Our Brännö island day trip from Gothenburg, Sweden was not only a highlight of our honeymoon, but the best day trip of any holiday we’ve ever been on (and that’s a lot). Despite Gothenburg as a city not feeling big or busy and also being very green, we still wanted a day trip out to somewhere more rural. So we picked the beautiful island of Brännö, in Gothenburg’s Southern Archipelago. On the island, cars are banned and there are only around 800 inhabitants (perfect for our favourite hobby of people-avoiding).
Brännö was recommended to us by the lady in the ticket office for the ferry. We were open to going to any of the archipelago islands, but Swedish people usually know best so we took her advice… And now we’ve been, I have to say that if you go to Gothenburg and don’t explore the archipelago, you’ve made a mistake. It’s a dream.
Here’s how to get there and what to do, plus lots of gorgeous Brännö photographs (it’s pronounced Br-eh-nuh, by the way)…
How to get to Brännö, Sweden
To get to Brännö, get delightfully pale blue number 11 tram from Gothenburg city centre to the Saltholmen ferry terminal. In summer, you can also get number 9. Gothenburg’s public transport system is called Västtrafik (it runs the ferries as well as the trams) so you can use that to plan your times and whatnot. It takes about 30 minutes to get from Gothenburg to Saltholmen. If you’ve not already got a travel pass as part of your Gothenburg trip, you can buy tickets from shops like Pressbyrån or 7-Eleven. If you board within 90 minutes, your tram ticket also covers the ferry. But if not, then there’s a ticket office at Salthomen.
When you get to Salthomen, you need to find your Brännö ferry.
Brännö island actually has two ferry terminals and two ferry options to get there:
- Ferry 282 to Brännö Husvik (on the south side of Brännö) – this takes 40ish minutes and stops at a few other islands in the archipelago
- Ferry 283 to Brännö Rödsten, (on the north-east side of Brännö) – this takes just over 20 minutes.
We got on the ferry and ‘enjoyed’ the standard gale-force wind that comes free with any journey.
Brännö island: in the words of Arcade Fire, I’ve found a place where no cars go
When we arrived on Brännö, we were stunned by how beautiful and quiet it was. We knew beforehand that it was car-free, but I don’t think I’d actually grasped what a difference that would make. Arcade Fire were really onto something there.
Weirdly, the ferry across was full but people seemed to quickly disperse and vanish. We were left to wander through the car-free little roads by ourselves, taking it all in. Completely alone. For two car-hating individuals, we couldn’t ask for more. Oh apart from amazing weather and being in our favourite country, Sweden. So we did alright, like!
When is best to visit Brännö?
I have to say, we were very lucky with the weather during our trip. Spring in Scandinavia is always my favourite time/place combination.
It was a lovely spring day in May with clear blue skies and a bit of a breeze. I imagine Brännö would be lovely in summer, too.
If it was cold and raining, you’d not enjoy it as much because the joy of the island is just in wandering around and sitting by the sea. A bit of a grim idea in December.
The big sights in Brännö: a local shop and a cat
As usual with our travels, we ended up being ridiculously thirsty and miles from a shop to buy water. [edit from the future: you’ll be pleased to hear we’ve since got a grip and now always carry a reusable water bottle and never come as close to death through dehydration these days.]
We eventually found the local shop for local people. It seemed to be the only one
open on the island and was a hub of activity for residents. The beauty of Brännö is in its calm, serene atmosphere and general lack of hustle and bustle, so when I say ‘hub of activity’, I mean we saw three people going to do their shopping and then cycling home with it. Hardly Shibuya Crossing.
Even better than being saved from near death from dehydration, we met a cat! Again, a pretty standard activity on our trips. I just don’t see the point of leaving the house, let alone getting on an aeroplane, unless you know there’s going to be a cat involved at some point.
Where to eat on Brännö island: fresh seafood and local beer
After more wandering round residential areas ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the beautiful little houses and gardens, we were starving. We found two restaurants, but only one was be open, so that put a stop to any annoying indecision and frantic TripAdvisor-ing. Sometimes no choice is the best choice.
We ate at Bränno Värdshus. It was situated about 5 minutes from the shop and had a lovely sunny courtyard. It also served local beer, which is always a plus. The island has its own microbrewery: Brännöl (island beer). Currently, you can only buy their beer on Brännö. The two spots to get it are either from this restaurant (for a full alcohol content version) or from the one supermarket (for a lower alcohol content). Got to love those Swedish alcohol laws.
Food-wise, we both had the incredibly cheap day menu (top tip for Swedish holidays: get the lunchtime deals). It was fresh mackerel and veg. Delicious.
Exploring further: a hidden harbour
We needed a rest after eating, because sitting around in the sun stuffing your face is really hard work isn’t it?\
So went and found this glorious little harbour to have a sit and watch the water.
And the best thing? No other people around. Wait no, the best thing was that there were no cars around. But the solitude was nice too.
After finding this little area, having wandered through rows of gorgeous wooden houses with white fences, I had to keep asking myself: is this real? Do actual human people live in this place? It is real though and very lucky Swedish people do live there. I know. Sickeningly jealous over here.
Exploring further: the Swedish countryside at its best
The whole of Brännö island was full of fragrant blossoms and beautiful walks. And obviously, the classic Swedish wooden buildings and terracotta rooftops.
As far as things to do go, there’s no particular thing to do or see on Brännö. It’s all about relaxing and wandering (hence thinking it’d be a bit grim trying to visit in winter). This was one of the first days of our honeymoon, so we were both in need of a relaxing day after the intense madness of the wedding.
If you didn’t want to just sit/eat/drink/wander/relax, Brännö would be good for cyclists or swimmers. Despite watching the Tour de France every year, we never cycle. And neither of us can swim. So er. Pass. But the Swedes love all that outdoorsy action, so if you really want to pretend to be Swedish (and who doesn’t?), you can get fully involved there. Luckily, we do like walking so there’s one Swedish outdoorsy thing we will happily get into. It was only 35 minutes or so to stroll from one side of Brännö to the other, so we can say we walked across an entire island. Phew. Strenuous.
Getting back to Gothenburg from Brännö
I forgot to mention earlier, but the terminal on Brännö is FULL of bicycles and little motorised carts. It made for an amazing scene of commuter bicycles all waiting for their owners to get back from work on the mainland. So very Sweden.
To get back to Gothenburg, you just get the ferry and the beautiful blue tram back to the centre. Chris was really happy about the tram, being a massive geek. Especially when the driver gave him a thumbs up when he was taking the photo. Ha.
So all in all, we had the best day trip of any holiday we’ve ever been on and the best day of our two-week honeymoon. No exaggeration. We will be raving about Brännö for years to come. It’s pure escapism and a glimpse of a simpler, quieter way of life. We didn’t want to leave and go back to noisy reality.
Brännö island day trip from Gothenburg: useful information
How to get there
See the start of this post for a full description of the journey, but in short we took the number 11 tram from Gothenburg city centre to the ferry/boat terminal. It took about half an hour. Then we got on the ferry and enjoyed the gale-force winds en route to Brännö.
Where to stay
There is somewhere to stay on Brännö itself, but it was a day trip for us. I don’t think you’d need more than one day there unless you were specifically going to do absolutely nothing but relax. As it was our honeymoon, we had splashed out and stayed in the exquisite IQ Suites apartments in Gothenburg, which seem to have since closed down (NOOOO). So I’d recommend staying in Gothenburg centre, maybe in the very cool and hipster Haga district.
How to get around
Cars are banned, as mentioned so it’s all on foot or bicycle: bliss.
When to go
May was a dreamy time to go – sunny, warm weather and blossom on the trees. It might not be so enjoyable on a wet, grey day. But let’s not think about that. Just stick to the warmer months and you’ll be fine.
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