Exploring the Christmas markets of Gothenburg
As winter sets in over Northern Europe, there’s something atmospheric about a Christmas market and in Gothenburg on the West coast of Sweden, you’ll find Christmas markets that make you feel cosy and full of seasonal spirit. On our winter weekend break in Gothenburg we set out to explore some of the many markets around the city, in between plenty of eating and drinking of course.
Kronhuset Christmas Market
On our way to visit the Maritiman Maritime Centre on the harbour (which we were disappointed to find was closed in winter), we passed by what I thought looked like an Almshouse that one might find in Bristol with old buildings set around four sides of a courtyard. The Kronhuset is the oldest building in Gothenburg, built in the 1650s as an artillery store and it looks a bit incongruous surrounded by more modern buildings, with a red brick façade and unusual green copper window shutters.
Inside the Kronhuset, we found a Christmas craft market was in full swing with the hall packed with small stalls selling anything from pottery to Christmas decorations as well as several stalls raising money for charity – there was definitely a touch of the Women’s Institute in the atmosphere.
Outside there were a few more stalls, mainly selling cute fir tree decorations in the shape of dogs and other animals. I noticed that pine branches (as if you had cut up a Christmas tree) are widely used to decorate window surrounds and are spread on the ground at the foot of building walls, sometimes with fairy lights over the top. I’m not sure whether the purpose is purely decorative or if it helps to stop snow and ice damaging the buildings.
We looked around the interesting gift shops that were in the old buildings around the courtyard and ended with a coffee in the extremely cosy Café Kronhuset, where there was a fire burning on what looked like an original fireplace of a forge with a metal anvil. Many people were tucking into appetising salads and open sandwiches but we’d had the full hotel breakfast so we saved ourselves for later.
Röhsska Design museum
I was on the lookout for pretty and unusual Christmas gifts and so we stopped by at the Röhsska Design museum in the Vasastan neighbourhood, where there was the Julform craft market with stalls set up in a side room off the Museum lobby. On sale were gifts that looked as if they were largely the work of design students and this was just the place to buy interesting jewellery or even the odd bit of furniture although nothing was especially cheap.
Liseberg Christmas Market
If the Christmas markets at Kronhuset and Röhsska Museum were small and intimate, the Christmas market at Liseburg was quite the other end of the scale. Liseberg is the largest amusement park in Sweden, with restaurants, food stands, and rides for all ages from carousels to a traditional timber roller coaster and at Christmas the park is transformed with 5 million lights.
We’ll have to trust them on that as I can’t say I counted every one, but as we came through the entrance I could believe it, as it seemed that every twig, on every branch, on every tree had lights twisted around it. I feel sorry for the people who have to put them up and then take them all down again after Christmas.
We surged through the gates and not really being sure where to go took the two sets of escalators up to an area where there were stalls of designer gifts from Scandinavian brands. On coming down the escalators again, we caught the end of the ice show as skaters performed to Christmas music and even some cute young skaters spun around impressively.
Once we’d done the circuit it was starting to rain quite heavily and the end of a long day we were starting to flag, with little enthusiasm for a damp and scary roller coaster ride. We retreated from the crowds to the nearest place we could find for a cup of tea and found ourself in fast food hall filled with families eating Scandinavian versions of burger & chips. Although the lights were magical, the Saturday night crowds were not and we decided to head back to the calm of Hotel Elite Plaza.
Haga Christmas Market
On Sunday morning we found our perfect Christmas market that was being held just at the weekend in the old fashioned neighbourhood of Haga. The pedestrian streets of Haga are full of interesting shops and cafes and to this were added more stalls, some an offshoot of the shops, selling mainly foods such as interesting sausages, breads, cakes and a few gifts.
The scene was full of Christmas atmosphere as a choir of students stood on the street corner singing us a Gud Jul looking hopefully for a few silver coins thrown into the tin in front of them. As their impromptu concert came to an end we heard band music and followed it down the street until we found the source; a junior marching band with teenagers dressed in bright blue uniforms, and cheer leaders at the front twirling their pom poms, led by a majorette with her cane. Here was the Christmas music and atmosphere that I’d been hoping to find.
We followed the band as they marched down the main street of Haga Nygata, and then dived into Cafe Kringlan, one of those cosy traditional cafes where the cinnamon and saffron buns were piled high and you can have your fika break over a steaming mug of coffee or hot chocolate.
If you’re visiting Gothenburg in December, you can take your pick of Christmas markets from the full-on bright lights of Liseberg to the Swedish designer gifts at Röhsska Museum, to the traditional charms of Kronhuset and Haga. There are even more Christmas markets around Gothenburg and you will find opening times on the Göteborg.com website.
Visitor Information for Gothenburg or Göteborg
- The local tourism site Göteborg.com is full of information on the best things to see and do
- For information on West Sweden visit the West Sweden Tourism site or follow them on Twitter @WestSwedenTB and you will find their blog at ExploreWestSweden.com
- Another useful site for all things Gothenburg is I Love Göteborg
- During our long weekend in Gothenburg, we stayed at the lovely 5 star hotel, Elite Plaza Hotel which is right in the centre of town. Check for the best hotel prices in Gothenburg and book here.
- For flights to Gothenburg from London Heathrow, we flew with Scandinavian airlines, who have 2 flights a day to Gothenburg from London.
Thanks to the West Sweden Tourism Board who hosted our long weekend in Gothenburg
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