Looking for a little piece of serenity along the coast of Sweden? Then this post has you covered. On my recent trip to Sweden (by invite from VisitSweden, thank you!) I got to explore Gothenburg and the coastline of Halland. That included Varberg, Sweden, and I am so excited to share this gem of a town with you!
Varberg is a coastal town in Halland, about 75 kilometres (46 mi) from Gothenburg. The town is busy in the summer, with lots of things to do, places to eat and beaches to enjoy. The locals swim all year round, and Kallbadhuset (the cold bath house) is what makes this a lot more convenient than other places. There’s a very distinct culture focused on swimming in the ocean, and you’ll even find separate nude beaches for women and men!
If you are travelling elsewhere, or are still wondering where you should go in Sweden after visiting the Halland coast, I have to recommend Småland! Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Smaland, Sweden, and don’t miss my review of the ABBA Hotel while you’re at it!
In this quick guide I’ll cover some important aspects to know before you go to Varberg, Sweden; namely how to get there, where to stay and of course; what to do! Keep reading for all the details. First things first; how do you get there?
How to get to Varberg, Sweden
If you are travelling from abroad, the nearest international airport is Gothenburg’s Landvetter. From Gothenburg, Varberg is about an hour drive, or (even better) just 40 minutes on the train (from the central station Göteborg C). Trains run as often as three an hour during peak times, and you can book your tickets in advance here. Please note that it is not possible to buy the ticket on the train.
Fun fact: from Gothenburg you can also travel to Varberg by bicycle! Cycling in Sweden is a popular activity, and Kattegatleden, Sweden’s longest national cycling route, goes from Gothenburg past Varberg.
If you are visiting Denmark before your trip to Sweden and Varberg you can always travel by ferry from Grenaa with Stena Line! The crossing takes about 4 hours and onboard you can relax, enjoy the view or get some work done while travelling.
What to do in Varberg
Now for the good stuff! That’s there to do in Varberg? Loads of things, if you ask me (or anyone else who has been there). Let’s break down a few of the top activities there (or at least, a few of my favourites).
Visit Varberg Fortress
The fortress dates back to the late 1200s, and is a must for anyone visiting Varberg. In 1305 the fortress actually became Norwegian (woop!), and served as protection from King Eric of Denmark. King Magnus of Sweden and Norway (he was Magnus IV of Sweden and Magnus VII of Norway, not confusing at all, right?) spend a lot of his childhood at the castle in Varberg fortress.
Visiting the fortress today will teach you more about the history of Varberg and its fortification, and there are some interesting artifacts on display in the museum there. There is a particularly interesting brass button there (I never thought I would say this about a button), that is said to be the projectile that killed King Charles XII of Sweden.
Top tip: you can actually have dinner inside Varberg fortress! Happy Fish, a great restaurant specialising in hand-picked produce and seafood, is located inside the fortress walls! We ate a lovely three-course meal there during our visit. The owners also own a wine bar in the town, so you can trust that the wine selection is just as good as the fish.
Relax at Asia Spa
The photo further up in this post (showing some of the roof tops in Varberg, and the fortress) was taken from Asia Spa. The spa is located in Varbergs Stadshotell, and offer spectacular views of town and the ocean. The spa, as the name hints at, is inspired by Asian philosophies, and you could easily spend a whole day moving between their different pools and relaxation areas. They also have yoga sessions throughout the week, so there’s plenty to do. My favourite area of the spa was the hammock relaxation area on the top floor (with amazing views) and the hot springs (with open windows so you can enjoy the views and just feel the hot water relax your muscles).
Go swimming in the ocean (nude or in Kallbadhuset)
As mentioned, swimming is a huge part of the local culture in Varberg and the surrounding area, so there are plenty of opportunities to swim in the ocean (no matter the time of year). If you are feeling brave, a trip to the nude beach could do you some good. These are sheltered with little walls to protect swimmers from curious eyes, so no worries there!
Alternatively, you can visit the beautiful Kallbadhuset. This Varberg staple is not just a pretty sight (with its Turkey-inspired architecture), it also offers changing rooms, a sauna and convenient stairs going straight into the ocean.
Take Strandtoget (the Beach Train) to Apelviken
When I was told we’d be taking a “Beach Train”, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This little electric vehicle with carriages runs in the high season, and brings visitors to Varberg along the ocean front to Apelviken. Apelviken is a bay full of beach-goers, kite surfers and swimmers alike, and is worth a visit.
My recommendation is to head to John’s Place, a restaurant dating back to 1970. I absolutely loved the interior here, and was particularly happy with my cocktail served by an incredibly attractive bartender. The stunning views of the bay helped too (see photo below, sadly I wasn’t quite tough enough to get a shot of the bartender). We were greeted at the door by the owner herself, and I could’ve spent hours staring at all the fun trinkets found around the restaurant and bar (such as a bunch of cut-off men’s ties hung up over the bar with their owner’s business cards stapled to them!).
The Varberg hotel I stayed at: Varbergs Stadshotell
This is the place to stay in Varberg. Seriously. I mean, I had a bathtub in my room! Not just in the bathroom, but in the room. You have no idea how happy I was when I saw this. Varbergs Stadshotell is where you’ll find the above-mentioned Asia Spa (worth the stay alone!). It is located right in the centre of town, in the town square, and dates back to 1902! You know I love a hotel with a story.
I absolutely loved the interior at the hotel (since I bought my apartment, I am noticing lamps and chairs and colours all of a sudden), and it had a very classic, glamorous feel to it. The hotel really underlined why they call Halland “Sweden’s Riviera”! I had all the amenities I needed in the room (most importantly; a coffee machine, red wine and a tub), and wish I could’ve stayed longer. Having access to the incredible Asia Spa is also a great perk for guests. So if you are planning to visit Halland, I strongly recommend staying at Varbergs Stadshotell.
There you have my guide to Varberg, Sweden. I absolutely loved visiting this coastal town, and know you will too! If you don’t speak Swedish, here’s everything you need to know from someone who spent every summer in Sweden growing up: “En mjukglass i strut med jordgubbströssel, tack!“
Alternatively, you can just get one of these quick guides to Swedish.
Have you been to Varberg, Halland or Gothenburg? Do you want to go there?