When Amber, our Gothenburg Destination Manager, first moved to Sweden she was immediately enchanted by the incredible number of flowers and nature she found in Gothenburg, even in the depths of Swedish winter. Here, she writes about why everyone should make the urban nature trail part of their visit to this beautiful city.
When I first arrived in Gothenburg, on a cold January day back in 2016, the last thing I expected to see, as I walked through the bracing wind tunnels of the city centre, were the unexpected but near-constant explosions of colour and abundant green. That anything could live in this cold northern country seemed, to this out-of-her-element Australian, somewhat unbelievable. But live things did, and my first impression of Gothenburg was that I’d never seen so many flower shops. There seemed to be one everywhere I looked! In fact, the first shop I ventured into on my first day in the city was the flower shop La Fleuriste. As soon as I walked through its doors, my nose was filled with a warm floral scent that, to this day, I relish every time I venture into one of these delightful, bright and welcoming shops. I soon realised that flower shops were common throughout Sweden, but since Gothenburg was the first city I visited, it will forever be associated with flower shops for me. I also quickly learned that in addition to the beautiful flower shops nestled in amongst the city street, this Swedish city was also home to parks, green houses and nature galore. Even in the depths of winter in Gothenburg, you can still find the promise of spring.
But to first return to the flower shops. In some ways, I don’t think it’s even really fair to call these little rooms of beauty something as straight forward as “flower shops”. It sounds a little mundane, and belies the levels of artistry that one can find behind their doors. Simple flower shops are usually filled with bucket after bucket of cut stems, but in Gothenburg, while the cut stems remain, you can also find bonsaied worlds, often with delightfully kitsch accoutrements, such as a mushroom or a troll. Or little pots full of carefully selected bulbs, all with hints of the colours that will spring forth in just a few days. Wreaths for hanging on doors are for every season, not just Christmas, and I recently watched a heart wreath being made from ivy, pink roses and eucalyptus. At Easter, birch branches, which are about to burst into green bud and are decorated with vibrantly coloured feathers, make one feel as though one is in a candy store. This is a typical Easter decoration in Sweden, and if timed correctly, the birch leaves will come out in time for Easter, symbolising the regeneration of life associated with the coming of spring and the resurrection of Christ. In the lead up to Christmas, red berries delight the eyes just as much as the smell of pine delights the nose. Little bags of moss are packaged up, and box, pine and fir wreaths beckon you to buy them. At Midsommar (Midsummer, arguably Sweden’s biggest annual celebration), you can barely fight your way to the counter to get the perfect petals for your floral crown that you must wear as you dance around the maypole singing the (in)famous frog song.
After I got over my delight at the sheer artistry that goes on in these often tiny and crowed shops, I started to wonder why. Why were there so many? Surely with so many flower shops, the market would soon be flooded with sad, droopy buds, with no one to buy them? Not so. The only drooping buds I’ve ever seen were beautifully and purposefully arranged, with a beauty to their melancholy that only a true artist could achieve (if I tried this effect at home I would achieve something suitable only to line the halls of the Adams Family mansion). It turns out that in the winter months in particular, having fresh cut flowers, little posies, or petite bulbs artistically arranged in little trays and artificially hurried along to hasten the arrival of spring (which is usually a very long time coming naturally), are what fills the benches, tables and desks in many a Swedish household. Flowers are brought in to remind us that even in the bleak mid-winter, the warmth of spring is not too far off. I myself was delighted the other day, when I found a tiny posy at Blom Blom in Haga, which I lovingly carried around all day until I got home (and that I would guarantee would cheer up even the most bleak hotel room)! It’s also standard practice to give flowers or a potted display when you have been invited over to someone’s house, and in Gothenburg you are spoilt for choice in what floral delight you may choose to give!
Visitors to Gothenburg might not at first think of venturing into flower shops, as flowers are not something a traveller often buys. However, the Gothenburg flower shops are an attraction in themselves, worthy of a detour and rivalling even the biggest tourist attractions. If you’re so inclined, you can even join a floral arranging class at Blom Blom! Also, many of these stores double as a wonderful design and gift shops, where you can find wonderful and thoughtful gifts for friends and family back home. My personal favourite for this is Floramor & Krukatös, where you can find everything from beautiful botanical soaps, to amazingly tall tapered candles, to tea-light holders, to limited edition prints, to curio objects, and to beautiful handmade ceramics.
If you love the idea of walking a flower trail around Gothenburg, you’re in for a treat. A wonderful thing about Gothenburg’s flower shops is their location. So many are off the beaten track, down cosy passageways and within hidden internal courtyards (so far this month I’ve taken no less than six people into the hidden courtyard of Floramor & Krukatös, and I think I have more photos of that courtyard on my iPhone than I do my dog…well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but only just)! This makes discovering them an adventure in itself, and allows you to see an entirely different side of Gothenburg. The yellow wattle and citrus that one day spilled out of Blom Rum and into Torgpassagen looked like the physical manifestation of sunshine, even though the streets outside were lined with snow. Bunches in Victoriaspassagen similarly excels at drawing your eye and inviting you in.
Gothenburg also has a host of beautiful parks (and thus flowers!) to enjoy. Trägårdsföreningen (the Garden Society of Gothenburg) is open all year round. In June, it plays host to the biggest collection of roses in Northern Europe, with some 2500 species spilling out over the boarders of the rose garden. Even in the depths of winter, the palm house comes alive with colour in February with the camellia festival. If discovering different climes in palm houses and greenhouses is your thing, then you should also head over to the Gothenburg Botanic Gardens, which have some amazing greenhouses. If you’re in town at the right time, check out their fantastic pumpkin festival. In early spring, if you take a stroll through Kungsparken, you need to play hopscotch through the crocuses, which are so abundant that even with the best of intentions you can often clumsily trample. A real treat is walking among the azaleas and rhododendrons during the summer months in Slottsskogen. Slottsskogen at anytime of year is a real treat, and as the largest recreational park in Gothenburg, it is popular with locals and visitors alike. You can wander along the pathways that wind through the grounds, and enjoy the waterways and cycle paths. If you want a bit of indoors time after strolling around Slottskogen you will also find the Natural History Museum and the Observatory (planetarium) nearby. If you are in Gothenburg for a while in the spring time, do take the time to go out of the city to Delsjön, a wonderful place for any nature lover, which in the spring is littered with sippar, little blue and white star-like flowers that cover the ground with colour and truly herald the arrival of spring in Sweden.
Walking a flower trail through Gothenburg may not seem like an obvious choice for a visitor, but along the way, not only will you be treated with spectacular floral visions, but you’ll also get to see a lot of the city that you might otherwise miss. I recommend following the lead of the Swedish and immersing yourself in the wonderful world of flowers and nature!