Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A coastal rivalry -- Gothenburg vs. Stockholm

Since moving to Stockholm, we have been traveling a lot outside of Sweden.  Our travel within Sweden has been limited mainly to the Stockholm area with a few exceptions -- Jonköping, Uppsala, and Visby/Gotland.  We have really enjoyed our time outside of Stockholm and we wanted to explore more of the Swedish countryside, which has always overwhelmed me with its simple beauty.

Jon thought it would be great to take a scenic train ride to Gothenburg/Göteborg, and spend a long weekend exploring the city and southern archipelago.  Calvin loves trains and I love exploring, so why not? We have heard lots of good things about Göteborg from people who used to live there and we wanted to investigate the second largest city in Sweden for ourselves.  We have heard rumblings from Swedes from each coast boasting that their city is the best and Jon imagined a Biggie vs. Tupac type rivalry between the two cities.  NY vs. LA - which city is better?  People from Göteborg say that their city is friendlier, easier to make friends and more open to foreigners.  Stockholmers say there is no contest, Stockholm wins.  They don't provide much evidence because it just is so evident that no further explanation is needed.

We hopped on a train where Calvin blissfully slept during the whole journey, and when we settled into our apartment in downtown Göteborg, it became clear to us why the city has the nickname, "Little London."  The nickname wasn't earned by Göteborg's historical importance, architecture or function as an economic hub for the country, but mainly because their weather is driven by the Atlantic coast.  We left sunny, warm Stockholm, for gray, dreary and surprisingly cold, Göteborg.

Now, I know fully well how weather can affect your impression of a location, so I tried really really hard to give Göteborg the benefit of the doubt.  We wandered around the city, shopping district, and historical center for an entire day.  The weather ranged from cold and gray to sunny and bright, and we went through 4 different outfit changes in just a few hours.  The parks were lush and green and there was a beautiful canal running through the city.  We wandered down by the water and looked at the ships.  There is even an opera house on the water, to which Jon slyly asked, "What city, outside of Sydney, has an opera house by the water? Oh, Göteborg, of course!"

The next day, we were supposed to head out to the archipelago but the weather was absolutely awful.  It was cold, drizzly and didn't look like it would improve until 3pm, when we were scheduled to be back at the apartment anyway.  We canceled the archipelago idea and instead, took Calvin to the Alfons Åberg's Kulturhus for some warm, indoor imaginative play.  He had a great time and we stayed warm and happy.

Whenever we change our travel plans last minute, I just keep repeating the mantra, "Adapt or die. Adapt or die."  I really didn't feel like being on a boat for an hour+ and then wander around outside on an island in horrible weather.  That wasn't going to be fun for anyone.

We left Göteborg with the feeling that Stockholm wins as the better city.  We cannot compare archipelagos because we didn't get to see Göteborg's islands, but in terms of cityscapes, Stockholm wins hands down.  Göteborg looks like a great place to study, work and live.  It felt very friendly and they have an extensive tram system that zips around to all city locations very easily.  It just didn't seem like any place a tourist would really want to visit for any length of time.  There just isn't that much to do if you don't live there. If we took a trip to the archipelago in nice weather, our opinions may be different.  However, you can't argue that your city is better if you have to leave the city to enjoy it's best parts.  In my amateur opinion, Stockholm wins this round.

I am very glad that we went to Göteborg and we will continue to set out to other regions of the country to explore.  I'd like to travel up to Kiruna or the northern region to see the northern lights and I'd love to see Småland with its picturesque little red houses and yellow fields.  I'll be returning to Visby this summer - one of my favorite places in Sweden so far, so it'll be nice to revisit an old friendly town.

Ersatz Expat


  1. Definitely go to Kiruna! I would highly recommend touring the iron mine there, that, while scary thinking about all of the rock above your head, was amazing. If you go during winter, you can visit the ice hotel too :)

  2. Thanks for linking to #TravelAtHome, it was really fascinating to read the different impressions of the two cities.


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