From the ocean
to your plate
Thanks to the cold, clean water, few places in the world compare to West Sweden when it comes to the quality of the region’s seafood.
Fishing villages along the coast north of Gothenburg have learned to leverage this national treasure by creating “seafood safaris” where you can catch crayfish, hunt for lobster, rake oysters or visit mussel farms. On these excursions, you also get to eat your catch. For foodies, it’s an experience that borders on religious.
Here’s our seasonal guide to the region’s best safaris.
Oysters (spring and autumn)
Each year in May the village of Grebbestad hosts the Nordic Oyster Opening Championship. Ninety per cent of Sweden’s oysters are harvested here, making it the ideal spot for an oyster safari. Visit on Oyster Day in September or come in the spring when the molluscs are rich in glycogen, giving them a strong mineral flavour and firm flesh. Brothers Per and Lars Karlsson give lessons in oyster shucking at their restored 19th century boathouse, Everts Sjöbod, where you can rake up a dozen straight from the dock. Orust Shellfish also offers tours starting in Lysekil every Saturday afternoon in season.
Mussels (spring and autumn)
Mussels are best in the spring before they spawn. In West Sweden, mussels are scraped from the seabed or grown on ropes. Orust Shellfish runs expeditions aboard their fishing boat in Lysekil. The skipper takes you out to an island where mussels are farmed according to the highest environmental standards. You’ll learn how to cultivate these delicacies, and then harvest and eat them in a cosy little boathouse. The boutique hotel Villa Sjötorp also organises mussel-harvesting expeditions, after which you’ll cook fresh mussels over an open fire beside the clock tower in Ljungskile.
Langoustines (spring and summer)
Set against the backdrop of Vetterberget Rock, in one of the old quayside warehouses in the seaside town of Fjällbacka, you’ll find Bryggan Fjällbacka Hotell & Restaurang. With its panoramic views of the archipelago, this is the place to start your saltwater crayfish safari. Every Friday between May 3rd and September 21th, climb aboard the M/S Mira for a tour with a local fisherman named Ingemar as your guide. You’ll learn how to catch langoustines, and then prepare and eat your catch.
Crayfish safaris also leave from Smögen, a picturesque old fishing village where celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelson spent his boyhood summers.
To protect lobster from over-fishing, it’s illegal to catch them from May 1st until the first Monday after September 20th. This leads to one of the highpoints in the west coast fishing year: lobster premier.
Lobster fishing is an age-old tradition in Bohuslän. On lobster safaris, participants voyage through coastal waters with a skipper, helping to haul up and reset the pots of ’black gold.’ Afterwards you’ll learn how to prepare, cook and eat this prized crustacean. Hotel Koster organizes trips out of Strömstad, where you can conclude your day on the sea with a soak in a wood-fired hot tub.
Lobster safaris are available in the villages of Fjällbacka, Resö, Smögen and Grebbestad, and they continue into early winter.
As early as May you can see mackerel chasing herring between the islands in the Koster archipelago. Everts Sjöbod in Grebbestad and Selin Charters in Strömstad both offer mackerel fishing during June, July and August.
Shrimp have no season and safaris are available throughout the year. Vann Spa organises shrimp safaris for Baltic prawns that includes entry to the spa and a three-course dinner.
West coast fisherman started making their living out of herring a thousand years ago and Sweden remains the world’s largest exporter of herring. Forty per cent of Sweden’s herring comes from Klädesholmen, known as the ’Herring Island.’ Stay at the floating hotel and restaurant, Salt & Sill, and sample the many different herring dishes on their buffet (at Christmas they boast 40 varieties!).
Herring fanatics should visit Klädesholmen on Herring Day, when there are herring samples, demonstrations from professional chefs, a herring recipe contest and even a herring barrel race.
Design your own seafood tour, city-style (year-round)
Gothenburg is one of the world’s seafood capitals. Here you’ll also find the largest fish market in Sweden, Göteborgs fiskauktion. The auction house receives fish all night long and begins its auctions at 7 am. Call to find out about upcoming tours (031-42 00 85).
Feskekörka (‘Fish Church’), the city’s fish market, set inside an elegant church-like structure. Vendors like Öckerö Fisk will give you steamed lobster in a paper bowl that you can take and eat on the patio with traditional accompaniments. Or opt for a loftier table at Gabriels, where oyster-shucking champion chef Johan Malm serves up the day’s catch using the same classic preparations his father used when he started the restaurant half a century ago.
For another seafood experience, try the massive shrimp sandwich at Heaven 23 on the 23rd floor of The Gothia Towers hotel – or opt to dine at Restaurant West Coast, featuring a seafood aquarium and oyster staircase, where Chef Krister Dahl serves up the finest local seafood.
Whether you choose to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant or line up on the sidewalk outside the herring truck (Strömmingsluckan), a meal in Gothenburg is often a culinary tour of the coastal waters that surround it.
A virtual tour
Wait! If you can’t pay us a visit, there’s one last way to sample Swedish seafood. Several Swedish brands ship internationally. You can order pickled herring from ABBA and Klädesholmen. Falkenberg will ship smoked or cured salmon to your door.