Gothenburg, Sweden

Reference work entry


Gothenburg is in the southwest, on the estuary of the Göta river. It is Sweden’s second largest city and Scandinavia’s largest seaport. Besides being the capital of Västra Götaland, it is the commercial and industrial hub of southern Sweden.


Settlement in the area dates back to the stone age and the best preserved Viking ship in the world, the Äskekärrsskeppet, was found in the area in the 1930s. However, Gothenburg’s story began in 1601 when King Charles IX allowed Holland to establish a colony to secure access to the Baltic. In 1611 the fledging colony was destroyed by the Danes. Charles’ successor, Gustav II Adolf ordered the construction of a new city in 1621. The early inhabitants were mainly German and Dutch merchants and artisans. The Dutch were responsible for draining the surrounding marsh, and the city’s development was largely financed by Dutch trade.

British commercial investment in the eighteenth century helped Gothenburg prosper and the city became a major centre for international trade, particularly for the import of goods from the far east. The foundation of the Swedish East India Company confirmed Gothenburg’s importance which was further increased by the completion of the Göta canal in 1832. Gothenburg’s shipyards were among the largest in Europe. In the twentieth century the city’s maritime economy declined and when Volvo cars began production in 1927, vehicle manufacture became the major industry.

Modern City

By the end of the 1980s most of the large shipyards had closed down, and today only the Stena Lines ferry terminal and the fish harbour remain. The old shipyard Eriksbergsvarvet has been converted into a large exhibition- and conference centre known as Eriksbergshallen. Eriksberg is also the finishing point of the Tall Ships Race.

Significant exports include cars, ball bearings and paper. Volvo and Svenska Kullagerfabriken (the world’s leading manufacturer of ball bearings) are the city’s leading employers. Modern Gothenburg is the sport capital of the country. It hosts numerous large sporting events such as the Gothia Cup, the world’s largest football tournament, with almost 30,000 young players. The arenas Ullevi and Scandinavium are located in the city centre and in addition to hosting sporting events, they are also popular venues for concerts. Rail and the Göta canal connect the city to the rest of the country. Nearby Landvetter airport provides international and domestic flights.

Places of Interest

The most successful attraction is the Liseberg amusement park, popular for its rides and rollercoasters and for staging big name concerts.

The Ostindiska House in the city centre is one of the country’s largest museums of cultural history. Its permanent exhibitions feature the history of Gothenburg, shipping in Sweden and the Vikings. It houses the famous tenth century Äskekärr ship. The Museum of Art (Konstmuseet) has an excellent collection of late nineteenth century Nordic art, and also houses works by the old masters, including Rembrandt and Rubens. The maritime museum, Sjöfartshistoriska museet, was founded in 1913 by the Nautical Society of Gothenburg. Featuring exhibitions on shipping history, Gothenburg’s harbour and shipyards, it has a notable collection of figureheads and an aquarium. The Opera House, Göteborgs Operan, is celebrated as a masterpiece of modern architecture.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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