The Lowdown on Scandinavia

The Lowdown on Scandinavia

  • 2015-06-26

Perhaps one of the lesser-known places to visit for a larger population of the world, Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful areas on the planet. Islands, fjords, clean air and a belief that life is to be lived can all be found in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland (which isn’t officially in Scandinavia but will be discussed here). Take a trip through the eyes of this traveler and get the lowdown on Scandinavia. This article will help you with seeing all that the area has to offer even if you only have a few days. Whether you fly, drive, take a ferry or walk through the amazing city or countryside, your journey will be one to remember.
 
Sweden
 
The capital city of Sweden is Stockholm and it has been built on 14 small islands, which have a distinct feel to them. The visitor will find that this country is long and full of surprises. The northernmost areas near the Arctic provide a visitor with forests with untamed rivers, glacier encrusted mountaintops as well as moorland that is desolate. A guide that has familiarity with the area can open up an array of fascinating sites to enjoy that not everyone else might find.
 
The southern end of Sweden contains more people so you can expect to come upon villages with church spires dotting the landscape, which can be great stopping points of interest. Take a meal at a café and surround yourself with the country's history and locals. Getting to know the people of another culture always makes for a grand vacation. The softly rolling countryside that you will pass through will let you discover lakes, which can be enjoyed with a picnic lunch if the weather is fair.
 
Stockholm itself offers an abundance of beauty, business and culture. Lake Malaren flows to the Baltic Sea, which throughout history has been an important trading port. The city has been known for its wealth internationally for centuries. The many islands are joined by narrow channels and bridges that span open bays. An ancient city like this has many offerings for a traveler to delight in on a self-guided walk through medieval Stockholm. Public parks abound, grand palaces and beautiful boulevards showcase Sweden's proud heritage.
 
A day in Stockholm might start with a walk to the top of Stadshuset or city hall. This amazing view of the city is a great way to get your bearings for a relaxing day of sightseeing. Inquire at your hotel for local guides if you want to get a culture-rich tour of Stockholm. While you will want to visit the main attractions, there are also some free things to do while in this city. The Djurgarden is on an island in the center of Stockholm. Take a picnic lunch and stroll this magnificent garden in a couple of hours. If you visit during warmer months there are two free beaches for swimming, Smedsuddsbadet and Langholmsbadet. June, July and August feature three festivals which are no cost options and is a great way to get to see how the Scandinavians enjoy their city. Public transportation is easy to find and use, whether it be a boat, ferry, the subway or taxi.
 
Denmark
 
A trip to Denmark is not complete without stopping first in the capital city of Copenhagen. A stunning city with amazing architecture, Copenhagen offers museums, bars, and plenty of nightlife. One of the most romantic options if traveling to Denmark as a couple is to take one of the canal cruises. You definitely want to cruise the harbor and visit Tivoli Amusement Park if you have time. Although you can certainly miss out on the amusement park if you lack the time and hope to visit more of Scandinavia besides one country.
 
Roskilde is an ancient city of Denmark, once the capital from 960 until 1536. The culture and history of this amazing city with brick building lined streets, numerous churches and the Viking museum is well worth a day visit from Copenhagen. If you visit Denmark in June, consider enjoying the music festival hosted each year, known to be one of Europe's largest.
 
Unless you are an adventure traveler looking for outdoor entertainments you may want to skip over Dyrehaven. It is called Deer Park in English, known as a place for trekking, cycling, and horseback riding. Of course, for adventure lovers this is perhaps more perfect than the architectural options of other cities or another tour of a castle like Borreby. The fact is Denmark, and particularly the cities around Copenhagen, all have something to offer any tourist.
 
Norway
 
The highlight of Norway is the numerous fjords and water sports you can enjoy all while staying in cities built on the shores of the waterways. A few of the places you may want to see include Geirangerfjord and Trollstigen, The Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord, Lysefjord, Flam Railway sites, and Stavanger. To reach Geirangerfjord, you have to take the Trollstigen Mountain Road, which offers amazing views of the mountains in all seasons. When you get to the fjord you might want to try a local specialty, goat's milk caramel at Herdalssetra. You could also try strawberry cake at Valldal.
 
Flam Railway is the easiest way to travel on a budget throughout Norway. It runs from Myrdal to Flam, allowing travelers to see Aurlandsfjord along the way. The train also passes several of the best and wildest countryside locations of the country. For 12 miles you can enjoy views of rivers moving through deep ravines, snow-capped mountains, mountain farms, and waterfalls running down the steep mountains. Flam Railway is known as one of the world's steepest train lines with a gradient of 55/1000 on approximately 80% of the trip.
 
If you prefer, you can spend most of your time enjoying the top 10 attractions of Oslo (Norway’s capital), including Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park. It is an 80 acre park with 212 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland. It is open all the time, so you can view it at night or during the day.
 
Finland
 
Finland is just as amazing as Scandinavia whether you visit Helsinki exclusively or travel around the whole country. Perhaps you are a museum buff who wishes to enjoy the Siida, which overviews Sami and their environment. You could enjoy Lahti's many pubs, which sell their own beers and ciders including a blueberry one, as well as a single malt whisky. For adventure lovers Linnansaari National Park is a perfect destination. The park includes Haukivesi Lake as well as several uninhabited islands. Plenty of marked trails will keep you safe. If you enjoy pampering yourself, then Jatkankamppa, which is a giant smoke sauna, is the perfect end to a busy day spent walking. It is located in Kuopio.
 
Anytime you visit Scandinavia and Finland, you want to make certain you have a plan for seeing some of the best locations. You may want to avoid restaurants that draw tourists in by the droves, instead asking local workers for their favorite places to eat and dine. When you visit Scandinavian countries you have plenty to enjoy whether you prefer shopping, hiking, or water sports. Any country, whether it is Denmark or Sweden, has much to offer in the way of museums, history, culture, and entertainment.
 
By Quin H.