10 Spectacular Stops on a Sweden West Coast Road Trip

When you hear of Sweden, usually the first – and often only – thing you hear about is the capital city of Stockholm. While there are a lot of things to do in Stockholm that make it a huge tourist draw, there is much more to Sweden than Stockholm. In fact, the rugged Sweden west coast is one of the country’s most fascinating areas.

From islands once believed to be uninhabitable to quaint fishing villages and some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat, the west coast of Sweden is beautiful, scenic, and most of all relaxing. And a west coast Sweden road trip is the best way to experience this part of the country.

Gothenburg botanic garden
The botanic garden in Gothenburg, the largest city along the West Coast of Sweden.

What area is considered West Sweden?

Technically, the region known as West Sweden extends north as well as slightly south from Gothenburg and includes the provinces of Bohuslän, Dalsland, Västergötland, and parts of Halland. It does not include the province of Skane or the city of Malmo. However, if you are taking a West Sweden road trip, you could easily extend it downward to the cities of Helsingborg, Lund and Malmo.

This region is famous for its rocky coastline and thousands of small islands. As you move inland from the West Sweden coast, the landscape transitions to forests and lakes, offering a different type of outdoor activity than you will find along the coast. 

What to know about traveling the West Coast of Sweden

the view of the West Sweden coast from the top of a rocky hill in Fjallbacka
The West Sweden coast is characterized by its rocky islands and charming villages.

Although most of Europe is extremely well connected by train, if you want to visit the charming villages and experience the Sweden west coast, you must either rent a car or take a bus.

Although we considered traveling in Western Sweden by bus, doing so was going to take much longer. Instead, we opted to rent a car and do a self-guided road trip along the west coast of Sweden.

We were traveling from Copenhagen, Denmark to Oslo, Norway as part of a 12-day Scandinavia trip and wanted to spend a few days exploring Sweden on the way.

We took a train to Gothenburg and rented a car from there. However, if you decide to drive from Copenhagen, you’ll have the opportunity to check out all the great things to do in Malmo, Sweden, as well.

It’s one of the most popular towns in Sweden and one of the easiest to visit because of its proximity to Copenhagen. Our train stopped in Malmo, but we didn’t have time to explore before we had to catch our next train to Gothenburg.

Renting a car in Sweden was moderately priced. Although the daily rate was affordable, where you can end up blowing your budget is if you rent a car in one country and drop it off in another. Although Gothenburg and Oslo are only 3 1/2 hours away from each other, it will cost you a few hundred extra dollars to take the car across the border. If you are on a tight budget or simply want to save some money, plan to start and end your road trip in the same city.

FIND THE BEST RATES ON CAR RENTALS IN SWEDEN

West Sweden road trip itinerary and map

a street in Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the largest city along the west coast of Sweden.

Although we road tripped from Gothenburg to Oslo, we created this itinerary to start and end in Gothenburg because it will save a significant amount of money. But here is a look at our West Sweden road trip itinerary. Plan to give yourself at least 6 or 7 days in order to take it slow and give yourself plenty of leisure time.

  • Days 1-2 – Gothenburg
  • Day 3  – Bohus Fortress and Marstrand
  • Day 4 – Tjorn, Fiskebäckskil, Smögen
  • Day 5 – Fjallbacka, Weather Islands, Grebbestad
  • Day 6- Blomsholm / Strömstad and drive back to Gothenburg
a map of our west sweden road trip itinerary

Things to do on a West Coast Sweden road trip

The west coast of Sweden was perhaps the most memorable and relaxing part of our entire trip to Scandinavia.

The small towns are charming and quiet. And because we were road tripping along the Sweden west coast, we could travel at our own pace and enjoy the scenery.

If you are planning a similar road trip here are the best things to do on the Sweden west coast.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Haga Gothenburg a great stop on a west Sweden road trip
The district of Haga in Gothenburg, a great place for a fika.

Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and by far the largest city you’ll visit on a Sweden west coast road trip. It is one of the best Scandinavian cities to visit.

When in Gothenburg, head to the city’s oldest neighborhood, Haga, and spend some time wandering through the cobblestone streets. Souvenir shops, antique stores, and plenty of cafes and restaurants line the streets.

You can even join a guided walking tour to learn about the fascinating history of the well-preserved 17th century timber houses in Haga. However, one of the most popular things to do in this old and beautiful part of Gothenburg is to stop for a fika. We came to love the Swedish tradition of fika. 

baked goods in a bakery in Haga
You’ll find plenty of cute bakeries in Haga where you can buy a cinnamon roll or other sweet treat during the Fika.

In Sweden, each afternoon people stop what they’re doing, have a coffee or a tea, pair it with something sweet, like a cinnamon roll, and enjoy a short break. But the fika isn’t just a coffee break, it’s a time to slow down and savor the moment. How awesome is that?! It is no wonder Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world!

While in Gothenburg, also visit Feskekôrka, commonly known as the fish church. The former chapel along the river now houses a fresh seafood and fish market.
Additionally, the city has a beautiful botanical garden with a fantastic playground and well-maintained walking trails that are perfect for an evening stroll. If you are traveling with kids, this is a great place to break up a day or sightseeing and let your little ones explore, play and burn off energy.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous for kids, spend a day at Liseberg – the largest theme park in Scandinavia – and one of the best – behind Tivoli Gardens, of course.

Where to stay in Gothenburg: Clarion Hotel Post

Bohus Fortress, Sweden

bohus fortress
Bohus Fortress | Photo by Glavo from Pixabay

Just north of Gothenburg, and before you get to the exit for Marstrand, you’ll find Bohus Fortress perched on a hill looming over the highway.

The medieval castle, known as Bohus Fästning in Swedish, was also once a prison and now sits in ruins. But visitors passing through can visit the picturesque fortress, which is now a museum and tourist attraction.

We love visiting places like this and imagining the stories that the walls would tell if they could talk. You can get an audio guide to learn more about the history of the fortress. There are also various activities and simulations that will make the castle an especially fun stop for children.

It is important to note that Bohus Fortress is closed during winter months.

Marstrand

Marstrand is a popular summer destination. | Photo by Oleh Holodyshyn from Unsplash

If you love old castles and ruins, the town of Marstrand is also worth a stop, time permitting. Marstrand is home to Fortress Carlsten, an impressive castle built to protect the city from invaders 350 years ago.

Marstrand has long been a trading port for Sweden, since the water in the harbor rarely freezes. As a major trading hub, King Carl X of Sweden commissioned the construction of the fortress to protect the city, and ultimately Swedish assets from attacks.

The picturesque island town is also known for its quaint streets and waterfront promenade where you can often spot yachts and fancy boats off in the distance.

WHERE TO STAY IN MARSTRAND: Grand Hotel Marstrand

Tjörn, Sweden

The Sculpture "Anna" by Jaume Pensa in Pilane Sculpture Park
The Sculpture “Anna” by Jaume Pensa in Pilane Sculpture Park. | Photo by Peter Lennby

Pilane Sculpture Park on the island of Tjörn is a unique and somewhat random place to visit on any West Sweden road trip.

The massive contemporary sculptures in the park are sprinkled across pastures of grazing sheep and wide-open space and even ancient burial mounds. You’ll find towering sculptures created by artists from all over the world. Each summer, new exhibits are revealed.

The area known as Pilane was once a large, active settlement 2,000 years ago. In fact, graves dating back to 1000 AD have been discovered by archeologists in Pilane. The creators of the sculpture park have made it part of their mission to honor Pilane’s history by making it a cultural and social meeting place, as it once was.

The park is open from mid-May through late-September only.

Pilane Sculpture Park is located on Tjörn, the sixth largest island in Sweden. It is home to more than 15,000 residents, but in summer months, the population triples, as it is a popular destination for yachting and swimming.

Fiskebäckskil

The village of Fiskebackskil as seen from across the water.
The village of Fiskebackskil as seen from across the water. | Photo by Johannes Hurtig from Unsplash

A charming coastal village you don’t hear much about, Fiskebäckskil has a beautiful seaside harbor where wooden boats bob in the water in front of traditional Swedish cottages. Located on the island of Skaftö, you can stroll along the waterfront, enjoy fresh seafood at local restaurants, or simply relax and take in the coastal views. 

The village is also an easy ferry ride across the water to the town of Lysekil, where you can kayak or go rock climbing, if you’re extra adventurous. 

While there aren’t a ton of attractions in Fiskebäckskil, the village’s peaceful ambiance is what makes it an ideal destination to include on a Sweden West Coast road trip.

Smögen, Sweden

Smogen Sweden boardwalk
The boardwalk in the colorful fishing town of Smogen, one of the most popular places to visit on the Sweden west coast.

Smögen, Sweden is a tiny village that looks like it was practically designed for Instagram.

With tiny, colorful fishing houses lining a wooden boardwalk along the water’s edge, Smogen is one of the most popular summer towns along the Swedish west coast.

We visited Smogen in the off-season and had the town practically to ourselves, but if you are visiting during the peak summer season, plan to spend one night in Smogen so you can experience the village after the daytrippers leave. 

Although many of the establishments were closed when we visited – possibly for season – we found an ideal seaside restaurant where we ate our weight in lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels, and a bunch of other seafood fresh off the fishermen’s boat.

If visiting in summer, you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and even nightlife to keep you entertained.

Where to stay in Smogen: Smogens Havsbad

Weather Islands

Weather islands Sweden west coast
Looking out at the rugged Sweden west coast

The Weather Islands are an archipelago that spreads across the west Sweden coast. Most of the 365 islands that make up the Weather Islands are rocky, rugged, and uninhabited, except for colonies of seals.

Accessible by a 30-minute boat ride from the town of Fjallbacka, the Weather Islands are truly a place to escape from everyday stresses and unwind. You can take a short day trip to the Weather Islands, take a guided tour through the archipelago, or even spend the night.

If you want to stay on one of the islands, options are limited. In fact, there is only one small hotel and one restaurant.

During the off-season, you’ll find a very limited number of ferries to the Weather Islands, as well. But if you happen to catch one, you will love every isolated minute on these serene islands.

Where to stay in the Weather Islands: Vaderoarnas Vardshus & Konferens

Fjallbacka, Sweden

the village of Fjallbacka
The beautiful village of Fjallbacka.

Catching the ferry to the Weather Islands isn’t the only reason to visit Fjallbacka. The town itself is worth spending an afternoon.

Fjallbacka, Sweden is famous for its lobster, which you’ll be able to order at many of the restaurants there. It is also a popular destination for fans of novelist Camilla Läckberg’s murder mysteries, as it is the setting for her novels.

Fjallbacka Kings Crevice, one of the best things to do in West Sweden
Hiking Kungsklyftan in Fjallbacka, Sweden, one of the many charming fishing villages along the Sweden West Coast

While in Fjallbacka, take the short hike to Kungsklyftan, or King’s Crevice. You’ll find the entrance to this beautiful hike between two granite cliffs. Overhead and wedged between the cliffs you’ll see several giant boulders. Continue past the boulders and up a staircase for a fantastic view of the tiny town, the sea surrounding it, and the Weather Islands in the distance.

You can also choose to spend the night in Fjallbacka or continue on to Grebbestad and stay there instead.

Where to stay in Fjallbacka: Stora Hotellet i Fjallbacka

Grebbestad, Sweden

grebbestad sweden - along the west coast of Sweden
The town of Grebbestad and the TanumStrand Resort along the west coast of Sweden.

Our primary goal during our road trip through West Sweden was to relax and disconnect.

We love getting away from technology on vacation, connecting with nature, and focusing on our family. The West Coast of Sweden is the perfect place for that. We took the short and scenic drive from Fjallbacka to Grebbestad where we spent a night.

Grebbestad is yet another eye-catching small town in western Sweden. It was also the perfect place to stop, feel pampered, and relax. It is home to the beautiful TanumStrand Resort. Children and adults alike will love the indoor pool and water slide. It is the kind of place where you won’t notice if the Wi-Fi is weak because it makes you forget to check your phone.

Where to stay in Grebbestad: Tanumstrand Resort

Blomsholm

Blomsholm is one of western Sweden’s greatest cultural heritage sites.

Located outside of Stromstad, Sweden, Blomsholm contains remains from the Stone Age until medieval times. With impressive grave fields and burial mounds, and one of Sweden’s biggest stone circles, the heritage site is fascinating for those who love ancient history.

Unlike other stone circles that have been discovered which contain an odd number of stones, the stone circle in Blomsholm contains 10 large boulders. Researchers believe the circle was a grave, though for whom, it is still unknown. You’ll also find the country’s third largest stone ship in Blomsholm. 

From Blomsholm, you can spend the night in Stromstad or begin your journey back to Gothenburg.

Where to stay in Stomstad: Scandic Laholmen

How much time do you need for a Sweden West Coast road trip?

a fishing boat in Smogen
Fishing boats are a common sight along the West Sweden coast.

Visiting the west coast of Sweden should be a relaxing vacation. After all, the coast of Sweden is practically designed to make you want to slow down and stay awhile. So don’t rush through this portion of a Scandinavian tour.

If you are traveling from Copenhagen to Oslo, I’d recommend spending a few days exploring Sweden’s west coast… maybe even a week if you have the time. For this itinerary, 6 days is ideal. Give yourself the opportunity to take a detour, experience the countryside, and stop and explore when you see something interesting.

Trust me, it’s time well spent. You won’t regret it!

Do you have a question or comment about our west coast Sweden itinerary? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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This Sweden west coast itinerary was first published October 30, 2018 and was most recently updated in April 2024 for accuracy and current information.

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3 comments on “10 Spectacular Stops on a Sweden West Coast Road Trip”

Sounds like a totally relaxing, peaceful place. I didn’t know anything about the Weather Islands. Enjoyed learning about this area.

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