Director’s James Jarvis pays a visit to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city to find it offers a veritable smorgasbord of attractions for visiting business travellers
Where to stay
It might overlook Scandinavia’s largest amusement park (Liseberg) but the four-star Gothia Towers couldn’t be more different to Alton Towers’ resort hotel. One of Europe’s largest – its 1,200-room glass-and-steel edifices even house a five-star ‘hotel within a hotel’ (The Upper House) – the Gothia Towers offers perfect lodgings for business travellers by dint of its close proximity to huge convention space Svenska Mässan and first-rate transport links. The city centre’s Clarion Hotel Post, housed in a former post office, oozes Gatsby glamour and features that rarity, the Swedish rooftop pool (fortunately it’s heated).
Where to eat
Sweden’s west coast is synonymous with superb seafood and nowhere is this more evident than Sjömagasinet, one of Gothenburg’s six Michelin-starred restaurants. Perched on the waterfront in the Klippan district, it offers seasonally tweaked menus, with diners visiting during crayfish or lobster season (August to early autumn) in for particular treats. Koka restaurant, in the trendy Vasastan district, is an immersive, multi-sensory journey through local flavours with ingredients such as chokeberry and sea buckthorn appearing on its seven-course menus. Gothenburg (Göteborg to the locals) is also experiencing a food-truck trend. Strolling along hipster-heavy thoroughfare Magasinsgatan should unveil street-food gems such as grilled herring. Meanwhile, no culinary trip to Gothenburg would be complete without a pilgrimage to the city’s ‘fish church’, Feskekörka. Weddings regularly take place here – Feskekörka is consecrated – but many more pledge devotion to its fish market and Restaurant Gabriel. The head chef is a record-breaking oyster-opener – his speedily prised molluscs paired with a local stout can be an ecclesiastical experience, too.
What to see in Gothenburg
With its post-industrial cityscape and distinct cultural identity, Gothenburg is strangely reminiscent of Manchester. However, the city’s café culture, not least the institution of fika (strictly speaking, a coffee break), puts the British penchant for tea to shame. Fika permeates all facets of home and professional life, with workers socialising over steaming espressos and kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls). To glimpse this in full swing, try popping into a branch of the city’s Da Matteo cafés. The weather isn’t always great, so a less damp way of admiring its neo-classical architecture is from the back of a vintage Volvo on the 90-minute Time Travel Sightseeing Tour. It also boasts a boisterous live music scene – try swooping by venues including Pustervik and Jazzhuset (avoid the overpriced Avenyn Boulevard, aka Gothenburg’s Champs-Élysées). In summer, a boat trip to the archipelago and islands is essential – 15 minutes after a business meeting, you could be bobbing on a ferry, feasting on fresh shrimp and ogling picturesque fishing villages.
Queuing is seemingly omnipresent in Swedish culture and – be warned – leapfrogging your place is considered a heinous breach of good manners. “We dislike it when people don’t obey the rules,” says Niklas Johnsson from Business Sweden. “Maybe it’s [our culture of] Jantelagen [see p45], but nobody should think they’re better than anyone else.”
For the flight
It doesn’t take an expert to detect a somewhat gloomy strand to Swedish culture. An episode or two of Nordic noir gem The Bridge should see you through the brief hop across the North Sea, while Stieg Larsson’s fantastic Millennium trilogy (including the celebrated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) or Henning Mankell’s Wallander detective series will confirm that Swedes love the dark. Then there’s music: try the ethereal techno of acclaimed Gothenburg duo The Knife or the soul-soaked electronica of Little Dragon.
For yet more foreboding there’s Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 masterpiece The Seventh Seal, in which a knight plays Death at chess in a much-spoofed scene filmed on a rocky beach not far from Gothenburg. Lighten the mood a little by reading The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The truth about the Nordic miracle, Michael Booth’s hilarious exercise in Scandi-myth debunking, or, of course, listening to the last word in musical guilty pleasures: Abba.