Photograph by Yadid Levy, Anzenberger/Redux
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The water may be chilly, but that doesn’t stop Grebbestad swimmers from diving in.

Photograph by Yadid Levy, Anzenberger/Redux

Discover a Swedish seaside town that’s obsessed with oysters

In Grebbestad, go on a shellfish safari, sip oyster-infused brews, and learn to shuck like a champ.

It’s not normally good to be in the weeds, but Linnéa Sjögren, half of the professional seaweed foraging duo Catxalot, moved to Grebbestad, Sweden, for that very purpose. “Shellfish thrive here because our water is so clean,” she says. “We chose to move closer because of the quality of edible seaweed.”

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Grebbestad is known for producing some of the fattest and most flavorful Nordic oysters.

Located along the Bohuslän coast, an area in western Sweden with ties to the Iron Age, Grebbestad has long been home to fishermen who depend on the North Atlantic’s frigid waters. Life here revolves around a waterfront lined with weathered trawlers. Each May, the town roars to life as expert shuckers arrive to compete in the Nordic Oyster Opening Championship. When summer’s in swing, Grebbestad draws vacationers who gorge on the fattest and most flavorful Nordic bivalves.

Travelers can up their oyster game by taking a safari to learn about growing and harvesting. Make time for other ocean-based adventures, too, such as kayaking, seaweed foraging, and island hopping around the idyllic archipelago dotted with wooden cottages painted in traditional falu red.

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Ways to explore the waters around Grebbestad include kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing.

What to do

Join librarians-turned-seaweed hunters Linnéa Sjögren and Jonas Pettersson of Catxalot, as they paddle kayaks around Grebbestad’s archipelago in search of sugar kelp and sea lettuce. Back on land, learn to cook your catch with olive oil and salt on a portable stove. Stand-up paddleboarding with Ingela and Marcus Holgersson of Skärgårdsidyllen is another way to explore the water. But don’t leave this oyster-obsessed town without taking a shellfish safari. Per Karlsson of Everts Sjöbod shares his harvesting methods and tips for shucking oysters raked from the docks of his 19th-century boathouse.

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In Grebbestad, a diner digs into seafood at Everts Sjöbod, which offers shellfish safaris.

Where to eat

In this compact, walkable town, the favorite haunts brim with character. Take Restaurang Telegrafen, nestled in a former telegraph station and pouring more than 30 different wines. Or Grebys, housed in a 1901 converted cannery where seafood traps hang above diners as they tuck into Arctic char and shellfish dishes. You can peel just-steamed crayfish at seasonal summer spot Sältan Mat & Bar, at Grebbestad’s port, or watch your entrecôte being grilled in an open kitchen at fine dining destination Latitud 58°, in a secluded marina.

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Grebbestad draws vacationers who gorge on the fattest and most flavorful Nordic bivalves.

What to buy

At her namesake studio and shop, ceramic artist Sanna Wijk creates a mix of pastel and monochromatic kitchenware, dishes, flower pots, and vases. Beer buffs can buy a six-pack from Sweden’s oldest microbrewery, Grebbestad Bryggeri, where the variety includes oyster porters, lagers, and fermented soft drinks called “must.” (Groups of eight or more can purchase brewery tours.) Lovers of antiques head to Riccius Antik for nautical relics, lamps, and furniture from the 17th to early 20th centuries.

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Sunbathers relax by the sea in Grebbestad.

Where to stay

Reminiscent of a Nantucket cottage, the boutique Grebys Hotell has nine airy rooms in hues of soft gray with splashes of red and blue from British and U.S. flags. Book the “prince room” for a private balcony with lovely waterfront views. Guests can sail right up to Nordic spa resort TanumStrand, then dock their boat and settle into one of the 96 cabins or 165 contemporary rooms decked out in dark wood and navy blues. For lodging that’s more modest—and more social—check into Grebbestads Vandrarhem, which provides hostel-style rooms and a communal kitchen and dining area under its angled ceilings.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning travel writer and photographer based in Stockholm, Sweden. Follow her adventures on Twitter @LolaAkinmade.
This story was originally published in the June/July 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveler.