Thank you to Erik from the Gothenburg tourist office who provided us with City Cards for the whole family and adviced us on our planning (it was him who suggested we’d spend Christmas Day at Universeum, which was a great idea!), and to Charlotte from Universeum who provided us with tickets.
I won’t write restaurant recommendations in this post because eating out with a baby and a toddler is a hit and miss—too many stars have to align for it to be an enjoyable experience. But I’ll say that most restaurants in Gothenburg are kid-friendly, offering high chairs and changing tables in the bathrooms.
This is my personal kid-friendly (parent-friendly) travel guide to Gothenburg.
First things first. If Gothenburg weren’t the kid-friendly city it is, full of fun indoors activities and amazing places for babies and toddlers, this would have been a disastrous trip.
On the second day, BOTH Oliver and Emily got ill: Oliver, being a super little dude, ran a 39,5 fever for a whole night which swept away every bit of virus in his body, and then he was almost like new. Poor Emily, on the other hand, was miserable for the whole week, constant temperature and a bad congestion. To top it off, on the third day I got a mastitis which gave me high temperature and lots of pain.
BUT. Luckily for us, Gothenburg is such an easy city to visit with small kids—even in the winter, when cold and rain make it hard to stay outside, and 3pm sunset makes days very short.
Airport -> City center: short and painless bus ride
First of all, Gothenburg airport is gorgeous and absolutely unique, with gates that look like fancy hotel reception desks and wide and light spaces.
This is where we had the first kid-friendly surprise, a small playground at the luggage claim area, where we spent about half an hour after a 4.5 hours journey. So needed!
The travel from the airport was about half an hour long on bus X which came quite quickly and right in front of the airport exit doors.
Have a plan for Christmas days in Gothenburg!
Christmas is a hard time of the year for us as we’re not religious, we don’t want to give in consumerism and we raise our kids Montessori: you can read how we do it in this post. As part of our idea of having an alternative Christmas, in 2017 we decided to travel to Gothenburg.
I’ll admit to it: I was expecting the city to be more Christmassy, to see lights everywhere and maybe even have some snow (your know, the whole Scandinavian Country deal!). This is where the amusement park Liseberg came to the rescue with its gorgeous Christmas decorations, snowy trees, snowmen in the water, Christmas markets and ice show.
Everything is closed on the 23rd of December!
While we expected everything to be closed on the 24th and 25th, and had planned for it accordingly, we were surprised to find out that also on the 23rd everything (kid centres and museums) were closed, which made that a hard day (not having a plan is a big no-no with small children in a big city) and the days after Christmas just a tad busier trying to fit everything else that we wanted to see before leaving.
Sauna and hotel life on Christmas Eve
*Note: we stayed at Hotel Vasa. Good location for transport, walking distance to the centre and the Haga district, and friendly neighborhood. Oh, and waffles at any time of the day! Only inconvenience: a ramp of stairs to get to the elevator (in case you, like us, have a pram).
On Christmas Eve, we had decided to stay around the hotel: we took a walk in the nice district of Haga despite the light rain and most beautiful kids shops being closed, and had a delicious Caesar Salad and their famously huge Hagabulle (cinnamon buns) at Cafe Husaren. (We wanted to have lunch at En Deli but it was closed, so we went back there another day, and liked it).
In the afternoon we had a family sauna back at our hotel (which I loved and yes, small kids can take it too!) followed by complimentary tea and waffles (which also served us as dinner! ;-), and in the evening we watched the whole Blue Planet 2 with Oliver on TV while Emily was sleeping on me. This was among the nicest memories of our trip: Oliver was so into it, commenting away and fascinated by it (not having a TV at home definitely paid off!).
Christmas Day at Universeum
We decided to spend Christmas Day at Universeum which turned out to be a great idea: we were there early so it wasn’t crowded, Oliver had an amazing time (he said “look” at least 150 million times), Emily was entertained in the carrier and later on walking around in the activity room where also Alex and I challenged body and mind with some (surprisingly tough) exercises and activities.
We had lunch at Roberta’s restaurant inside the centre, which offers a big kid menu (featuring meatballs, burger, vegetarian burger, fish ‘n chips, hot dog, and pancakes!) and many high chairs. It was a perfect alternative Christmas!
Kid-friendly bonus: Universeum offers Babybjorn carriers if you happen not to have one. Also, if you prefer to bring your own meal there are picnic tables at level 0 and 2.
Must do with babies and toddlers in Gothenburg
Although you’ll find an amazing list of activities to do with kids and toddlers on the nicely curated website of the city, I feel like not all the activities listed there are a good fit for both a baby and a toddler.
So here’s a list of what both Oliver (then 2.5) and Emily (then almost 1) both enjoyed, and you’ll be surprised to see that most include the words “museum” and “culture”:
Alfie’s Culture Centre: this was great and we actually went back. It’s slightly expensive in my opinion, but the value is great: there’s two floors of amazing things to explore and play with, a mini cinema for the little ones, a mini labyrinth, a funny helicopter that goes up and down (the kids’ favorite), toys, books, and healthy snacks and even nappies in the bathroom. I was honestly so impressed!
The Museum of Natural History: this is a MUST with small kids who are naturally into animals. The museum is breathtaking (and huge!) and the hot soups at the restaurant absolutely delicious: you can have easily spend there a whole day!
The Museum of World Culture: the whole building is stunning and worth a visit on its own. The area Together is so interactive and beautiful that Alex and I couldn’t stop taking pictures (or climbing into places ourselves). Ideally, visit it on the same day as the neighboring amusement park Liseberg (which is what we did).
Liseberg Christmas market: Liseberg screams Christmas, and I personally loved it! Make sure you catch the show on ice (different every year) and go take your seats at least 30 minutes before it starts: Oliver watched the whole show without ever blinking! We didn’t go on the rides (they’re not included in the ticket anyway), we only really wanted to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere.
- Sauna: you can’t visit a Scandinavian country without taking a sauna. It’s perfectly fine for young kids as long as they seem fine: Emily had her first sauna in Helsinki when she was just 7 months, and slept like a baby afterwards.
- Stadsbibliotek (City Library): we couldn’t make it there, but I overheard some moms talking about a really large children's section and area for babies to play. Maybe worth a visit on a cold, dark afternoon.
- Playgrounds: it’s cold, yes, but playing outdoors is so important for young kids’ happiness and their parents’ mental health. And as Alex always says: there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.
Now, let’s be honest here: this wasn’t a 100% successful trip for the Bendikens, but all the kid-friendly places that Gothenburg has to offers made our stay easier and more enjoyable despite colds, tantrums and mastitis. I’d definitely give Gothenburg a thumb-up as a city to visit with young kids!