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Guide: 10 of the best small towns to visit in West Sweden

Here are some idyllic small towns you really shouldn’t miss

There are lots of pretty towns in West Sweden, and you don’t have to travel too far to find them. Explore idyllic small towns with an exciting cultural heritage, beautiful nature, fun activities and the best cafes. We’ve listed the small towns offering something for everyone, whether you’re after a relaxing weekend away, a bit of an adventure, or cultural highlights.


In Lidköping you can explore Sweden’s porcelain history at Rörstrand Museum.

1. Lidköping – A gem by Lake Vänern

With a cafe on almost every street corner it’s not hard to see why Lidköping is on our list of charming small towns. It’s famous for many things, but most Swedes associate the town with Läckö Castle, the Rörstrand Porcelain factory and the successful Bandy team Villa Lidköping.

Läckö Castle by Lake Vänern looks like something out of a fairytale.

300 years of Swedish porcelain history

For anyone who fancies a deep dive into the history of Swedish porcelain then the Rörstrand Center is a must. You’ll find a museum, an outlet and other shops, as well as a restaurant and café here. An other important symbol for the town is Gamla Rådhuset (the Old Town Hall), where you’ll also find a cosy cafe with classic cakes & pastries. Don’t miss Vänermuseet either, home to many fascinating exhibitions.

Walk to Läckö

A visit to Läckö Castle and naturum Vänerskärgården – Victoriahuset, 25 km north of the town, is well worth the extra trip. This stately baroque edifice has been named Sweden’s most beautiful castle and offers guided tours, concerts and a lovely kitchen garden. You can follow the scenic Biosfärleden hiking trail from Lidköping all the way to Läckö Castle.

Have a fika or lunch at one of the town’s cafes.

Eat and fika in Lidköping:

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Direct train from Gothenburg takes 1.5 hours.

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During the summer months pleasure vessel activity in Åmål’s harbour reaches its max.

2. Åmål – History, culture and small town charm

Åmål is an idyll on the shores of Lake Vänern in northern Dalsland. The town has everything you’d associate with small town charm: pretty pedestrian shopping streets, independant shops, beautiful buildings, leafy parks and a lakeside location.

Åmål’s Blues Fest.

Åmål’s light festival.

A town where a lot happens

Åmål is, despite its small size, a thriving town where a lot happens all year round. Åmåls Blues Fest, the Bokdagar i Dalsland literary festival and Åmål Light Festival are recurring events. 

North of Kungsberget and east of the Åmålsån river is the old town, which survived a great fire in 1901. There are several lovely walks here and a church dating back to the 17th century.  

Have a cultural outing

If you get the chance we recommend an outing to the creative Not Quite cultural centre, a 30 minute journey by car from Åmål where you’ll find art exhibitions, a lovely bakery and a cafe. In August, the food and culture festival Glupsk på Dalsland (Greedy for Dalsland) takes place here. If you want to stay the night nearby Nordic Refuge and Villa Weidling B&B are two good alternatives.

Not Quite is a cultural gem not to be missed.

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Direct train from Gothenburg takes 1.5 hours.

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It’s lovely walking along the salt sprayed rocks in Lysekil.

3. Lysekil – The town by the sea

Welcome to Lysekil, the vibrant town surrounded by the sea. The best way to explore Lysekil is by foot. You can stroll past the old Curman’s villas, up to the lookout next to the church with a view of the whole town, and down to the iconic cold bath house at Släggö. Read more here about the different suggestions for town walks in Lysekil.

Right next to the cold bath house is Havets Hus, an aquarium with exciting see through tunnels where you can spot dogfish, starfish and sea eels among other things.

Say hi to the starfish in Havets Hus aquarium.

Walk along the rocks

If you follow the Kuststigen coastal path signs along the shoreline you’ll soon get to Stångehuvud, an incredibly beautiful nature reserve with pink, smooth granite rocks. On the furthest tip stands a little white building, actually a lighthouse, which has been voted one of the seven wonders of West Sweden.

Why not go on a boat trip to the island of Skaftö?

Take the ferry over the fjord

Take the opportunity to get the ferry from Lysekil’s harbour over Gullmarsfjord to Fiskebäckskil on the island of Skaftö. The boat journey is just 15 minutes long and you’ll be met by red fishing huts and white seaside villas. Enjoy fresh oysters, a herring buffet and mussel soup at Brygghuset or check in to lovely Gullmarsstrand Hotell, Slipens Hotell or Tweed Hotell Skaftö further inland.

When visiting the West Coast you must of course enjoy fresh shellfish direct from the sea.

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Bus from Gothenburg, changing at Torp shopping centre outside Uddevalla, takes around 2 hours.

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The pretty bathing huts on the beach in Hjo are a lovely spot for a picnic.

4. Hjo – The wooden town on the shores of Lake Vättern

The charming town of Hjo was founded back in the 15th century, and is a popular holiday resort, with quaint shops and beautiful buildings. Down in the harbour there are several great ice cream cafes and the historic steamship SS Trafik which does trips out on the lake.

Have an ice cream down in the small boat marina.

Popular bathing huts

Well preserved houses from the 18th, 19th and 20th century adorn Hjo’s cobbled streets. These old wooden buildings are very characteristic of the town, and Hjo has indeed been awarded an Europa Nostra heritage award in recognition of this. Some of the finest villas are in the town park by Lake Vättern. And don’t miss the picturesque bathing huts lining Guldkroksbadet beach adjoining the town park.

At Kulturkvarteret Pedagogien you can see an exhibition about Estrid Ericson, one of Sweden’s most influential design icons and founder of the well known brand Svenskt Tenn.

Hamngatan in Hjo is packed with shops.

Lovely walks

From the harbour you can walk alongside the leafy Hjoån river or follow Hamngatan up to the Stora Torget main square. Along the way you’ll pass cafes and shops. Some names to make a note of are Tullstugan, Vita Ranunkler and Njuta.

Have a stroll along the shoreline path or the “Hjovieran” as it’s called locally. Sweden’s longest illuminated bench can be found here. If you want you can follow the trail south along the Pilgrim Path Hjo-Kungslena where among other things you’ll pass Almnäs Bruk, a dairy making world class cheeses.

You’ll find lots of idyllic spots on a walk along the Pilgrim Path south of Hjo.

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Train from Gothenburg changing to bus in Skövde takes around 2 hours.

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Lake Åsunden is never far away when you visit Ulricehamn.

5. Ulricehamn – A town with activities for the whole family

Ulricehamn is the perfect destination for anyone who loves nature and wants to have an active holiday whatever the time of year. The town, in a lovely setting on a slope overlooking Lake Åsunden, has really made a name for itself when it comes to sport and outdoor recreation. It also has a nice town centre with older buildings and cobbled streets.

Go mountain biking at Lassalyckan.

There’s both cross country and alpine skiing here.

All year round adventure

In Ulricehamn there are two popular outdoor recreation areas providing activities all year round. At the Lassalyckan Vasaloppet Centre you’ll find mountain bike trails, pump tracks, running trails, disc golf, padel, ice rinks, obstacle courses, a sports shop and artificial snow trails for cross country skiing. The Åsundenleden hiking trail goes through the area. And at Ski Bike & Hike just north of the town you’ll find one of southern Sweden’s foremost areas for alpine skiing, and a paradise for downhill cyclists during the summer months. You can book ready made outdoor packages in Ulricehamn at Outdoor Support.

Cool off in Lake Åsunden

Ulricehamns Kallbadhus stands on pillars leading out into Lake Åsunden, where you can have a cooling dip after warming up in the sauna. Two cycle trails skirt the lake, the Ätradalsleden and Sjuhäradsrundan.

For culture and history lovers Torpa Stenhus and Hofsnäs Herrgård are just half an hour by car from Ulricehamn.

Ulricehamn’s Kallbadhus is a popular destination.

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Bus from Gothenburg changing in Borås takes around 1 hour 40 minutes.

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Welcome to picturesque Mariestad by Sweden’s largest lake.

6. Mariestad – The lakeside town with its own national park

Where the river Tidan runs into Vänern, Sweden’s biggest lake, lies Mariestad, a pretty little town where history makes itself felt. The old town, Gamla Stan, and the area around the cathedral is one of the best preserved town centres in the country, where you can amble around cobbled streets lined with traditional wooden buildings and old craft workshops.

The Biosfärsleden trail starts in Gamla Stan, which links Mariestad with Lidköping for walkers. The trail starts with a stretch along the shore of Lake Vänern, through the Ekudden nature reserve. It’s a very pleasant walk.

The area around the cathedral is one of the best preserved town centres in the country.

Explore the islands in the archipelago

The Lake Vänern archipelago off Mariestad invites many opportunities for exciting day trips. Take the taxi boat to the island of Djurö, possibly one of Sweden’s least well known national parks, where there’s a cluster of 35 little islands almost completely cut off from the world. You can book accommodation in the old lighthouse keeper’s house. Torsö and Brommö are two other islands many people go to to hike and swim.  

Cycle along the Göta Canal

If you’re after more activities in the area we can recommend a bike ride along the Göta Canal from Sjötorp to Norrkvarn, a visit to Qvarnstensgruvans museum near Lugnåsberget Ekohotell, an evening concert at Lilla Björkö or a guided kayak tour with Vänern Outdoor.

Go on a bike ride along the Göta Canal.

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Train from Gothenburg changing in Skövde or Töreboda takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes.

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A hike along the Pilgrim Path takes you over the Göta älv river in Trollhättan.

7. Trollhättan – The lively lock town

Enjoy exploring Trollhättan, a lively place with exciting things to see, lovely hiking trails and one of Sweden’s most spectacular waterfall and lock areas. Trollhättan has grown up along the Göta älv river which cuts the town in two, with several long narrow islands in between.

When the sluice gates at the Trollhättefallen are opened 300 000 litres of water surge through the gates, every second.

Experience the mighty falls area

In Trollhätte Kanalpark you can go on a sculpture trail, watch the canal boats as they go through the locks and during summer see the mighty Trollhättefallen waterfalls, when the sluice gates are opened and cascades of white water gush out with a seldom seen force.

A good way to take in the falls area is to walk the whole or parts of the Edsvidsleden trail. The Pilgrim Path Göta älv also passes by here, continuing on through a nature reserve with the apt name of Älvrummet. Go on a daytrip to Ecopark Halleberg and Hunneberg for even more nature experiences.

Lots of fine cars at the Saab Car Museum.

Some other popular attractions

Along the pedestrian street in the centre of Trollhättan there’s a wide choice of shops, cafes and restaurants. Just south of the centre you’ll find two of the town’s most popular visitor attractions, Saab Car Museum and Innovatum Science Center. It’s not hard to spend a few hours here among iconic car models and innovative experiments.

More recently Trollhättan has made a name for itself as a proper playground town. Children can enjoy themselves in a range of play areas with different themes.

There’s nothing wrong with the fika selection at Kråkestans Kakeria.

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Train from Gothenburg takes around 30 minutes.

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The river Viskan runs through the centre of Borås.

8. Borås – The art and textiles town

We can imagine that Borås, with its population of around 70 000, isn’t the first place you think of when you hear the words “small town”. But in fact when you walk along the river Viskan in the centre of Borås you really get that genuine small town feeling.

Future fabrics are being developed at the Textile Fashion Center.

Get acquainted with the town’s textile heritage

The heart of Borås is Sandwalls plats, the town’s own piazza, with swaying palms and local restaurants, cafes and wine bars. Sit on the steps leading down to the Viskan, listen to the buzz from the outdoor serving areas and admire the flower beds in the town park on the other side of the river.

Carry on along Österlånggatan street, past Stora torget square, which in summer is filled with concerts and markets. In a short while you’ll get to Textilmuseet and the Textile Fashion Center, international centres for fashion, textiles and design. A family favourite is the Navet Science Center.

Walking through Borås is like being in a huge outdoor gallery.

Art in public spaces

It’s impossible to miss all the street art filling Borås. It feels like almost every wall is decorated with creative graffiti or a mural, and there’s a sculpture in every square and open space. You can go on a guided tour around the town or guide yourself following the art map on the West Sweden Street Art Trail. Behind the idea of making the town an open air art gallery is Borås Konstmuseum, where you can also explore three floors of contemporary art. There are several popular destinations just outside the town centre, like Borås Djurpark zoo and Upzone Adventure Park, as well as Abecita Popkonst & Foto showing world class photography and graphic art.


Check in at one of the town’s lovely hotels.

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Train or express bus from Gothenburg takes around 1 hour.

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Skara Konsthotell is one of the town’s nicest meeting places.

9. Skara – A historic small town

Skara’s picturesque town centre has plenty of experiences to share, not least for art, culture and history lovers. It’s also a town with a good assortment of antique and second hand stores, so you can shop here with a clean conscience.

Skara Cathedral is also called "Skara trousers".

Skara’s old library.

Historic buildings

The cathedral. with its two towers, has a history dating back almost one thousand years, and many beautiful details to explore. The old library is another historic building where you can see Sweden’s oldest book, the Skaramissalet, and take the children on a creative play and learn exhibition, BokäventyretVästergötlands museum is also worth a visit, with Sweden’s oldest chair, from the 12th century.

As well as wandering around all the historic buildings and lovely cobbled streets you can get more of a leg stretch along the Pilgrim Path Skara-Husaby, which starts in the middle of the town.

The artwork you shouldn’t miss

Anyone who loves art should visit Skara Stadshotell where you’ll find Sweden’s largest private collection of Lars Lerin paintings, and Skara Konsthotell which boasts work by Anders Zorn, Jenny Nyström, Carl Larsson and Bruno Liljefors, among others.

Around 10-15 minutes by car from Skara you’ll reach several popular attractions like Skara Sommarland, Axevalla Harness Racing track, Crane dancing at Lake Hornborga, Varnhem Abbey Church and Kata Gård.

Have lunch surrounded by lovely artworks at Skara Stadshotell.

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Train from Gothenburg, changing to bus in Falköping, Vara, Lidköping or Skövde takes around 2 hours.

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In Alingsås you’ll find many picturesque courtyards with cafes and boutiques.

10. Alingsås – The cosy cafe town

Charming Alingsås awaits you just half an hour by train from Gothenburg. You can go on a fika trail here, shop for original bits and bobs in independant boutiques and stroll along cobbled streets and in lovely parks.

A cup of coffee with a cake is a must when you visit Sweden’s fika capital.

Fika, fika and more fika

Kungsgatan is packed with shops and cafes, some of which you only discover when you venture into the courtyards hidden behind the narrow alleyways between the buildings. Nygrens Handelsgård is one of the prettiest, where you’ll find Balders Hage general store and Nygrens Café nestled together.

Other cafes to check out are Ekstedts Bageri & Café, Mormor Bättys Kringlor and Nolbygårds Ekobageri & Kafé which is just outside the town centre. Alingsås is also home to several antique and vintage shops.

You should without a shadow of a doubt have coffee and cake while you’re in cafe town Alingsås, but what actually is it that makes Alingsås Sweden's fika capital? You’ll learn that and much more when you go on a guided fika tour of the town’s best cafes.

Stroll around the park

From Alingsås town centre you can walk by the river Lillån and then the river Säveån to Nolhaga Park, a green oasis with playgrounds, a farm, waterpark and stately Nolhaga Slott.

Go for a walk on the white bridges in Nolhaga Park.