Gluten Free Travel Tips: Gothenburg, Sweden

First of all, this post is not a gluten free guide to Gothenburg (after 3 days in the city, I couldn’t claim to write a proper guide). Rather, it’s a collection of tips, resources and places I ate which might help another gluten free visitor to Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – The Local Guides
Before I visited Gothenburg I contacted two locals for assistance. Virginia runs the Kusten ar Klar blog. She was incredibly helpful to me both prior to my trip and whilst I was there. I highly recommend you check out her map for listings of gluten free dining options in the city. On Virginia’s blog you can find maps not just for Gothenburg, but also other Swedish cities with list of gluten free restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

I also contacted the Swedish Coeliac Society who had been incredibly helpful on my previous trips to Sweden. They provided me with a list of restaurants in Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – Where We Ate
At the excellent Universeum museum, gluten and lactose free pancakes were on the menu and the staff cook them up fresh upon request & separately. The meatballs and mash here are also gluten free.

Gluten free Gothenburg Universeum

As in other countries in Scandinavia and continental Europe, MacDonald’s offers gluten free buns in Sweden. Two adult meals and two kids meals here cost under £20 in total. By far the cheapest meal we had in Gothenburg.

Gluten free Gothenburg MacDonalds

At our hotel (see below) I enjoyed this venison dish in the hotel restaurant. This was delicious and made a change from that great gluten free fall back meal option of steak and chips, which I ate the following night.

Gluten free Gothenburg Radisson hotel

O’Leary’s (a chain of sports bars found all over Sweden) offer gluten free options including gluten free buns. Our flight back to London was delayed and we ate at the branch at the Landvetter airport. Their website has a nutritional guide and I found the waitress to be knowledgeable.

Gluten free Gothenburg Airport

Resources & Tips – Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, opposite the central Station. I’ve stayed in other Radisson properties in Norway and Sweden and have always found good gluten free options on offer in this hotel chain. Top 14 allergens were listed on the room service menu which I’ve seen listed in other countries through continental Europe and I wish we had the same simple system in the UK. At breakfast there was an “Allergy Corner” complete with wrapped Fria crumpet like bread.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

There was even a dedicated gluten free toaster (note the sign!) right next to it.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

Resources & Tips – Where we Shopped
I found gluten free products in the Gothenburg supermarkets I visited but the range really varied by size of supermarket. The smaller supermarkets seemed to have a limited (or no) supply but in one of the bigger supermarkets, was this fantastic selection!

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

I was particurlarly happy to find some delicious Semper gluten free gingerbread biscuits which my kids (who are not gluten free) loved.

In the freezer section were loads of different products and you would be well catered for if you were staying in an apartment in Gothenburg rather than a hotel.

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

Resources & Tips – How We Got There
We flew to Gothenburg with Norwegian. I’ve flown with this low cost airline a few times before and I really rate their high quality customer service, fleet of new planes, free in-flight wifi and a gluten free AND nut free options on board.

Gluten free Gothenburg Norwegian

Final Gluten Free Tips for Gothenburg:
• Many gluten free products in Scandinavia contain codex wheat starch. Please keep this in mind when eating out or shopping if you are sensitive to codex wheat starch
• The restaurants and cafes we visited were very clued up on gluten free options, all had nutitional booklets (same as in the UK) to double check if an item contained gluten and other allergens
• You can check out what we enjoyed doing in Gothenburg

Things To Do In Gothenburg With Kids (In Winter)

Winter is in many ways my favourite time to travel in Europe. Having lived in Russia, winter days with blue skies and sunshine were my favourite, even when the temperature was bitingly cold. Travel in winter means cheaper air fares, more competitive hotel rates and less people to jostle with at tourist attractions. I know from my past experience that as long as you’re wrapped up warm, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from exploring in winter, even if bundling up small children in plenty of layers is something of a mission.

We travelled to Gothenburg at the of January for a weekend. When we arrived into Gothenburg on the Friday afternoon the sun was out and the sky was a cloudless and deep blue in colour. We were also lucky to enjoy a gloriously sunny day on the Saturday. By Sunday, snow had arrived. Consequently, our choice of activities was influenced by the weather while we were there.

These are the things we enjoyed in Gothenburg during our weekend there.

Explore Haga
Haga is one of Gothenburg’s oldest districts, with buildings dating to the 17th century. Thanks to getting up early for our flight on Friday morning, the kids were asleep in their buggy for part of the time we walked around. I’m not sure how, but we resisted the urge to sit while they slept at one of the bars and enjoy a warming drink. Error. Not least since Mr D’s eyeballs had nearly fallen out courtesy of pushing the double buggy across endless cobblestones.

Walk along the water
We took a walk in the winter sun along the promenade from our hotel past Gothenburg’s impressive Opera House along to the Haga area. This passed by the Maritiman museum but we didn’t stop here. It was a lovely walk in the winter sun but this vied with the Haga area for being cobblestone central!

Shopping
Gothenburg is home to Nordstan, one of Scandinavia’s largest shopping malls. In addition, the shopping opportunities are huge within the city centre. Aside from clothes, what struck me most was the number of bookshops Gothenburg has.

I picked up some lovely thermal tops for the kids featuring Gothenburg’s trams within the design in local Swedish brand, Villervalla. Like fellow Swedish brand, Polarn O Pyret, I loved Villervalla’s brightly coloured clothes for children and will seek out a UK stockist of these well designed, great quality clothes. Sadly (for me) the kids had woken up by the time we got Marimekko.

Take a Tram

I love trams and Gothenburg has a very efficient tram system to make getting around very easy. We bought 24 hour tram tickets for SEK 90 each (approx £8 for adults) and set off. This was a big day in the D household because we left the double buggy at home.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Visit the Archipelago
Having taken the number 11 tram all the way down south to Saltholmen stop, we went to see where the boats were going to.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

My conversation at the ticket office went like this:
Me: Hello, we’re first time visitors to Gothenburg and we wanted to take a boat to explore the islands, where would you recommend?
Ticket office lady: Run around to pier 7 and get on the boat, it’s leaving in 1 minute
Me: Er, OK, is it nice there?
Ticket office lady: Yes, but make sure you get off at the second stop as there’s nothing to do at the first stop.

As we got to pier 7, the ramp was already up on the departing boat. When the captain saw 2 adults careering around the corner with 2 small kids (one of whom was shouting “TOO FAST, Mummy, I’m going to FALL OVER” – something no one has ever said previously about my running speed), the captain lowered the ramp and we were on. I’m not sure what he made of me proceeding to ask where we were going and when did the boat come back. Anyway, we arrived at Styrso.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

There were two lovely looking cafes by the ferry stop, but both were firmly shut for the winter. There was, however, a playground.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

So we headed there for a bit before walking along through the island and admiring all the golf buggies zipping the residents around as there are no cars on the island. (Goodness knows what we would’ve found at the fist boat stop!).

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Heading back to the pier, we discovered the next boat back to Gothenburg was not due for over an hour.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

We managed to stop the kids hot wiring an all terrain buggy entertain the kids with a game of “I Spy” and then a boat appeared. Not going in the direction we wanted but the boat looked warm inside. We got on and, quite miraculously, there was a cafe on board. So we enjoyed a Swedish fika on board.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Hot chocolate and sweet treats all around as we sailed our way – in the warmth of a cafe – around a few islands before eventually arriving back in Gothenburg.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Universeum
If you visit Gothenburg with kids, I’d recommend putting this at the top of your list. The Universeum is the Nordic region’s largest science museum. Much as I love the Science Museum in London, the Universeum is much better suited to younger children like my 3 year olds. Each area offers enough information to be educational, whilst not being too overwhelming for small kids with short attention spans. I think younger children are particularly engaged by hands-on activities, rather than endless facts and the Universeum is full of interactive activities. This museum has a variety of exhibits ranging from a rainforest through to “Job Land” where younger children and pretend to do various jobs. The biggest hits for my duo were the health section where they enjoyed trying the gym equipment, the construction zone (this area had amazing craft and activity tables set up) and most of all, toddler heaven; Job Land.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

In the latter were various sections including a theatre (complete with back stage door, spotlight and costumes) and a simulated shop complete with shelves, baskets, food products and a check out till where food items could be scanned and beeped as they passed through the scanner.

Things we didn’t get a chance to visit but looked interesting to us:
Museum of Gothenburg 
This museum is located in the Historic East India Company building which dates from the 18th century and it also houses a children’s museum. We went to have a look around but the kids were both asleep in the buggy as we arrived at the museum and so we decided against breaking the first rule of parenthood (never wake a sleeping baby!). Instead we wandered around the grid of streets admiring the buildings in this area.

The Volvo Museum
I enjoy a quirky museum and this looked interesting. However it’s located a little way out of town and visiting on the weekend involved calling the bus company in advance. Bit more effort than I was willing to expend on this occasion.

Gothenburg City Tram Museum
Another quirky museum I would’ve loved to visit if we’d had more time in Gothenburg.

Alfie Atkins Cultural Centre
Alfie Atkins is a popular Swedish children’s character from a range of books which have been printed into around 5 million copies in the Swedish language. This children’s centre was located very close to our hotel and opposite Gothenburg’s central station. It’s open 7 days a week and would be a great place to visit to escape the cold and/or rain with kids. It runs a daily programme of cultural activities for younger children, including mime and Swedish sign language.

You can find more things to do in Gothenburg here on the city’s tourist information site.

Tips for winter in Gothenburg with kids
• We stayed at the Radisson Scandinavia in an Executive Suite; comprised of 2 separate bedrooms, each with en suite bathroom and a separate lounge with balcony joining the two bedrooms. At 72sqm, this was a huge space for us all to spread out in and we were even able to park the double buggy in the corner without tripping over it (for once).
• You can take a double buggy on to a tram but you’ll need to take the kids out and fold it on the older style trams because there are steps to get up on board
• Kids aged up to 7 years old travel for free on the trams
• Travel on the boat out to the islands is included in the price of our 24 hour tram ticket
• The taxis we took in Gothenburg had seats with an integrated booster seat in them. This meant that the twins could be securely strapped into the taxi while using the regular seat belt
• Ensure that you bring adequate warm clothes for your kids. The local kids were all wearing a thermal waterproof suit over their clothes. I saw these for sale in Villervalla but they were pricey. Villervalla store has an outlet shop on Landsvägsgatan 3, Gothenburg where you might find a bargain
• The drinking water is so clean that you can drink it directly from the tap, you don’t need to buy mineral water
• If you’re planning to visit the archipelago, do some research in advance (don’t do what we did!) and find out what facilities are open where you’re going and what time the return ferry is. Standing on a cold jetty in winter waiting for a boat to come in isn’t pleasant (although the unexpected hot chocolate onboard certainly was)
• A family ticket at the Universeum cost SEK 570 (£51) for all 4 of us. This ticket provided unlimited access for the day you purchase it, should you wish to visit in the morning and then come back later in the afternoon
• You cannot take buggies into the Rainforest part of the Universeum but there is a lift and you can access other sections of the museum with your buggy
• Take sunglasses for sunny days. My eyeballs were in pain from walking in the strong winter sun

PIN FOR LATER

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Went – Ate – Loved: January 2017

Went
January 2017 quite literally started with a bang. Or in fact successions of bangs as I enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view of the New Year fireworks from our hotel in Sydney.

Sydney New Year fireworks

Wow, doesn’t even come close to the incredible panoramic view we had. Mr D met each other in Sydney, and later got engaged on the steps of the Sydney Opera House (the location of our first date) and it was really fantastic to spend time back in Sydney.

Sydney

The journey back to London from Australia to London was a bit of slog and we’ve concluded that a 14.5 hour flight (as ours was from Singapore back to London) is too long for all of us, not just the twins. In all we had a fantastic trip to Australia, despite the flight home; it was worth all the effort and jet lag to enjoy some sunshine and catch up with friends and family in Australia.

On the last weekend in January we went to Gothenburg, Sweden, a city which has been on my travel wish list for a long time. I really enjoy visiting Sweden and this trip did not disappoint. I’ll post separately on this in the next few weeks.

Ate
Meal of the month award has to go to my birthday dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This was my first time – knowingly – eating Michelin 3 star food. (Knowingly because we once ate at the El Bulli hotel restaurant outpost in Seville without knowing what it was. Ahem).

The food at Gordon Ramsay was, as you’d imagine just incredible. The different flavours and the pure skill involved in the cooking were sensational. Take this egg presented as a canapé. Still intrigued at how the top of this hen’s egg was sliced off so cleanly without breaking the egg shell.

But it wasn’t just the food which blew me away, the service was amazing. As a diner with dietary restrictions, nothing makes me happier than every single person who came to our table re confirming which items I can’t eat (gluten & nuts), explaining why and how my canapés were different to Mr D’s, important as these weren’t items I’d selected from the menu.

Special mention to the waiter who told me he’d be disappointed if I didn’t take more of the gluten free bread to mop up my meat juices. I loved this – who says 3 Michelin star restos have to be stuffy?! And the sommelier who we’d instructed to bring us wines of his choice by the glass to match our dishes. I really enjoy doing this when eating out in good restaurants as it’s a great way to balance food and wine but also we’ve been introduced to lots of different grape varieties in this way. “Any wines you don’t like?” He’d asked. We like trying new wine suggestions, but I asked for no German wines please. So you’ve guessed it…..he brought me a German wine. This wine was, of course, perfect.

I won’t be writing a review for my meal there (I was too busy enjoying my meal to take notes and subtle lighting in the restaurant equals rubbish iPhone photos), but I will add it to my gluten free guide to London.

Also this month I was invited to judge in the 2017 Free From Food Awards. This year I was judging in the Innovation and Veggie Ready Meals categories. This is a real highlight of the year for me; it’s fascinating to see the development of the UK’s Free From (not just gluten free) food sector.

In Australia I loved these gluten free and nut free Anzac biscuits.

gluten free Anzac biscuits

I’m still a bit miffed that Mr D scoffed the last packet before I had a chance to bring them home. Not least since they would’ve lifted the boredom of endless gluten free meals of boiled fish on our flights to and from Australia.

Loved
On the long flight back from Australia I concluded that I’d like to give this blog some regular love by posting more regularly in 2017. So far this month I’ve managed to post weekly, on Fridays. However, I work on 5 days of the week and have two small children so time is always short for things I enjoy doing for myself so we’ll see. I plan to write a monthly round up at the end of the month (starting with this one!) and if that’s all I manage at points in the year, that would be just fine.

I’d like to say that I loved having the gluten free afternoon tea with Kelly and Rachel this month but unfortunately I didn’t make it. I have never met either Kelly or Rachel before but I thoroughly enjoy reading both of their blogs. If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s blog posts on visiting all the English counties you should for great photography, as well as gluten free recommendations. Rachel is due to move to Sydney in a few months, a city where she had also got engaged. I’m looking forward to reading her blog posts as she makes the move.

However, the night before our afternoon tea, I was eating gluten free pizza (hmmm) and a mishap occurred with one of my molar teeth. Cue a trip to the emergency dentist to have it seen to instead talking about travel plans over some delicious gluten free cakes. Initially I was told I’d need a crown fitted but now my sentence has been commuted to wisdom teeth removal – which for me means a hospital job. So looking forward to that! My dentist – who’s Italian – assures me it was the wisdom teeth which caused it, not the pizza! So this is definitely a not loved of the month but hopefully we’ll get to meet another time.

I managed to keep up with my blog feed this month and I loved reading these blog posts in particular:

  • Gluten Free Las Vegas: I’ve been to Vegas a couple of times and although it’s the absolute antithesis of how I’d describe my perfect holiday, I really love it there. I very much enjoyed this post by Gluten Free Philly on the dining options in Las Vegas.
  • 5 gluten free and vegan restaurants in Porto: Bookmarking this for future reference as it doesn’t seem as though gluten free options in Porto are plentiful
  • What to do on long airport layovers: I don’t agree at all with the advice given in this post for London layovers but the rest of the article is interesting and there are heaps of airports listed.
  • 5 ways to beat the heat in Brisbane: The post I wish I’d read before we went to Brisbane and wilted in the heat!

And finally, some of the moments I love most about having kids are the most unintentionally funny. Earlier this week I had to manage a 3 year old in an utter meltdown first thing on Monday morning before I left for work, and just as we were rushing to get them ready for nursery. Why the tantrum? Because we didn’t have any avocado. And this meant that Mini D1 wasn’t going to have her current breakfast of choice, smashed avo on crackers. The absolute absurdity of me having to placate an inconsolable child who couldn’t have smashed avo for breakfast by promising to go out on my lunch hour to find her some avocado has kept me chuckling for days.

2017 Free From Food Awards

I was delighted to be included in the judging panel for yesterday’s session of the 2017 Free From Food Awards (FFFA).

The FFFAs – now in their 10th year – celebrate the UK’s best free from products from small, (sometimes just starting out in the home kitchen) start ups to large supermarkets. The Awards are run by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson and her seemingly indefatigable team. All judging is performed blind. The judges are not told until after their comments have been recorded and scoring has been completed whose products have been tasted. All products are cooked or prepared exactly to the package’s instructions.

It’s been a pleasure to see the development of the free from food sector through the last 6 years in which I’ve been honoured to be included on the judging panel. Not just the growth in number of products now available in this sector, but the bringing to market of more innovative products and an increasing number of products catering to the wider allergy community, more than just gluten free. For me the judging, and especially the presentation of awards party, is a chance to catch up with friends within the free from community who I wouldn’t ordinarily get to see otherwise. It’s also a million miles from my ‘day job’ which is another reason why I thoroughly enjoy being involved!

As I also have a nut allergy, I have to be mindful of the categories I can judge in. For this reason, cake and biscuit containing categories are out for me as so many contain nuts, and particularly almonds which is one of the nuts I’m allergic to.

This year I judged in the Innovation and Veggie Ready Meals category.

The shortlist for the FFFA 2017 will be published on 8th February and the presentation of awards will be made on Tuesday 28 March 2017.

Until the shortlist is published, I can give you a sneak peek of the judging process and my top picks from the judging yesterday:

In the Innovation category, I enjoyed the following:

Oomi noodles.

High protein & 75% less carbs than regular chilled egg noodles, these are not marketed as gluten free fish noodles but that’s what they are. Made from a combination of Alaskan pollock, Pacific whiting and/or hoki, I really liked the firm texture of these noodles. We tried them plain and I could taste the fish but they looked just like regular noodles. They can be stir fried in 1 minute and with sauce this might be a good way to get some fish into kids. You can even eat these directly from the packet.

Oomi gluten free noodle

If you were presented with this, what would you think it is? I asked on Instagram and the suggestions ranged from a brownie containing beetroot, dates or figs or even insects to something made with flour from dinosaurs (well it is the Innovation award!).

gluten free high protein bar

Perhaps you’ll be as surprised as me to discover this is in fact a Piri Piri chicken bar made by Fori. This product is made with 60% free range chicken.

It had an interesting flavour; I’ll be honest and say I loved it and was challenged by it in equal measure. But if you’re into high protein, gluten free and nut free snacks, this product could be for you! I think this product would be good as a back up while travelling in case your special meal is not loaded on to your flight. Similarly, if you were out on a long hike, this product could provide a filling but light item to carry snack on.

As the tasting is done blind at the FFFA, we do not see the packaging at the time of product tasting. This protein bar is sold in this packaging and I think you’d eat it directly from the packet, meaning you’re unlikely to ponder whether this is a cholcolate

Piri Piri chicken high protein bar

Also in the Innovation category were these gluten free sweet potato wraps by bFree. On my recent trip to Australia, bFree wraps were easy to find everywhere, including these sweet potato wraps. I liked that they were very pliable and I imagine they would stand up well to being in a lunchbox. We tried them both as a wrap with hummus filling and also separately to taste the flavour alone. A product I will definitely be buying.

bFree sweet potato wraps

As well as the Innovation category, I also participated in the judging for the vegetarian ready meals.

My top pick in this category were these gluten free Devonshire soysages made by Dragonfly Foods. I would buy these over meat sausages and really enjoyed the rosemary flavour in them as well as the way the outside had crisped up. The texture and taste didn’t make them too dissimilar in my view to meat sausages. I suspect that they would BBQ quite well, unlike some of the gluten free vegetarian sausages on the market today.

gluten free soysages

I think that vegetarian ready meals is an area in which food manufacturers could make improvements in. There is definitely room in this area to increase the number and range of products on offer to vegetarians with dietary restrictions looking for convenience products.

Many thanks to Michelle for inviting me to participate in the judging again this year and to the whole team behind the scenes for their skills in preparing all the products to try.

You can follow news from the Free From Food Awards here. The shortlist will be published on Wednesday 8th February 2017.

Have you tried any of these products? Would you consider buying them?