavia’s biggest seaport, Gothenburg is an industrial city with water at its heart. 

Gothenburg is city of waterways and canals that can be explored on a boat trip
Ted McGrath (CC)

This proud seafaring city has some historic old town areas, wide boulevards that are lined with grand neo-classical buildings, and a small network of moat-like canals.

It’s also the jumping-off point for exploring the Gothenburg archipelago, home to more than 20 beautiful, wooded islands where Göteborgare (Gothenburg residents) escape to at weekends during summer.

So, as you’d expect, taking to the water on a boat trip is an integral part of seeing Gothenburg and understanding its culture and history. 

We’ve checked out the different types of boat tour available – from canal boats, to a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour and ferries out to the farthest islands – and have picked our six favourite trips.

What kind of boat tours can you take in Gothenburg?

There are loads of different types of boat trips available in Gothenburg, including sightseeing tours, dinner cruises and even a private boat that picks you up from your hotel and takes you on a tailor-made guided tour of the city. 

The Ocean Bus is an amphibious vehicle that tours the streets and waterways of Gothenburg

The fun Ocean Bus Gothenburg is an amphibious vehicle that takes you round the city on land and on water, while the hop-on hop-off boat is a great way to explore the city’s sights at your own pace.

Or, you can go further afield and explore some of the neighbouring islands on a Gothenburg archipelago tour.

When do boat trips run in Gothenburg?

Summer is definitely the best time to take a boat tour, both in terms of the weather and the fact that there is a greater variety of trips available. 

The canals and waterways of Gothenburg are best explored on a boat trip
Maria Eklind (CC)

Some tours only run in the summer, such as the archipelago tour, while the hop-on hop-off boat tour and the Vinga (see below) trip run from July to mid-August.

The Paddan boat tour (see below) runs from April to October (though not every day outside of summer), while the Ocean Bus runs at weekends only in low season.

Is the Gothenburg Pass worth buying?

Read this guide to see how much you could save during your trip!

How much do boat trips in Gothenburg cost?

Prices vary depending on the length of the trip and what’s included, though they’re not as expensive as you may think.

The one-hour Ocean Bus trip and the hop-on hop-off boats start from around $30 (approx 300 SEK) per person, while the seafood evening cruise and the private boat tour will set you back around £67 each.

The six best boat tours

We’ve picked out six of the best boat tours that you can do in Gothenburg and divided them into canal tours and trips out into the archipelago.

Canal tours

Here are our favourite ways to explore the canals and waterways of Gothenburg.

Take the famous ‘Toad’ tour!

Gothenburg’s classic canal tour is the “Paddan” tour, which takes you on a two-hour trip round the canals and waterways of Gothenburg. 

The Paddan, or Toad tour, is a great way to explore the waterways of Gothenburg

“Paddan” means “the toad” in Swedish, and it’s so-called because the bottom of the boat looks like a toad when it’s upside down on land! 

The open-top boat glides beneath 20 of the city’s bridges, including the famous Osthyveln (or “cheese grater”) bridge, which is so low that you’ll need to duck to get beneath it!

The tour ends up on the Säveån river, which is home to beavers and birdlife (though you’re honestly not going to see beavers on this trip). 

Explore Gothenburg by road and water

This fun one-hour tour starts on land when the ten-tonne amphibious Ocean Bus takes you round the city’s sights, including the Stora Teatern, the Poseidon statue, Liseberg amusement park and the Fish Church (not a church all, but the city’s main fish market!). 

The Bus then splashes into the water and becomes a boat to give you a different perspective on the city. 

Spend the day discovering Gothenburg by boat

This hop-on hop-off boat tour takes in the sights and districts of the city including Brunnsparken, Lilla Bommen, Eriksberg and Haga. If you want to explore each district, just get off the boat and catch the next one!

The boats run every 45 minutes in high season, and the ticket is valid for 24 hours, so you’ve got all day to get to know the city.

Island tours

And here are some of our favourite fun trips round the Gothenburg archipelago.

Visit Vinga

The tiny island of Vinga is the furthest west of the Gothenburg archipelago islands, a pretty spot with a lighthouse that can easily be explored on foot. 

Visit Vinga island on a boat trip from Gothenburg

The M/S Carl Michael Bellman takes you from Lilla Bommen in Gothenburg out through the harbour and to Vinga, where you’ll have an hour on land to explore, walk and maybe even have a swim!

Take a tour of the southern archipelago 

If you want to see some more of the archipelago, this tour wends its way through the islands of the southern archipelago past Donsö before heading back to Gothenburg.

The boat doesn’t land, but gives you great views of the islands and coastline of the archipelago. You can buy snacks and drinks on board, or splash out on a sit-down lunch in the restaurant.

Sail in style on a shrimp and salmon cruise

Take a 3-hour evening cruise round the archipelago on this classic boat. Everything’s included, so you can sip your welcome drink and sup your seafood buffet while watching the sunset over the southern archipelago, to the sounds of a live band.

Not sure about taking a boat tour? You might also want to check out the Gothenburg attractions available with the Go City Pass (external link).

Top tips for taking a boat tour in Gothenburg

  • Book ahead. In summer the boat trips can get very busy – the “Paddan” tour in particular – so book well in advance, especially if you want a specific date.
  • Wear suitable clothing. This is Sweden and rain can come at any time, even in high summer. So bring waterproof clothing and lots of layers.
  • Buy a Gothenburg Pass. The “Paddan” tour, Vinga trip, archipelago cruise and hop-on hop-off boat are all included on the Go City Gothenburg Pass, so if you’re planning to do more than one (or even all!) the boat trips you’ll save a fortune by buying the pass. Check our guide to find out if the Gothenburg Pass is right for you.

FAQS

Are any boat tours accessible for those with mobility issues or disabilities?

It depends on the individual boat. The more modern M/S Carl Michael Bellman (for the Vinga trip) is partially adapted for those with mobility issues, while the older M/S St Erik, which runs the seafood cruises and the archipelago tour, isn’t. 

A hop-on hop-off boat tour is a great way to explore Gothenburg

Neither the Ocean Bus nor the “Paddan” boat are equipped for those with mobility issues, though the crew can help those who need extra support. Bear in mind that you need to be able to duck beneath a bridge on the “Paddan” trip.

Are the boat trips safe?

All the boats have lifejackets available, though you’re not usually obliged to wear them during the tours.

Always listen to the safety information that the crew announces at the beginning of the tour and make sure you’re aware of the safety procedures and where the emergency exits are.

Are the boat trips environmentally friendly?

Almost all of Gothenburg’s boat trips have a negative environmental impact on the waters in which they operate.

Many boat companies are however aiming to increase the fuel efficiency and electrification of their boats and decrease their CO2 emissions.

Local operator Stromma only serves sustainably caught seafood, for example, and is aiming to reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

See also: 
Guide to Gothenburg
The best islands to visit in Gothenburg
Cool airbnbs in Gothenburg
Why Gothenburg is better than Stockholm
The best day trips from Gothenburg

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