Göta Canal – A Journey from Coast to Coast

Göta Canal is one of Sweden’s largest tourist attractions and is used for private boats as well for organised cruise traffic. More than two million passengers attend one of the cruises and 6000 private boats sail or cruise the canal every year. The canal is also known as The Divorce Trench, referring to all couples arguing while sailing their boat together.

Göta Canal

The construction of Göta Canal (in Swedish Göta kanal) started 1810 on initiative of Baltzar von Platen; a Swedish navy officer. The design and planning was done by the Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford and the budget was the enormous amount of 24 million SEK. Just imagine how much money that whould be converted to the current money value! After 22 years the canal opened, having taken the effort of 58 000 workers; mainly from Britain but also Russian deserters.

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History and Construction

Göta Canal is 190 kilometres long and starts in Sjötorp on Lake Vänern´s eastern bank and ends in Söderköping in the Baltic Sea. Together with Trollhättan Canal and Göte River it forms a 390 kilometres waterborne route from Sweden’s western coast to the eastern coast; connecting Gothenburg to the Baltic Sea. 87 kilometres were dug or blasted, the rest is formed by natural lakes and rivers. Göta Canal has a total of 58 locks and the difference in height is 91,5 meter from the sea level to the highest point.

Baltzar von Platen himself died shortly before Göta Canal was opened in 1932. Which might was a good thing as the canal never became the economic success which he had planned for it to be. And why was that? In 1855 the railway came to Sweden; transporting people and goods faster and cheaper than the boats on the canal.

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Today´s Use

Today Göta Canal is mainly used for leisure by private boats as well as cruise trips. The cruise from Stockholm to Gothenburg, taking four days, is usually fully booked months in advance. More than two million people go on one of the cruises every year.

The most popular cruise is the one from Bergs slussar till Borensberg, passing six locks and lifting the boat more than 18 meter. When you get to Borensberg you can choose between going back by boat or borrow a bike. Without doubt the bike is the fastest way to get back!

The Borensberg lock is still operated by manpower, meaning a strong man turns the lock several times per day. In addition to the locks you also pass several flexible bridges which can be rolled back on shore, and next to every lock or bridge there is a small house where the gate-keeper used to live. Along the canal there are also a number of mansions, churches and manors as well as a lot of cows and sheep, so there is plenty to rest the eye on.

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The cruise boats leave Bergs slussar between 9 and 10 a.m. and returns five or six hours later. On board there is a restaurant as well as a kiosk selling ice cream etc. to make your canal cruise a nice experience.

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