Gothenburg Archipelago, a hidden gem in Sweden

Imagine a place without cars and traffic noise, where one can take a deep breath of fresh sea air and hear the sound of gently lapping waves, an archipelago of small islands with traditional fishermen’s villages and wooden cottages on the rocks. A place where the craggy shores meet leafy nature and sometimes the only mean of transport are wheelbarrows.


A harbor on the island of Styrsö, Southern Gothenburg Archipelago, Sweden

Södra Skärgården, the southern archipelago of Gothenburg

Just a stone’s throw away from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, lies its southern archipelago which is easily accessible by public transport and close enough to visit for a day trip, but still far enough away to have a totally different tempo to the city. Sounds interesting? Stay here then and discover this Sweden’s hidden gem with me.


Cute decoration on the rocks, Styrsö Island


An old pilot station, Vrångö Island

Gothenburg was covered with mist when we took the morning tram to Saltholmen. We passed the city center, Järntorget square and the wooden houses in Majorna district and half an hour later we reached the ferry terminal.


The Ylva ferry which took us from Saltholmen to the islands of Gothenburg Southern Archipelago

Except that the locals told us that it is something really worth seeing we hardly knew anything about the southern archipelago, so we had no idea where to start our trip and what to see first. After a while, we just put down the map and got into the first ferry that appeared in the foggy dock.

White Swedish house in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island

White Swedish house in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island


A quaint blue door in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island

We passed the islands of Asperö and Köpstadsö and got off the ferry at the last stop in Styrsö Tången, a beautiful fishermen’s village with white houses clustered along the alleys above the quayside. I was totally enchanted by this place.

A lovely terrace in a white Swedish cottage in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island

A lovely terrace in a white Swedish cottage in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island

There was no one except us and the village was covered with white mist, which made this place look even more fabulous. I walked down the winding streets taking some pictures of lovely white houses and quaint architecture details. I always wanted to visit Scandinavia so at that moment I felt really happy and grateful that one of my dreams came true.


A beautiful Swedish house in Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island


A path in the rocks leading to the sea, Styrsö Uttervik, Styrsö Island


Styrsö Uttervik, a perfect bathing and picnic spot on the island of Styrsö, Southern Gothenburg Archipelago

They say that the southern archipelago is a miniature version of the entire Bohuslän coastline between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border, so if somebody is looking for picturesque Scandinavian landscapes and typical Nordic architecture, all of this can be found in Södra Skärgården. So why the islands are not crowded with tourists yet?


A small Swedish house by the sea, Styrsö Island

A foggy morning in Styrsö Uttervik, Styrsö Island

A foggy morning, Styrsö Uttervik, Styrsö Island


Flowers growing on the rocks of Gothenburg Southern Archipelago, Sweden

The main reason is that Gothenburg is quite underrated place in Sweden. The truth is that most of the tourists visiting this country choose Stockholm as a city break destination and Gothenburg with its archipelago is just too far away for a day trip.


Colorful Swedish houses in the village of Styrsö Tången, Styrsö Island


A ferry terminal Styrsö Bratten, Styrsö Island

Another thing is that previously the islands were closed off to all non-Swedes because during the Second World War artillery positions and coastal defenses were constructed there. This restriction remaining in force until as late as 1997 and only since then, it’s possible for foreign tourists to visit the archipelago too.


A cat strolling lazily on the island of Styrsö, Southern Gothenburg Archipelago


A charming white house, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago


Spring in the Gothenburg Archipelago, Brännö Island

The nice thing is that you can explore the whole southern archipelago on your tram ticket which makes it an affordable day trip even for budget travelers. So if you, for example, purchased the 1-day ticket on Gothenburg public transport you can catch the tram 11 to Saltholmen ferry terminal and travel between islands as much as you want. The same is with the Göteborg City Card. Great, isn’t it? Tip: Between June 19th – August 20th instead of going by tram to Saltholmen you can take a ferry from Stepiren terminal in the city center.


Galtero, an uninhabited island of Southern Gothenburg Archipelago with pastures and sandy beaches

In Poland where I come from we haven’t got too many islands not even mention about the whole archipelago so I felt happy like a child that I could travel the whole day from one island to another. Besides the village of Styrsö Tången, I really enjoyed the walk around Galterö, a deserted island near Brännö with beautiful sandy beaches, green pastures and rich bird life along the rocks.


A sheep on the island of Galtero, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago


A sandy beach on Galtero Island, Gothenburg Archipelago


Green pastures on the island of Galtero, Gothenburg Archipelago

The sheep on Galterö weren’t afraid of us at all and they came so close that we could pet them. It was a nice thing to feel the fluffy wool under my hand, what lovely animals they are! Speaking of the island, I have never been to a place like that before. Till then I had only that kind of feeling when I was climbing high in the mountains, you know, just me and nature itself, wonderful experience!

Top 10 islands to visit in Gothenburg Southern Archipelago, Sweden


A Swedish flag on a ferry to Gothenburg Archipelago

1. Styrsö – the main island of the Southern Gothenburg Archipelago with the post office, school, shops, guesthouses, and restaurants.

2. Brännö – an island famous for its traditional summer dances and child-friendly beach.

3. Vrångö – the southernmost inhabited island with a large marina, scenic viewpoints, beautiful sandy beaches, and two nature hiking trails.

4. Donsö  an important fishing and ship-owning community with great hiking paths and places to swim.

5. Asperö – a fishermen’s island with scenic viewpoint at the top of Valen hill and a bathing area.

6. Köpstadsö – a small island where wheelbarrows are the only mean of transport.

7. Vargö – an uninhabited island with a nature reserve and shallow lagoon.

8. Galterö – an island with pastureland and rich bird life.

9. Stora Förö – a small island with good swim spots mainly visited by summer residents.

10. Knarrholmen – a calm summer island close to the Saltholmen ferry with fine beaches and rocks to relax on.


Lovely Swedish cottages on the island of Vrångö, Southern Gothenburg Archipelago


Beautiful details and charming architecture on Vrångö Island


The door of one of the houses on Styrsö Island


Beautiful colorful houses on the island of Vrångö, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago

Top 10 things to do in Gothenburg Southern Archipelago, Sweden

1. Walk down the narrow streets of Styrsö Tången, a beautiful fishermen’s village with white houses clustered along the alleys above the quayside.

2. Watch the peaceful sea and relax on the salty rocks of Uttervik, a perfect bathing and picnic spot just a few minutes walk from Styrsö Tången.

3. Explore the archipelago nature trails on Styrsö, Vrångö, and Donsö.


Seashells on the beach of Galtero Island


A harbor on the island of Styrsö, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago

4. Watch the beautiful panorama from the bridge between Styrsö and Donsö.

5. Hire a kayak on Vrångö for a day trip or just a few hours and explore the archipelago from the water line.

6. Take a long walk from Brännö to Galterö, an uninhabited green island with pastureland, rich bird life and beautiful sandy beaches covered with seashells.


A harbor on Vrångö Island, Southern Gothenburg Archipelago

7. Take a walk around Gamla Stan, a typical fishing village on Vrångö island with white-painted sheds for boat equipment surrounding the harbor, and climb up to the red pilot house situated on the rock above.

8. Rent a bike on Brännö and explore the island on two wheels.


A typical Swedish red cottage on the island of Köpstadsö


Spring in the Gothenburg Southern Archipelago, Sweden

9. Watch the splendid panorama of Gothenburg harbor from Valen viewpoint on Asperö island.

10. Visit Köpstadsö, a small island with narrow footpaths where wheelbarrows lined up in a row at the ferry pier are the only means of transport.


Wheelbarrows, the only means of transport on the island of Köpstadsö, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago

The sandy shore of the Galtero Island, Gothenburg Archipelago

The sandy shore of the Galtero Island, Gothenburg Archipelago


Lovely architectural details, Styrsö Bratten, Styrsö Island

During our stay in Gothenburg we visited southern archipelago twice: first day we explored Styrsö, Köpstadsö, Brännö and Galterö. It was lots of walking but the islands were definitely worth it. The next day we took the fast ferry Rivö and spent a relaxing afternoon on Vrångö, wandering around the village and watching the beautiful view of the sea from the red pilot house situated on the rock above the harbor.


A beautiful view from the former pilots’ house on the island of Vrångö, Gothenburg Southern Archipelago

I think telling that visiting the Southern Archipelago of Gothenburg is one of the must-dos while there is not enough. Exploring these small charming islands was the best spent two days and actually the most wonderful experience during our stay in the city, something that we will remember for a long time. Our city break in Gothenburg won’t be the same without seeing the archipelago and we hope to come back there one day to visit the other islands. I’m really glad that I had a chance to discover this Sweden’s hidden gem.

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  52 comments for “Gothenburg Archipelago, a hidden gem in Sweden

  1. June 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Pięknie! Jak nastrojowo!

    • June 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Starałam się oddać klimat tego miejsca. Mam nadzieję, że w jakimś stopniu się udało 🙂

  2. June 28, 2016 at 2:59 am

    Już miałam się położyć spać, a tu takie cudne widoki! Prześliczne zdjęcia 🙂

    • June 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Dziękuję Dorota 🙂

  3. Sheri
    June 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Gothenburg sounds like a wonderful place that is peaceful to visit and of course underrated. Places like this should gain more exposure in order to show the beauty of what Sweden has to offer.

    • June 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Writing about hidden gems like this is what I like most. The archipelago is a place where instead of tourist attractions you can see the real life and meet local people, it’s absolutely wonderful!

  4. Rashmi&Chalukya
    June 29, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Gothenburg is stunning and who wouldnot want to stay away from the hustle bustle and traffic atleast for a day. We had been to one in outskirts of Amsterdam called marken a fishing village it had same characteristics and was covered in mist too when we visited 😉 10 islands did u say? thats awesome, we would love to visit 🙂

    • June 29, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      I have never been to Amsterdam but I’d love to go there and visit the place that you mentioned. Talking about the Archipelago of Gothenburg, this little paradise without traffic noise is so relaxing! I haven’t even expected that silence can sound so wonderful… 🙂

  5. Jennifer Morrow
    June 29, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    It looks magical covered in the mist! What a beautiful place and so charming.

    • June 30, 2016 at 11:21 am

      I agree, the mist adds charm to this place 🙂

  6. Blair Villanueva
    June 30, 2016 at 5:39 am

    I agree with Jennifer, it looks magical and look child-friendly! I would love to explore this place with kids not worrying about the pollutions. And adding those cute sheeps!

    • June 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

      If I had my own kids I would like to not only visit but to live in a place like this. I suppose everyone knows each other and it’s very safe here. And the fresh air without traffic pollutions is a great benefit.

    June 30, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Hi there, Ewa! Such a lovely place! Someday, when I found myself traveling on this part of the world, I would heed your advice and rent a bike or take a walk around the coastal village. The photos made me think that any moment, newlyweds, would be part of the frame. Such a romantic feel!

    • June 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      These white houses and grey rocks would be a perfect spot for wedding session, indeed!

  8. Christine M Leger
    June 30, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Next summer!! I can’t wait. This looks amazing.

  9. Vyjay Rao
    July 1, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Gothenburg truly looks like a gem of a place. So charming and tranquil. Would love to take a stroll in the village and explore the nature trails.

    • December 17, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      I hope to go back there again. I would also like to take a walk along these natural trails.

  10. July 1, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Such beautiful photos. I would love to visit this hidden gem, seems like the perfect get-away.

  11. July 1, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I love your photos. I can only imagine what this places looks like in person. The houses and the overall ambiance seem quaint and lovely. 🙂

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      It’s true, it’s a charming place and I haven’t been anywhere where it would be so quiet and peaceful.

  12. July 1, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Wow, I loved your photos, it looks like straight out of a movie. My roommate has been living in Gotenburg for 2 years and she talked about this place and the silence, the emptiness and the peacefulness. It’s pretty amazing to find gems like this and to able to enjoy such view and Swedish colors without any traffic or city noises!

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      It’s true, this silence is wonderful. Especially when there is fog, the impressions are amazing, as if you were in some other world.

  13. Subhadrika Sen
    July 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Wow, I didnt know about this place till i read your blog. this looks such an amazing , peaceful and secluded place. Thanks for the share.

  14. July 2, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Those photos are stunning! I love the colorful little houses and the sheep! Amazing to think that until fairly recently, non-Swedes couldn’t go here!

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      It’s good that tourists can already visit the archipelago. These islands are just Sweden as I imagined.

  15. Lance Kerwin
    July 2, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Never heard about this place until you highlighted it with nice pictures. Thanks for sharing this post. It is probably the an idael place to spend a long weekend on a summer.

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      This is true. The days are very long and the weather is nice. 🙂

  16. Anamika Ojha
    July 3, 2016 at 6:08 am

    I wasn’t aware of Gothenburg. It looks splendid! Thanks for sharing this post with us.

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      I never thought about visiting Goteborg. I came here by accident and I am very happy that I was able to see these beautiful islands.

  17. Tamshuk Saha
    July 3, 2016 at 6:44 am

    This is such an amazing place. The whole village and those white houses look so beautiful. An absolute hidden gem 🙂

  18. Andra
    July 3, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I had no idea about this place. I love the fact that there are not so many tourists. It’s incredible that they only opened it in 1997.

  19. Lucila
    July 10, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Absolutely stunning! The pictures and the story are wonderful!

  20. Janna Daark
    August 18, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    What a nice post! I live in Gothenburg and have not been to these particular Islands but to Rörö, the last northern island in skärgården and walked on beautiful nature pats with my kids. Marsstrand with it’s yearly victorian days(yes in costume!) is also a nice gem and all the other islands too I am sure.

    • August 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I’ve been only to the southern archipelago but I really would like to visit Gothenburg again and explore the northern islands too. I’ve seen some pictures from Vinga and it looks awesome. Thanks for your tips, I’ll visit Roro and Marsstrand for sure!

  21. June 9, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    That’s so lovely! Exactly the Sweden I am used to.
    But most of all, I like your photo style, a lot of white and negative space, like the Scandinavian minimalist design! You’ve done well! How did you edit thouse?

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks, Alexander. I tried to show the atmosphere of these islands and I hope I did it a bit. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how I was editing these photos. I edit each series differently to show the places I visit in my own way.

  22. Sarra
    May 20, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Hello!! From 10h00 am to 05pm, do you think we can visit without rush, 3 or 4 islands? And what would it be the best to visit for you?
    Thank you very much

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      Sorry, I haven’t seen your comment before. But I will answer now because it may be helpful for someone. As I remember, we visited four islands in one day: Styrso, Branno, Kopstadso, and Galtero.
      I think you could see four, but it’s better not to spend two days exploring and doing it more slowly. It is not worth hurrying, it is better to take a walk around the island, see how people live there, what the atmosphere is like. Relax a little, admire nature, maybe have a picnic. That’s what it’s all about. 🙂
      As for the island, each of those we visited (Styrso, Branno, Galtero, Vrango) was unique and beautiful. It’s hard to choose the most beautiful place for me. However, I really liked Styrso Tangen, Styrso Uttervik, pastures and shell beaches on Galtero, as well as the view from the red house of pilots on Vrango.

  23. rardMug
    December 17, 2019 at 4:55 am

    i am from Italy hello. Can you help me translate? /rardor

    • December 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      Hi! Per 3 anni ho studiato italiano a scuola e conosco un po ‘la tua lingua, ma è stato tanto tempo fa e ho dimenticato molto. 🙂 Se vuoi tradurre il mio blog, questa opzione è disponibile nel browser web Google Chrome.