Trollhättan and Vänersborg: A mythical place with everything to offer
By Emma Rodin | Photos: Visit Trollhättan and Vänersborg
Combining enchanting nature with a rich history, the neighbouring cities of Trollhättan and Vänersborg join as an attractive all-year destination, a mere 45-minutes from Gothenburg. Whether it’s witnessing the area’s grand waterfalls, exploring the spectacular UNESCO Global Geopark or indulging in the delicious local cuisine, there’s an abundance of experiences to be savoured.
Water has always been central to Trollhättan and Vänersborg which both sit next to Vänern, Sweden’s largest lake and technically an inland sea. For Vänersborg, an old marketplace, the waterway was historically key to the shipping and collection of iron found throughout the county. And for Trollhättan, it was the narrow water passages of the river Göta Älv that led to the ground-breaking engineering work that put the town on the map.
“Some days during the summer months, the floodgates open and 300,000 litres of water per second are released. It’s quite a spectacular event,” says Maria Engström Weber, CEO of Visit Trollhättan-Vänersborg. “So much so that people come to experience this alone.”
Pedal through a UNESCO Global Geopark
Lake Vänern is also one of Europe’s largest lakes, offering heaps of things to do such as paddling and boat tours. It’s also a fishing paradise, naturally, and has lots of world-class hiking and cycling routes, as well as captivating cultural experiences.
A highlight is Lake Vänern Grand Tour – a nature tourism initiative aimed to connect Vänern as a destination, with various activities on and around the lake. The Vänernleden bike route, which is the backbone of this initiative, passes beautiful beaches and nature phenomena such as the eco-parks Halleberg and Hunneberg. Together, these two eco-parks have been named Sweden’s first UNESCO Global Geopark, which means that the geology and landscape are deemed unique and of international significance. The area has 15 varied hiking trails in untouched nature, with magnificent views of Lake Vänern, as well as fairytale wilderness. Along the route, you’ll find great spots for having a barbeque or a picnic, or just to sit down and take it all in.
“Being named Sweden’s first UNESCO Global Geopark is very exciting,” says Engström-Weber. “It spurs us on to continue our focus on nature, to protect our mountains and work sustainably overall. Plus, it’s a wonderful recognition of how special this area really is.”
12 months of fun
Unsurprisingly, the area is very popular over the summer months, but there’s plenty to enjoy in the winter too. At this time, Vänern is transformed into a sparkling wonderland, offering, among other things, ice skating, ice fishing and markets selling local handicrafts at Christmas. And, with a recently upgraded five-star campsite at Ursand with cosy shoreside cabins open all year round, it has never been easier to snuggle down by the water’s edge.
And, if all the outdoor fun leaves you with a rumbling stomach, what better way to round off the day than enjoying some top-quality cuisine? Renowned for its high-quality produce, including fish from Vänern, game and locally produced cheese, the region hosts lots of cafés, bars, farm shops, and restaurants serving mouth-watering local specialities. Trollhättan is also home to the European Oyster Opening Championships, a prestigious competition that doubles up as a celebration of food, drink and local crafts.
Embark on an adventure
Finally, there’s the Göta Älv pilgrimage, a 140-kilometre-long trail of sights and insights. “It’s an internal and external journey that you complete on your own or together with others,” says Engström-Weber. In three stages, the pilgrimage combines nature with history and each of the stages – Gothenburg-Lödöse, Lödöse-Hålanda and Lödöse-Vänersborg – has its character. You can choose to do just one, or you can do all three and see which one is your favourite.
The stages are further divided into smaller accessible routes, with Trollskogen as the longest stretch. Spanning 22 kilometres from Utby to Trollhättan, the route takes you through enchanting deep forest and up and down steep hills. You will pass Åkerström Nature Reserve which offers stunning views, especially around sunset. Just remember to bring a packed lunch along on this little adventure.
Kärleksstigen (the love path) is the last stretch of the Göta Älv pilgrimage, starting at Trollhättan bridge and finishing at Dalbobron in Vänersborg. It passes the grave of Karl, an almost four-kilometre-long water channel built so that ships could avoid the falls at Vargön. When you reach Vänersborg, you have the chance to enjoy a well-deserved rest and recharge. Especially convenient if you plan to continue the pilgrimage towards Norway, which is an adventure you wouldn’t want to miss.
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