Scandinavia is often overlooked due to the higher costs of travel and its location. But it's worth the effort!
Copenhagen, the epicenter of Denmark and much of Scandinavia, is a fun, lively cultural city that’s largely affordable. Small and manageable, there is nothing imposing, nothing overwhelming - you can easily explore on foot its many museums, castles and ancient structures. Walk through charming cobblestone streets, bike ride along the lake, enjoy lunch in a charming restaurant. As English is spoken everywhere, it won’t be hard to meet the friendly and well-mannered Danes, especially if there’s liquor involved. A young thriving city, take advantage of Copenhagen’s liberal vibe, exhibited in the many cafés, bars and never-ending nightclubs. To See/Do: National Museet, Tivoli Gardens, Nyhavn, Christiania.
Built on islands amidst Lake Mälaren and stretching into the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. A blend of well preserved medieval structures and contemporary architecture makes it a city that offers a little bit of everything. There are buses, ferries, subways and bridges that link the different islands, but walking or bicycling around is the best way to get a true feel of this unique coastal city. There is a large young, liberal artistic population and many galleries, bars, cafés and clubs to accommodate. Purchase a Stockholm Card for unlimited access to public transport and free/discounted entry to many attractions. To See/Do: Culture House, Museum of Modern Art, archipelago cruise, Rosendall’s Gardens.
While not on the cosmopolitan scale of Stockholm, the west coast city of Gothenburg (Göteborg) has its own distinct identity as a highly artistic and bohemian cultural center. Residents are uncommonly proud of their city and keen to show it off: you’ll be surprised at the vast number of design and photography museums and exhibits, theaters, and artsy districts that are enthusiastically supported by locals. The Opera House, by the railway station, is a fascinating example of contemporary design. The Haga district, along Linnégatan and Vasastan, is a lively student area with an eclectic blend of cafés, secondhand shops, goldsmiths and glasswork studios. The spice merchants and coffee roasters there are reminiscent of its days in the 18th and 19th centuries as a busy trading port. Thrill seekers won’t want to miss the largest wooden roller coaster in Scandinavia at the Liseberg amusement park in the city center. To see/do: the Haga district, Röhss design museum, the Hasselblad Center (photography).
The most eastern of the major Scandinavian cities (near Russia), Finland’s capital, with its remarkable 19th century neoclassical architecture, is another manageable city with a distinctly Eastern European flair. Helsinki’s character is very much dominated by the Baltic Sea as there are many bridges and ferries linking the capital to nearby islands. The many cafés, bars, museums, tours and even spas are easily explored on foot. A huge money saver is the Helsinki Card, which gives free and/or discounted entry to many attractions and tours, and unlimited access to public transportation. To See/Do: Museum of Contemporary Art, Market Square, Senate Square, Suomenlinna (an island), enjoy a day spa.
Surrounded by mountains and comprised of beautiful parks, wide streets and pretty harbors, the capital of Norway is a pleasant stop if you’re traveling through Scandinavia. A combination of medieval, 19th century neoclassical and 20th century contemporary architecture lends to the developing character of this ancient city. With increasing cultural and nightlife activities, and picturesque scenery, especially in the nearby pastoral communities, it is a pleasant and often interesting stop. To See/Do: Edvard Munch Museum, Norwegian Folk Museum, Akershus Castle.