A First-Timer’s Guide To Scandinavia

Know where to go and what to do

by Preethy Rao

If you have a geography itch like me where places pique your interest simply because they are a fascinating landform on the globe, then Scandinavia got to be on your list. Growing up on far-out mind images of the Land of the Midnight Sun, of cold polar places, where people are well taken care of – nothing relatable – everything fascinating – I imagined – I went.

Sweden: Land of Lakes and Castles

6 Days | Start and end in Stockholm

A short flight from Frankfurt lands you in the expectedly efficient Stockholm airport. Trains and buses take you to the city in no time. The Courtyard Marriot in Kungsholemen – clean? Check. Efficient? Check. Is it the shape of things to come?

Source : Marriott.com

Stockholm is an archipelago – a cluster of many islands – seamlessly connected by bridges and public transport. Charting out your routes everyday is no sweat as Google gives you ample information on bus and train connections. However, some struggles in figuring out metro connections are real unlike the self-explanatory networks of Tokyo, London and New York.

Quirky and charming wall art adorn Stockholm’s subways, a counterpoint to the dank underground tunnels that are home to the Stockholm’s efficient metro network.

And the game changer both in Sweden and Norway: the electric bike! Its like your childhood “scooters’ transitioned into a suave self-assured battery operated dude. Download the Bolt and Lime apps in Sweden and Ryde in Norway and you are done. Pick up a parked ride, bar code it and off you go. Drop it at your destination; close your ride. Goodbye, sore legs.

If you are inclined towards the unconventional, take a metro ride to Ragsved – a working class area – where a large area sees free expression of wall art

It’s amazing how these parts are committed to do away with gas guzzling cars . Neatly marked cycling paths means you can zip around carefree, although Oslo seemed a little less organized than Stockholm.

E-scooters – the best antidote to tired legs. Gets you around independently at your own pace. And all Green!

Museums are a middle name for European cities. If you are a Gen X, fed on a diet of ABBA, head to the ABBA museum on the island of Djugarden.

A Gen X’s dream – reliving the ABBA magic at the museum dedicated to their spectacular success story

Interesting displays on the band members’ lives, their journey to becoming a world famous band , dioramas of their dressing room with real objects, a karaoke room where you can sing your favourite ABBA song, a stage where you can perform a song with  holograms of Bjorn Benny Agnetha and Anni-Frid – the place is as real as it gets in ABBA fandom.

Benny, Agnetha, Ann-Frid and Bjorg at the ABBA museum

If ambling is your thing, take a walk in the charming, snaky lanes of Gamla Stan (Old Town).There are many outdoor cafes, small souvenir shops and pretty water front spots to bask in.

The snaky bylanes of Old Town (Gamla Stan) offer a peek into the city’s history and days of yore. Take a guide and you can know a lot about Stockholm’s past.

Book a spot with someone for a guided tour – our guide Sara, a student of Stockholm University, took us through the backstories of the neighbourhood’s history, architecture and the political scene of Sweden as we gazed at the Parliament House and the dormitory for Ministers when it is in session.

Brantingtorget (Square of Branting) – the open courtyard at the Chancery House – where Ministers are housed when Parliament is in session. A stone’s throw away from the Rigstad.

You can spend a relaxed day at Skansen – an open air museum – also on the island of Djugarden – with interesting recreations of old workshops, farms, a rose garden, a zoo (if you are so inclined) and a church where we listened to a melodious choir singing traditional Swedish songs.

Warm, woody and atmospheric – the old Seglora Church where you can listen to lilting Swedish folk music

Coinciding your trip with the Midsummers Day (June 23) all over Sweden will mean partaking in the joi de vivre that people there feel after a harsh winter perhaps. Skansen had a crafts bazaar and group summer dance where everybody skipped to a merry folksy tune . All in all, a happy mela vibe, really.

An old guard house in Skansen – an open air museum that recreates old world Sweden –

If old ship wrecks are not your thing (Vasa Museum), then Fotografiska overlooking the water will be a a guaranteed high. A Russian immigrant artist based in LA had a photography exhibition that spoke about the pain and longing of displacement. You can indulge in such creative journeys, and then spend hours at the Museum shop scanning through stuff that is as creative as the exhibits – a daily digital detox card set, a 1000 piece puzzles of great art works, self help art books, cutting edge photo posters – it’s Candy Land.

The Fotografiska

After all that brain fodder, chill at Fotografiska’s own café as you sip coffee with a fika (friends bond over fika) and drink in unhindered views of the Baltic as cruise ships glide by, the charming Stockholm skyline lovingly looking over its water. Or, a short (what else ) scooter ride takes you to Herman’s a vegetarian/vegan café nestled on the hill overlooking the same waters. Sumptuous, delicious with a bonus view   – all’s well with your trip!

Load up on a delicious and sumptuous meal at Herman’s before you head to Fotografiska.
Herman’s serves a delicious vegetarian buffet. With cheeky lines like Give Peas a Chance, it is a good food and a stunning waterfront view.

If you are a stalker of Royalty, head to the scenic Drottingholm Palace – off centre from the city. An hour plus  bus and metro ride takes you to the water facing Palace or you can reach via pre booked ferry rides from the city. The plush maximalist Baroque Palace interior crammed with gold trimmings and urns and substantial chandeliers could stun you as would the rolling gardens in the Palace , good for a dreamy amble and photo shoots.

Drottingholm Palace – home to Swedish Royalty. Amble around its English Garden and Chinese Pavilion and soak in the royal expanses.

If you have an extra day in hand, go island hopping with the numerous ferry operators – step out on one of them and spend a day just chilling and partying (if you are in a group). Grinda was on our itinerary.

Picnic at Grinda – summers see families heading to many islands like this that make up the archipelago that is Stockholm

Throw in a free ‘sunset’ view of the city from a slippery cliff at Skinnarviksberget one evening – and you are in love with a charming city. Spoiler alert: the sun never really sets unless you are dragged kicking and shouting at 11 pm!

Know Before You Go

Fika is a Swedish ritual and an institution. It is coffee with a sweet snack with friends. It says make time for friends.

Language is no problem if you are an English speaker. Everyone speaks fluent English.

Summer trips are great – 18 hours of daylight at your service. Most public places shut late. Cafés and birds twitter well past 10 pm!

Midsummer Break is the Friday between June 19 and 25. Some businesses are closed on that day, especially restaurants.

Skinnariviksberget – a spot where you can drink in the charming Stockholm skyline, picnic on the cliff while endlessly wait for a sun that will almost never set!

Electric bikes are a great self-reliant way to move about the cities of Stockholm and Oslo.

Sweden and Norway are vegetarian friendly – the concept seems well understood and practiced here.

Also read : 10 Reasons Why Indians Should Visit Serbia

Featured video : Ryan Shirley

Latest Posts :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hitchhiking To Prague

Hitchhiking To Prague

A real-life story of impulsive decisions and lessons learnt

6 Winter Wildlife Hotspots in India
Indian Wildlife

6 Winter Wildlife Hotspots in India

Picked by adventure travel expert Aloke Bajpai

You May Also Like