Discover the colorful and breathtaking beauty of Scandinavia! Scandinavia should be on every traveler's list as a gorgeous country with its ancient houses that line fjords and canals to the castles and northern lights. Maybe even twice.
The Northern European countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden make up the Scandinavian Peninsula. The region’s capital cities — Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm — offer rich history and local traditions in a metropolitan atmosphere. Each boasts something for every interest — museums, castles, shopping, cuisine, etc.
Did you know that nearly all Scandinavians speak perfect English? It’s true. They’re also known for being exceptionally friendly and open-minded, not to mention hospitable. Being able to connect with the locals while traveling abroad makes your journey that much more inspiring and another reason why Scandinavia is a fantastic place for Americans to visit.
There is no way to visit Bergen, Norway, without exploring the World Heritage town of Bryggen. Along the two historical quays, the many colorful houses and exclusive buildings surrounding the Nyhavn canal are nearly 350 years old.
A series of commercial buildings line the eastern side of the fjord in Bergen. Today, some 62 buildings remain in the former town. Bergen is also known as the Gateway to the Fjords…
The region’s many forests, lakes, waterfalls, and mountains draw visitors from around the world. Perhaps most popular of all is Norway’s dramatic fjords, lined with towering green cliffs and glistening glaciers. Sail along these waters and you’re sure to discover some of the most unforgettable natural beauty on earth.
The Fjords of Norway
It’s impossible not to be awed by the mirror-smooth waters of Geirangerfjord, with its towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls, and it’s not a coincidence that the Geirangerfjord today often appears on lists of the most spectacular places in the world. The Sognefjord (or Sognefjorden), nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is Norway's largest and deepest fjord. At its deepest, Sognefjorden measures down to more than 4,265 feet, and the mountains along the fjord rise to more than 5,570 feet!
What is a Fjord?
Said to be the soul of Norway, a fjord is a deep, narrow, and elongated sea or lake-drain with steep land on three sides. The fjords were formed by the giant glaciers that, through several ice ages, carved out valleys throughout the mountainous landscape. The opening toward the sea is called the mouth of the fjord and is often shallow. The fjord’s inner part is called the sea bottom.
Fjords are often natural harbors because of the shallow threshold in the mouth. This is also why fjords are often quieter than the open sea.
Stockholm is Sweden’s economic and cultural center. The city, a sprawling archipelago of 14 islands, is known for its Royal Palace and waterside City Hall where Nobel Prize banquets are held. Did you know that Stockholm is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges? The bright city holds claims to being the “Capital of Scandinavia.”
Copenhagen began as a 12th-century fishing village. Today, visitors can enjoy a modern city rich in history. Main sights include the 17th century Stock Exchange and the Mermaid Statue commemorating Hans Christian Andersen. Copenhagen, Denmark, the many colorful houses and exclusive buildings surrounding the Nyhavn canal are nearly 350 years old.
The Best Things to See in Scandinavia
The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark
The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is the most popular tourist attraction in Denmark and one of the most photographed statues in the world. The famous statue in Copenhagen's harbor commemorates the Hans Christian Andersen story of the mermaid who gave up her life for the love of a prince.
The Aurora Borealis
Northern Lights in Scandinavia
One of the most spectacular things you can see in Scandinavia? The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights!
The fascinating lights are most likely to be seen above the Arctic Circle in Northern Scandinavia, Finland, and Iceland during cold winter nights when skies are very clear. Northern Norway is considered the most comfortable and interesting place to see the northern lights. Though you're never guaranteed a show, the best time to go hunting for the lights is approximately from October until the end of March.
Castles in Scandinavia
Vittskövle Castle, Sweden
Vittskövle Castle is one of the best-preserved Renaissance castles in the Nordic countries. Erected in the 16th-century as a defense structure., it is now a private residence.
Stockholm Palace, Sweden
Stockholm Palace or the Royal Palace the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch (the actual residence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia is at Drottningholm Palace). The palace is used for representative purposes by the King whilst performing his duties as the head of state.
Drottningholm Palace, Sweden
Drottningholm Palace is Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia’s permanent home residence. The rooms in the southern wing of the palace are reserved for this purpose. The rest of the palace and grounds are open to the public year-round.
Continuing the epic scenery, the Flåm Railway is known as the most beautiful train journey globally!
Flåm Railway (Flamsbana), Norway
Flåm Railway (Flamsbana) is a spectacular train journey that offers a panoramic view of some of the wildest and most magnificent nature in the Norwegian fjord landscape.
On the 20 km-long train ride between Myrdal and Flåm, you can see rivers that cut through deep ravines, waterfalls cascading down the side of steep, snow-capped mountains, and mountain farms clinging dizzily to sheer slopes.
Oh, and we didn’t forget the food…
A staple at Swedish celebrations, smorgastarta is a savory sandwich cake made of several layers of white or light rye bread with creamy fillings. Mayo is a must and the garnish is just as important as the fillings! As strange as it seems, it’s truly worth it to try a slice!
Gravlax or dill-cured salmon is always featured on the Swedish smorgasbord. Pair fish and a Swedish Ale, and you’re all set for a delicious meal.
Heart-shaped waffles are the epitome of Nordic hospitality and warmth. Waffles are just as important to Norwegians as the croissant is to the French.
Swedish pancakes are traditionally eaten as a dessert after pea soup on Thursdays. You can eat Swedish pancakes with jam, ice cream, and/or whipped cream. Other common toppings are fresh berries and powdered sugar.
Köttbullar, Swedish Meatballs
Köttbullar are known all over the world as Swedish meatballs. The traditional way to serve them is with a cream sauce, pressgurka (pressed cucumber), rårörda lingon (lingonberry sauce) and potatismos (mashed potatoes). The Swedish meatball recipe can be served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles as well.