Gothenburg: Museum of Gothenburg

As usual, I visited far too many places on this trip (and have been quite busy with work lately, not to mention moving house!) to have blogged about them all in a timely manner, and here I am writing about my visit to the Museum of Gothenburg two months after the fact (and the post probably won’t go up until three months after my visit), so forgive me if my recollections of the museum are a little hazy at this point. The weather was absolute shit on our last day in Gothenburg, as it had been for the other two days we were in Gothenburg as well (this made me take strongly against Gothenburg, even though it isn’t really Gothenburg’s fault, but our grim overpriced hotel didn’t help either. If it wasn’t for those free waffles, the whole thing would have been depressing), so we were looking for somewhere warm and dry to kill time until our flight that afternoon.


Fortunately, the Museum of Gothenburg was huge, and quite a steal (at Scandinavian standards) at only 60 SEK admission (around £6). I was also pleased that there were free lockers in which we could hang our dripping coats and umbrella, especially because our lousy hotel had no staff anywhere to be seen when we tried to check out, so we had to schlep our bags to the train station and pay for a locker there instead of leaving them at the hotel for free (it probably worked out better in the end that we didn’t have to go all the way back to the hotel, but still, crappy service), so I was all about free anything at that point. Like most of the museums we visited in Scandinavia, they were great about providing English translations for the permanent exhibitions, but not so much for the temporary stuff, which I guess is understandable. Why spend the money on translation if it’s only there for a few months? (And yes, the photo above is of our friend the Malm Whale, being moved to his current location.)


As is apparently obligatory anywhere Vikings lived, the museum started with a Gold Room containing both plunder and objects that were precious to people for more sentimental reasons, such as the collection of baby shoes donated by one family. This gallery encouraged you to download an app so you could listen to stories about the objects at each station, but there were also tablets mounted around the room where you could read English descriptions of the displays, so I just left it at that, and still had plenty to do.


This segued into “Urbanum”, which was meant to contain the stories of the people who make up the city, but as I said earlier, almost nothing here was in English, so we just looked at the pictures, and took the opportunity to write a postcard about our time in the city which I think pretty accurately sums up our experience.


Now, the museum is big, and the layout is pretty confusing. There were a lot of stairs all over the building that led to different areas, and some galleries were only accessible by one particular set of stairs, so we probably did a lot of unnecessary walking up and down, which makes Jessica cranky. Due to this confusing layout, we ended up starting in the permanent historical galleries in the 1600s, which I guess doesn’t really matter in the end, but I would have found it much more satisfying to do them in order. Nonetheless, the 1600s was pretty fun (apparently because they’re targeting it at 13-15 year olds) with a few interactive bits, such as a wheel you could spin to find your 17th century destiny. I was an officer (win!), so I got to enter through the high class door that led to galleries about amusements like the theatre, rather than the pleb entrance that led to stuff about workhouses and prison (though I obviously looked at both galleries eventually anyway).


The museum also had very comprehensive and interactive galleries about Gothenburg in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in what is probably a nice change of pace, you can watch me reacting to a gross poop, rather than pretending to poop myself (has anyone watched that Louis Theroux special about mothers on the edge where he goes to one of their houses and has to admire the kid’s turdage? (Less weird than it sounds when you actually watch it.) “That IS a big poo!” That was totally my Louis Theroux moment).


I have little to no enthusiasm for the Vikings, but when in Sweden… Of course the museum had a Viking gallery, and guess what? Another bloody preserved Viking ship! At least it was only the one, and the rest of the gallery was fairly interesting, with information about Viking gods, wisdom, and practices. Also there was a fun tree staircase you could climb up to get to the second level (or maybe you were meant to descend to go to the first? Pretty sure we went in backwards here too). There was also a prehistory gallery, but I am even less interested in that than the Vikings, so I walked through there pretty damn fast.

And got to the part I was excited about – the fashion gallery! Yay for old clothes! Honestly, this was probably the best gallery in the museum. There was a lot of text about the people who wore the clothes, how styles evolved, and even the factory system that made some of the clothing. And of course they had bits you could try on: hats, ties, and even high heels! Since I had bare feet, I did skip the shoes. Not worth risking a wart for. The clothes currently on display are from the 1880s-1930s, so even though it left out some of my favourite mid-century fashions, it was still a good clothes era. Lots of fab old-timey bathing suits!


The other gallery I was most keen to see, which I don’t even see listed on their website, was the one full of miniature dioramas! Because the children’s gallery was closed at the time of our visit, which I suspect you would normally be able to cut through from the fashion gallery, we had to go all the way back downstairs, through the museum, and up another set of staircases, then through the School Wall Charts gallery, before finally finding the miniatures. I think they were probably aimed more at children, given their proximity to the children’s gallery, but they are still totally charming for adults, and you were encouraged to find certain objects in each one. There were a lot of adorably derpy miniature dogs.


We did look at the school wall charts as well – apparently they’re a thing hipsters like to decorate their houses with in Sweden, and I can see why, though I’ll pass on all the arthropody ones (sadly, none were for sale in the gift shop, presumably because you have to track down the originals from some vintage shop at much time and expense, in true hipster fashion (I’m sort of a hipster, so it’s probably fine if I mock them)). I also encountered one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever had the pleasure of sitting in, and much appreciated after walking up and down all those stairs. I sort of assumed, being in Sweden, that it might come from IKEA, but sadly I haven’t been able to find anything like it (though I did get a less comfortable wing chair and footstool for my new house). It’s probably vintage, just like the posters.


On the whole, this was quite an enjoyable visit, and probably the best thing we did in Gothenburg (other than the free waffles and seeing the Malm Whale). I think the price is more than reasonable considering all you get, and I’m pretty sure I learned a lot about the city, though I can’t remember exactly what two months out from the visit (I know, I know, I should be faster at writing things up). I suspect the layout is slightly less confusing when all the galleries are actually open, but I think better signage would have been appreciated in the meantime. Other than that, no major complaints! 3.5/5.


  1. I preferred my interpretation of the whale photo before I read your explanation (my nonexistent Swedish led me to think it was something about a flying whale). I am so impressed with how many poop related exhibits you manage to find. Most impressive!!

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