In many ways Gothenburg could be considered the heart of Scandinavia. It’s Sweden’s second biggest city, has a 3.5-hour ferry connection to Denmark and is just a 2-hour drive from Norway.
From its status as a global leader in sustainability to a fascinating history of trade and innovation, there’s a lot to discover about Gothenburg. Here are seven fascinating facts about this thriving Scandinavian city.
The city isn’t actually called Gothenburg
In Swedish the city is named Göteborg, roughly pronounced yaw-ta-bore(g). This surprises many international visitors as all other Swedish cities use the same name in both languages. To add to the confusion, many business in Gothenburg use the English version in their name.
The city council has changed its mind over the years about its own branding. In 2003, it was decided to promote the name Göteborg, a decision which was reversed just six years later. Now Gothenburg is the preferred choice for all international communications.
It’s the fifth largest city in the Nordic region
While Gothenburg plays second fiddle to Stockholm in Sweden, it’s a big player in the context of the wider Nordic region.
With almost 600,000 people living in the city and about 1.1 million people in the wider urban area, Gothenburg is the biggest Nordic city that’s not the capital of its country. It’s also significantly bigger than Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.
Gothenburg was built by the Dutch
Although people have lived in the area for thousands of years, the city of today was founded in 1621 by the King of Sweden. However, the city’s early success relied on construction expertise from the Netherlands.
Based on the Dutch experience of building on marshlands and constructing canals, the planning of Gothenburg’s streets and necessary canals followed that of Amsterdam and Dutch colonies of the time, particularly Batavia (now Jakarta).
The city is a leader in innovative transport
In 1927, the first Volvo car rolled off the production line in Gothenburg. Since then, Volvo went on to become a global leader in people-first and safety-first design.
While Volvo Cars was sold to Ford in 1999, Gothenburg remains the headquarters of the Volvo Group that continues to manufacture trucks and buses including new 44-ton electric trucks. The city’s Volvo Visitor Center and Volvo Museum tell the story.
Today, Gothenburg is writing a new chapter in its transport story. Leading electric aircraft developer Heart Aerospace has chosen Gothenburg as its base to create the so-called Northern Runway, a campus of production and flight test facilities.
Gotheburg is twinned with Chicago
Of Chicago’s 28 sister cities, Gothenburg is the only one in the Nordic region. Launched in 1960, the sister cities program works on collaborations in the areas of cultural arts and tourism, global education, government relations and international business.
Gothenburg is a sustainability leader
A committment to sustainability is a thread that runs through every aspect of life in Gothenburg, from business to tourism. In 2021, Lonely Planet recognized Gothenburg as the world’s most sustainable city break, while the Global Destination Sustainability Index ranked Gothenburg as the world’s most sustainable destination five years in a row.
Gothenburg was the first city in the world to issue green bonds to stimulate investment in solutions to climate change. Almost all the city’s hotels are eco-certified and plans to develop a zero-emissions transport zone in the downtown district are well underway.
The city’s archipelago is vast
About 5,000 people live on Gothenburg’s southern archipalego, but that number rises to more than 10,000 during the summer months.
Many Swedes own vacation cottages and spend several weeks on one of the islands, while many more spend weekends there throughout the year.
In keeping with the city’s sustainability focus, the southern archipelago is entirely car-free. Ferries connect people with the mainland, while bicycles and delivery mopeds are used on the islands.
While the islands are forward-thinking, they are also steeped in history. Mentioned in Norse sagas as ‘the river islets’, the southern islands appear to have been used as a location for fairs and duels in the Viking Age.
The northern archipelago shares much in common with its southern sibling, but has bigger islands and communities accessible by car via the car ferries from Lilla Varholmen. The weekend ferry to Hönö Klåva from downtown Gothenburg is especially popular.