Best Travel Destinations in Scandinavia

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. This is also be a good time to go to the far north of Scandinavia and hunt down the Northern Lights. It’s not as cold as in January, but still dark through enough of the day that your chances should be really good.

Spring is lovely in southern Scandinavia. The mountains are still too full of snow for hiking, but you can still ski.

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

1. Gothenburg, Sweden

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.

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.

Dedicate a day and a half to this city to see it. Move around the city both by tram and by walking. Plan a route from hotel to see the most important sites in the city. Go by tram to the Oscar Fredrik church, neo-Gothic building from 1890.

From there take the tram to the Botaniska Trädgården stop, where the botanical garden of Gothenburg is located. It is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, and see all kinds of flora, forests, meadows, greenhouses and even a small waterfall. After seeing the botanical garden, take the tram to the station of Valand, in the center.

Cross the bridge over the canal and take the tourist bus that go all over the city. Eat, next to the canal, at a restaurant. Afterwards, take a walk through the center and enter the Domkyrka (cathedral). The cathedral is a Lutheran neoclassical building from 1815. The interior, unornamented, is typical of Protestant churches.

The next stop is the Maritiman, a museum that exhibits 19 boats in the port. See the interior of many ships, such as merchant ships, fishing boats, a warship and a submarine. From there, tour the port to Lilla Bommen where the Barken Viking is located, a huge sailboat turned into a hotel and restaurant.

After seeing this magnificent museum, go to the Nordstan shopping center, near the harbor. Then go to Haga, a neighborhood recommended in the tourist guides. The main attraction is its wooden houses. But it is worth climbing up to Skansen Kronan, a park where on its top you will find a tower with beautiful views of the city.

At the end of the day, look for a place to dine in Järntorget. Go to the villages of Kungälv and Gullholmen. The first one is located about 20 km north of Gothenburg, on the great Göta river. It has a small church all made of wood decorated with frescoes on the roof. On a fluvial island, very close, are the ruins of the fortress of Bohus. From there, you have stunning views of the town and the Göta.

Gullholmen, located in the archipelago of the west coast of Sweden, is a set of wooden houses clustered together in a small rocky island. It is very nice to walk among the houses painted in colors. Take a trip to see the surroundings of Gullholmen. Other picturesque villages on the west coast are Mollösund and Marstrand around Bohuslän (west coast of Sweden).

Visit Palm House Park, a palm greenhouse next to the Gothenburg Canal. From there, go to the bus station of Heden to catch the bus that goes to the Kristinedal stop. Near this stop is Gunnebo Slott, an 18th century manor house located near two lakes. Cross the bridge that separates the two lakes and follow a path under a forest until you reach Gunnebo.

The interior of the mansion, built entirely of wood, can only be seen through guided tours in Swedish and English although you can get some reusable booklets in the same palace (of course) where they explain the visit also in German and French. In the same palace you have a small restaurant with terrace where you can taste an ecological buffet for 115 crowns (with coffee and biscuits included, of course).

Afterwards, continue seeing Gothenburg. Take a walk from the Poseidon fountain to the fish market, where you can have the typical shrimp dish of the area, apart from many fish. Pass through Kungsparken, a park next to the canal, and the Christinae kyrka (also called the German church).

This temple was built by Germans in 1648. The interior is typical of Protestant churches with little ornamentation, although it has interesting stained glass windows. It is worth visiting. Finally, go to the Stora Delsjön lake to rent a boat.

Get into a tourist boat that runs through the canals of Gothenburg and, at the end of the day, go to the Liseberg amusement park. Regarding the restaurant, the food is good and has a good price. It is a recommended place to eat in the center of Gothenburg, located on a boat anchored in the canal, next to the Kungsportsplatsen bridge.

You can have smörgås which is an open sandwich with various toppings on them. It could be anything from just butter with cheese or sandwich meats or something like kaviar. Kaviar is smoked fish roe and is extremely popular in Sweden with children and adults. You can put it on a sandwich on its own or with cheese or eggs. Even though its very popular here many people from other countries find it very hard to eat.

Next topping is leverpastej which is a liver paste that can be spread on bread. Next topping is rödbetssallad which is pickled red beets mixed with mayo or creme fraiche. It is usually eaten with cold meatballs on bread which pairs very well together. Next topping is Skagenröra which is a spread made from mayo or creme fraiche along with either crayfish, shrimp or crab sticks. It also contains herbs such as dill.

It is very popular and often used for other things like a filling for a baked potato. Next topping is mostly seasonal and that is pickled herring. Although it is available year round it is something mostly eaten on holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Midsummer. Pickled herring usually comes in jars filled with a sauce such as mustard sauce or dill sauce to mention a few.

In the summer you can eat pickled herring that doesn't have any flavoring in the pickle brine but instead eat it with new potato, chives and sour cream all put on a sandwich. This is also how you are supposed to consume surströmming which most people are familiar with, from people eating it straight out of the tin on Youtube.

Eat a hard bread called knäckebröd which is crunchy and very dry on its own but very tasty with the toppings shown before and also very healthy on its own. There are many variants of it, some are lighter in color and some have various seeds baked into them. In the grocery store you will find a whole shelf filled with many different kinds.

Another popular bread is råg kaka. Råg kaka is a very soft light bread that is very good with kaviar and eggs. It originates from the northern part of Sweden but it is consumed and loved by Swedes from the north to the south. Last bread is tunnbröd which literally means thin bread. This bread is either soft or hard and crunchy.

When eating the crunchy kind you usually break off a piece from a big sheet and put whatever topping you like on it. The soft one is usually rolled up with the toppings on the inside. The last thing is filmjölk which is a thick milk with a bacteria culture introduced making it a bit acidic and similar to yogurt but not quite as acidic.

Eat this on its own with cinnamon and sugar, jam or instead of milk with corn flakes or muesli. Its very good for your stomach and its something you might eat just as a home remedy if you are having stomach problems. Perhaps you would find the Swedish Princess Cake, Prinsesstårta, a bit odd looking on first glance, because it’s a curiously shaped, green thing.

Most people would think something found at the Roswell UFO crash site might look like it. And once you try it, you’ll agree, it’s quite otherworldly. It’s a sponge cake with layers of marzipan, whipped cream, and vanilla sauce, in a green marzipan shell.

A curiosity of this trip is the kindness of the people. In Gullholmen, a woman offered to take pictures without us asking. We were taking photos and she saw us and offered herself. We were struck by the fact that, afterwards, she got into the water where, apart from the ice water, there were lots of jellyfish.

On another occasion, when we went to a public bathroom in Kungsportsplatsen, a Swede and his little son explained to us how the bathroom worked without us asking them for help. It is said that the Swedes are somewhat shy but in our case we did not see it that way.

We were also surprised at how little the bus card and bus drivers looked at us. In the end we passed the tram without showing it and nothing happened. One of the times, a driver laughed when we showed the card, as if it were not necessary to show it. It is as if in Sweden they trusted the honesty of travelers. But what most caught our attention on this trip, were the trams of Gothenburg, most of them very old.

They had a system to ask for the almost archaic stop but also very comfortable. It was a rope that ran along the sides of the tram above the windows. Pulling it, you requested the stop. On one occasion, we even saw a woman pushing the tram doors to leave, as they did not open automatically!

2. 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.

Experience Stockholm's beautiful archipelago with thousands of islands on this full-day tour. Board a comfortable sailboat and enjoy a relaxing day at sea. For a bigger city break though most visitors will want to head to Stockholm. With a population near one million people, Stockholm is the big, bustling capital of Sweden and a fascinating place to see. The city is built, via a network of bridges, on 14 small islands in a Baltic Sea archipelago.

Visitors will enjoy the Gamla Stan, the Old Town, effectively. You can fish there. People do it all the time. Yes, the water is that clean. Visit the Nobel Museum, the open-air history museum and zoo, Skansen, and Stockholm Palace - or just walk around and keep exploring.

There are also some modern attractions to enjoy in Stockholm, including plenty of local bars (check out Orangeriet and Akkurat) and restaurants (try Lilla Ego or Matkonsulatet) and even something of a casino scene. Sweden has actually quietly taken the lead in Europe's casino culture, largely through the development of online games.

So it should come as no surprise that there are some good in-person places for gaming and nights out in Stockholm as well (most notably Casino Cosmopol Stockholm). Saltsjöbaden is one of many, many areas by the Baltic coast, within the Stockholm conurbation. It’s about 15 km from the old town. Sweden is filled with a variety of museums that all address different yet equally interesting topics.

When you visit Stockholm, be sure to make time for a visit to the Vasa Museum. Here you will be able to see Sweden's very own Titanic, a giant wooden ship built in the 17th century on the orders of King Gustavus Adolphus which sank on its maiden voyage. The ship was salvaged in the 1980s and is on display today in what has become Sweden's most visited museum.

The Vasa Museum holds the only preserved 17th-century ship in the world and consequently, it is the most visited museum in Scandinavia. In fact, over a million tourists visit the site annually, and for good reason. The Vasa ship has ten exhibitions (in 13 different languages) and has been almost completely restored. The vessel was once a 64-gun warship that sank during its maiden voyage in 1628. It has since been decorated with hundreds of original carved sculptures to keep its authenticity. This warship was salvaged in 1961 and was tirelessly worked on by historians and experts for decades. The Vasa Museum opened in 1990 and continues to be a cherished site by visitors and Swedes alike. The formerly mentioned Swedish treasure, ABBA, has a section of the Swedish Music Hall of Fame dedicated to them. ABBA The Museum is a great stop for music fans as it features interactive exhibitions such as audio and video displays that invite visitors to perform with the band. Exhibitions also showcase clothing, films, and more. The concept for ABBA The Museum was inspired by the Beatles museum in Liverpool. Prior to 2013, the museum’s exhibitions travelled around the world but have since come to live full-time in their homeland. Fotografiska Stockholm is not technically a museum but rather a large center for contemporary photography that displays a seemingly endless amount of beautiful work. A number of renowned photographers have their work featured here including Annie Leibovitz and Robert Mapplethorpe. This site also hosts four main exhibits and 20 smaller ones annually that are all equally fun to explore. There is also a charming cafe in the building as well. Fotografiska Stockholm opened in 2010 and is located in the heart of Stockholm in an Art Nouveau building. Make sure to visit Millesgården. It’s an incredibly beautiful art gallery situated on Lidingö, an island north of Stockholm. To come Lidingö you travel the subway line 13 to Ropsten to the last stop and then you take bus or tram over to Lidingö. It’s a beautiful view. And then you there’s a ten minute walk from the station to the art gallery. Millesgården was the residence of art couple Carl and Olga Milles. There is a large gallery, showing art from around the world and hosting very interesting exhibitions. But the real charm is Skulpturparken, the sculpture park. The original works of Carl and Olga are put out in the park with a beautiful view over Stockholm. It looks like this from the outside: As you can see, the sculpture park is divided into several levels, which makes the it very beautiful and accentuates the beauty of the sculptures. You can walk around for hours and adore the views and the sculptures. You won’t be bored as there is plenty to discuss. This sculpture by Carl is called the Hand of God. Is the young man entering heaven? Has he been cast out? Or is he perhaps not allowed to enter? It’s a wonderful place, with beautiful exhibitions and a park with original sculptures. It’s a place to get lost in on purpose. The best time to visit Stockholm is during the summer when the water is full of boats and the whole city is green. Here you will find exciting offers for excursions and activities. Stockholm’s colorful yet simplistic Scandinavian architectural style makes walking down the city streets looking for a bite to eat a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. Glashuset Glashuset is a restaurant that specializes in Scandinavian and Swedish cuisines, which allows visitors to get in touch with the local culture. Favorite menu items include cooked duck, croquettes, and their poke bowl. Additionally, this restaurant is known for its diverse wine list. The best part about this restaurant? It sits on the water and has a beautiful view of the local port and all the activity in it. Malarpaviljongen Malarpaviljongen is not only on the water but features a beautiful variety of plants that make it feel as though you are dining in a garden. This restaurant is only open during the summer months and is actually floating on a pontoon, which lends itself to a relaxing and fun atmosphere. The menu is European-centric but features some classic Swedish dishes as well. Oaxen Slip Oaxen Slip is on the higher end of the dining experience as it is a two Michelin star restaurant and well worth the slight detour out of the heart of the city. Oaxen Slip also plays off of the Viking elements of Swedish culture as boats hang from the ceiling. Most importantly, the food here is spectacular as the menu features light, wholesome flavors that are native to Sweden.
Kalyan Panja