For a leisurely, scenic way to experience central Sweden, a cruise on the Göta Canal is not to be missed. Stretching for 190.5 kilometers (just over 118 miles), the canal route passes through 58 locks and numerous lakes between Mem near Söderköping and Södertorp on Lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden.
You can rent a boat and make the trip on your own, or board one of the many passenger vessels plying the canal route. For a classic Göta Canal experience, travel on one of the historic canal boats operated by the Göta Canal Steamship Company.
The oldest vessel still in regular service, M/S Juno, was built in 1874, followed by the M/S Wilhelm Tham in 1912 and the M/S Diana in 1931. Each has been maintained to reflect the era in which it was built, while incorporating modern conveniences. The cabins are tiny and generally furnished with bunk beds and washbasins; shared WCs and showers are available on each deck. Meals are served in the dining room on board, and there’s also a small library lounge for reading and relaxation.
Weather permitting, you’ll probably spend most of your time aboard on the outdoor decks (both covered and uncovered areas are available), watching the scenery and the communities the boat passes through. One of the great joys of canal cruising is the leisurely pace of the journey. You’ll see people going about their daily lives, riding bikes along paths beside the canal, and enjoying picnics as they watch the boats pass through the locks. At Forsvik the ship may even be greeted with flowers and songs by a local group. Excursions on shore are also included.
If you’ve only got a couple of days, the two-day, one-night Mini Canal Cruise between Söderköping and Motala on Lake Vättern is a great way to get a taste of the Göta Canal. However, if you’ve got more time, you can travel all the way between Stockholm and Gothenburg on a journey that includes the Göta Canal, a crossing of Lake Vänern, and the Trollhättan Canal, which connects Lake Vänern with the west coast of Sweden. Options include:
- The Classic Canal Cruise: four days, three nights from Stockholm to Gothenburg or vice versa, cruising the entire way.
- From Coast to Coast: also four days and three nights, cruising only between Söderköping and Gothenburg, but with no night travel. Optional bus transfers available between Stockholm and Söderköping.
- The Great Swedish Cruise: the grandest journey of them all – six days, five nights, covering the entire Stockholm-Gothenburg route during daylight hours.
For details of the various itinerary options as well as more information about the historic canal boats and the cruising experience, visit the Göta Canal Steamship Company website.