West Sweden travel guide: A guide to Sweden’s west coast and islands

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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About Bohuslän

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

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.

Åstol

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

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

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.

The cute village Grundsund in Bohuslän

Woman sitting on a dock in Grundsund, Bohuslän

Grundsund, a tiny village on Skaftö island.

Grundsund

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:

Fiskebäckskil is filled with colorful wooden houses.

Fiskebäckskil

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

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.

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