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Scandinavia consists of three countries - Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These countries are famous for their many cultural ties. Due to the proximity of these three countries, it is easy to plan a trip that covers them all. If you are interested in Northern European culture, it is the perfect place to visit. Scandinavia allows you to see everything from big cities to northern lights - and you can also explore old monuments related to the Vikings.

Every year people travel to Scandinavia for the most unique and inspiring holiday event of their lives. Whether you travel to Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, you are going to find a winter paradise. You can enjoy winter sports on blankets of fresh snow every day. This is the land of reindeer, and you can take your family on a reindeer safari. Hike through the forests wearing snowshoes or get wild on a snowmobile ride.

A winter night in the Nordic countries is great and beautiful. In Denmark, and Southern Sweden, it is very long evenings, and for months, you will go to work in the dark, and get home in the dark. Further North in the Nordic countries, and in southern Greenland, it is even better. You will have snow lightning up, stars on the sky giving light, and much more Borealis than further south. On the other side of the Polar Circle, it is really fun.

You have a polar night with darkness for weeks or months, together with week long twilight and dusk. It is a great time, and there are just thing, you do different compared to the summer and all the light. When the sun comes up, many goes to the nearest mountain to see and celebrate the sun coming up after the Polar Night.

The most northern point in the Nordic countries might have approximately 60 days of Polar Night. The southern tip is approximately similar to South Norway and Oslo. Locally it will change from place to place, as topography some places will prolong the first rise of the sun.

If you live in a town or city, Swedish and Danish ones are very much the same sort of experience. But things start taking on a very different character once you move out into the countryside, because the Danish countryside is more European. That means it is agricultural in character, shaped by humans, and you will always know that you are living in civilization.

In Sweden though, you can pack up your car and head out of town, and you can very soon find yourself in vast expanses of total wilderness. And the variety of landscapes is amazing. Sweden has huge, old forests and rivers and waterfalls, and you can be out there and see nobody for weeks on end.

The Christmas holiday would not be complete without the experience of the Northern Lights from the fjords or in places like Kristiansand in Norway. Live music is played on New Year's Eve and the cities put on massive fireworks displays. The New Year is welcomed with a champagne toast and lots of laughter and fun.

The Northern Lights are still around (usually until March), and Scandinavians celebrate the coming year with optimistic and festive parties.

best places to visit in Scandinavia

Here's an overview of the best travel destinations in Scandinavia in 2020.

1. Bergen, Norway

Bergen is easily the prettiest and most idyllic Scandinavian city. Therefore, it deserves its ranking as number one. Located in the western part of Norway, Bergen is a mid-sized city with a population of 280,000 inhabitants. It was founded around a thousand years ago and has been a center for fishing, shipping and for the petroleum industry.

In recent years, tourism has also become a major income source for the city. You will frequently see cruise ships coming to Bergen before departing to other destinations in the north.

The climate in Bergen is more enjoyable than most other cities in Norway. There is a large student population, and the nightlife is epic. But the main highlight is seeing the local architecture. If you have time for more, then head a bit outside of the city and do some hiking.

2. Tromsø, Norway

In the northern part of Norway, we find the city of Tromsø. By itself, a beautiful city - it is surrounded by both mountain and sea. With a population of roughly 72,000, it is a mid-sized city by Scandinavian standards. Naturally, there are some great things to see, such as the wooden houses. No other city in Norway has a higher amount of these.

But the real highlight of Tromsø is seeing the northern lights. The phenomenon of aurora borealis can be seen for most of the year. It is most common between September and April, but due to clouds over the city, it can sometimes we wise to join a tour that takes you a bit outside of the city. There’s no northern lights in the summer, but during this time you can see the phenomenon of a midnight sun instead!

Easily my favorite city in the world for a multitude of reasons, you can travel to the nearby fjords, the mountains, the fields of yellow flowers! But all of those things are outside the city limits. However, within Tromsoø you’ll find photo ops nearly as gorgeous as those fjords!

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s capital is the most visited city in Scandinavia. It has been popular among tourists for several years, and that will remain the case in 2020. Copenhagen is a city of wonders on the edge of Baltic Sea. It is the capital of Denmark and is a perfect place to enjoy quality time, away from your daily glitches.

Rich with historical sites, and defined with an infinite impression of calm places, truly hospitable and happy crowd, and significant landmarks, it should be your next to-do-thing. Copenhagen is full of great attractions. You can start off by visiting the Amalienborg Castle where the Queen resides. Follow it up by visiting Frederiksborg Palace, which was built for the King and the royal family of this Kingdom.

The Little Mermaid is also worth seeing. Head out in the morning and begin with the Little Mermaid Statue, which was created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913. This fairytale statue is a big tourist attraction in Copenhagen, so a few snaps are in order. Follow it up with Botanical Gardens, and enjoy a walk in the peaceful gardens.

Release all the stress you had from your work life back in the busiest city in the world and absorb some sunrays. You can then visit Geological Museum, which is a part of Copenhagen Botanical Gardens. The best thing about this city is that everything is near. Just adjacent to the Gardens is a Zoological museum.

The next thing on the list will be Christiansborg Palace basement, which is almost a millennia old. The next destination will be National Aquarium of Copenhagen, which is the biggest aquarium in Europe. You can then visit Oresund Bridge, which connects Sweden with Denmark over the Oresund Strait. You can then visit the Freetown Christiania, which is a self-proclaimed autonomous district, located in the heart of Danish Capital.

You can finish your day with a cold beer in one of the bars in Nyhavn.

Shopping is also a popular activity in Copenhagen. Walking through the streets you will see stunning decoration and home shops. Clothing stores, boutiques or souvenir shops are available throughout the historical center, which by the way, has Stroget as the largest pedestrian street in Europe. Strøget is the best place to go, but there are several malls and department stores you can visit when it gets too cold outside.

When it comes to restaurants, Copenhagen houses some of the best in the world. It gets expensive, but you will find great dining options in all parts of the city! You can enter bars and restaurants perfectly decorated and better acclimated. Here design is almost a religion and you can take ideas if you are passionate about the subject.

Interesting Reads: Best Christmas Markets in Copenhagen

4. Aarhus, Denmark

While Copenhagen takes most of the attention, Aarhus is an equally nice place to visit. It is the second-largest city in Denmark, and it is famous for its youthful vibe. The reason is simple - Aarhus is a booming university city with a large student population.

The Aros museum is a must for every traveler. But you should also put some hours aside for the Old City, an open-air museum that represents a traditional Danish village. The Aarhus Cathedral is great to visit at any time. You will easily spot it since it has a high tower. Overall, there are many great attractions in Aarhus, so you won’t get bored any time soon.

In the summer, a visit to the attraction park Tivoli Friheden is recommended. If you have extra time on your hands, go to Marselisborg, a bit outside of Aarhus, where you can see a castle and a large animal park with free entry.

Interesting Reads: Where to See Northern Lights in Denmark

best places to visit in Scandinavia

Perhaps surprisingly for some, Sweden is incredibly colourful. Not because someone went crazy with acrylic paint, but naturally. The low sun angle, in conjunction with clean air and plenty of water, vegetation, and brightly coloured architecture means that you see some very high colour saturation at all times in Sweden. You can actually test that.

Put a photo from here through an analysis tool that gives you RGB or CMYK values, and you’ll be amazed. Sweden is unbelievably colourful. The lakes are of a deep blue, and the towns and villages are a firework of red and yellow houses you just don’t get further south. The latitudes occupied by Sweden result in a sun angle that is lower than in Europe, resulting in a softer, more golden light, and longer, lighter shadows. It’s a photographer’s dream.

In Europe, even on a sunny day, the horizons are grey. In Sweden, they are clear, and you can see incredibly far. This may also have to do with the absence of flight traffic, especially as you make your way north.

5. Gothenburg, Sweden

If you like the UK, you may like Gothenburg. It has a very similar feel. And the surroundings and nearby coast are fantastic. One can see endless forests and lakes everywhere before landing. The trip on the highway from Landvetter airport to Gothenburg takes place in a continuous spruce forest, with clear lakes from time to time and very characteristic granite walls.

There is a really scenic view and that's less than 20′ away from the second largest city in Sweden. Gothenburg is a fascinating city. Located on the westside of the country, facing the northern coast of Denmark, it is a city that is already very common among Scandinavian tourists, but not nearly as much among internationals.

It has always been in the shadow of Stockholm, but things are changing and Gothenburg now might even be the best city to visit in Sweden. It is a somewhat large city with a nice vibe. You have great options when it comes to shopping, museums, restaurants, etc. People are friendly, so it’s a great place to socialize.

You will find several events targeted at foreigners. We recommend sailing to Gothenburg from Northern Denmark or with a cruise from some other destination - you will pass a lot of small islands on the way to the city, and it is a tremendously beautiful journey.

6. Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is the largest city in Scandinavia and functions as the country’s capital. Stockholm is full of culture, and it is both the economic and political center of Sweden. For years, Stockholm has been considered the best travel destination in Scandinavia along with Copenhagen. And it definitely deserves to be recommended to all travelers - almost everybody enjoys it.

However, since Stockholm has already been ranked highly by travel outlets for years, we have decided to place it just behind Gothenburg. But there is no doubt that you will have plenty of interesting things to do here. Check out the Vasa Museum, Drottningholm Palace and the Old Town to get a proper experience in Stockholm!

T-Centralen Station is the only station in the Stockholm metro system where all of the metro lines meet. On a typical day, 220 thousand passengers will pass through, making it the busiest stop in the Stockholm metro system. The walls of T-Centralen station are filled with beautiful painted murals. If that isn’t artsy enough for you, the designers of the station decided not to build the walls using man-made materials.

Instead, they kept the cavern walls that they found there, letting it’s true natural beauty shine through. They chose to do a mural of workers to honor the workers who built the Subway. The thing about Stockholm is that it gives you as much royal chintz as it does expanses of dark blue water and glimpses of the serene, forested country beyond.

And that means you are moving in a bubble of exquisite, European old world charm, titillated by abundant water reflections, the peculiar, mellow light of the northern latitudes, and that general, Swedish spirit of tranquility. The mixture of accomplished architecture and natural space is always a winning combination, and Stockholm takes these two to the maximum.

You can actually sit in the grass and dangle your feet in the water next to an old sailing ship with a view of the Royal Palace and hold a fishing rod at the same time. Minutes later, you could be drinking mojitos in a bar down the road. It’s the perfect blend.

Stockholm does not usually see snow in winter anymore, but temperatures will be around freezing often. If you are driving around Stockholm in winter, you will be fine with any type of car, as long as you have proper tyres, and good antifreeze. Be prepared for darkness, rain, wind, and oodles and oodles of bicycles and e-scooters. Stockholm is busy, but nowhere near as stressful to drive in as Paris, London, New York, or Philadelphia.

best places to visit in Scandinavia

7. Malmo, Sweden

Spring comes early, cycling is easy because the landscapes are flat, winters may be free of snow and ice (you get rain instead - often lots), and the European continent is nearby. It feels bubbly, warm, and European. You might as well be in Holland, Denmark, or Germany. Just less crowded.

best places to visit in Scandinavia

8. Östersund, Sweden

This is absolute Norrland - the empire of forests, reindeer, northern lights, darkness, silence, and weirdness. It’s the real Sweden, with extraordinarily warm people, and incredibly slow clocks everywhere.

best places to visit in Scandinavia

9. Kiruna, Sweden

Swedish Lapland (locally written as Lappland) is not a city, but a whole region. It does not have any cities of the same size as Tromsø in Norway, but you can plan your stay in either Kiruna or Lycksele, towns that have decent accommodation options and with the opportunity to easily travel out into nature and back again.

It is the northernmost region in Sweden and it borders Norway. It is so large that it covers almost a quarter of Sweden’s full territory. Norrland, is one of the last wildernesses of Europe, and there’s barely anyone there. You’ll barely ever see signs of human life, and people are ecstatic when they meet someone who may bring news and speaks coherently.

Glass pearls are highly valued by the natives. You’ve just seen a long and amazing summer merge into a fireworks of yellow and orange foliage, enjoyed that for a few weeks, and then, bang! The autumn winds begin to blow, the leaves are off all of a sudden, and you come outside one morning to a frozen windscreen on your car and the street lights are on.

Once the snow stays on the ground, which happens in mid November, things take on a whole new magic. That snow is powder snow, dry, and clean. It blows around like flour, and reflects all the colourful light sources. Winter as soon as the snow is in place is beautiful, and compensates for the absence of daylight. You no longer think of it as the dark season, but you see yourself as living on a snow planet.

And then, you get the northern lights, as well. In Lapland, you can also experience the northern lights. Those things are just unbelievable. Like a phosphorescent curtain blowing in the wind, in the sky. You can see the northern lights during the autumn, the winter and the early spring.

An additional benefit of visiting Swedish Lapland is that you can see several of Sweden’s best national parks. There are seven in total, and the nature is really spectacular in this region. It’s actually surprisingly colourful, and not as dark as one tends to imagine. It’s more like a never ending sunrise, or sunset.

True, there is no sun light. But you still get the twilight spectrum, and it can have amazing colours. Another thing is that you get snow - lots, and more than half of the year, every year. So, whatever light there is, the clean snow magnifies it like a projector screen. With all the artificial lighting going on, living that far north is actually crazy colourful and downright psychedelic - at least in Sweden.
Kalyan Panja Kalyan Panja Author

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