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West Sweden travel guide: A guide to Sweden’s west coast and islands
West Sweden is famous for its bare cliffs, wide archipelago and cute fishing villages. The region, called Bohuslän, can be experienced by either car or boat. You can cruise between small villages, visit deserted islands and spend the night in a vibrant harbour. This travel guide to Sweden’s west coast tells you what places you just can’t miss along the way.
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Sweden’s west coast is beautiful in many ways. From white sandy beaches in the south to bare cliffs in the north. The landscape changes character around Gothenburg. From this point, the sand turns to cliffs and an archipelago begins. The region of Bohuslän, that stretches from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, counts as one of the ten most beautiful wilderness places in the world, according to CNN. The Bohuslän coast has around 3 000 islands and around 4 500 islets and skerries. This makes boating so popular in this area.
Map of West Sweden
The unique Bohuslän area stretches from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border. This Google map points out places you should not miss during your visit.
Villages and islands to visit in west Sweden
Regardless if you plan to visit west Sweden on a road trip or by renting your own boat, there are several places you simply can’t miss. Many villages are accessible by car, while some require a ferry ride. This road trip itinerary takes you through the must-see villages of Bohuslän, from south to north.
Marstrand, one of the most famous islands in Bohuslän.
Marstrand is probably the most famous (and popular) island in Bohuslän. This is probably because of its interesting history with Carlsten’s Fortress, but also its many international sailing competitions. The island is filled with cute tree houses, and the harbor is filled with popular restaurants – giving the island a vibrant nightlife. At the highest point of the island you will find Carlsten’s Fortress, a big stone fortress built in 1658 to protect the newly acquired province of Bohuslän from hostile attacks.
Things to do at Marstrand island
- Visit Carlsten’s Fortress
- Watch a sailing competition
- Hike around the entire island (5 km)
Åstol, my favorite island on the Swedish west coast.
A few miles north of Marstrand you will find Åstol. This is, according to me, one of the cutest islands in Bohuslän. The island is too small to fit any cars, so you have to take the ferry here from Rönnäng. Åstol is a popular harbor with many boats, giving a somewhat vibrant atmosphere. The island is famous for its narrow streets, and tightly located white houses. A must-do is to go for a walk to the western side of the island, where you find the bathing place and have a great view of Carlstens Fästning at Marstrand.
Things to do at Åstol island:
- Wander the cute narrow streets
- Enjoy the view of Carlsten’s Fortress from the western side
- Eat at the unique restaurant Åstol Rökeri (Smokehouse)
Skärhamn is the largest village at Tjörn, one of the larger islands in Bohuslän. It is easy to get there by car. Skärhamn is a picturesque fishing village well worth a visit. If you’re interested in art you should visit Pilane sculpture park, an outdoor art exhibition with giant modern sculptures. Skärhamn is also home to the Nordic Watercolour Museum.
Things to do at Tjörn island/Skärhamn:
- Wander around the harbour
- Visit Pilane sculpture park
- Visit the Nordic Watercolour Museum
The cute island Gullholmen, right next to Härmanö.
Gullholmen is a small island next to a bigger island called Härmanö. You can come here by ferry (not with car ferry) from Tuvesvik on Orust. Gullholmen is one of the most spectacular islands in Bohuslän, in my opinion. It’s tiny, packed with small wooden houses and only has a few small paths to walk on. There’s not much to do on this island, besides admiring the unique and incredibly beautiful environment.
Grundsund, a tiny village on Skaftö island.
Another beautiful coastal town on the west coast is Grundsund on Skaftö island. You can drive here by car. The village has a narrow canal lined with boats and small red boathouses. South of Grundsund is Skaftö’s southernmost cape, Islandsberg. The area is bare and houses a lighthouse by the same name. From here you have an incredible view of the archipelago.
Things to do in Grundsund:
- Wander the streets near the canal
- Visit Islandsberg cape
Fiskebäckskil is filled with colorful wooden houses.
A few kilometers north of Grundsund you’ll find Fiskebäckskil. This village is a bit larger than Grundsund but equally beautiful. Besides walking around in the beautiful environment you can have a yummy lunch at either Brygghuset Fiskebäckskil or at Gullmarsstrand Hotell & Konferens. If you have time to stay over I can’t recommend Gullmarsstrand Hotell & Konferens enough. Their spa is wonderful!
Things to do in Fiskebäckskil:
- Take a walk through the village
- Have lunch at Brygghuset Fiskebäckskil – both serve great food
- Visit the spa at Gullmarstrand
Bohus-Malmön is one of the more popular islands in Bohuslän. You can go to the island by car ferry from Tullboden. However, as the island is pretty small it might be easier to park your car on the mainland and explore the island by foot. Bohus-Malmön is quite popular with lots of activities and a few cafés and restaurants. While you’re there I recommend you to visit the beach Pärlane, a small sand dune connecting Bohus-Malmön to a smaller nearby island. To get a picture-perfect view of the harbour and the small red wooden houses you should head to Snurrans Fyr.
If you’re into hiking, Bohus-Malmön offers a coastal hike trail called Kuststigen. The trail goes through varied landscapes, and passes by several monuments from the stone cutting era. By the end of the 1800s the first cobblestone was cut, and the island became one of the most important sources of the pink Bohus granite.
Things to do on Bohus-Malmön:
- Visit Pärlane beach
- Enjoy the harbour view from Snurrans Fyr
- Explore the unique cliff formations from the stone cutting era, preferably at Uddestenbrottet
- Hike Kuststigen
The popular village Smögen, famous for its colorful wooden houses at Smögenbryggan.
Smögen is probably the second most popular island in Bohuslän, after Marstrand. This is an obvious road trip stop. Here you will find plenty of restaurants and boutiques, all located along the dock. If you feel like going for a swim you can find several swimming spots here as well. Don’t miss the famous Smögenbryggan with its colorful boathouses. If you want to stay over I recommend Smögens Hafsbad.
Things to do in Smögen:
- Visit the picturesque colorful boathouses at Smögenbryggan
- Eat seafood at Skäret Krog
- Sea swimming at Vallevik Badplats, just a short walk beyond the boathouses
Hunnebostrand is located about 10 km north of Smögen. Hunnebostrand is a larger village with a few restaurants and shops. Don’t miss to hike up to the viewpoint, where you have a spectacular view of the archipelago.
Things to do in Hunnebostrand:
- Hike up to Hunnebostrand’s viewpoint for a 360 degree view of the archipelago
A beautiful sunset at Ulön / Dannemark.
Ulön / Dannemark
This tip is for the sailers out there! If you want to skip the harbor life for a night (+ avoid paying a fee) I suggest you head to Ulön / Dannemark. This horseshoe shaped island (it used to be two islands) is a popular stop while sailing in Bohuslän. Even though there is no proper harbour you will probably not be alone here. However, you can usually easily find a private spot to berth at. Walk to the west side of the island to see the sun set over the horizon.
Hamburgsund from above.
Hamburgsund is a small village located in the strait between the mainland and Hamburgö. This is a really cute, pittoresque village and a real favorite for me! Just like Gullholmen, there’s not much to do here besides admiring the very beautiful environment.
The village Fjällbacka, mostly known for being the hometown of crime novelist Camilla Läckberg.
Fjällbacka is a 17th-century fishing village mainly known for being the hometown of present-day crime novelist Camilla Läckberg – and it’s also the location of Ingrid Bergman’s summer house. The village has a popular harbour for sailors, and houses a few restaurants and shops.
Camilla Läckberg fans can take a Murder Mystery guided tour of the village and locations from the books. Others might simply enjoy walking around in the village, or hike up to Kungsklyftan hill for great views of the island and nearby islands.
Things to do in Fjällbacka:
- Hike to Kungsklyftan
- Wander around the village and the popular harbour
- Take a Murder Mystery guided tour
When to visit west Sweden
The peak season in Bohuslän is from the end of June to the beginning of August. This is when Swedish summer is most reliable. It’s usually warm and sunny, and it’s bright until 11 pm. But the weather in Sweden can change quickly. If you sail you have to keep up to date on the winds. The SMHI app gives you a weather forecast, and the ViVa app a good update on winds and current.
Sailing in Bohuslän
Sailing is a popular activity on the Swedish west coast. Many people have their own boats, but there are a few places where you can rent. For example at hygglo.se or at skipperi.se.
Thanks to the Swedish Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten) you can choose to berth at deserted islands as long as you don’t disturb. Don’t forget that you have to pay a berthing charge for every night you spend in a harbor (and don’t arrive too late as the harbors get filled up quite early during peak season).
OBS! You should not rent a boat if you don’t have enough experience. The archipelago can be hard to cruise around in, and during peak season there are many other boats around.
Great apps to download before your sailing trip
Bonus tips: Dalsland
If want to extend your West Sweden road trip I recommend you to drive a bit north to the region called Dalsland. Dalsland is known to be the most accessible area of wilderness in Europe – the nature here is just stunning. I recommend discovering one of the many hiking trails, book a night at the 72-hour cabin or rent a canoe at one of the many lakes.
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