If someone finds themselves in Gothenburg, they are likely to also find themselves sampling the seafood!As Sweden’s biggest port, with direct access to the North Sea, Gothenburg has fresh seafood coming in daily. It’s unsurprising then that many of Sweden’s most well-known delicacies come directly from the sea.
Fish and seafood has always been soldin the heart of Gothenburg. From the time of the city’s founding, LillaTorget square, along with a bustling flotilla of boats in the adjoining StoraHamn Canal,served as the fish market for the people of Gothenburg. In the mid-1800s the market was moved to Rosenlund Canal. Later on at this new location a new generation of Gothenburgers were able to buy their fish from the Feskekôrka (“Fish Church”). Purpose-built in 1874 to house the popular fish market, the Feskekôrka was never actually a church. The architect for the city, Victor von Gegerfelt, designed it with Norwegian Stave and Gothic churches in mind (although you might hear the urban legend that a poor woman was selling fish outside this ‘church’ and the kind priests inside invited her in from the cold and from then on let fish be sold inside the building, making it into the marketplace that it is today – a nice story, but an entirely fictional one!).
Today this magnificent building is still the best place to buy seafood in Gothenburg and is popular among locals and visitors alike. If something comes from the sea, you can get it in here. Of course, visitors to the city are unlikely to buy the fresh fish that has come in straight off the boat that morning and cook it themselves, but that doesnot mean that the Feskekôrka is not worth a visit. In fact, it is one of the best places to get lunchor a snack ($) in Gothenburg. You can get wonderfully fresh baguettes overflowing with crayfish and shrimp, and it’s the best place to try a Swedish classic, a räksmörgås/räkmacka, which is a shrimp, egg and salad open sandwich and it probably sweden’s most popular sandwich (in fact, it’s such a culinary favourite that it has found it’s way into daily colloquialisms and you might hear somebody say “glida in påen räkmacka” (glide in on a prawn sandwich), which roughly meansto ride on somebody’s tailcoats).You can get lots of seafood salads too, topped with delicious dressing, usually involving caviar. Seafood pasta salads are also perfect for those looking for a quick take-away lunch. If you are just wanting a snack, it’s almost impossible to go past the trays and trays of hot smoked salmon; you can buy these bite-sized chucks in little tubs, and they come in a whole range of flavours such as chilli, champagne and rose.
For those wanting a hot, sit-down lunch the Feskekôrka also has some great choices. There is a great little café that offers visitors a taste of Sweden’s delicious fish soup, and where you can also get fresh oysters. The loft of the Feskekôrka is home to the popular Gabriel’s Seafood Restaurant ($$$$).Here one can get a fine-dining lunch experience, with a host of mouth-watering Swedish seafood dishes and buffet on offer. The daily fish comes straight off the boat, and you even get to watch the chefs hard at work preparing your food. For those wanting a more lengthy dinner experience Gothenburg has many excellent seafood restaurants. Koka, one of Gothenburg’s six Michelin Star restaurants, has fish and seafood prominently on their menu, and offer wonderful tasting experiences ($$$$$). Sjömagasinet is a renown seafood restaurant who serve lunch and dinner ($$$$$), and even offer a cooking course so you know how to prepare your own seafood when you leave Gothenburg. Sjöbaren has two locations within the city ($$$), so you’ll never be too far from the latest catch that’s just come in from the harbour!
If you want to experience the excitement of buying the daily catch directly from the fishermen themselves, you should head down to the early morning fish auction, which starts at 6:30am on weekdays. Sadly one can only purchase as a wholesaler, but as a visitor you can watch as restaurateurs, chefs and fishmongers buy the morning’s catch and get a glimpse at what it would have been like to buy fish direct from the fisherman in days past.
Fish and seafood have always been integral to life in Gothenburg, butone small fish in particular helped shape the city and surrounding landscape as we know it today: herring. In 1747 herring began to appear in truly enormous quantities, sparking a prosperous industry that shaped the west coast of Sweden around Gothenburg for centuries to come. It was because of the herring that Gothenburg became Sweden’s largest port and fishing harbour.The years between 1747 and 1809 were known as the Great Herring period, and many factories, producing salted herring and fish oilopened along the coast and in the Gothenburg Archipelago.
This prosperous industry was not without difficulties, and both environmental and social concerns arose. The small fishing communities grew rapidly. On the island of Marstrand for example (a wonderful place to visit, and where ABBA’s The Winner Takes It Allmusic video was filmed), thousands of people would come to work in the region during the annual herring seasons and complaints were made about dubious morality and general lawlessness of these new communities. When herring boom ended, many people were left jobless, creating severe poverty. The manufacture of herring products also required significant quantities of firewood, and the nature landscape of the archipelago provided the perfect supply. This meant that the majority of the leafy islands were all but destroyed, and became the bare-but-beautiful landscape characteristic of the west coast islands today. The Archipelago is a wonderful day trip from Gothenburg, and in the summer many people choose to cycle, canoe or kayak around the islands. It’s well worth the effort as it is a beautiful part of Sweden.
In the mid 1800s large factories began to produce herring on a mass scale and pickled herring rapidly found its way onto tables across the world, becoming entrenched as the Swedish culinary stereotype. One historic fishery remains today on Klädesholmen Island and it still produces almost half of all pickled herring in Sweden! At the Feskekôrka you can buy some of the best pickled herring in Gothenburg to sample for yourself! If your feeling particularly adventurous, and it’s the right time of year, do try a bit of surströmming, fermented and soured herring (not for the faint-hearted and certainly not to be opened indoors!), which is considered a Swedish delicacy.Gothenburg’s first food truck, Strömmingsluckan pays homage to herring and is marvellous for a quick and fun lunch on the run ($)!
Another traditional taste direct from the sea is lutfisk, a dried and/or salted whitefish prepared in lye and typically consumed at Christmas. Another Swedish culinary tradition, also regularly consumed at Christmas is JanssonsFrestelse, a delicious warm dish similar to a potato dauphinoise but delicately flavoured with sprats. If you are in Gothenburg in August, you will notice an abundance of crayfish. August is the season for crayfish parties (kräftskiva) in Sweden, and if you are lucky enough to get an invite to one you will be pilled high with crayfish, snaps (a strong spirit) and party hats.
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