Dramatic peaks reflecting off tranquil fjords, the northern lights dancing above snow-laden forests, vibrant cities and exhilarating outdoor activities – Scandinavia is a breathtakingly beautiful area made up of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with Finland as a close neighbour. There is so much to see and do in this part of the world. But in case you weren't quite convinced yet, here are our top ten reasons why you should definitely plan a visit to Scandinavia soon.
1) Trendy cities
Stockholm, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Oslo and Bergen – Scandinavia’s cities are bursting with world-class restaurants, trendy boutiques, fascinating museums, creative public spaces and vibrant art scenes. In Oslo you’ll find an eclectic mix of old and new architecture and a lively nightlife, while Bergen boasts some of Norway’s best restaurants. The effortlessly cool city of Stockholm perfectly blends culture and tradition. Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg is known for its film and music festivals as well as its buzzing café culture and nightlife. The small city of Copenhagen started out as a Viking fishing village and evolved into one of the most sophisticated cities in Europe.
2) Impressive design
Emerging in the early 20th century, the Scandinavian design movement is informed by minimalism and functionality. You’ll notice innovative design in everything from furniture and household products to clothing and architecture. From the fantastical rooms at the Treehotel in Swedish Lapland, to the bright Cogwheel in Gothenburg, it’s an architectural wonderland.
3) Fjords and forests
The perfect way to explore Norway is by sailing along its beautiful fjords. Formed millions of years ago during the Ice Age, the fjords stretch along the coast. Some of the biggest are Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. In the winter, the surrounding mountain tops are capped with snow, while in warmer months the valleys are brilliant green. The forests of Lapland are at their most magical during winter when the trees are heavy with snow.
4) Northern Lights
Having the chance to see the spectacular aurora borealis is on many visitors’ bucket list. Whether the lights are visible or not depend largely on the time of year and weather conditions, but luck also plays an important role. To increase your chances, try to visit Norway at the darkest and coldest time of year, between October and March. Cloudless nights are best and as far from light pollution as possible. The Lofoten Islands and Norwegian Lapland are excellent viewing areas.
More than just a descriptive word, hygge is a way of life in Denmark. Pronounced hoo-ga, it encapsulates a feeling of cosiness, happiness or contentment. It’s all about making the most of life’s simple pleasures that are often so easily overlooked. Whether it’s time spent with a close friend, a large mug of your favourite hot drink, a good book, or simply time alone doing what you love – hygge is all about well-being.
6) Inspired cuisine
There’s so much more to food in Scandinavia than just Swedish meatballs and chocolate (although both of those are still delicious!). Scandinavia is the birthplace of New Nordic Cuisine. The movement was founded by a group of chefs in Copenhagen in 2004 and emphasises fresh, local and seasonal produce. Many of the top restaurants have introduced exciting menus which feature innovative takes on traditional dishes.
7) Winter sports
If you’re heading to Scandinavia in winter you’ll be spoilt for choice for outdoor activities. Go skiing, or strap on some snowshoes and explore the boreal forests in Sweden. Climb aboard a snowmobile and go racing across the ice plains in Finnish Lapland, or head out into the wilds on a husky or reindeer sled to find the northern lights. There’s also a lot of fun to be had ice fishing. Many lodges have a wide variety of activities to keep guests entertained and warm during the colder months.
If you’re spending time in Scandinavia, especially if your trip takes you to Finland, you definitely need to experience a sauna. Whether you choose to go naked or wear a towel, it is designed to cleanse the body and mind. There’s more to a Finnish sauna than you may have encountered at your local gym. Instead of piped music and store-bought fragrances, inside you’ll find a vasta or vihta, a bunch of leafy birch to gently beat your skin, relaxing your muscles. Once you the heat gets uncomfortable it’s time to cool off in a pool, shower or icy lake. Repeat.
9) Swedish archipelagos
Sweden has a number of archipelagos, large groups of islands, and among the most well-known are the Stockholm and Gothenburg archipelagos. The former is made up of thousands of islands of various sizes and rocks. Many of these islands, coves and beaches can be explored by boat or ferry. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy going hiking or kayaking, while foodies will be delighted to find popular restaurants on some of the larger islands.
10) Safe and family friendly
While exercising common sense is always a good idea when visiting a foreign country, you’ll find Scandinavia to be generally safe. The crime rate is low, and locals are largely friendly and happy to help. As a result, solo travellers are not unusual. It’s also a great destination for families travelling with children. The cities and towns are clean and safe, and as you head out into the countryside there are a lot of great excursions for visitors of all ages, from snowmobiling and ice fishing to dog sledding.