Norway : Unforgettable Scandinavia
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Set on Denmark’s coastal islands of Zealand and Amager, Copenhagen, the country’s capital, is no ordinary city and, despite its size, many areas have a distinctly village-like quality. It has all that one would expect from a modern city, including state-of-the-art architecture and cutting-edge infrastructure, but its modernity is juxtaposed with a host of Danish cliches. Rows of sherbert-hued townhouses adorned with flower boxes and lace curtains line ancient canals playing host to fleets of quaint, rickety houseboats. Add to this an incredibly innovative design scene, a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly road system and culture, and a slew of stylish bars, clubs, and galleries and it is easy to see why so many visitors are seduced by the charms of this atmospheric seaside city.
Set on Norway’s breathtaking southern coast, and surrounded by the lush, rolling hills of the Marka region and the rippling waters of the Oslofjord, Oslo is the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of both winter and summer activities. However, mother nature is not the only artist at work in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Norway’s capital is also home to a rich and prolific arts community and is filled with world-class galleries such as the astounding National Gallery Norway and the intriguing Munch Museum. Other popular attractions include the Viking Ship Museum, home to the world’s best-preserved Viking ships, and The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, Europe’s largest open-air museum. Throw in a thriving nightlife and a unique culinary tradition and you get a smorgasbord of Nordic delights.
Sweden’s ever-evolving capital city of Stockholm is built on an archipelago of islands at the meeting of Lake Malar and Salt Bay, and two-thirds of its area is comprised of water, parks and woodland. The medieval ‘Old Town’ contains old-world houses; a magnificent gothic cathedral; and countless other historic buildings lining its cobbled streets. Some of the best historic sites in Stockholm include the Vasamuseet, which houses the enormous 1628 worship, Vasa; the spectacular Kungliga Slottet palace; and the incredible open-air museum, Skansen, which offers insight into traditional historic Swedish life. The city is also a high-tech, futuristic metropolis at the forefront of international design and technology. Party the night away at the famous outdoor club Tradgarden; sip rose at a floating bar at Strandvagen, the city’s most glamorous street; or immerse yourself in the gaming world at basement venue Ugglan.
Set on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most charming and idiosyncratic capital cities, largely due to its unique geographical location on a group of peculiarly shaped islands and peninsulas projecting out into the Baltic Sea. The majority of attractions are conveniently clustered on a central peninsula which, while not exactly an ancient ‘Old Town’, boasts some of the purest neoclassical architecture in the world. The city springs to life in summer when the sun continues to shine long after midnight. Winding streets play host to an array of tempting sidewalk cafes and bistros serving bizarre Finnish delicacies such as beaver sausage and dried reindeer. If that proves a little too exotic, check out the legendary Design Museum or try the saunas at the famous Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall, known for its spectacular architecture and unique atmosphere.
The region of North Zealand is located in the northern part of Denmark’s largest island, north of Copenhagen and east of Ise Fjord. One of the country’s top tourist regions, North Zealand offers a great array of historical and natural sights. The city of Elsinore, the setting of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is home to the must-see attraction of Kronborg Castle and some lovely beaches (Snekkersten Strand and Gronnehave Strand), while Fredensborg boasts an impressive Palace and a photogenic city centre. Elsewhere, the fishing village of Hundested makes a quaint stop on the way to the northern beaches of Gilleleje, Helsinge and Tisvildeleje, while the Kongernes Nordsjaelland National Park is home to thick forests, picturesque canals and some interesting ancient burial sites.
Norway’s traditional region of Akershus lies in the southern part of the country and borders on Sweden in one part. Arguably the top landmark of the area, after which it is named, Oslo’s enthralling Akershus Festning is a must-see; where a Medieval castle, fortress, and other buildings stand watch over the harbour. Apart from the numerous well-known offerings of the capital, locations such as Asker and Sandvika provide thriving city centres known for their fantastic art galleries and excellent coffee, surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes perfect for skiing, fjord activities and hiking. In the Follo area, just 20 minutes from Oslo, enjoy picturesque coastal towns, and in Romerike, head to the birthplace of the Norwegian constitution at the Eidsvoll 1814 visitor centre.
Stockholm County fringes the Baltic Sea coast of Sweden. It is home to the fascinating city of Stockholm, which serves as the capital of Sweden and is bordered by the historic counties of Uppsala and Sodermanland. It is peppered with dense urban areas sandwiched amidst vast rural areas which are home to lush expansive forests and over 30 000 spectacularly scenic islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. Visit the vibrant city of Stockholm, discover the port of Nynashamn, and explore Sigtuna, Sweden's oldest city. Other highlights include the Royal Palace, the Vasa Museum, the Drottningholm Palace, the many lakeshores and rugged coastlines and sampling local Stockholm County specialities.