Despite traveling most of Europe, I’m still blown away by how amazing the scenery, food and design is in Scandanavia. That’s why Jacob and I were eagerly anticipating this trip to Sweden! We were invited by the Sweden tourism board to explore the west coast, which is known for beautiful seaside towns, nature, and incredible food scene.
As most of you know, this summer was extra hot and Sweden was no exception. The weather made for some perfect summer days as we started the trip — namely, swimming in the lakes and ocean in West Sweden. After immersing ourselves in nature on day one, we started to make our way down to Gothenburg. It was the best way to start the trip! We had some of the best food on this trip, and we still can’t get over how charming the towns and islands along the coast are. Read on for the areas we visited and how to best plan your own visit here…
Left to right from top: docks at the lake at Baldersnäs Herrgård in Dalsland; fresh mussels at Musselbarren in Ljungskile; canoeing at Baldersnäs Herrgård; swinging at sunset at Villa Sjötorp in Ljungskile; downtown Haga in Gothenburg.
you should visit
to see it all
Dalsland • 2 days
Lakes, mountains, forests, beautiful scenery, and modern accommodation.
Ljungskile • 1 day
Charming local spots amidst beautiful views of the sea.
Marstrand • 2 days
An essential island to visit in Summer, located off the coast of West Sweden.
Gothenburg • 2 days
A walkable, trendy city with green cafés, gardens, and incredible food.
At a glance…
May through September – best time for warmer temps and the midnight sun
Renting a car – the easiest way to get around
Currency – Swedish krona, most places accept cards
Gothenburg Airport -> Dalsland (2hr 30min drive)
After flying in to Gothenburg airport, the first leg of our trip was a stay in Dalsland. Dalsland is best known for forests, lakes, and mountain views — the best introduction to the beautiful nature in Sweden. We felt relaxed the instant we arrived here! Our accommodation for our first night was the 72h glass cabin at Baldersnäs Herrgård. The glass cabin started out as an experiment to immerse people in nature to significantly reduce their stress levels, and can now be booked by anyone. Besides being one of the most amazing rooms we’ve ever stayed in, we absolutely loved the grounds and the elegant Baldersnäs Manor.
Stay – for the ultimate nature retreat, book a room at the 72 hour cabin at Baldersnäs Manor. The grounds are situated on a lake, with access to canoes, kayaks, trails, and more. The sauna on the lake is truly a treat.
Eat – book an elegant dinner at Öjentorps Kitchen at Baldersnäs and you’ll be treated to seasonally inspired dishes in a rustic, warm setting. For lunch, head to the patio at Hafveruds Rokeri & Brasseri for fresh seafood dishes. The latter is situated next to the famous Dalsland canal — the perfect spot to sit outside on a sunny day.
Do – the best way to experience Dalsland is to immerse yourself in nature. Go swimming, take a canoe out on the lake, hit the sauna, pack a picnic, or plan a hike. Stop by Dalsland Aktiviteter for ziplining and more at their activities center, or visit the Arts and Crafts museum.
Dalsland -> Ljungskile (1 hr 30min drive)
After two days in Dalsland, we made our way down to Ljungskile to stay at Villa Sjötorp — an old manor house-turned-hotel. I loved the shabby chic furniture and gardens all around the property, which feels like it belongs in a movie! We took bikes from here to Lyckorna Brygga (only about 7 minutes away), where we caught a boat out front to the nearby island of Slussen. We brought along a picnic lunch for the trip, but ended up eating a second lunch at Musselbarren once we got back. The blue mussels they served were made in front of us and accompanied with the most addicting butter sauce. Their seafood is so fresh! When we got back to the hotel we rested up before dinner in the garden. The sunset was spectacular on our first evening here, and Villa Sjötorp has a swing overlooking the islands. Jacob kept alternating between pushing me on the swing and taking photos and video because of the sunset!
Stay – Villa Sjötorp, perfectly situated overlooking the sea. The property seems to be stuck in another era, with victorian finishings and the most peaceful restaurant set up in their very own garden.
Eat – don’t miss the fresh seafood at Musselbarren on the water. Lyckorna Brygga is steps away as well, and a real treat. Book dinner reservations at Villa Sjötorp for a five-course menu made with locally grown produce. Opt to dine in the garden if you can.
Do – this region is filled with islands to explore, so book tickets for The Ljungskile Tour to experience all that they have to offer. From April to October you can also go on a mussel expedition from Lyckorna, where you’ll visit mussel farms in the fjord to harvest and cook your own mussels. There are plenty of spots nearby for fishing, sailing, hiking, and golfing. And of course, don’t forget to go swimming!
Marstrand & Marstrand Island
Ljungskile -> Marstrand (45min drive)
There is something about this little island off the coast of Sweden that spoke to us. We arrived in Marstrand on the Bohuslän coast and checked into Marstrands Havshotell, which is conveniently located in front of the ferry stop to Marstrand Island. The ferry runs every 15 minutes, and once you hop on board, you’re docking just 2 minutes later. We spent this afternoon exploring the harbor, including the little shops and cafes that dotted the seaside. After lunch we climbed up to Carlsens Fortress for views over the island and the mainland. Our plan was to also visit some of the swimming spots around the island, but the weather took a turn in the late afternoon and it started raining. Fortunately, we just used it as an excuse to spend the rest of the afternoon in the floating sauna and hot tubs at our hotel! Nothing like a Swedish soak to end the day…
Stay – Marstrands Havshotell, a true Scandinavian design hotel with pools, outdoor hot tubs, salt rooms, and a floating sauna.
Eat – don’t miss grabbing a Swedish fika (coffee) at Bergs Konditori, a local favorite. For lunch, try one of the harbor-side restaurants on Marstrand Island. I opted for the daily special at Lasse Majas Krog and Jacob indulged in their homemade pizza. Ice cream at one of the many small shops on the island is a must if it’s hot out!
Do – pass the days by exploring Marstrand Island, which was historically a free port. This small island had some colorful periods, and previously housed fugitives as well as religious refugees. At one point it was even a safe haven for pirates! We loved the unique architecture of the houses and old buildings around town. There are swimming and sunbathing spots marked around the island, and a number of hikes that’ll take you through the forest to old cannon defences. Visit Carlsens Fortress at the top of the hill to learn about the history of Marstrand Island and catch views of the Swedish coastline.
Marstrand -> Gothenburg (50min drive)
We capped off our trip in Gothenburg, which is Sweden’s second largest city (Stockholm comes in first). We were so curious about how we’d like Gothenburg, since friends of ours described the vibes as smaller, friendlier, and more ‘hipster’ as compared to Stockholm. No surprise, but as soon as we saw the bike-friendly lanes and trendy cafés, we were hooked! Over the next few days we explored gardens in the middle of the city center, urban cafés, historic downtowns, and food halls. Gothenburg has won the award for most sustainable city in the world two years in a row. You can definitely feel the care that locals put into the city. Everything is clean and well-kept, and local businesses commit to creating sustainable environments and products.
Stay – Hotel Pigalle, which is located right in the center of town. It’s decked out in dramatic, Parisian-inspired decor and has one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve ever experienced.
Eat – splurge on a seafood dinner on the water at Sjömagasinet while you watch the sunset over Alvsborgsbron bridge. Forssén & Öberg serves tapas-inspired dishes in their very own courtyard. The aptly named Fish Church is a food hall selling seafood with a restaurant up top, great for a casual lunch. Craving more variety? Visit the Saluhallen Market Hall for local delicacies and craveable pastries.
Da Matteo off Magasinsgatan street is a must for any coffee-lovers — the owners have won plenty of awards for their roasts, which they travel yearly to source beans for. Just outside are an array of food trucks open for lunch. Heaven 23 serves a simple and traditional Swedish shrimp sandwich overlooking the rooftops of Gothenburg.
From left to right: Oysters re-imagined at Sjömagasinet; the interior of Kafe Magasinet; the outdoor garden patio at Da Matteo ; lunch at Gunnebo House and Gardens; the open-faced shrimp sandwich at Heaven 23.
Do – start off your trip with a visit to the Garden Society of Gothenburg, which is free to visit. Spend an afternoon at the recently built sauna at Frihamnen, which is surrounded by an outdoor pool and soaking tubs on the water. The sauna is made largely from recycled materials and sits on the water in an old ship-building part of the city. Take the plunge at Gothia Towers at their rooftop hot tub Upper House Spa, which is completely clear on all sides.
We couldn’t resist a visit to the Hasselblad Museum, which features the first photos taken on the moon with the Hasselblad camera, amongst rotating exhibitions. Haga Nygata old town is filled with design shops and quaint cafes, many of which have outdoor patios that are perfect for lunch or a drink. Just outside the city center is Gunnebo House and Gardens, an 18th century property serving up some seriously good dishes for lunch. Head to Skansen Kronan in the evening to watch the sunset over the city.
From left to right: outdoor sauna at Frihamnen; the pool at Upper House Spa; the Garden Society of Gothenburg; the streets of Haga Nygata old town; sunset over the canal next to Sodra Hamngatan; city views from Skansen Kronan; the balcony at Gunnebo House and Gardens.
If you’re on the lookout for a vacation that combines nature, landscapes, and a walkable city to explore, West Sweden and Gothenburg are perfect. I hope our adventure inspired you to plan your own trip to Sweden!
For more resources, check out:
- The best of West Sweden’s coast, from outdoor activities to where to stay: westsweden.com
- Can’t miss activities and upcoming events in the city of Gothenburg: goteborg.com
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Thank you to the West Sweden and Gothenburg tourism boards for sponsoring our trip. As always, all opinions are my own.