Scandinavian cities - little mermaid, Copenhagen

7 Spectacular Scandinavian Cities You Must Visit

Scandinavia has many stunning cities that are ideal for a city break. This post compares 7 of the most spectacular cities in Scandinavia and what makes them so great.

Stockholm

Stockholm is the Swedish capital and the largest city in Scandinavia, with a population of 2.2 million people. Built across 14 islands, the city is connected by 57 bridges. It is renowned for having some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe – much of which overlooks the water.

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If you love art galleries and museums, then Stockholm is the city for you. You can learn about naval history at the Vasa Museum, celebrate Sweden’s most iconic band at the ABBA museum, or peruse through fascinating photographs at Fotografiska (which also sports a restaurant with some of the best views in the city). And then there’s Skansen, which is the world’s oldest open-air museum.

Stockholm is also a popular city for shopping. It has a range of malls, boutique shops and markets that are fascinating to peruse – even if you’re not buying anything. Discover more to do in Stockholm here.

Gothenburg

The second-largest Swedish city is Gothenburg. Compared to Stockholm, you’ll notice a lot more unusual modern architecture here including Lilla Bommen, Kuggen and the Gothia Towers. However, it still has its fair share of history including Alvsborg Fortress (a historic sea fort that you can take a boat trip to).

Gothenburg is known for its concerts and festivals, and also boasts a lively nightlife. It has some huge nightclubs, but also many smaller bars where you can see rock and jazz acts. Avenyn is its most iconic street where you’ll find bars and clubs situated over several floors.

Liseberg is worth mentioning when it comes to Gothenburg attractions – it’s the largest amusement park in Scandinavia and attracts three millions visitors annually. Families visiting Gothenburg should definitely take a trip here.

Malmo

Malmo is a much smaller Swedish city than Stockholm or Gothenburg. Located across from Copenhagen, it attracts more immigrants from across Europe and therefore has a more cosmopolitan feel that is reflected in its large choice of restaurants.

On the subject of food, Malmo has several unusual food attractions. One is the Disgusting Food Museum, which is dedicated to disgusting foods around the world. Malmo Saluhall is meanwhile a bustling food court where you’ll contrastingly be able to taste some of the most delicious foods from around the world.

Beyond its food, Malmo has a number of other attractions worth seeing including Malmo Castle (a fortress dating back to the 1400s) and Turning Torso (a skyscraper with an unusual twisted shape that offers great views of the city). It’s also home to the mighty Oresund Bridge, which connects Sweden to Denmark.

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Oslo

Oslo is the capital of Norway. It is a quarter of the size of Stockholm, but offers a similar buzz. Oslo is particularly known for its rich viking history and has several attractions dedicated to exploring viking culture including the Viking Ship Museum and The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

In fact, Oslo sports over 50 museums making it a great city for museum-lovers. Some of the more unusual museums include Holmenkollen Ski Museum (home of the world’s largest ski jump platform) and Munch Museum (dedicated to the life of Edvard Munch). The Norwegian Maritime Museum is one of the city’s most popular museums and is dedicated to the city’s long shipping history.

Oslo offers some of the best cuisine in Norway. It’s particularly a great city to try fresh seafood such as salmon and herring. You’ll find great restaurants in Oslo across the city.

Bergen

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. It is a lot more picturesque than Oslo – offering streets of colorful historic buildings and a mountain backdrop.

The historical wharf of Bryggen is the most popular place to visit Bergen. Here you’ll find the multicolored old buildings that Bergen is known for, as well as several museums and old traditional shops.

While wandering around Bergen can be interesting, the city’s convenient proximity to fjords and mountains is what draws in many tourists. Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord are a short drive away, while the much-Instagrammed Trolltunga cliff is also nearby. Alternatively, if you don’t want to venture too far, you can hike up Floyen Mountain and take in incredible views of the city. Mountain cable cars also run from the city if you don’t want to hike.

Tromsø

Tromsø is more of a small town than a city, but it is one of the most popular destinations in Scandinavia due to its northerly position. In fact, it’s the most northerly place listed here – located within the arctic circle.

On its doorstep, you’ll find snowy mountains and frozen fjords, as well as arctic wildlife like reindeer and even polar bears. The town has an Arctic Museum, where you can learn all about the arctic. The Northern Lights are another popular attraction here – you have a chance of seeing them throughout the year.

As you can imagine, Tromsø can get very cold, so you’ll want to wrap up warm when visiting this town. A spa experience in Tromso could be the perfect way to stay warm – you can find spa hotels and lodges with saunas and heated swimming pools.

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Copenhagen

Denmark’s capital is the second biggest city in Scandinavia after Stockholm. The city’s biggest pull factors include its food, its shopping and its nightlife – but there’s so much more to Copenhagen beyond this.

In fact, Copenhagen might have the most ‘sights’ of any Scandinavian city. Located on a rock at Langelinie Pier is the city’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture – one of the most famous sculptures in the world. Copenhagen also has some impressive historic buildings like Rosenborg Castle and Christiansborg Palace. Other landmarks include The Church of Our Saviour, Frederik Church and Copenhagen Opera House.

Copenhagen’s canals are another popular attraction. You can take canal boat rides around these canals and take in the various sights from the water. There are also many restaurants along the canal that are ideal for visiting on a romantic break.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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