And so we come to the Volvo Museum. “Not just for petrolheads,” they said. “Something for everyone,” they said. They lied.
I could already tell it was going to be an ordeal from the journey there. We had to take a tram from central Gothenburg practically to the end of the line, get off, and wait for half an hour at a horrible bus station for the bus out to the museum (I have never seen so many cigarette butts in my life, and there was a girl with a litter picker ostensibly working there, but she completely ignored every single one of the cigarette butts. I really didn’t understand). The only redeeming feature of the bus station was that it had a 7/11, which in Scandinavia function as purveyors of surprisingly tasty cinnamon rolls and all manner of Daim. I’ve yet to meet a Daim bar I didn’t like, and even the fairly gross sounding lemon variety was surprisingly delicious (the best are the Daim/cornflake clusters though. Highly recommended!). After finally boarding the bus, we were taken on a marvellous journey through a vast industrial wasteland (I swear it was full of fish processing plants. At least that’s what it smelled like) for another half an hour or so before at last reaching the museum, which is located inside a giant glass building that is Volvo headquarters. It is on the seafront, which is much less glamorous than it sounds, because the Gothenburg seafront just means being pelted with wind and rain whilst you run to shelter. Oh, and if you visit on a weekend, you have to book the bus in advance, which is why we were sure to visit on a weekday.
Admission to the museum is 100 SEK (about £8.50), and if you’re really keen, you can buy an annual pass for 250 SEK (I can’t imagine who would possibly want this. Even petrolheads would probably be satisfied after one visit). By this point, I’m sure you are asking yourself why I chose to visit this museum at all. Well, I sort of felt that I had to. It doesn’t get more Swedish than a Volvo Museum, the place was listed on Atlas Obscura, and really, when am I going to be in Gothenburg again (based on my experience, probably never)? Also Marcus wanted to see it, so there we were.
I will at least say this for them: they give you a lot for your money. I swear a model of every Volvo ever made was in here, and there definitely seemed like some duplicates. Unfortunately, as someone who has virtually no interest in Volvos (or any car, for that matter), this was way too many cars. I could appreciate the aesthetic qualities of some of the earlier models, but by the time we got to the ’60s (the cars are grouped roughly by decade), I was perfectly happy to give up. The most interesting parts for me were the signs talking about what each decade meant for Sweden, and the videos of old Volvo commercials, which were at least entertainingly dated (there was about a ten minute long one about some guy wooing a beautiful woman with an ugly-ass car. It was so long I missed the end, but I’m sure they probably got married because of the power of the Volvo).
One highlight, if you can call it that, was the car owned by Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, and driven until his death in 2018. You can see my expression of awe above. I would have so much rather just gone to an IKEA Museum, but apparently that’s in Almhult, which appears to be sort of in the middle of nowhere, so it was Volvo we were stuck with. I also, to give credit where credit’s due, liked the moustachioed mannequins, and the stuffed German Shepherds and black labs posing as police dogs in the back of the Volvo-made police cars.
Unfortunately, and contrary to what the brochure seemed to promise, this museum contained virtually nothing interactive – just room after room after room full of cars, but that didn’t stop parents from bringing their equally as bored as me looking children there. Unless you have the sort of child that REALLY loves cars, Volvos in particular (my brother was one of those weirdos, though I don’t think he particularly likes Volvos), I would strongly advise against this. I suppose there was a bell they could ring (super annoying) and a fire truck and bus they could climb in, but that was basically it.
The museum building does contain a shop (for all your Volvo-branded needs), and a small café, so I guess at least you won’t starve if you’re stuck here whilst waiting for a bus, because yep, they only come every half an hour. I made sure to time the end of our visit with the next scheduled bus, because it was seriously ridiculously cold and windy outside, and I did not want to have to sit in that sad little bus stop for any longer than necessary.
However, we had a little time to kill after finishing the museum, and since I didn’t want to go outside until we had to, we walked around the free introductory gallery, which seemed like a sort of afterthought, as it was filled with seating for events and kind of off to the side. I’m glad we did, because the best thing in the whole damn museum was here, better even than Ingvar Kamprad’s car: Roger Moore’s personal Volvo, which was used in The Saint. Because I have read Roger Moore’s autobiography (yes, I’m weird. I also have one of the sewing pattern catalogues where he modelled sweaters when just starting out), I knew that he deliberately purchased the same car himself as used in The Saint, both because he got a discount, and because he thought they could use it for shots where they needed an additional car. They did have a model of this same car in the museum, with a little metal version of The Saint logo, but this was his actual car! So definitely don’t miss this bit!
The bus didn’t come exactly on time, so we still did have some time sitting in the
wind tunnel bus shelter, and then of course the scenic trip back to Gothenburg (not that our hotel was any better. Seriously the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in. Literally only one of us could stand up at a time, and the other one would have to sit on the bed. The only good thing about it was that they had free make-your-own waffles for fika in the afternoons. I can forgive a lot for the sake of waffles). I suppose they did technically have something I was interested in, namely, Roger Moore’s car, but was it worth the trip out there, and the hour or two spent slogging around the rest of the museum? No. So I’m giving it 2/5, and warning you that if you’re not a “gearhead” “petrolhead” or “dieselhead” (all of which they used in their advertising, in the context of it not just being for those people), you will probably be much happier having skipped it and stayed in Gothenburg eating waffles instead (and I’m not even a big fan of Gothenburg, in case you didn’t get that impression already).