Scandinavia stretches from northern Germany all the way into the most Arctic Circle. It is home to cosmopolitan cities, breathtaking landscapes and several truly unique cultures that are some of the most accommodating in the world. Scandinavia traditionally consists of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland
Of equal importance to where you want to travel in Scandinavia is the question of when. If you absolutely despise the cold, have no interest in winter sports and suffer from seasonal affective order, then you should probably visit in the summer. Though you may not get to see the northern lights, you will have the opportunity to experience the midnight sun. However, if aurora borealis is on your bucket list or if you want to ski some of the most celebrated slopes in Europe during the day and usher in the holidays with plenty of good cheer and booze at night, then you may want to consider coming during the winter. Either way, we have you covered.
There is far more to Denmark than Copenhagen. Yes, it is a world-class city that has become renowned for having some of the best restaurants and breweries on the planet. Yes, it is the largest city in Denmark, as well as Scandinavia. It deserves your attention, your admiration and perhaps even your envy. If you are going to Denmark, you should see the city’s most important landmarks, such as Christiansborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, Gefion Fountain and the National Gallery of Denmark, which can be visited during either the winter or the summer, as well as several other iconic sites—such as Christiana Freetown, Amalienborg Palace and the Copenhagen Opera—that are only open during the summer. No matter when you stop into Copenhagen, an Open Top Bus & Boat Combo tour will give you the ability to see all of the available highlights on your own terms.
However, there is far more to Denmark than Copenhagen, even if it is a magnificent city. Denmark is home to an idyllic landscape that is similar to the American Midwest, but with castles. In fact, one of the best ways to explore the Danish countryside and coastal regions is to plan an itinerary based around these amazing works of architecture, some of the most interesting of which are: Frederiksborg Castle, which is renowned for its collection of artwork and adjacent grounds; Fredensborg Palace, which serves as the Danish Royal Family’s residence in the spring and autumn; and Kronborg Castle, which was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his most famous drama, Hamlet. The good thing is you can take a Castle Tour that will give you the opportunity to see all of these castles; experience the pastoral, Danish countryside; and see the Øresund Sound, which looks out to the rugged Swedish coast.
Stockholm is more than just the capital of and most populous city in Sweden; it is the very heart of the nation. While Stockholm is home to such notable landmarks as the world renowned Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art), Skansen (the oldest open-air museum in the world) and the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), the crown jewel of the city is without question the Gamla Stan (Old Town). It is on this site that Stockholm was founded in 1252, thereby making the Gamla Stan one of the oldest city centers in all of Europe. It is also one of the best preserved. Furthermore, many of the nation's most revered institutions can be found here, such as the Nobel Museum, Sweden's national cathedral (Stockholm Cathedral) and the Royal Palace. Without question, the easiest way to see all of these landmarks on your own terms is to take a Hop-on Hop-off tour of Stockholm.
Stockholm is not the only urban center in Sweden. On Sweden's western shore is its second largest city, Gothenburg. Gothenburg may not be as cosmopolitan as Stockholm, but it is home to Gothenburg University, the largest university in Scandinavia. One of the liveliest parts of the city is Avenyn, which is Gothenburg's primary artery for dining, nightlife and shopping. No matter what time of year you arrive, you will certainly be able to find bars and restaurants that can accommodate any taste or budget. Gothenburg is also the home of Liseberg, Scandinavia’s largest amusement park and Sweden’s number one attraction. It is within walking distance of downtown.
For those coming to Sweden during the summer, exploring Gothenburg's nearby Southern Archipelago is a must. These picturesque islands have been integral to Scandinavian culture since at least the days of the Vikings. Today, many of the islands serve as nature preserves that can be visited by kayak or canoe. For those coming to Sweden in the winter, you may want to take a weekend trip into the country’s more northern regions. Here you will find dozens of ski resorts; ice hotels; and, for those willing to travel into the Swedish Lapland, the northern lights. One of the best locations for viewing them is Abisko National Park, which is only a few dozen miles north of Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden.
Norway’s capital, Oslo, is just over 150 miles northwest of Gothenburg. This thriving metropolis of 600,000 is one of the fastest growing cities in all of Europe, and is home to such landmarks as Vigeland Sculpture Park, Vestbanen (the Nobel Peace Center) and Akershus Fortress, on which construction began in the 1290s. Oslo is also famous for its museums, perhaps the most notable of which are the Munch Museum, the Norwegian Folk Museum and the Viking Ship Museum. Gray Line Oslo offers a Hop-on Hop-off tour that is ideal for exploring all of these sites.
Though there are plenty of summer and winter activities in which to participate both in and just beyond the city limits, there is a part of Norway that is far more unique: the fjords on the western shore. Shaped by glacial activity over eons, these fjords are narrow inlets that sit beneath massive precipices. Oftentimes towering hundreds of feet above sea level, they are some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on Earth.
The gateway to the fjords is Bergen, the second largest city in Norway. Explore the town with a Hop-on Hop-off tour. See the Bergen Aquarium, Bryggen Museum and both the flower and fish markets, all before you take off to drink in the majesty of the fjords. Whether seen during the winter or the summer, they are truly some of the most awe-inspiring sights on Earth.
If you’re traveling to Finland, the absolute focal point of any trip should be its capital and largest city, Helsinki. Whether you come in the summer or winter, the city is an absolute must if you want to fully appreciate the diverse nature of Scandinavia. Finnish culture is unique in its own right, but you will also find a distinctly Russian influence in Finland because its entire eastern border is shared with Russia. This is especially discernible in some of the city’s older architectural landmarks, which also have clear Swedish and Central European influences. The result is something entirely unique and beautiful.
While some of the most important landmarks in Helsinki—such as Senate Square, Market Square, the National Museum and Temppeliaukio Church—can be explored with ease on a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour, the real magic of Helsinki, Finland and Scandinavia as a whole, is really in the people who you meet as you experience either a winter wonderland or the land of the midnight sun.
No matter the season, visiting Scandinavia is like visiting nowhere else in the world.