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 with our young children.
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 in one of Scandinavia’s largest shopping malls
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 through Gothenburg
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.
Visit the Archipelago of Gothenburg
Having taken the number 11 tram all the way down south to Saltholmen stop, we went to see where the boats were going to.
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.
There were two lovely looking cafes by the ferry stop, but both were firmly shut for the winter. There was, however, a playground.
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!).
Heading back to the pier, we discovered the next boat back to Gothenburg was not due for over an hour.
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.
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.
Explore Universeum – top pick for a cold or rainy day in Gothenburg with kids
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.
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 we’d love to return and do next time we’re in 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 really 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 child 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.
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