Let’s face it: Gothenburg is great as a coastal city, but things can be a bit rainy at times. So where do you go when you want to enjoy the water, but without getting actually wet? The Sjöfartsmuseet (maritime museum), with its historical artefacts and beautiful aquarium, is a great place to visit on a not-so-sunny day.

Located between the Stena Line’s German and Danish ferry terminals, the museum was built on a spot overlooking the Göta river. Apart from being easily accessible (trams 3, 9 or 11 to Stigbergstorget will almost drop you off at the front door), the museum is also very cheap to enter: people younger than 25 can enter for free. If you’re older, you’ll only have to pay 40 kronor for a season ticket, which remains valid for the rest of the year and also provides access to four other museums in the city (Röhsska museet, kunstmuseet, stadsmuseet and naturhistoriska museet).

Due to Gothenburg being established as a port city, the museum can show a lot of maritime history. From large models of three-masted sailing ships to more modern tools used on the city’s ship wharf, the permanent exhibition spans centuries of nautical development. The early naval trade, the Swedish America Line and the rise and decline of Gothenburg’s shipbuilding industry are all displayed here.

The museum also seems to aim for a younger audience, judging by the more playful objects on the top floor. Aside from an interactive boat simulator, children can enjoy a ride in a moving ship cabin (recreating the feel of being on the open sea), an accessible submarine model and a play set which involves sorting out ship containers in the harbour. If you want to test your sailor skills in the simulator, it might be best to visit the museum during the middle of a school day; otherwise there might be a long queue of enthusiastic kids in front of you.

The bottom floor hosts a decent café and the museum’s aquarium. While the aquarium isn’t very big, there’s a lot of variety to be seen here. Not only northern fish can be found in the tanks, visitors will also encounter more tropical species such as the clownfish. The effort put in replicating different undersea environments really gave me the impression of being in the Caribbean for one moment, while taking a look at Scandinavian waters during the next.

Overall, the Sjöfartsmuseet is relatively small, but it more than makes up for its size with the sheer amount of things it can show you. Don’t expect to spend hours watching every object; the museum is more suited for shorter visits. But with its cheap entry fee, engaging exhibition and colourful aquarium that’s hardly a bad thing, especially if you’re going there with children.

Written by Joris van Venrooij