Marstrand is a sailing town and island located in West Sweden, less than an hour’s drive away from Gothenburg. Surrounded by the sea and the beautiful archipelago, it makes for the perfect summer day trip or weekend getaway. The town is filled with boats, beautiful villas, cozy streets, refreshing swimming spots, a nature reserve, and plenty of historical buildings and sites. While Marstrand used to be the herring capital of Europe, it is now most well known as the sailing capital of Sweden. If you happen to be visiting Gothenburg and have a day for a trip outside the city, then I would highly recommend you visit Marstrand. Here is everything you need to know when visiting this charming coastal town.
Best things to do in Marstrand
1. Walk around the entire island
Undoubtedly the best and easiest thing to do in Marstrand. The island is pretty much car-free and sprinkled with gorgeous villas, a fort, and cozy cobblestone streets. You can easily spend a few hours wandering the streets and taking pictures of the beautiful buildings.
2. Visit the Carlsten Fort
Built in the 1700s, Carlsten Fort was meant to protect the island from invaders. Nowadays it is Marstrand’s biggest tourist attraction and a great place for a view of the island and its surroundings. If you wish to go on a fort tour it’ll cost you around $11 per person, but you can also wander around the public premises by yourself for free.
3. Hike around the Marstrand Nature Reserve
Marstrand has a typical West Sweden landscape with its rocky and rugged landscape. The hike through the nature reserve is absolutely stunning and you’ll be able to see the archipelago and the sea from each corner of your walk. If you have plenty of time to spend here, then I suggest you bring a picnic blanket and some snacks and enjoy the view. You can easily combine the walk through the town and the nature reserve, it takes roughly 2 hours (without longer stops) to walk around both.
4. Take a dip
In the warmer months, you can also take a dip from one of the swimming places and cool off under the warm Swedish summer sky. I did a Google map search to get the exact bathing spots that you’ll find HERE. And yes – there is a nude beach tucked away on the west side of the island for the daring ones!
5. Lobster fishing
If you happen to be in Marstrand in September, when the lobster season starts – don’t miss out on a lobster fishing experience with Hummerfiske! We had a similar experience at Weather Islands and absolutely loved it.
Best restaurants and bars on Marstrand
Marstrand isn’t particularly huge, but it does have quite a few restaurants and bars to choose from! Eating on Marstrand is not cheap and lunch will generally cost over $20 per person. We’ve been to the island a couple of times now and here are a few of my favorites:
Bergs Konditori – a cafe with tables at the dock and their own bakery. You can either eat breakfast here or have a fika while people watch from the outdoor seating.
Restaurang Maritime – Restaurant and bar with a nice view over the harbor of Marstrand and the canal of Albrektsund. In the summertime, they have a cozy outdoor seating area.
Arvidsons Kiosk och Fisk – a no-fuss lunch kiosk with probably the cheapest lunch prices on the island ($14 USD for decent fish and chips) and with an outdoor seating area.
Johan’s Krog – an upscale restaurant open for dinner on Saturdays. Book in advance. Prices here are a little higher but expect good quality food and ambiance.
Hamnkrogen – after you take the ferry back to Marstrand you can stop by for a drink at Hamnkrogen and watch the sunset behind the island.
How to get there
If you’re starting your journey in Gothenburg, you’ll be driving on the E6 highway going north towards Kungälv. The journey is fairly easy and scenic, but there can be a little more traffic on a sunny weekend. It will take you roughly 45 minutes to drive to Marstrand and you can park your car here. The parking costs around $1 USD per hour and you can pay it via an app.
Remember that cash is not king in Sweden, so always be prepared to download apps and paying with a card. Once you park the car, walk towards the ferry station and buy the ferry ticket. The return ticket costs around $5 USD per person and the journey across to Marstrand island takes about 5 minutes.
By public transportation
Getting to Marstrand with public transportation is even more convenient than traveling there by car. Download the app To Go to buy a ticket and enter your destination ‘Marstrands Färjeläge’. From Gothenburg Central station you’ll be taking the train to Ytterby and then changing to the Marstrand Express bus that will take you straight to the ferry.
The journey takes a little less than an hour and costs around $4 USD one way per person. Once you arrive at Marstrands Färjeläge, you will buy the ferry ticket at the station. The return ticket costs around $5 USD per person and the journey across to Marstrand island takes about 5 minutes.
When to visit Marstrand
The best time to visit Marstrand is from late May to August. In the summertime, the island really comes to life and all the shops and restaurants are open. If you happen to be in Gothenburg during the colder months you can still visit Marstrand, but bear in mind most of the islands (not just Marstrand) have closed shops and restaurants when there are not so many tourists. It’s still pretty to walk around though!