Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, and it’s said the citizens share an intense rivalry with Stockholm (the country's largest metropolis). In reality, a few days here suggests that its residents don’t waste a lot time dwelling on the capital. Whereas Stockholm’s presence is grand and instantly impressive, Gothenburg is a cozy city that charms with its unique brand of quiet energy. It’s more of a sleeper hit, and you may not realize how strong a hold it’s taken on you until you’ve left.
Don’t be mistaken: It’s not a sleepy town. Gothenburg is a university city with plenty of youth who bring a vitality to the city’s plentiful cafes, restaurants, and bars, but there’s no chaos to be found. It’s a paradoxically peaceful vigor that Gothenburg offers—proud and wow-worthy, but neither boastful nor ostentatious. With plenty of parks, gardens, and an impossibly polite populace, it’s a place where the words “cute” and “lovely” come to mind at every turn. Gothenburg has all the amenities and luxury you’d expect of a modern city, and the historic charm you’d hope to find in Europe, but it presents them with a grace and self-assuredness that’s not easily managed or frequently found elsewhere. If there is a serious rivalry between Sweden’s two largest cities, it’s not apparent on the surface in Gothenburg, and it’s even less apparent why anyone would try to compare them—they’re different worlds with their own inviting moods.
My host in Gothenburg is exactly like his city: An effortless blend of old-school charm and manners with an infectious modern enthusiasm that pops in small bursts, rather than overwhelms. Here, Yonas Romell, 26, notes the difference between sexuality and personality, and finds that the only true obstacle for Gothenburg’s gays is how they treat each other.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Gothenburg?
Yonas: Since 2008.
How long have you been out?
My parents always told me it’s okay to be gay. I just brought home a boyfriend I liked when I was about 14, and then it wasn’t well-received! It was shocking to them at the time, but now it’s fine. They love me. I’m not very flamboyant so people don’t always know right away, but it’s not something I’m hiding. I separate sexuality from personality, so I don’t advertise it. It’s not who I am. I’m Yonas!
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?
Other homosexuals are more homophobic than straight people! There’s more of an issue between femmes and masculine homosexuals. Everyone here has gay friends and gets along—it’s only gays who sometimes don’t get along with each other! But there’s no problem here really. Everyone believes in human rights. Not gay rights—human rights.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here.
Haga: It’s a very beautiful neighborhood that’s like entering a small town in the middle of the city. And then Slottsskogen Park — during the summer it’s where you hang out and drink beer, barbecue, and watch the seals and penguins!
Your favorite restaurant in Gothenburg?
Pinchos Linné—it’s an app restaurant serving international tapas and it’s very cozy. It’s like being in a friend’s living room, and you order your food on an app from this friend who has everything you want, then you fetch it for yourself. (And I work there!)
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here.
Buy a day pass (or a three-day pass) for the transportation system. The single ride system is very confusing. Even the locals don’t understand it. I don’t understand it. I think the employees don’t even understand it!