7 Nordic Cities You Have to Visit
On the face of it, the Nordics don’t seem like a very sensible place for a holiday. Firstly, they’re almost certainly guaranteed to be colder than where you’ve left from, and chances are they’re also going to be much more expensive. But if you don’t mind wrapping up and paying a little over the odds for a pint, Scandinavia and the Nordics offer some of the most incredible cities and sights in Europe. With that in mind, here are 7 cities you have to visit in the Nordics.
Reykjavik has grown quite the reputation in the last couple of year. The Icelandic capital may not have an abundance of raucous nightlife to offer but it more than makes up for it in tranquillity and some of the most stunningly beautiful sceneries in the Nordics. Vibrant and colourful, Reykjavik is located right by the sea and the downtown offers plenty in the way of restaurants/bars akin to East London.
While booze in Reykjavik is expensive – though on the cheaper side compared to the likes of Norway – accommodation is cheap enough and you’re hardly travelling going to be travelling to here for all day drinking anyway. It’s not just about the city itself though – Reykjavik is ideal as a base to see hot water springs, waterfalls and geysers, which are all less than an hour away. There’s also potential to see the planet’s greatest natural phenomenon, the Northern Lights. A perfect place to unwind.
In the last couple of decades, Gothenburg has been reinventing itself as arguably the coolest place in Scandinavia – and we’re not talking about the temperatures! Sweden’s second biggest city is still a hub for Swedish industry thanks to its busy port, but like much of Scandinavia the focus is increasingly on tourism. Easy to navigate on foot, Gothenburg has a seriously scandi-cool laidback vibe to it with charming bars and cafes popping up on a seemingly daily basis. There’s also a thriving food and arts scene.
But mainly it’s impossible to ignore Gothenburg’s beauty. The likes of its tiny old town, the atmospheric streets of Vallgatan, Södra Larmgatan and especially Magasinggatan are perfect for aimless wandering. Liseberg is great if you’ve got little ones with head-spinning rides in the summer and a gigantic Christmas market in the winter, and you can’t miss out on a boat trip out to the stunning Gothenburg archipelago.
Located at the start of the stunning Norwegian fjords and enclosed by breath-taking mountain views, you’d struggle to find many more picturesque cities in Europe than Bergen. Packing a rich musical and maritime history, as well as a thriving student social scene, we make Bergen one of the true city break gems in the Nordics. The remnants of the city’s membership of the Hanseatic League are fully on show in the beautiful old town of Bryggen, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The brightly wooden clad buildings line the eastern side of the Vågen harbour and make for a great place to meander.
The city has plenty of things to do, with museums, shops, restaurants and pubs residing throughout the city centre and well into the University in the south, while true Bergen’s nickname as ‘The City of the Seven Mountains’, spectacular hilltop views of the city are available in every direction if you don’t mind a short trek uphill. We should also mention that Bergen is the ideal base if you want to check out the stunning Norwegian Fjords.
When it comes to culture – art, design, fashion and food – no other city in the Nordics comes close to competing with Copenhagen. The Danish capital has it all with bars, restaurants, museums, shops and sites dotted around the city. Like most places in this part of the world, Copenhagen can most aptly be described as ‘laid back’. Pushbikes are the favoured mode of transport and swigging cans a Carlsberg by the canal is more a way of life than a past-time.
Most people are aware that Copenhagen is now a culinary powerhouse with the likes of world famous Noma just one of 15 Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, and it’s hard to beat Copenhagen when it comes to fashion too. Few people in the world have such a knack for effortless cool, with simplicity and understated beauty in every face and garment you’ll see in the city. The famous Little Mermaid statue should probably be ticked off the list, but don’t waste time there if it’s precious. Head to the galleries, eat from the food carts and go from a canalside walk.
Situated right by the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is hardly a name synonymous with city break unwinding and poolside drinking. But the Lapland capital is famed for experiencing Scandinavian beauty in its purist form. The ‘official’ residence of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi is a tourism boom town and a perfect base for organising activities such a sleigh rides, wilderness expeditions and dog sledging.
The town itself isn’t the biggest and there’s not many attractions in town apart from the wonderful Arktikum museum but the northernmost part of Finland is the perfect place to see Aurora Borealis, which can be seen 200 nights per year. For three months the region is also bathed by a 24-hour sunlight so you can enjoy Midnight sun with a whole host of out-door festivals and cultural events.
The Swedish capital of Stockholm combines all the rich heritage and modern attractions anyone could want from a city break. Located in the south-east of Sweden on a beautiful archipelago consisting of 14 tiny islands, the city has it all if you’re looking for history and culture. The Old Town (Gamla Stan) is filled with castles and meandering medieval alleys, while Stockholm also boasts one of the largest collections of museums anywhere in the world.
The city also features not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Royal Palace Drottningholm (the residence of the royal family) and the magical Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery) – both ideal for an afternoon visit. We’d also recommend heading to Djurgården island for walking and cycling trails, eating at one of the city’s many seafood restaurants, and don’t forget to head to the ‘world’s most hipster neighbourhood’, the island of Södermalm, for a coffee or a craft beer.
Established in the early 19th century, the northern Norwegian port of Ålesund might be a long way from the bright lights of Bergen and Oslo, but it’s no less rich in history and beauty. Following a devastating fire in 1904, Ålesund was rebuilt from scratch and is now home to Norway’s largest cod-fishing fleet, some the country’s finest examples of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture, as well as some seriously excellent seafood.
If you’re after a party, Ålesund probably isn’t the place for you. But there are still a fair few bars and cafes doubling up as gin joints where you can sit back and unwind on a £10 craft. Really though, the town is all about its beauty. From the mountains overlooking the seven islands of the town to the brightly coloured houses lining the streets, Ålesund is one of the most charming city breaks you could wish for anywhere in the Nordics.