With the huge success of The Killing, Borgen
and The Bridge, Scandinavia has kept us all riveted to our TVs. But it also
offers a very tempting smorgasbord of outdoor pleasures, says travel editor
its wonderful mountains coastline, Norway has much to offer visitors
A third of Norway is forested, and around
half is contoured by mountains, so it’s not surprising that the country is a
hive of activities for those who want to experience the great outdoors without
the crowds. But the biggest draw is its deeply incised coastline, one of the
most scenic in Europe and arguably best explored by ship. Hurtigruten (020 8846
2666; hurtigruten.co.uk) operates 11 different vessels on 12-day round trip
voyages along the scenically spectacular Norwegian coast. One departs every day
from Bergen, visiting 34 ports of call in all, dipping into breathtaking fjords
and carrying mail, supplies, locals and visitors. However, you don’t have to
commit to the full voyage, as there are also port-to-port, bite-size portions.
In the mad summer scamper to the Med, it’s
all too easy to overlook Scandinavia – even Denmark, despite our national
passion for Borgen and co. But when you draw up a list of what you want from a
holiday – from beaches to good food, plenty to see and inviting places to stay,
you’ll find the ‘land of the open sandwich’ ticks a lot of boxes – especially
for families. Not surprising when you consider that one of the most famous
Danes ever was a writer of fairytales.
of history: the city of Aarhus has a 13th-century cathedral
Denmark is also
easy to get to, with a wide choice of flights, as well as DFD’s ferries. The
Danes themselves not only seem to all speak English, but are well-mannered and
hospitable, too. It’s all very ‘hygge’ as they declare, meaning warmth,
bonhomie and general cosiness. Although it looks small on the map, it makes
sense to focus on a single region. A good bet is to head for the heartland of
Jutland and hire a car, taking in the miles of unspoilt countryside groomed
like parkland, along relatively empty, easy to navigate roads that take in the
cow pastures, still lakes and patchworks of deep forests. We would highly
recommend staying in the diverse range of the individually owned inns, or ‘Kro’
as they are locally known, often old staging posts for coaches with lots of
traditional character and usually excellent regional cooking.
The Old-Town in Aarhus and Den Gamle By – an
open-air museum of historic buildings.
Climb Himmelbjerget (The Heaven Mountain),
Denmark’s Everest – all 450 feet of it.
Take a tour on S/S Hjejlen around the Silkeborg
Tollund Man, the best-preserved corpse in the
With its museums and galleries,
architecture, cool bars and hot restaurants, Copenhagen has been slowly working
its way up the hit parade of city breaks. Its slick transportation makes it so
easy for a weekend – in less than an hour after our flight touched down we were
checking in to our hotel, the Kong Arthur. It’s also a city that will appeal to
a board spectrum of interests. Foodies, for example, will want to sample Noma,
ranked, for three years running, as the best restaurant in the world – but
you’ll need to book weeks ahead and warn your bank manager. There are more
affordable alternatives, though. We suggest combining a visit to the enchanting
Tivoli, part-funfair, part-garden, part-fairytale, with traditional Danish
dishes at The Brothers Price housed in a huge conservatory mid-Tiv.
Copenhagen: a boat trip from Nyhavn Quayside (above) is a wonderful way to get
a feel for the capital, and make sure a visit to the delightful Tivoli Gardens
(left) is also on your itinerary
Denmark, of course,
is synonymous with design, best seen in the Kunstindustrimuseet and the smaller
Danish Design Centre. If modern art is a priority, you should take the train to
Humlebaek and head for Louisiana, one of the most interesting modern art
museums in the world. It’s also spectacularly located in gardens overlooking
the sea with Sweden on the horizon.
Book with Nordic Experience (01206 708888;
nordicexperience.co.uk), and SAS (flysas.co.uk) offers non-stop flights from
London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Aberdeen.
On your first morning take a boat trip from the
historic Nyhavn Quayside to get a sense of the place
The stores along Stroget, the longest
pedestrianised street in the world, include tempting housewares at Illums
Bolighus, the jewellery at Georg Jensen and porcelain at Royal Copenhagen.
Tivoli (for opening times, seetivoli.dk). Entry
is free, as it is to most other museums and all local transport, if you buy a
Copenhagen Card (from $52 for 24 hours) on arrival at the airport.
truly magical Northern Lights
It’s open for holiday business during the
summer of course, but in many ways Finland in winter is a more tempting
prospect – especially for anyone looking for lots of fun in the snow other than
downhill skiing. While ski slopes may be in short supply, the cross-country
skiing is excellent and easily mastered by all ages, plus there’s snowmobiling,
husky sledding and snowshoeing. Finland is also one of the best places in the
world to see the Northern Lights, which, according to NASA, are currently
performing at the peak of a 50-year solar cycle of activity. Nordic Experience
(01206 708888; nordicexperience.co.uk).
Although it’s now better known for its
banking crisis, Iceland is best loved for its amazingly wild volcanic scenery,
including dramatic craters, lava flows, hot springs, geysers, glaciers,
geothermal pools, waterfalls and whales. Discover The World (01737 214250; discover-the-world.co.uk)
offers a wide range of Icelandic holidays, from short breaks to escorted and
fly-drive itineraries, plus activities ranging from hiking to horse riding and
whale watching to views of the Northern Lights.
wonder: Iceland’s Svartifoss Waterfall
Other tour operators to Scandinavia
include: Sunvil (020 8758 4722; sunvil.co.uk), Taber Holidays (01274 875199;
taberholidays.co.uk), Specialised Tours (01342 712785; specialisedtours.com)
and Transun (020 7025 1365; transun.co.uk)
Got a weakness for Wallander?
likely you found the setting of quaint streets and gentle farmlands
castles as absorbing as the plots and Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of the
Swedish detective. Most of the filming took place in Scania (or Skane)
southern Sweden, an easy drive across the bridge (as in The Bridge) from
Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport or a direct Ryanair flight from Stansted
to Malmo, Sweden’s third city and an excellent base from which to
explore the area. Surrounded by friendly
locals, you can shop for covetable Scandinavian design or sample real
meatballs and pickled herring. As part of the appropriately named
Hospitality programme, you can even enjoy a dinner party with locals at
home – visit malnotown.com for more information.
We’d also recommend that you nip into the
Saltsjobad Hotel for fika (or coffee and cake) – the Swedish equivalent of
afternoon tea, and save time for a walk along the wonderful beach.
Stockholm at sunset
Must-sees in Scania
The university town of Lund. Visit its
Romanesque cathedral and the Kulturen open-air museum, which has historic
buildings spanning hundreds of years of Scandinavian history.
Malmo’s shopping district, which includes the
Form Design Centre.
The Renaissance-era Malmohus Castle, which holds
the city’s museum.
Enjoy a walk in the Kungsparken, with its view
of the Turning Torso skyscraper.
The endless sandy beaches of Sandhammaren on the
Book with Simply Sweden (0845 890 0300; simplysweden.co.uk).
Turning Torso skyscraper
The rise and rise of Scandi-crime
From the mega-success of Stieg Larsson’s
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy to Henning Mankell’s hit Wallander
series, Scandinavian crime fiction is having a bit of a moment. Swedish husband
and wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo kick-started modern Nordic noir with
their Martin Beck series in the 1960s and 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1992 that
Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow became the first real international
bestseller. What they have in common are depressive detectives, bleak weather
and grisly violence set against an inhospitable landscape. Here’s what to read
next: The Drowning by Camila Lackberg, Phantom by Jo Nesbo, Disgrace by Jussi
Adler-Olsen and Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum.