It does not take long to get from one country to another in Scandinavia, but the regional differences are remarkable. This might get you a little closer to understanding the indescribable magical feel of Scandinavia, but in order to truly understand what the fuss is about, you will have to discover the nature, culture and history of the Nordics on first hand.
Photo: Dieter Betz
Have you ever wondered what the birth of a country looks like? All you have to do is stand 128 meters above the sea on top of the breathtaking Cliff of Møn in Denmark. The chalk forming the steep, eggshell white cliffs consist of the remains of shells from millions of microscopic creatures, which lived on the seabed over 70 million years ago. The cliffs where created during the Ice Age, and when the ice started to melt over 11.000 years ago, the cliffs emerged and created the chalky foundation for the unique flora and fauna exclusive to the area, which includes more than 18 different species of wild orchids, colorful butterflies and the Peregrine falcon - the fastest animal in the world.
Photo: Per Eide
There are few places in the world where time actually stands still, but Geiranger Fjord on the west cost of Norway is one of them. Sail up the midnight blue fjord in a kayak, take a deep breath of crisp, cool air and find yourself at peace surrounded by steep mountainsides with thundering waterfalls creating one fairy-tale-like rainbow after another. The fjord’s mesmerizing scenery emerged during the succession of ice ages, when the glaciers formed the areas deep fjords and majestic mountains, and now the fjord is renowned to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Photo: ESB Professional
Why has Denmark taken the top spot on the United Nation's World Happiness Report in 2013, 2014 & 2016? A good guess could be the fact that since 1843, 82.717m2 of Copenhagen’s city center has functioned as an amusement park. Tivoli Gardens is wonderland with lush gardens, historical buildings, big-name concerts, nostalgic rides and at night, thousands of coloured lights create a fairy-tale atmosphere that is completely magical. After a visit in Tivoli Gardens, you truly understand why Denmark is known as The Fairytale Country and why Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland in the gardens.
Photo: Mikhail Markovskiy
Throughout the Kalmar castle’s 800 year-old history, some of the medieval period’s most noteworthy events have taken place. Arguably, the most significant event was the signing of the papers forming the Kalmar Union in 1937 in which Sweden, Norway and Denmark were members. Now the magnificent castle stands as the best-preserved Renaissance castle in the Nordics and offers thrilling visits to the dungeons, stories about the Vasa kings and guided ghost tours at night.
Photo: Robin Skjoldborg
New Nordic Cuisine
One of the biggest gastronomic hypes the past six years has inevitably been New Nordic Cuisine. One of the main driving forces behind the rising popularity of Nordic cuisine is due to the success of Noma, a small restaurant in Copenhagen which has won the Restaurant Magazine Award for Best Restaurant in the world three years in a row, from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2014. With that said, it is not only in Denmark, you can savour the best New Nordic kitchens. Throughout Scandinavia, you can also indulge in ants, moss and other unusual ingredients from the Swedish and Norwegian soil.
Photo: Asgeir Helgestad
During the summer months of endless days in Norway, where the daylight subsides for barely an hour, go to the Vesterålen coast and witness something quite amazing. Adventure out under the midnight sun and join a wildlife safari to get close to sperm whales, pilot whales, minke whales, humpbacks, dolphins and killer whales when they visit the majestic Norwegian cost.
Photo: Nicolai Perjesi
The royal Copenhagen Opera house is among one of the most modern and most expensive opera houses in the world. The limestone building raises from an island-like platform surrounded by canals, straight across from the Royal residency of Amalienborg. The A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation donated the Opera House to the Danish state in August 2000, and since 2004, the gold-gilded and smoked-oak auditorium has housed spectacular theaters, ballets and operas.
Photo: Kim Wyon
It is easy to get lost in the narrow, windy streets of Copenhagen with the colorful half-timbered houses and uneven cobblestone streets, but it is equally as easy to stumble upon one of the fairy-tale-like castle scattered around the city center. One of them is Rosenberg Castle, set in the King’s Garden in the heart of Copenhagen, which features 400 years of splendor, royal art treasures and the Crown Jewels. During the summer months, the beautiful baroque gardens surrounding the castle function as one of the most visited parks in Copenhagen.
The Ericsson Globe, commonly referred to in Swedish as Globen, is the largest hemispherical building on Earth. The large sun-like building raises from the skyline of the Johanneshov district of Stockholm with its astonishing 85 meters of steel. The building has served many purposes the past 28 years and recently it has been possible to take a gondola to the top of the building to experiences one of the best views in Stockholm.
Photo: Kim Wyon
Church of Our Saviour (Copenhagen)
If you are able to climb 400 steps, you can reach a must-see – the best view in Copenhagen! The Church of our savior is one of Denmark’s most famous churches, built in 1752, and a popular sight where you can experience the Copenhagen skyline when you reach the top of the windy tower. The tower is open from March until December. In December, the tower is only open on 1st, 6th, 8th, 12th and 15th.
Photo: Jaroslav Moravcik
Kronborg Castle (Copenhagen)
Combine a castle with Shakespeare’s Hamlet and a legendary figure in Danish culture and you will have the world-famous Kronborg Castle in Helsingør (Elsinore). The castle is known for playing a key role in the history of northern Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries, and UNESCO named the castle a world heritage site in year 2000.
Photo: Kim Wyon
Back in the days, the small harbor, Nyhavn, was packed with sailors, working girls and pubs. Today Nyhavn is a wide color palette of beautiful old houses, great food, jazz music and overall the place to be after a long day of sightseeing in Copenhagen. Do as the locals; buy a beer or an ice cream and park yourself down by the waterfront and watch the world go by, or enjoy some Danish food at one of the many restaurants.
Oslo Opera (Oslo)
The Opera in Oslo is a spectacular building with references to the wild nature in Norway. In Norway, climbing mountains feels like the most natural thing to do, and maybe this is the reason why the architect decided that you should be able to climb on the roof of the opera? Go see for yourself and watch an opera or a ballet while you are at it.
Photo: Andrey Armyagoy
Pulpit Rock (Stavanger)
While you are in Scandinavia, you will have the opportunity to see one of top ten most spectacular views in the world. Hike to the top of Pulpit Rock and then you will have it. (Lonely Planet) The hike is estimated to take between 1 and 4 hours and the effort level is marked as medium. Remember warm clothing, proper hiking shoes, water and food for lunch. The main season is from April through September. From March, public bus transport is possible most of the way to the breath-taking sight.
Photo: Alex Conu
Experience the northern light and see green, pink and violet colours dance across the night sky. You will have the best chance of spotting the lights between late September and late March because of the lack of sun. In these months, it turns dark between 6pm and 1 am. The best possibility for seeing the northern light is in December due to the cold and dry weather, which also has an effect on northern light.
Photo: Håvard Myklebust
Skiing is more popular than ever in Scandinavia and for a good reason! While the Alps offer longer runs, after ski and more glamour, Norway and Sweden’s beautiful Fjelde offer a laid-back alternative with less tourists but equally well-prepared conditions for both families and adventurous pros. Look here for our further recommendations: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/no/node/371
Photo: Hans Olof Utsi
Ice Hotel, Kiruna
The Ice hotel is the name of a hotel, and that is literally, what it is: A hotel totally made out of ice and snow. Every winter builders and artist meet up and build the hotel up of from scratch, then it melts and the year after they meet up again and build it up. Some would call it madness. We call it a world-famous-must-see-inspiring-wonderful-madness-Icehotel. Planning a visit to Sweden during the summer? Do not worry. The bar is still there even after the hotel has melted.
Photo: Ola Ericson
Stockholm Old Town (Stockholm)
Stockholm Old Town (Gamla Stan) is Stockholm’s original city centre. Gamla Stan consists of Stömsborg, Helgeandsholmen, the islets of Ridderholmen and Stadsholmen Island. You will experience a labyrinth of faded mustard and rust coloured town houses, which date from the 13th century. A little over a hundred years ago, Gamla Stan was considered the slum of Stockholm. Now it is far from that. Today it is considered a sought after address with cafés, restaurants, tourist shops, galleries and museums and is “neighbours” to the Royal Palace and the Royal Chapel.
Photo: Justin Brown
Turning Torso (Malmö)
Turning Torso in Malmö is a 190m high building. As the name of the building might suggest, a turning human body is the source of inspiration behind the design of the impressive building. The unique combination of a building and a sculpture makes it a must see!
Photo: Ola Ericson
Vasa museum (Stockholm)
Visit the Vasa Museum and see the only preserved 17th Century ship in the world. The warship is 69 meter long and more than 95 percent of the ship is original. Even though the ship sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm, the ship has more experience on the water than most other ships. Or rather in the water. You see, Vasa sank in 1628 and was not salvaged until 1961 – 333 years later. Over one million visit the Vasa Museum in a year, which makes it the most visited museum in Scandinavia and the highest rated attraction in Sweden (Trip Advisor, 2016).