Trollhättan, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden

Trollhättan is a city in the province of Västergötland and has historically been one of the industrial centers of Sweden. The most famous company from here is Saab Automobile, which once employed many of the city’s around 50.000 inhabitants. This is a city built along the canal and the hydroelectric power plant next to its center.

A Short History of Trollhättan

Trollhättan was earlier known as Stora Edet, meaning the large land passage between two waterways. Most likely the name is associated with the large rapids found here. For a long time, they prevented boats from passing along the river. A bit further downstream is the locality Lilla Edet, the small land passage. The current name, Trollhättan, comes from the belief that trolls lived in the rapids and that the visible stones were their caps.

The Canal

The history of the area is closely connected with the river Göta Älv. The river and its rapids were an obstacle that was discussed already in the 16th century. The first lock at the smaller rapids in Lilla Edet was completed in 1607, but it took until the year 1800 before the locks and canal were completed in Trollhättan. The canal was, however, a success and by many at the time claimed as the eighth wonder of the world. The canal then connected lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden, with the sea of Kattegat on Sweden’s western coast. With the opening of Göta Canal in 1832, Lake Vänern was now also connected with the eastern coast of Sweden.

Even though the population had grown and Trollhättan had become one of the largest urban areas in Sweden, it took until 1857 before it received its town charters.

Hydroelectric Power

The second large development in Trollhättan occurred in the early 20th century. This was when the Swedish state looked at the possibility to harvest the energy in the rapids. The construction of the first hydroelectric power plant started in 1907 and took three years to complete. The first power station was named Olidan and was joined by Hojum in 1942.

The power plant was initially run by the company Trollhätte Kanal- och Vattenverk, which was owned by the Swedish state. The company would be the foundation of Kungliga Vattenfallsstyrelsen in 1909, the state-owned power company that is today known as Vattenfall and operates in several European countries.

Industrialization

Industrialization would be the third event that really formed today’s Trollhättan. The company Nohab was established in 1847 and it produced turbines and eventually locomotives. Nohab closed down in 1986 but was prior to that able to start manufacturing airplane engines in 1930. This manufacturing would result in a new company, first named Svenska Flygmotor. The name changed to Volvo Aero Corporation and is today GKN Aerospace. An even more famous company was founded here in 1937.

Svenska Aeroplan AB, also known as SAAB, was established to secure the Swedish manufacturing of fighter airplanes. After the Second World War, Saab decided to start production of cars as a replacement for the expected decline in demand for airplanes. In 1946 the first prototype was completed and the production in Trollhättan started a few years later. Saab Automobile has since ceased to exist after years of trying to save the business when the 10-year ownership by General Motors came to an end in 2010. Saab was acquired by NEVS in 2012.

Things to Do and See in Trollhättan

Trollhättan is a city with a long history and many activities for its visitors. There are plenty of museums to explore, but also nature and the outdoors. Once the city runs out of new explorations, other towns are never far away. Such towns include Vänersborg and Uddevalla.

Saab Car Museum

Out of the three modern Swedish car brands, one had its headquarter in Trollhättan. Saab had a long history of producing cars in the city and about 70 of these are on display, including the 1947 Saab 92001 and the more modern Saab 92 and Saab 9-5.

The other two modern Swedish car manufacturers are Volvo Cars and Koenigsegg.

Olidan Hydroelectric Power Plant

Olidan Hydroelectric Power Plant started to provide electricity to the area in 1910. In fact, it was the first power plant of its kind in Sweden. It is still in operation and is one of the most prominent historical buildings in the city.

Innovatum Science Center

Innovatum Science Center uses games and interactive experiments to show visitors the technology around us. They also teach visitors about the industrial history of the area.

NOHAB Smithy

One of the oldest hammer forges can be found in the Innovatum area of the city. This smithy began its production in 1847 and was in operation until 1993. Once it closed down Trollhättan Municipality acquired the smithy and it does today house workshops and galleries. The work of the past is also showcased for visitors during the summers.

The Canal Museum

The canal Museum tells the story of the canal and its travelers. It opened in 1984 and is housed in a building that is more than a century old. Their main exhibition is of the old boats of the canal.

The Canal Locks at Gamle Dal

Since 1800 there have been three canals with locks built in Trollhättan, in 1800, 1844, and 1916. It is only the newest that is still in use, but they all still exist. The locks are locked in a park area known as Gamle Dal and during summers visitors can see the many leisure boats travel through the locks.

The King’s Cave

Welcome to Trollhättan, in case you are a king, please leave a comment in our guest book. That is what attracts at the King’s Cave, or Kungsgrottan in Swedish. The kings who have visited the city have carved their names into the rock. The first king to do this was Carl XVI Gustaf in 1754 and the most recent name in Crown Princess Victoria from 2001.

Ryrbäckes Nature Reserve

Directly to the south of Trollhättan is Ryrbäcken Nature Reserve. The reserve covers an area of about 43 hectares and has the stream Ryrbäcken at its center. The area includes several walking and bike trails.

Älvrummet Nature Reserve

Right along the rapids in central Trollhättan is Älvrummet Nature Reserve. It covers an area of around 61 hectares and includes parts of the hiking trails Trollhättan City Trail and De Leval’s Walk, in addition to a few more passing through. The best viewpoint in the reserve is probably Kopparklinten, which offers a view of the ravine below the walking trails.

Hike: Trollhättan City Trail

Trollhättan City trail is actually a running race that usually takes place in August. But the 10.5-kilometer long route is also available year-round for walking or running. It will take you along several viewpoints of the ravine where the rapids once run and along the power plants, canals, and locks

Hike: De Laval’s Walk

A shorter hike that is available is De Leval’s Walk, De Levals Promenad in Swedish. This is a route of 1.6 kilometers that takes you around the rapids. Well, the rapids are most days dry due to the dam, but you will from the cliffs see the whole ravine and its old buildings that once used the rapids for power.

Hike: Nils Ericsson’s Walk

Nils Ericsson’s Walk, or Nils Ericssons Promenad in Swedish, is a walking trail of around 1.6 kilometers. It will take you along the canal and its locks with a start at the Canal Museum.

How to Get to Trollhättan

Flights: There are domestic and international routes to and from Göteborg Landvetter Airport (GOT), which is 98 kilometers away.
Car: Trollhättan is located along E45, between Lilla Edet and Vänersborg.
Bus: Local and regional buses from Västtrafik connect Trorllhättan with the surrounding region.
Train: Both SJ and Västtågen have trains arriving to and departing from Trollhättan, destinations mostly include Gothenburg and Vänersborg.

The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:

Stockholm – 422 kilometers (4h 38min)
Gothenburg – 76 kilometers (54min)
Malmö – 349 kilometers (3h 28min)
Linköping – 282 kilometers (3h 18min)  
Kiruna – 1519 kilometers (16h 56min)

Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden

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