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Gamla Älvsborg fortress, standing guard over the river 3km downstream of the centre, is Göteborg's oldest significant structure, with portions dating back to medieval times. It was a key strategic point in the 17th-century territorial wars, and was held by Denmark for seven years before being yielded to Sweden in 1619. Two years later, the Swedes founded Göteborg.

Dutch people played an important part in shaping the young city. Still fearful of Danish attack, the Swedes employed Dutch experts to construct a defensive canal system in the centre. The workers lived in what is now the revitalised Haga area: around a fifth of the original buildings are still standing. Most of Göteborg's oldest wooden buildings went up in smoke long ago - the city was devastated by no less than nine major fires between 1669 and 1804.

Once Sweden had annexed Skåne in 1658, Göteborg expanded as a trading centre. Boom-time came in the 18th century, when merchant companies like the Swedish East India Company made huge amounts of wealth. Look around and you'll notice the many grandiose buildings built using the profits of that period.

From the 19th century, shipbuilding was a major part of the city's economy, until the industry totally collapsed in the 1980s. Volvo's first car wheeled out of Göteborg in 1927. It's now one of Sweden's largest companies (although it was taken over by Ford in 1999), and it's estimated that a quarter of the city relies on the company in some way. Today, Göteborg is Sweden's most important industrial and commercial city. Most of Sweden's oil is imported through the vast port.