Few countries in Europe can rival the irresistible mix of Old European charm and amazing northern landscapes as the countries of Scandinavia. Norway and Sweden, especially, have topped several lists as the happiest countries in the world. Take that, Disneyland!
Norway, Sweden and Finland, in particular make up the perfect trifecta land mass of breathtaking scenery and friendly folks. When planning Nordic holidays, consider visiting one or more of these fantastic cities and discover exactly what you can enjoy with our pick of events.
Norway’s capital is a bustling, cosmopolitan city full of art, history and Nordic culture. Spectacular natural landscapes surround Oslo, making it a great home base for a day of hiking, biking, boating, skiing and camping. For a city break, it makes the perfect place to discover and the winter months leave no lack of things to do. Get a taste of Norwegian music culture with By:Iarm running February 27-29 — an ambitious festival that is a convergence of top Nordic musical talent. With lectures and seminars by day, and great live music by night, this event touts itself as the SXSW of Norway.
The Holmenkollen Ski Festival takes place from March 6-8, a yearly gathering of thousands of ski bunnies in Oslo’s world-class sports arena for FIS World Cup Nordic action. The event includes, ski jumping, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined.
And while winter is a great time to visit, the ideal time to explore Norway is from June to August, when the weather is warm and the days are long. Oslo is most alive during this time, where you will find the welcoming locals soaking up the sun at every opportunity. The green spaces are full, and the temperatures hover around 20°C.
If you’re looking for something a bit quirkier and more unusual, you most definitely don’t want to miss out on the artist Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum. Enter by stooping down through a heavy iron door, and experience the haunting sound of your footsteps echoing across the barrel-vaulted ceiling. Inside, you will find slightly erotic paintings showing human life from conception to birth. And just to make it extra creepy, his remains were put to rest in an urn just above the main entrance.
Your Sweden Scandinavia holiday is best served by visiting the bustling city of Stockholm. Begin by exploring the museums, enjoying scenic boat rides through the canals, then stop for a coffee break and a tasty Swedish pastry. Stockholm is all at once cosmopolitan and cosy, quaint and trendy, historic and elegant.
Whilst there is no bad time to visit Sweden, for optimal temperatures and long days, May through September is best. This is when the country’s natural beauty shines, and Stockholm’s weather is milder, with temperatures hovering around 17°C.
For music lovers, Vinterfest takes place each February and for 2020 it is running from February 14-16. This classical music festival is held in Falun, about a three-hour drive from Stockholm. In addition to live performances, there are activities and exhibitions around town, making for a nice 2-day trip out of the city. And for fashion aficionados, Stockholm Design Week is held in early February, drawing in throngs of designers and retailers.
The Vasa Museum seems to be on everyone’s to-do list, and with good reason. Named after the Vasa ship that sank in 1628, mere minutes into its maiden voyage. After nearly 300 years sunk in the sea, the Vasa was retrieved and preserved into the museum you see today. It is a unique experience only to be found in Stockholm.
But for something even more quirky, visit the sub-zero Icebar, located inside the hip Nordic C Hotel. No matter what time of year you visit, the lounge keeps things chilly and kept at -7 degrees C to preserve the intricately-carved sculptures of ice. Keep your coat on! Bartenders serve up colorful concoctions in glasses made of ice, of course!
While in the city, make the Hotel Kungsträdgården - The King's Garden your home base. Opened in January 2015 in an old building from 1764, it’s large chandelier will greet you and the glass-roofed courtyard will invite you in, whilst the elegantly-designed rooms will lull you into an unforgettable sleep.
As Denmark’s second city, Aarhus encapsulates many of the things the locals love about their country. Located on the Jutland peninsula, Aarhus is a progressive-thinking place with incredible pieces of modern architecture. History also abounds here; be sure to visit the sprawling open-air museum, Den Garnie By — the closest thing you will come to a real-life time machine. Then, wander the streets of the Latin Quarter, full of lively bars, restaurants and shops.
June through August is the best time to visit while the temperatures are warm, but due to it’s northern location, it is not too warm! Temperatures hover right around 22°C during the day and the city comes alive with tourists and locals alike.
However, winter can be just as fun, with a plethora of cosy coffee shops and cafés lined side by side in the city’s local quarters with which to warm up. Stroll the old streets of Aarhus, popping in and out of shops offering exquisite design and quality, with an intimate atmosphere and great service — the best way to find that perfect souvenir or gift.
For a taste of something unique, visit the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum. Here you can experience Olafur Eliasson’s permanent work, Your Rainbow, which allows visitors to walk around and see the city via every color of the rainbow through its shaded glass walls.
After the sun sets, wind your days of exploration down by eating at one of the city’s fantastic restaurants. The gastronomy scene is on the rise in Aarhus, brimming with world-class chefs excited to offer you their latest creations. When all is contentedly explored, lay your head at Villa Provence in the heart of Aarhus. It’s a sensuous and cosmopolitan property boasting French flair with a Danish twist in the Jutland Province. This hidden boutique promises its guests a quiet, Provencal-style country stay.
Helsinki has a distinctly charming atmosphere and that certain finesse; it’s no wonder that the capital is on many a traveler’s radar. Nowhere else in Finland Scandinavia can you find such rich architecture, reminiscent of art-nouveau and modernist styles. It is at once utilitarian, some may say industrial, but all can agree it is just cool.
Throughout the year, the city’s colour palette goes from summer greens, to intensely Baltic blue, to the crystalline white of winter. But the best time to visit Helsinki is May and early June, when the weather is just getting warm, or September, when the heat of summer is gone, but it still remains warm enough to remain outdoors much of the time.
Having said that, winter is a great time to visit Helsinki if you are a film buff! There are a couple of good film festivals, the first one being DocPoint, a documentary film festival taking place from January 27 – February 2. It is the largest festival of its kind in Finland. Then, from March 12 – 15, the Helsinki Cine Aasia is the only contemporary Asian film festival in the country. A diverse range of full-length films from Asia are curated and shown.
For some unique experiences, it is helpful to know that Helsinki is chock full of them! In winter, stroll through the Winter Garden, an indoor oasis-like greenhouse containing over 200 different plants. Then for some incredible city sights, hop on the ferry to one of the neighboring islands. Namely Suomenlinna. This is a UNESCO-listed island and great for exploring a different side of the city.
In recent years, Iceland has become quite the tourist destination. We’re not sure, but it could be because of the ethereal landscapes, with its ancient glaciers and rugged fjords! The inviting city of Reykjavik isn’t bad either, offering a quaint Icelandic culture not found anywhere else.
The best time to travel is in the height of summer when the country is at its warmest, from June through August. Want 24 hours of sunlight? Then come in June. Even through September, expect average temperatures to be a jacket-less 12 – 14°C.
But if you’re planning a winter holiday in Iceland, you’re in luck! The long days of darkness are brilliantly illuminated by the Winter Lights Festival, taking place this year in Reykjavik from February 6 – 9. The program is a mix of art and industry, sports and culture, environment and history. All events are free of charge, making the celebration of the longer days ahead a unique event not to be missed.
The Whales of Iceland Exhibition opened in 2015, designed to educate the masses about the fascinating and fragile world of dolphins and whales. There are 23 species of whales residing off the shores of Iceland, and this exhibit has detailed models of all of them. Skeletons, bones and interactive exhibits will entertain adults and children alike.
For you adventurous foodies, no visit to Iceland would be truly complete without sampling some fermented shark! It is, in fact, a traditional staple of the Icelandic diet, and while it is an acquired taste, it is a cultural experience for the ages!
Discover a Scandinavian wonderland this winter!
© 2020 HIP Media Group Limited All Rights Reserved.