Swedish West Coast

The best places to visit on the Swedish west coast

Sweden is home to a collection of beautiful sights, activities, and amazing destinations, particularly around the Swedish west coast. If you’re ready, let’s explore the wonders of Sweden’s west coast!

While your initial trip to Sweden might focus on some of the major cities and shopping districts, it’s worth making some time for the sparkling lakes and fishing spots of the western coastline. 

A popular summertime destination for the locals, Sweden’s west coast stretches from the amazing Gothenburg, through to the Norwegian border.

Though the concept of thousands of granite islands might be difficult to imagine at first, the western archipelago of Sweden is a truly phenomenal place. 

If you’re planning to spend a week or two island-hopping through Sweden, make sure you visit some of these wonderful locations on the Swedish west coast.

What to expect on the west coast of Sweden

Let’s start with a quick introduction to the west coast of Sweden. 

While the west coast and Gothenburg might not be the first destination of choice for new travelers in Sweden, it’s one of the top holiday destinations for those who know the country well. 

Sweden’s west coast has a unique magic and life of its own, from the glistening granite islands, to the unforgettable national parks. You can start your adventure exploring the wonders Gothenburg has to offer, then sail into a kayaking trip and spot seals in the water. 

Just some of the things you can expect from Sweden’s west coast are:

Coastal inspiration 

Various locations in Sweden are famous for their connection to classic literature. The dramatic village of Fjällbacka, for instance, is famous as the setting for the crime novels of Camilla Läckberg.

Herring and fish

Herring is a big deal throughout most of Sweden, but the west coast takes this love to the next level. On June 6th, western locals celebrate “Herring Day” and raise a glass to some of the most popular fish in the region.

Celebrities

Marstrand, one of the islands in the west coast, tends to attract both celebrities and members of the royal family. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’d like to go searching for the stars.

National parks

The national marine park, Kosterhavet, is located within the western region of Sweden. The location is home to the car-free Koster islands, with their unique selection of rocky islands and beaches.

Fishing villages

Fishing is huge in the west of Sweden, so make sure you check out some of the beautiful fishing villages. Grebbestad is the location where Sweden gets around 90% of its oysters. It’s also home to the restored boathouse, Everts Sjöbod.

Islands

Sweden’s most western islands, the Väderöarna Islands are famous for seafood and kayaking. At Käringön Island you can explore everything from fishing sheds to gardens preserved since the 19th century.

While you can visit the western coast any time of the year, it’s often best to plan around the summer months if you want to enjoy the water and soak up some sun. While Sweden is never particularly “hot”, it can be a much easier place to explore when the weather is warm.

The best places to visit on the Swedish west coast

Now you know exactly what kind of adventure you can expect on the Swedish west coast, let’s take a look at some of the must-visit destinations. Keep in mind, there are thousands of lakes, cities, and islands throughout Sweden, so it’s best to plan your itinerary in advance.

Swedish West Coast

1. Gothenburg

The second-largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg is a must-visit destination no matter where your Swedish adventure might take you. Visitors and locals can easily spend entire weeks in Gothenburg, thanks to its huge range of attractions, laid-back vibes, and beautiful squares.

We’d recommend starting your trip in the Haga district, where you can check out some traditional architecture. Haga Nygata is also fantastic for shopping purposes. 

Soak up some culture in the Gothenburg Museum of Art, then head over to the National History Museum to learn more about Sweden’s storied past. 

If part of the reason you’re visiting Sweden’s west coast is to enjoy the fishing culture, visit Feskekörka for the famous fish market, and stay a little longer to see some of the architectural wonders around the city. 

Find things to do and places to stay in Gothenburg.

Swedish West Coast
Credit: Alicia Fagerving

2. Gothenburg archipelago

We could have combined Gothenburg and the archipelago into one must-see destination. However, with 20 or so islands to explore, we believe the archipelago deserves a mention of its own. 

This destination is extremely popular among locals, and it’s easy enough to visit too, with ferries from Lilla Varholmen to Hönö and Björkö. 

Just make sure you’re aware of which islands are car-free before you visit. The northern islands are usually available to explore by car, with plenty of swimming spots and delicious seafood restaurants.

The southern islands are closer to the city, and ideal for walking and swimming, but you won’t travel by car. Consider picking up a good pair of hiking shoes or renting a bike instead. 

While you’re here, make sure you pick up some delicious seafood at Skärgårdshotellet and Tullhuset. Both restaurants tend to have live music available.

Swedish West Coast

3. Marstrand

Once you’ve had your fill of the Gothenburg islands, head a little further north to a brand-new island destination: Marstrand. This former fishing town is best-known among Swedish locals for its delicious seafood, and its sailing opportunities. 

If you love a chance to get out on the water during the summer, this could be the perfect destination for you. The Marstrand region is a mecca for local holiday-makers who come to relax and swim, while catching up on a little history. 

It can also be an excellent destination to visit if you’re hoping to discover your own Swedish crayfish party

While visiting Marstrand, make sure you snap some pictures of the beautiful Carlstens Fästning stone castle. Unlike some of the islands around Sweden, Marstrand is extremely easy to visit, because it’s connected to the mainland by a road bridge.

Find places to stay in Marstrand.

Swedish West Coast
Credit: Manfred Werner (Tsui)

4. Tjörn

Tjörn reminds us of the dramatic destinations in fantasy books, with its ancient hills and woodlands, amazing nature reserves, and unique fishing villages. This is an excellent destination to visit if you’re a fan of walking and cycling, with plenty of routes to discover away from the roads. 

The Tjorn region has also begun to capture a little more attention in recent years for its artistic scene. There’s the Pilane outdoor sculpture park, where you can see some amazing sculptures from local artists. 

There’s also the Skärhamn watercolor museum, where you’ll see amazing pieces from some of the best artists in the Nordic area. 

While visiting Tjorn, make some time to visit Klädesholmen, where you can join local fisherman as they hunt for oysters, lobster, mussels, and other seafood. Herring is particularly big in this area, so if you’re visiting in June, attend some of the Herring Day festivals on June 6th.

Find places to stay in Tjorn.

Swedish West Coast

5. Lysekil

Originally a tiny fishing village, the Lyeskil region evolved into a town for the fishing industry, commercial shipping and local trade during the 19th century. This island is situated on the southern tip of the Stångenäs peninsula in the west coast, so it’s great for visiting in summer. 

While in Lysekil, make the time to visit some of the islands and islets in the region. The largest islands are Stora and Skepssholmen. There are endless boardwalks, piers, and harbors in Lysekil, as well as quaint cottages and harbors to visit while you’re in town. 

We’d particularly recommend visiting one of the two nature reserves, Stångehuvud and Gullmarn fjord. The Stångehuvud red granite cliffs are particularly eye-catching. 

Find places to stay in Lysekil.

Swedish West Coast

6. Fjällbacka

An extremely popular seaside village, Fjällbacka is the entryway for the Väderöarna islands in Sweden — the most western part of Sweden’s west coast. The village is around 90 miles north of Gothenburg, and it came to life in the 1800s, when herring filled its shores. 

Fjällbacka began to thrive as a vacation spot for Scandinavians in the last century, and became particularly popular for various claims to fame. This village was the birthplace of Camilla Läckberg, a famous crime writer. It’s also the location of Ingrid Bergman’s summer home. 

If you’re a fan of the murder mystery genre, you can take a tour of the village, with a focus on the regions and locations mentioned in the books. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, why not take a swim through the nearby beaches?

Find places to stay in Fjällbacka.

Swedish West Coast

7. Väderöarna Islands

Better known to some as the “weather islands”, the Väderöarna Islands are the most western in the Swedish western region. The stunning archipelago setting is available to visit either via your own boat, or you can sign up for a trip on one of the Fjällbacka ferries. 

This wild and rocky region is most sought-after for its incredible views and swimming spots, so don’t expect a particularly action-based vacation. However, if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some seals on the water, as the weather islands often home some of the country’s biggest colonies. 

Locals in Sweden often enjoy visiting the islands for a chance to paint, discover new sources of inspiration, dive, fish, and swim. You can even go out here for a spot of bird watching if you like. It’s a great way to refresh and get back to nature.

Swedish West Coast

8. Orust

If you’re exploring the natural side of the Nordic region, a trip to Orust is essential. The third largest island in Sweden, Orust is packed full of wonderful, lush woodlands, stunning fishing villages, and an active sailing community. 

For those with a love of the open water, Orust is the perfect vacation spot, with plenty of yachting, kayaking, watersports, and swimming activities to enjoy. 

You can also check out some of the historical architecture and culture in one of the former fishing communities, like Stocken, or Hälleviksstrand. 

For an official taste of Swedish life, make a reservation at a restaurant or visit a café to sample some local food. The island has its own oyster and mussel farm, as well as a honey farm, where you can even learn some tips on how to successfully keep bees yourself. 

Find places to stay in Orust.

Swedish West Coast

9. Grebbestad

Grebbestad may not get as much attention as some of the other regions in this list of destinations in the west coast of Sweden, but it’s definitely worth visiting in its own right. 

The resort is responsible for around 90% of the Swedish oysters caught in the country. If you have a chance to dine in Grebbestad, make sure you enjoy the local fair.

Located in Tanum, Grebbestad is full of history and beautiful coastal attractions to explore. You can stroll along the seaside resort and learn about some of the ancient remains from the iron age. The Greby graveyard is the largest in the Bohuslän region, with over 180 graves visible on the surface.

Just outside of Grebbestad, you’ll also find the labyrinth Ulmekärr, which is definitely worth visiting if you’re interested in the history of Sweden. Plus, you won’t be far from Röö-stone on Otterön, where you can see runes from the older runic alphabet. 

Find places to stay in Grebbestad.

Swedish West Coast
Credit: I99pema

10. Fiskebackskil

Situated on the Skaftö island, part of west Sweden and Bohuslän, Fiskebackskil attracts visitors from all over the world, as one of the prettiest villages along the Swedish coast. With old wooden houses lining the waterfront, Fiskebackskil is a truly amazing sight to behold.

If you’re interested in Swedish history, it might interest you to know Fiskebackskil was home to the famous Swedish painter, Carl Wilhemson. It also boasts a beautiful church, with gold plating, chandeliers, and etched glass. 

This could be the perfect setting for an extravagant Swedish wedding.

The real appeal of Fiskebackskil, of course, is as a laid-back holiday village, with boat trips, great walks, and lots of amazing swimming spots where you can unwind and explore. If you’re looking for a relaxing coastal space, this is the place for you.

Find places to stay in Fiskebackskil.

Swedish West Coast

11. Käringön

For architectural wonders and coastal adventures, Käringön is a wonderful spot for visitors. You can discover the island at your own pace, by walking through the houses on the northern part of the island. 

If you want to get away from it all for a little while, you can also find wilderness on the southern half of the island, complete with plenty of wildlife.

Though a small place, Käringön is an entry point to many other beautiful attractions in the west coast of Sweden, such as Strandpromenaden and Lysekil. This is also a good place to visit if you’re looking for some time alone. There are only around 3-4 coffee shops and restaurants on the island.

Some of the fishing sheds, outhouses, and gardens in Käringön Island have remained the same since the nineteenth century. 

Find places to stay in Käringön.

Swedish West Coast

12. Smögen

Once an unlikely party spot for Swedish teenagers, Smögen is now widely regarded as one of the most charming seaside towns in the Swedish region. The location is brimming with rocky coastlines to explore, colorful fishing villages, and some of the most delicious shrimp around. 

While Smögen is great for visiting all-year around, with a handy 10-minute ferry visiting the island from Hållö, it’s particularly popular during the summer. During the warmer months of the years, the 2,000 people population of the town grows to around 30,000. 

Smögen is often recommended for those in search of an attractive day trips from Gothenburg, or if you’re taking a road trip through the west of Sweden. If you want to save some cash during your time in Sweden, this location is also ideal for backpacking and camping

Find places to stay in Smögen.

Swedish West Coast
Credit: Thomas Eliasson

13. Kosterhavet

Situated within the first marine national park of Sweden, in the island of Sydkoster, Kosterhavet is a popular tourist destination. The region is the most species-rich sea environment in the country, responsible for protecting around 6000 species of animals and seaweed. 

Kosterhavet is also where you can find some of the only coral reefs in Sweden. It’s a popular tourist destination and a thriving fishing region too. For visitors, there are plenty of options to explore wooded walking areas, visit beaches, or go snorkeling. 

If you want to make the most out of your visit, we’d recommend exploring some other regions around Sydkoster, which is also home to the Koster Trädgårdar and Pensionat Ekenäs Koster destinations, filled with restaurants, and lush gardens. 

Find places to stay in Kosterhavet.

Things to do in the Swedish west coast

Hopefully, our list of islands and cities to visit above has given you some inspiration for your Swedish west coast adventure. However, if you’re still trying to figure out how to make the best use of your time, don’t panic. 

Here are some of the amazing things you can do when you’re discovering Sweden’s west coast for yourself:

Stay in a glass house

If you’d like to soak up the natural world with a little luxury, you can book a stay in one of the phenomenal glass cabins in Dalsland. It’s the ideal way to see more of nature, while staying warm and cozy. 

While in Dalsland, we’d also recommend taking some walks through the local hiking trails for an amazing taste of nature. 

Go island hopping

Island hopping is pretty much a must when you’re exploring the west coast of Sweden. Make some time for the Gothenburg archipelago, and the phenomenal Bohuslän archipelago, and grab some local food from each island you visit. 

Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures as you explore.

Take a hike 

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Sweden for a reason. Since some parts of western Sweden don’t allow for cars at all, it makes sense to get ready with a good pair of hiking boots. 

You’ll also be able to consider cycling too. 

Go fishing 

Fishing and watersports are huge in most parts of Sweden, including the western coast. Even if you’ve never gone fishing before, you can learn how to cast a line in the villages and islands of Marstrand, or Käringön and Fiskebäckskil. 

Grab some fika

If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, plan your trip around food and luxury. There are tons of beautiful meals to discover in western Sweden, including many fresh fish. You’ll also have a chance to relax with a fika at one of the local coffee shops. 

Try a kayak 

Making the most of the archipelagos in Sweden is much easier when you have a kayak on hand. Start with the Gothenburg archipelago in the south and head over to the Koster islands in the north. 

Visit the world’s most beautiful waterway 

The Dalsland canal connects to a huge system of waterways and lakes in the beautiful Falsland region. Make sure you spend plenty of time soaking up the views around the water. 

Discover some wildlife

You’ll be able to find all kinds of Swedish wildlife when you’re exploring the Western coast. Hornborga lake, for instance, is particularly attractive for the dance of the cranes taking place during March and April. 

Discover Sweden’s west coast

The Swedish west coast is an incredible place, full of natural beauty, history, and exciting things to do. Whether you’re looking for a way to relax in nature, or you’re searching for an opportunity to improve your fishing skills, this region has you covered.

Still need more inspiration when planning your Swedish adventure? You can learn more about some of the most famous cities, villages, islands, and even backpacking spots here on Scandification. 

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