4 Faces of Scandinavia
It’s hard to make a choice between the historic sites, the architecture, the nature and the entertainment. The good news is that you don’t need to choose. Make a different plan for every city and see a little bit of everything in the Kingdom of Scandinavia.
A way of life, a way of traveling
Scandinavia consists of Denmark and the two countries of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Norway and Sweden. However, it’s not rare to consider Finland, Iceland and Faroe Islands part of this region, due to geologic, economic and cultural (language) reasons.
Above all, the Scandinavian countries share a very unique way of being. They have created a lifestyle that makes others look up to them as an example of society, since they usually rank in high positions in all kinds of happiness, development and life quality studies.
There are obvious similarities between Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden: Vikings and monarchies are part of their history; they show great esteem for the natural beauty of their territories; they love esplanades and amusement parks and they have a refined taste for design and architecture.
The capital cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki hold much of this “Nordic” identity. Discover a different world in every city and come back home with a sense of what is this “Scandinavian state of mind”.
Discover the history in Stockholm
We start in Stockholm, where history lives in Gamala Stan, the Old City. On 3 islands, you will discover a lot about the city, the country and the region. This is where the Vikings founded Stockholm back in 1252. The narrow streets, the buildings in many different shades and colours and the little bridges are a great example of the old Scandinavian architecture. Visit the Stockholm Cathedral, the Royal Palace, one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms and the stores filled with handcrafted products and souvenirs. You can get the best view over Gamala Stan from the Slussen elevator.
Outside the Old City, the historical beauty can be found in palaces, castles and other buildings, like the Drottningholm palace or the Stadshuset (City Hall), a building known for its 106 meters tower. But we can’t talk about history and Scandinavia without mention the obvious: the Vikings. The Vasamuseet is the place to go. A museum dedicated to the Viking culture, where you can witness the only 17th Century preserved ship in the entire world.
In Oslo, for the nature
The city of Oslo has a special connection with nature. The number of parks and lakes in the city is surprising and you can take a subway all the way to the middle of a forest.
Visit the more than 180 species of plants in the Botanical Garden, swim in the many lakes, from Østensjøvannet to the islands of Gressholmen and Rambergøya, and enjoy a quiet afternoon in beautiful parks, like the ones located in St. Hanshaugen or Lillomarka. The Vigeland Sculpture Park makes the perfect connection between art and nature, with more than 200 sculptures from the artist Gustav Vigeland.
In Oslo, you can also visit the Holmenkollen National Ski Arena, where sports meet nature to provide you a fantastic view over the city.
In Copenhagen, for the fun
A city that inspired the writings of Hans Christian Andersen must be the perfect place to visit with children.
The statue of the Little Mermaid, one of the city’s symbols, takes us to a fantasy world that can also be found while walking the magical trails of the Tivoli Gardens. This is an amusement park where everything, from the buildings to the gardens, looks like a fairy tale land. Just north of Copenhagen you will find the world’s oldest amusement park, Bakken. With 431 years of experience in making people have a good time, the park is a fantastic site located in the middle of the Jægersborg Dyrehave forest. Other places like the Open Air Museum, the city inside the Experimentarium or the Den Blå Planet (National Aquarium) will teach adults and children that learning is also a very fun activity.
If your idea of fun must include a good meal, some drinks and great jazz music, go straight to the neighbourhood of Nyhavn.
An architecture walk in Helsinki
Scandinavia is a dream destiny for architecture and design aficionados and Helsinki is one of the best places, if not the best, to do an architecture walk. Get a map at the tourist information centre in the city and start discovering.
The Nordic minimalism is everywhere, but the city is like a giant junction of many different styles and influences. Around the Senate Square, you will find great examples of Neoclassical architecture and the Byzantine-Russian architectural tradition is represented by Alexander M. Gornostajev’s Uspenski Cathedral. The city centre features buildings like Gustaf Nyström’s House of the Estates or the Neo-Renaissance work of Theodor Höijer that can be admired in the Ateneum Art Museum.
It’s also possible to find influences of styles such as Art Nouveau, Functionalism or Modernism, the style that made the Finish architect Alvar Aalto world famous. The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is a fantastic example of contemporary architecture, designed by the American architect Steven Holl. And this is just a small resume!