In our travel special, read Writer and Marketer, Natasha Orme travelogue on her trip to Scandinavia over 8 days plus tips to plan your own trip.
This year, I decided to take my summer holiday to new heights with a Scandinavian tour of some of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I travelled to Denmark, Sweden and Norway in just 8 days and this is my adventure.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city with a rich culture and one that is – I feel – often dismissed when it comes to travelling Europe. Generally speaking, people favour the hotter, more affordable destinations in Spain and Portugal. So this summer I decided to take on the challenge of touring Scandinavia, and my first stop was Copenhagen.
Getting to Copenhagen
The 7 and a half hour journey began in Bad-Fallingbostel ,a German town I grew up in and a place where my Dad now lives. We travelled the short twenty-minute journey by car to Soltau in order to get on the first train. Travelling on Sundays is always difficult in Germany as they have a stricter approach to how Sundays should be spent, so our choices in trains were limited. Once at Bucholz, we changed trains and headed to Hamburg.
Hamburg to Copenhagen is a direct 5-hour train that navigates not just the German and Danish countrysides but also the Femer Bælt – a stretch of water between the two. Unbeknown to me at the time, the train was due to embark on its own ferry at Puttgarden and carry us across the water to Rødbyhavn.
It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you travel in a foreign country, especially one that doesn’t speak English. Lucky for us Scandinavia’s second language is English and so the tannoy announced there was a technical fault which would mean we need to disembark the train at Puttgarden.
The trip then incorporated a ferry ride, before arriving at Rødbyhavn where we needed another train to take us the rest of the way.
We finally got to our hotel in Copenhagen with dinner and the rest of the evening ahead of us. Our journey to the hotel had taken us through some of the main streets and had given us a glimpse of what was around the corner.
Exploring Copenhagen: Stroget, the ultimate shopping district
We ate in a cute little pizzeria over the road before deciding to explore the cityAs with all cities we visit, we paid a visit to the Hard Rock Café on Rådhuspladsen which gave us a great opportunity to explore Strøget – one of the longest pedestrianised streets in Europe and the ultimate shopping district. After a leisurely cocktail in the Hard Rock Café and a t-shirt purchase from the Hard Rock Shop, we took a closer look at the City Hall and the entrance to Tivoli Gardens before deciding to call it a night and come up with an action plan in the morning.
The Hotel, Wakeup Copenhagen
The hotel we stayed in was on Borgergade and called Wakeup Copenhagen. It was a great little hotel, really nicely furnished, clean, modern and in the perfect location. If you want to travel to the city on a budget then I would highly recommend it. The staff were really friendly and I really felt like I got more than what I paid for.
Our tour of the city
We started our day at MJ Coffee whilst we decided on what we were going to do for the day. The first activity on our agenda was a boat ride. Down at the harbour, we found Netto Boats. We hopped aboard and enjoyed an amazing tour of the city’s waterways with insightful anecdotes from our multilingual tour guide. From the board, we got to see the Stock Exchange, the Little Mermaid, the Black Diamond Library, the Cathedral and the Royal Family’s House they use when travelling by boat.
The boat tour had given us a little inspiration and so indulged my love of books with a trip to the Black Diamond Library – better known as the Royal Library. It was a 20-minute walk to the Library but wandering through the city of Copenhagen was amazing.
The Library itself was grand, imposing and hushed – everything a library should be. It sits right on the water’s edge, so you can borrow a book and settle down in one of the comfy, over-sized deckchairs whilst you enjoy it.
Every beer enthusiast’s must-do: A trip to the Carlsberg Brewery
As much as I wanted to stay there for the rest of my holiday, we head back into the city centre to catch the bus to the Carlsberg factory. The free bus can be found on Vesterbrogade right outside the Tivoli Gardens main entrance and will take you right up to the factory gates – you can even buy your entrance ticket on board.For a reasonable 95 DKK, you’re granted access to the incredibly old world of the Carlsberg brewery. The site is amazing purely because of its age and how you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The tour is self-guided so you can go at your own pace. There’s the world’s largest collection of bottled beer for you to see as well which is pretty cool.
Once we’d toured the factory, we enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride around the rest of the site, followed by some food from the grill. During the summer months, a couple of marquees are put up in the courtyard and visitors can enjoy freshly prepared food right there.
We then ventured upstairs to the bar and enjoyed our two free drinks and watched the bottling plant which you can see through the mezzanine floor before heading back to the bus.
Entering the Wonderland of Tivoli Gardens
Our evening was spent exploring Tivoli Gardens. A truly magical place that’s easy to spend all day in. Opened in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world but it offers much more. Labelled as an amusement park and pleasure gardens, Tivoli is a unique place that I would definitely recommend a visit.
We did everything from playing carnival games to drinking slush puppies and watching the world go by. The Gardens is always a hubbub of activity and a pretty busy place to visit. We watched some wild birds wandering around the park, visited the aquarium and admired the eccentric style of the buildings.
The following day we had to say goodbye to Copenhagen and board a train for our next destination: Stockholm.
Getting to Stockholm was almost as arduous as travelling to Copenhagen. It was a pleasant enough journey and the Scandinavian public transport systems are amazing, but there were quite a lot of changes.
First, we had to travel from Copenhagen City Station to Copenhagen Airport, from there we went to Malmö where we changed trains again and our passports were checked by police before embarking on the home stretch.
Stockholm itself is a city that’s quite spread out. Where Copenhagen had everything in one place, we soon found that Stockholm wasn’t quite the same. The city is scattered across a handful of islands and our first evening was spent wandering from one to the next.
We headed over to the Hard Rock Café for dinner, bought another t-shirt for the collection and headed down Drottninggatan – the main pedestrian street in the city where some of the most popular bars, restaurants and shops can be found.
Our wanderings led us over the bridge and back towards Kungsholmen, the area where we were staying. En route, we came across the City Hall, a rectangular shaped building with an open courtyard that’s free to explore. You can walk into the courtyard and down to the edge of the water. From there you can see across the Riddarfjärden.
We ended our first day in Stockholm by walking back to the hotel and planning what we were going to do in the morning.
Where Stockholm is so spread out, it became obvious that we wouldn’t be able to avoid purchasing a travel card and navigating the metro system and so that’s exactly what we did. Our first activity of the day was a stroll through Gamla Stan – the Old Town of Stockholm on its own little island.
Here we got to see the Royal Palace, the Houses of Parliament and even went to visit the Nobel Prize Museum in Stortorget. The buildings in Stortorget are amazingly colourful and it’s an iconic place that’s definitely worth the visit. There are so many cute little cafes dotted all around the square. You can people watch, enjoy the sunshine and bask in one of the cultural hubs of the city.
Iconic places to visit in Stockholm
The remainder of our day was spent in Djurgården, a district of Östermalm. Here we visited the Vasa Museum where an old wooden warship – the Vasa – has been restored and is on full display. The ships are amazing and you can explore five floors of relics, artefacts and the bones of the sailors who were on board.
That evening we visited Phil’s Burger on Fleminggatan, which was pretty close to our hotel, but there’s another one on the other side of the city on Sandhamnsgatan. This eatery was amazing – I wouldn’t call it a restaurant because the food comes to you in an almost fast food style but it has a really good atmosphere and the burgers were perfect.
Our final day in Stockholm was spent exploring the malls in and around Regeringsgatan and Hamngatan. This is really close to Kungsträdgården which is a great little hubbub of activity. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in Kungsträdgården before wandering back over the bridge to Gamla Stan for pizza at Rodolfino.
The afternoon was spent shopping on Drottninggatan which included a rather expensive coffee and cake at Café Belmondo before taking a relaxing wander back to our hotel. Our evening was spent enjoying the company of football enthusiasts in O’Leary’s sports bar opposite our hotel where we pigged out on a whole host of typical sports bar snacks – wings, nachos and burgers.
Welcome to Oslo, Norway
The following morning we were up bright and early to head to the station. This journey I was particularly looking forward to as it was a straight train from Stockholm to Oslo and the final train ride of the holiday.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel great. We’d bought some lunch snacks from the station and they didn’t agree with me. I spent the first hour of the train ride feeling like I was going to be sick. I knew the only solution was to sleep it off and that’s just what I did.
By the time we made it to Oslo I was feeling fine and raring to go. It took us a while to find out hotel after a little bit of confusion: there was both a Comfort Hotel Grand Central and a Comfort Hotel Xpress Central Station. We were staying in the Comfort Xpress which – despite the name – wasn’t on the same road as the station but across the square and down another road where it was tucked out of sight.
I think this was my favourite hotel of the three places we’d been in. Everything was taken care of electronically so we checked ourselves in and out – and the room was just lovely. Really quirky without being weird whilst also being functional, clean and welcoming.
Our first evening was spent grabbing a bite to eat at Peppe’s Pizza, walking down Karl Johans Gate and exploring the Oslo City Mall. We also took this opportunity to visit the tourist information office for a bit of advice on how to visit the Holmenkollen Ski Jump – the first activity on our Oslo bucket list. The staff in the information Office were lovely and super helpful, supplying us with a detailed map and some handwritten notes to help make our time in the city the best it could be.
The following morning we got right to it and headed to the metro. After about 15 minutes of confused button pressing, we managed to finally work out how to buy a ticket and boarded the Number 1 to Frognerseteren – the end of the line station.
Holmenkollen is actually a few stops before Frognerseteren but the Information Office had told us it would be worth the view if we stayed on the train and she was right. From here we wandered down the forest path, admiring the stunningly beautiful countryside that was all around us. There were quite a few moments when there was a break in the trees and the whole city lay sprawled out ahead of us. It was an amazing sight.
Visiting the Winter Olympic Ski Jump
It took us a little longer than we thought to get to Holmenkollen but the trip was definitely not wasted. The ski jump itself is massive. Almost indescribably huge and made me feel so tiny in comparison. We stopped off for a warming cup of tea in the coffee shop before exploring the site a little more. There was a ski jump simulator, a museum, gift shop and some crazy people going all the way to the top of the jump where they then zip-wired back down.
From the tea shop, we walked to the viewing platform about half-way up where you can look down the jump and feel giddy. And then if you want to – like we did – you can climb down the steps right next to the jump and feel like you’re suffering from vertigo.
By the time we reach stable ground, and our knees had stopped shaking, we took a few good pictures before deciding that Oslo was our favourite city and there was so much more we wanted to do.
Exploring what Oslo has to offer
We were already in the right part of the city so on our way back to the city centre, we visited the Vigeland Sculpture Park, enjoyed an ice cream and wandered through the national park. The park was alive with so many people and it was a very hot day which was perfect for day-trippers. The park was also free to visit – an added bonus – so admired the various different sculptures and enjoyed watching the people that were there.
We walked the long way back to the tram stop and decided to head over to the other side of the city where the information Office had told us we could find Damstredet – a street made up of old wooden houses. Putting our map reading skills to the test, we began our search for the little street and weren’t disappointed.
The picturesque cobbles and colourful collection of flowers made it feel like we’d stepped back in time. The houses were all gorgeously unique – chocolate box houses is how my mum would have described them.
Less than a fifteen-minute walk from Damstredet is the Christiania Minigolf Club, a place we were dying to go. Mini golf has always been a holiday hobby of ours and this holiday was no different. Eager for a competitive game we headed over there and found the Norwegian rules to be very different and rather strict compared to our own.
Despite enjoying ourselves, the heavens opened and we experienced a downpour like no other which meant that once the skies had cleared, we had no choice but to go back to the hotel and change into something warmer and drier.
For the evening, we dined at the Hard Rock Café and wandered further up Karl Johans Gate to the Royal Palace. Although you can’t actually go in the palace, you can get pretty close – whilst the Royal Guards keep an eye on you.
Our last day, and how we chose to spend it
Our final day in Oslo was a lot more relaxed. We’d worn ourselves out with the constant travelling and sightseeing so we decided to have a lazy breakfast at one of the many Espresso House’s in Scandinavia before climbing the Opera House.
A piece of architectural wonderment, the Opera House is built with a slanted roof that you can walk up and from the top you have an amazing view of Oslo, including the Barcode Buildings – another piece of architectural brilliance.
From there we wandered along the waterfront and found ourselves by Akershus Fortress. Free to enter and roam the cobbled streets, we explored the Fortress and took a break by the pond where live music events are hosted.
Climbing the Fortress walls, you can see across Pipervika bay where the sophisticated district of Aker Brygge boasts culture, fine dining and cocktails. From here we walked around the bay and used our 24-hour travel card to hop on the B2 boat to Langøyene.
This was perhaps my favourite activity in Oslo. Langøyene is an ‘H’ shaped island with a nudist beach at one end and a campsite at the other. In between is a small bay where children could build sandcastles on the beach and adults could sunbathe on the field nearby.
There wasn’t much on the island, a little chip shop that sold an assortment of ice creams and soft drinks and public toilet. The rural-ness of the island was breathtaking.
Our afternoon ended with a trip to the fine-dining New Delhi Indian (yay!) where we splurged on a very expensive yet delicious curry before retiring back to the hotel and packing our bags for our flight home the next morning.
Tips For Helping You Pack and Travel To Scandinavia
This was by far one of the most culturally rich holidays I’ve ever been on and we packed it full with so many amazing activities. Here is my list of do’s and dont’s for touring Scandinavia.
DO: Travel by train. It’s so cost-effective and really easy to get from one city to the next. The trains are pretty comfortable too and you really do save pennies this way – plus it’s an experience!
DO: Visit the Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo, it is definitely worth the hassle.
DON’T: Waste money on public transport if you can help it. We didn’t need any public transport in Copenhagen because we were happy to do a little extra walking.
DO: get immersed in the culture. Sometimes I feel like we didn’t take enough of an advantage of the local traditions and way of life.
DO: Plan in advance what you’re going to do. We spent a lot of time researching the attractions we wanted to visit and putting them in the best order possible to make the most of our time in each city.
DON’T: cram so much in! Our trip was such a whirlwind and I really feel like I missed out on a lot of activities, especially in Copenhagen because we only spent 2 nights there. If you’re budget allows, I would stretch it to at least 10 days.
DO: Take lots of pictures! I have so many beautiful photos from our trip but it’s never enough and I wish I’d taken more. Photograph everything from the quaint little streets and the colourful buildings to the street vendors entertaining tourists.
DO: go island hopping in Oslo. Take a barbeque with you and enjoy the time out of the city.
DO: save your pennies and spend them at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Dedicate a whole day there if you can, you won’t be disappointed.
Budget calculator for two people:
Flight Heathrow to Hamburg: £127.98
Train Hamburg to Copenhagen: £86.74
Hotel Copenhagen: £151.24
Train Copenhagen to Stockholm: £57.20
Hotel Stockholm: £141.48
Train Stockholm to Oslo: £55.87
Hotel Oslo: £160.35
Flight Oslo to Heathrow: £56.18
Total per person: £418.52
Approx. spending money each: £400
I may have conquered part of Scandinavia this summer, but my adventures don’t stop there. This winter I will be travelling to Reykjavík, Iceland to see the Northern Lights.
Natasha Orme is a German Born Brit with a thirst for travelling and exploring the world. Visit my blog for all things writing and marketing related.