Clean, green city - with monster cinnamon buns

Costa Rica

This clean, green city on Sweden's western shore is a comfortable introduction to Scandinavia. Gareth took a short break and packs his list with canals like Amsterdam's, monster cinnamon buns, the world's most exciting orchestra conductor, a top exhibition of Italian Renaissance masters, bags of Swedish style, and taxi drivers who speak perfect English. Photo - Gareth Huw Davies

Glam tram

If you want to test how comfortable a green future might be, walk down Avenyn, the wide central boulevard in Gothenburg, where the city''s swish blue and white trams and the world’s largest biogas-fuelled fleet of buses have muscled out the car, unless it’s the ubiquitous Volvo taxi. The Gothenburg Pass (£35, 48 hours) gives you unlimited use of trams and buses, as well as entry to museums such as the Science and Discovery Centre, Museum of World Culture and the Liseberg, Scandinavia''s biggest amusement park. We took an interesting city circuit using the tram and the harbour ferry (included in the pass) joining up the many big green spaces. One tram routs runs direct to the ferry to the islands. Closer to the city centre use the pass on the Paddan boats, which squeeze under ultra-low bridges on the canal system built in the style of Amsterdam by Dutch engineers.

Live wire

Remember Gustavo Dudamel, who wowed the BBC Proms with the brilliant Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela? The musical phenomenon, currently conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, is a reason in himself to take a short break in this city (Ryanair fly daily). They give several concerts, including a free open-air performance for 20,000 in Slottsskogen park. But it’s double value Dudamel this year (2010). The dynamic 29-year-old also gives a concert in the city with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, who toured Scandinavia in June. There''s more marvellous music in the Gothenburg Opera House, a splendid building on the harbour-front which opened in 1994. Upcoming performances include Mozart''s Magic Flute, Puccini''s la Boheme, and Wagner''s Mastersingers.

Bright lights

You never know what might be in your attic. In 1998 the painting ''La Bella Principessa'', depicting a young woman in profile and believed to be by an obscure German artist, was sold for $19,000. In 2009 experts declared it a lost Leonardo da Vinci. Today it is worth $150m and it''s a stand-out exhibit (another is a 15 feet high copy of Michelangelo''s David) in a world-touring exhibition of works by Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rafael. It''s a great coup for the city that it opens here rather than, say, Paris or London. They think it’s the first time the three Renaissance titans have appeared in the same exhibition, called And-there-was-light, outside Italy.
Many of the exhibits are from private collections, and rarely seen. After August (2010) it goes on an eight year-long world tour.

Fine fare

On Friday evenings many bars serve free food when you buy a drink. And in another customer-friendly gesture cafes provide a blanket on every seat outside if it''s cold, to save on patio heaters. Café culture is rich in this city - try Sweden’s largest (home made) cinnamon buns at Kafé Husaren. There’s a lot of bright dining here too. I enjoyed a one course lunch in a café in the fish market Feskekorka, and dinner in the stylish (bright red seats) and friendly (as most Swedish people are) Familjen Restaurant. They served excellent, rustic no-fuss fare from local ingredients - carrot soup, chives, ginger and corn-fed chicken, with a main of wild boar (slow cooked overnight), pureed turnips and brown butter, wafer thin cabbage and loganberry gravy. Three courses - £26. 7 Arkivgatan, 004631 20 79 79

Chic shop

Design Torget is a bright and colourful magnet of a store (14, Vallgatan) in the city centre, zinging with the energy of good ideas. Once a week a ''jury'' from the shop judge the latest product ideas sent in by Sweden’s designers – new and established. Then they put the best on sale. It’s a cornucopia of clever, stylish and well designed items for the kitchen, home, and garden – and a full style division up from IKEA. A good example is the Pluring, a plastic hanger that attaches to surfaces to hold anything from dish towels to kitchen knives. It''s hard to leave without buying something which will probably become indispensable. Then check out the Röhsska Museum of Fashion and Design, to understand why style seems to be in the Swedish genes.

Sleep easy

The corridor leading to my room in the Avalon Hotel meandered gently like a British country lane – no, not too much schnapps. There was even a border of synthetic grass. This new hotel’s designers cut down on straight lines as part of their serenity drive, in a successful bid for feng shui certification. My room had a warm and happy décor of light green, red and cream. Classy details included designer furniture, sleek oak walls, travertine stone floors and rain dance shower. And handmade chocolates with my cup of (apparently very efficacious) white tea. The bathtub jutting into the room doubled as a minispa. (The more energetic can book a room with a mini gym.) This city centre hotel – Best City Building of 2008 – is close to all the shops as well as the Rose Garden, in one of the best preserved 19th century parks in Europe, and the Museum of Art. 0046 31 751 02 00.

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