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The thriving city of Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast is Sweden’s second-largest, and offers plenty of free things to do. From annual cultural events to free saunas and stunning parks, you can get the best out of Gothenburg even if you’re on a budget.
Each spring, the Gothenburg Opera offers free concerts – although they’re so popular it’s important you book your tickets ahead. In addition, the Opera offers free evening concerts on the main stage during the Gothenburg Culture Festival, which is held each August, so if soaring arias are your thing, you might want to plan your trip to Gothenburg at one of these times of the year. That it’s also one of the city’s most impressive buildings makes it even more worthy of a visit.
Sweden believes in making sure everyone has access to culture, and that means that there are quite a few museums that offer free entry either all the time or for specific age groups or on certain days. The Museum of World Culture is one of the best, and the good news is that it’s free year-round. With regular exhibitions as well as seminars, films and other events that look at the world around us and some of the bigger questions of our time, this museum is both a cultural hub and a place to expand your mind.
Museum of World Culture, Södra Vägen 54, Gothenburg, Sweden, +46 104561200
Every autumn for a quarter of a century, Gothenburg has been home to Kulturnatta (‘Culture Night’), which is billed as a night by everyone, for everyone. Anyone can participate, and there are no fees for anyone: not visitors, not participants, not organisers. The result is a truly democratic culture festival that throws up everything from performance art to light installations, stand-up and amazing art exhibitions. The city is great at promoting all participants and every time you turn a corner there’s something new to discover.
It’s only been open since 2015, but Gothenburg’s free sauna in the Frihamnen district is not only a huge hit with locals and visitors, it’s also garnering plenty of attention from the architectural world. As part of the city’s efforts to develop the area, the sauna has been joined by a swimming pool and a small beach, all completely free to visit. You have to book your time but it’s worth it, particularly on warm summer days.
Swedes love their nature, and in Gothenburg city-dwellers often get their dose of the great outdoors at Slottsskogen, the main park in the area. It’s not just full of winding paths, gorgeous greenery and wide-open spaces, it also has elk, Gotland ponies, Gute sheep and plenty of other Nordic animals in the park zoo. There are also playgrounds and there are often free concerts here.
Continuing with the nature theme, the city’s Botanical Garden is found just opposite Slottsskogen and it’s filled with endless flowers, shrubbery, trees and even waterfalls. The garden has been open since 1923, so the maturity of the growth is impressive. It’s open year round and while admission is free there is a voluntary 20-kronor (US$2) contribution.
Need to catch up on your email? Print out your boarding pass? Or maybe you just want a quiet space where you can relax and catch your breath? You can do all this and more at Gothenburg’s city library. Here you’ll find not just books, daily newspapers, computers and the like, you’ll also find seminars, lectures, exhibitions and various other events. Its central location and the recent renovation make this library a true oasis.
Gothenburg City Library, Götaplatsen 3, Gothenburg, Sweden, +46 313683300
Because Gothenburg is on the water, there are plenty of boat tours to choose from, but if you’re on a tight budget and want to get a taste of life on the water without shelling out cash, take the free boat that crosses over the river between Stenpiren and Lindholmspiren. It’s known as line 286 (Älvsnabbare) and when you arrive at Lindholmspiren you might want to visit the culinary school Ester Mosessons Gymnasium, where you may just end up tasting the work of one of Sweden’s next great chefs. It’s free to take a bike with you, too.