Stockholm may be Sweden's bustling capital, while Malmö is the country's diverse and delightful food hub. But what about Sweden's second-largest city – Gothenburg?
“Gothenburg is less showy,” admits Ali Davoodi, who grew up in Gothenburg and now owns a design shop there.
“It's less about image. Stockholm brands are great at PR, whereas people might not know about all the brands that come from Gothenburg – and yet they're thriving.”
Gothenburg is bursting with Sweden's best-kept design secrets… and Ali has his thumb on the pulse of the city's creative community.
He's the founder of Fresh Fish, an annual fashion fair and contest that puts the spotlight on upcoming Swedish designers. He's co-owner of Miksaĵo, a little design shop that packs a punch with its blend of Swedish and international design. And he's the brains behind ArtMadeThis, an urban art project which gave female artists the chance to paint on buildings in Sweden's four largest cities.
Inside Ali Davoodi's Miksaĵo design shop. Photo: Miksaĵo
So where does he hang out – and what places should be at the top of your list when you visit “Sweden's coolest city”?
Compared to the glitzy, bloated Grand Old Brands of French and Italian design, Swedish design is a lean, clean creative machine. Its profile may be more understated, but Swedish design is slowly but surely taking over the world.
Have you noticed how Fjällräven backpacks have suddenly appeared on the backs of hipsters all over the world? Or how everyone on Instagram is sporting Daniel Wellington watches, Tom Hope bracelets, and phone cases from Ideal of Sweden or Richmond & Finch?
Yeah, they're all Swedish.
“Swedish design is about being nice without shouting,” Ali explains. “It's a whisper, not a scream. It's calm, almost melancholic – and it's also practical.”
And Gothenburg has more than its fair share of this laid-back, open-minded creativity.
“Nudie Jeans, Twist & Tango, shoe brand Axel Arigato, Velour, Maska, Bow Club…”
For many Gothenburg brands, Ali jokes, the only people who know they're from the city are the residents themselves. But the quality speaks for itself.
Ali describes his own shop, Miksaĵo, as an eclectic mix of “unestablished Swedish brands and big international names”.
“I also recommend Linnégatan 2 – the shop that that shows the modern man the importance of quality,” he says.
“Östling Schedin is an interior design shop with a unique hand-picked selection in a fantastic environment – and Artilleriet has very quickly become a given destination for anyone who loves interior design."
And don't forget to pay a visit to Emma & Malena, for gorgeous Swedish clothing inspired by the Gothenburg archipelago and the fantastic ‘50s!
But after you've shopped ‘til you've dropped in the lighthearted city by the sea, where do you recharge?
“Fatima is my favourite Moroccan restaurant,” Ali says. ”It offers warm Moroccan food in an inviting, cosy little living room. There's a lot of love in the food, even though it's simple.”
Besides offering plenty of local delicacies like seafood and traditional Swedish fare, Gothenburg also has a budding food truck scene, and one of the first you should try out is Jinx, which sells Asian fusion food with flair - or, as the chefs themselves call it, "bastardized Asian street food with influences from the whole world".
"Little Meats is another local favourite, full of equal parts love and spice,” Ali says. The South American restaurant is known in Göteborg for its "luxurious tacos", organic tortillas, homemade lemonade, and touch of “magic” – no seriously, it's a word that pops up in quite a few reviews.
And if it's time for a drink to wash it all down, there are plenty of bars which will welcome the curious visitor.
“The best bar in my opinion is probably Studio HPKSM,” says Ali. “It's an incredible place – an experience unlike anything else, from the service to the environment.”
He also recommends Aperitivo, a popular coffee bar which transforms into Bar Centro at night. “They have fantastic coffee too – but when night comes they show they're more than that!”
Where to hang out
There are plenty of other great spots to get a taste of creative Gothenburg – but we asked Ali just to give us the highlights from each area. So if you're visiting for a few days or more, here are a few others to add to your list…
Need a place to have a quick meeting or get some work done?
Inside the Hotel Dorsia - one of Ali's favaourite Gothenburg hangouts. Photo: Hotel Dorsia
And finally – don't miss the incredible islands of Gothenburg's archipelago. It has its own unique character, with a much different atmosphere than that of Stockholm.
Taking a dip on Amundön. Photo: Steampipe Production Studio AB/Göteborg & Co Fri användarrätt av GBG&Co