Since November 2016 I’ve visited three new cities in Scandinavia– Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway and Malmo, Sweden (as a day trip from Copenhagen). Scandinavia isn’t really a destination which has been top of my hit list as I always thought it would be exorbitantly priced and largely underwhelming. On the first point I wasn’t hugely wrong (although there were ways to reduce costs) but I was definitely misinformed when it came to the lack of attractions in the region!
Copenhagen was somewhere my boyfriend wanted to visit and I found cheap flights so treated him for his 30th birthday. Just 45 minutes away by train, it would have been a waste not to squeeze in a trip to Sweden! Oslo was an opportunity to visit some family friends and make the most of the two bank holidays over Easter with a short-haul trip.
I loved both Copenhagen and Oslo. Malmo was good but there wasn’t a huge amount to see and it rained the entire time we were there which didn’t give me a great first impression! Scandinavia felt incredibly modern, clean and you could sense that the quality of life there was amazing. If you earned a lot of money, Copenhagen or Oslo would both be fantastic places to live!! I’ve listed some of my favourite things to do in each city below:
Top things to do in Oslo
Take a trip to some of the city’s museums and galleries
Oslo had a huge selection of amazing museums and galleries focusing on a huge range of history and themes. Some of my favourites included the Polar Ship Museum to learn about arctic expeditions, the Nobel Centre which had a thought-provoking exhibition on refugee life and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art on the waterfront which was a beautiful airy gallery with artists exhibiting including Damien Hirst and Gilbert and George. While each museum entry is expensive, it can work out as really good value to get an Oslo Pass if you’re planning on visiting a few. This also includes all public transport for the duration of the pass.
Take a cruise around Oslofjord
While Southern Norway is more famous for its fjords, Oslo does have one of its very own. I was there in April and it was absolutely freezing(!!!) but taking a chilly boat ride along the water was a definite highlight particularly when it started to snow. The scenery was gorgeous.
Head to Holmenkollen Ski Jump
This huge ski jump can be seen from many areas of Oslo as it sits on a hill overlooking the city. Visiting the jump and going to the top offers you a great view and if you visit at the right time of year and there’s still snow on the ground it feels like you’re in an alpine village!
A walk along Akerbrygge
Akerbrygge is a beautiful part of the city right on the waterfront. The promenade has tons of restaurants and bars and the view of the bay with the imposing Akershus Fortress and the Oslo Opera House is amazing.
Wander around Froggner Park
Froggner Park is just outside the city centre and it’s a lovely place to go. It would probably have been even nicer in the summer but it’s a great outdoor space filled with Vigeland sculptures which are great fun to recreate as is tradition!
Top things to do in Copenhagen
Visit Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest theme park in the world and it’s excellent! There’s an old wooden rollercoaster, some more modern terrifying rides, tons of sideshows, food carts etc. It’s only open at certain times of the year so definitely worth checking before you book a trip
Spend some time in Freetown Christiania
Christiania isn’t really like anywhere else I’ve been. It’s an self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood within the city limits of Copenhagen. There isn’t really a police presence and there’s a tenuous agreement between the city and the 850 or so residents of the neighbourhood that if there’s no trouble there won’t really be any municipal involvement. You can’t really take photographs, mostly because there is a huge cannabis trade on the streets and it’s still technically illegal. There’s some great street art though and I did manage to sneak a couple of photos with no one in them!
Walk along Nyhavn
Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid are the two iconic attractions within Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid was definitely underwhelming, but Nyhavn was a lovely place. Incredibly touristy but the photo opportunity with the colourful harbour makes it worth a visit! Don’t eat at any of the restaurants on Nyhavn itself unless you want to pay hugely over the odds.
Visit some of the historical sights and museums
Rosenborg and Frederiksberg Castles, the design museum with a great collection of chairs, the converted cistern which is now a modern art museum…like Oslo there’s a huge range of museums within Copenhagen which are worth a visit!
Eat some great Scandinavian food!
Copenhagen is slightly more budget-friendly than Oslo so while in Oslo we didn’t really get to sample much local fare, in Copenhagen we had some great meals! As home to Noma, one of the best restaurants in the world, there’s some amazing restaurants which have been set up by former chefs and staff at Noma at a fraction of the price! There’s a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants but you pay a premium and they were certainly still outside of our budget. A lot of mid-range restaurants do a great tasting menu though which let you try many Danish specialities. Aside from that there are some great cafes to get Smorrebrod (Danish open sandwiches) which you need to try.
Do you agree with what’s on these lists? Do you have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments below.