From Marstrand to Donsö: Where to Stay, See and Eat
The fabeled archipelagos of Gothenburg seemed like a figment of my wildest imagination when I arrived. But it was truly and exactly what I had envisioned in my head: A sleepy island community nestled away and amongst gorgeous, rocky terrain and beautiful floral and fauna. It’s hard not to fall in love with this coastal meets pastoral alcove, when it’s only a one-way bus ride and 5-minute ferry away from the city.
Both archipelagos are incredibly accessible from Gothenburg Central Station. Marstrand Island is certainly more historical in many respects, as it was once home to a busy seaport community and the bourgeoise of Sweden. Nowadays it is a charming, summer getaway filled with cobblestone streets and phenomenal nature paths. Donsö is a rustic, sea-side town that is equally picturesque; the latter being more of a day trip and closer to the city if you are tight on time.
Consider this your primer into the marvels of Marstrand and Donsö:
Where to Stay
Grand Marstrand Hotel (Marstrand)
A four-star experience awaits you at the Grand Marstrand Hotel. It boasts an aesthetic that lives up to its timeless elegance. Rumor has it that the King Carl once housed the Queen and his mistress in rooms that have opposite stairways for entry/exit at the hotel — that way neither the Queen or the mistress would ever encounter one another. Knowing the history of the hotel definitely made it even more intriguing. Apart from that, the interiors of this grand hotel are made for a Wes Anderson film. Every corner turned is an unexpected decor surprise. This certainly extended into the room I stayed in, where I had a breathtaking view of the Marstrand harbor from my balcony and a traditional oven-like fireplace right next to my bed
Where To Eat
Restaurant Grand Tenan (Marstrand)
This restaurant is a given especially if you’re staying at the Grand Marstrand Hotel, as it is located directly on the buildings lower level. Incredibly intimate with expansive views into the harbor, the restaurant’s food is equally stunning for the eyes as they are for your palette. Freshly seared diver scallops and chanterelle mushrooms galore!
Restaurang Isbolaget (Donsö)
When in Donsö, don’t skip on the seafood. This is where restaurants, like Isbolaget, truly shine. The catch is fresh everyday, especially during the summer seasons. We were very happy to catch (pun intended) the last wave of seasonal seafood right as we arrived. The owner + chef, Christian, cooked up a signature best of his — smoked salmon with fresh dill creme and a side of fried heirloom potatoes. Trust me when I say this: The salmon and potatoes were both sensational. I would’ve never thought the textures could mix, but it was a heavenly flavor combination! Not to mention, the dish goes well with their home-brewed beer, Styrsö, which is named after a connecting island.
What To See
Swimming Spots (Donsö)
Donsö is one of the many archipelagos that have natural swimming pools all over. While the summers are the preferred season to take a dip, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the tranquility from afar. There’s something so meditatively therapeutic as you look into the ocean on the horizon. A great reminder that we should go outdoors more often.
Carlsten Fortress (Marstrand)
Ever wondered what it’s like to walk onto a landmark that is straight out of Game of Thrones? Those were precisely the feelings I experienced upon wandering into the Carlsten Fortress on Marstrand. The fortress used to be an armory for soldiers, artillery and massive cannons. It has now been fully restored and maintained as a museum with plenty of towering architecture, guided tours and even a nature path right in the back of the fortress.
Strandverket Art Museum (Marstrand)
The Strandverket Konsthall is another renovated fort-turned-museum on the island of Marstrand. Although smaller in scale compared to museums in Gothenburg, the curated exhibitions here reflect the on-going evolution of Scandinavia’s love for modern art as well as photography, sculpture and paintings. Their recent exhibition, Mystrium, is a great example of Nordic outsider art that resides outside the boundaries of mainstream artistic avenues. The majority of artists behind the work are either self-trained or anonymous, lending to the independent spirit in which the art is presented.