Stockholm and Malmo are two of the most visited places in Sweden and for good reason – they’re the perfect picturesque city break destinations. The country’s lesser known corners are where Swedish culture really shines though. The West Coast which stretches from Gothenburg right through to Norway is just one of them. Home to the Bohuslän archipelago, a collection of over 8000 charming islands with everything from cobbled streets to historic attractions to explore, it’s well worth a place on your travel bucket list! Exploring it doesn’t have to be a week’s work either. You can uncover its rich history in a matter of days by boat – ideal for any travellers who prefer their adventures on the slower side. Here is my guide to West Sweden.
This post is in collaboration with West Sweden but as ever, all thoughts, opinions & photographs are my own.
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How To Get To The Bohuslän Archipelago
The closest airport is in the city of Gothenburg and you can catch flights from under £100 from London. Check flight prices here. Once you’re in Gothenburg, the next stage of your journey is out on the ocean, travelling in true slow style – by boat!
The Stromma Kanalbolag
The Stromma Kanalbolag departs from Gothenburg before sailing through the archipelago to the historic town of Marstrand so, if you’re looking to explore one of the country’s most sought after cities before you get there, you’ll still have the opportunity. It runs every Monday and Tuesday from the 6th of July through to the 11th of August, departing at 14:30 and arrives at Marstrand Island at 17:30 for those who like to plan ahead. You can find out more information or book your journey here.
The Bohuslän Archipelago
The Bohuslän archipelago islands themselves run right along the west coast of the country and are packed full of charming villages and beaches to wander, each with their own stories to tell. The archipelago is the seventh most beautiful natural wilderness area in the world so sailing through it is the perfect way to explore a slower side of Sweden and a trained tour guide will be on hand to tell you everything there is to know about its past and present.
On your boat ride with Stromma Kanalbolag to Marstrand, you will stop off at the tiny island of Källö-Knippla. Home to the most genuine old Bohus province buildings. The island is situated by the main sea lane between Gothenburg and Marstrand and is only a short boat journey. It is well worth a stroll around this beautiful island, especially in the summer months when it is laden with roses.
The final destination on your cruise tour is the stunning seaside oasis of Marstrand on the Bohuslän Coast. Known for its colourful wood-panelled houses and picture-perfect cobbled streets, it’s as breath-taking as the islands you’ll sail past on the way and just as full of surprises – there’s much more to this Swedish gem than first meets the eye.
The Carlsten Fortress is a must visit for any visitors with a passion for history. Built in the 1700s to protect the island from invaders, it’s now one of its biggest attractions, with guided tours, themed dinners and historical re- enactments being some of what visitors can expect to experience.
If you climb up towards the fortress in the evening, you can also catch the most spectacular sunsets. This has got to be the best view point on the island! It’s one of the many things to see and do on this island too. Between kayaking adventures and boutique shopping, there’s something for every interest. Those looking to really embrace the slower side of island life won’t be disappointed either. Marstrand offers some of the most scenic walks in Sweden and is home to the Marstrand’s Havshotell whose salty spa is only steps away from the water front.
Best Place To Stay In Marstrand
You definitely need to book yourself a night at Marstrand’s Havshotell to experience the real Bohuslän quality of life. Slow paced, taking in every little moment. The rooms are Scandinavian in design and there is a great spa with stunning views out over the water and looking over the fortress on the hill. The hotel is just a short ferry ride across to the historic part of the town which is located on a separate island. You can find the ferry just a few paces away from the hotel and a ticket is just over 40 SEK or £3.
Find prices and availability for Marstrand Havshotell here.
Best Place To Eat In Marstrand
In the evening, head to the Grand Hotel Marstrand-Tenan for a taste of elegance! This impressive building used to be the former summer house of King Oscar II and is now a restaurant that appears in the White Guide – Sweden’s leading restaurant guide. I tucked into one of the best caesar salads I’ve had in a long time and a gorgeous piece of cod. It was the perfect way to end my day in Marstrand.
If you’re looking for further reading on Sweden then I highly recommend the Lonely Planet series. They grace my bookshelves and provide further inspo! Click the image above to find out more.
In the morning, take another stroll around Marstrand and stop for some fika at Bergs Konditori overlooking the harbour. Once you’ve taken advantage of everything Marstrand has to offer, a 30 minute boat ride away is another destination you’ll want to add to your travel itinerary in the Bohuslän archipelago. Klädesholmen might be on the small side but its picturesque seafront huts mean it’s one for the photo album. I enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing hour sat on a pier looking out over the water watching children laughing and having fun. From the island you can also hire bikes and cycle to Skärhamn (which takes about 30 minutes) where you’ll find the Nordic Watercolour Museum. Featuring exhibitions from the likes of Salvador Dali and Bill Viola it’s not to be missed. You can also rent the artists’ studios across the bay for a holiday stay. The museum has a fantastic restaurant inside, which looks out over the ocean, by the name of Vatten. The food here was delicious and I remember the caesar salad fondly (I couldn’t resist the caesar salad’s on this trip, they were incredible!)
Best Place To Stay In Klädesholmen
You can’t visit Klädesholmen and not stay at Salt and Sill, Sweden’s first floating hotel! Waking up here was absolute heaven on earth. My room opened up on to the ocean and came complete with my own steps to the water to go for a morning swim. The hotel also has a floating sauna and hot tub which was the ultimate indulgent way to enjoy a morning. I enjoying relaxing in the hot tub before jumping into the cool ocean water, on repeat for a good couple of hours. It was invigorating!
Find prices and availability for Salt & Sill here.
In the evening, head to Rönnäng where you can catch a short 15 minute boat ride to the island of Åstol (Tickets cost 40 SEK / £3). It’s another of the area’s smallest islands so you won’t need more than a few hours to explore it but travellers with an appreciation for sea views and sunsets should definitely spare the time to see it. This idyllic island with its white wooden houses and rugged rocky landscape is a car free haven. Home to less than 200 permanent residents, this island was my favourite of the entire trip. And it is worth mentioning the fantastic food that the island has to offer.
Best Place To Eat In Åstol
Åstols Rökeri is a restaurant with a very well earned reputation and I can highly recommend you stop for an evening meal when you visit this island. This restaurant specialises in fish and seafood, has a smokery and shop on the side and in the summer months it even hosts popular live artists.
Perched right on the edge of the island, overlooking the ocean, it makes for the perfect setting for a romantic evening. With some of the freshest seafood you have ever tasted and unparalleled views, this restaurant will leave a lasting impression! It certainly did for me. At Åstols Rökeri I had the best salmon of my life! If it is on the menu when you visit, make sure to order some, you won’t regret it! Enjoy a wonderful evening here before catching the boat back to Rönnäng and then back to your room at Salt & Sill for the night.
Two nights/three days is the perfect introduction to the incredible Bohuslän archipelago of West Sweden. To return to Gothenburg for your flight home with all the fantastic memories you will have made, catch the Tjörn Express bus from Kladesholmen which takes about 1.5 hours.
So there you have it, the perfect way to explore the Bohuslän archipelago in West Sweden. What do you think? Have you been convinced to explore a different side of Sweden?
Let me know what you think of my guide to West Sweden in the comments below!
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