Done Stockholm and Copenhagen but looking for a little more Scandinavia? With its stylish neighbourhoods, minimalist design aesthetic, open-water swimming opps, and world-class restaurants dishing up exciting New Nordic cuisine, Scandinavia is easily one of my favourite continents. Here are 3 more great cities to explore...
An overlooked Danish city, Aarhus is a picture-perfect creative city on the coast, with beautiful beaches and national parks on its edges, stunning New Nordic cuisine, and a handful of great galleries. It’s a lot more low-key than Copenhagen, and certainly not as big, so it’s perfect for a more chilled out city escape.
RyanAir flights run directly to Aarhus from London, though timings can be limited. Another option is to fly into Billund (another picture-perfect Danish city to explore), and get the public bus to Aarhus which takes just over an hour.
The boutique hotel market seems somewhat untapped in Aarhus, but there are plenty of contemporary hotels that offer a good, central base. Try Comwell, a 4-star hotel with bright and airy rooms, decked out with HAY furnishings, and with views of the harbour, woodlands or beach.
Smørrebrød (open faced Danish sandwiches) are a staple in Denmark and feature on most menus throughout Aarhus. For the best of the best, try them at Kähler Spisesalon, an upmarket cafe right in the city centre, which has elaborately topped versions with various fishes, meats and cheese. Couple them with a glass of white wine and you’re onto a winning combo.
ARoS Museum is almost as impressive from the outside as it is from the inside, thanks to its rainbow-coloured panoramic circular skywalk on top. It’s the oldest public art gallery in Denmark outside of Copenhagen, and has a collection that dates back to the Golden Age. There’s plenty of shopping to be done in Aarhus too; the Latin Quarter has a great selection of stores including By Marlene Birger, Marc Jacobs, and COS. Spend some of your time on the beach (yes there are beaches!). Bellevue Beach has fine sand and bathing jetties and is just 4km north of the city, elsewhere, whilst Den Permanente is another popular one just 10-minutes out of the city on bike. Finally, if you’ve time to get out of the city itself, don’t miss Mols Bjerge National Park, one of Denmark’s only three national parks which is just a short drive toward the coast.
Time it right and go for NorthSide, Aarhus’ annual summer music festival held in June, that attracts a stellar international line-up. A summer trip will also allow you to make the most of the beaches and see flora and fauna in bloom in the nearby national park.
Arty types, nature lovers and keen explorers.
Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, is a relaxed, easy going with city on the South West coast — 15km from Copenhagen, across the Øresund Bridge. Along with some great shopping opportunities and cafes and restaurants you’ll want to spend all day in, Malmö’s biggest draw has to be its coastline and beaches.
Though there is a regional airport outside of Malmö, it’s far easier to fly in to Copenhagen, which is a mere 20 minute train ride from the Swedish city centre. The train runs regularly and is roughly £10 each way; it goes over the Øresund Bridge offering impressive views as you cross from Denmark to Sweden. Norwegian flies several times a day from London Gatwick to Copenhagen, with prices from £30.
For cheap and central (and self-catered), The More Hotel is a good base with its basic but spacious apartments. For something a little more stylish, check into Hotel Duxiana Malmö, which is more aesthetically “Scandi” — all white walls, muted grey furnishing and roll top baths.
During the day, it’s all about fika (the Swedish way, that is coffee and cake, and happens at least once a day). Try Soderberg & Sara for its self-serve coffee and excellent freshly baked buns and cookies. More central, AB Småland is a shop-come-café on on the highstreet, with interiors so chic it’s painful. Curl up in a corner or take a seat on a bench outside, with a caraway bun, a cinnamon bun, or, ideally, both. Come dinner time, it’s all about Lyran, a tiny, charming restaurant that makes the most of local suppliers with a daily changing offering. There is no menu, there’s a list of the day’s ingredients, and when you’ve shared your dietary requirements, the chefs will bring out dishes to suit, with optional matching wines. Book a table. It’s small though popular, and shouldn’t be missed.
After starting your morning leisurely over fika, hire bikes and roam around town. Malmö is a cycle-friendly city with plentiful dedicated cyclepaths. Shop off at the trendy interiors stores (Design Torget is a good’un!), before kicking back in one of the leafy parks. Get your culture fix at Malmo Modern Art Museum and Malmo Live, a new cultural area, before going for drinks and dinner. The next day, if you’re feeling brave enough, head to Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, the city’s public baths which have been in use since 1898. Join the locals in bathing in the sea in your birthday suit (no cozzies allowed!) before warming back up in the wood-fired sauna.
Summer is best, when the weather is warmer, skies are blue, and you can make the most of the ocean.
Adventurous types who don’t mind baring all.
Another Scandi gem that definitely deserves a city break, Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, located on the Western coast. With excellent shopping, slick hotels, and a seriously blossoming food scene, it’s the perfect place to spend a long lazy weekend.
Flights run regularly from London, Edinburgh and Manchester to Gothenburg Landvetter airport, which just is a 20-minute taxi/ 30-minute bus ride from the city centre.
For the creme de la creme in Gothenburg, stay at Hotel Pigalle, an impossibly stylish boutique hotel that’s made waves across the industry: no-one doesn’t love it. From the moody lit corridors, to the individually designed sumptuous rooms, and the elegant rooftop bar bar, it’s the dream.
Whatever your budget, Gothenburg has some great dining options. One of the best is one of the most affordable: Strömmingsluckan, a local street food stall in Magasinsgatan that has locals and visitors alike queuing round the block for its famous fried herring, mash and lingonberry sauce. Be quick to catch it though, it’s only open 11am-3pm, and closed on Sundays. At the other end of the spectrum, Koka is an excellent Michelin starred restaurant that serves up exquisite modern Scandinavian fare.
Eat, drink, explore, and shop. Gothenburg has it all. Spend a morning wandering around the Magasinsgatan area, popping into great stores like Artilleriet to pick up the homeware bits you’ve been eyeing up on Pinterest, before stocking up on Scandi labels for your wardrobe. There’s everything from Acne to Carin Wester, Norse Projects, YMC and Minimarket, along with your Swedish classics like Weekday and H&M. The next day, there’s Gothenburg Botanical Garden, Slottsskogen Park, and the Volvo Museum (if that floats your boat) to explore.
Again, it’s summer when the city really comes alive so you can make the most of the parks, the beaches, and sit outside at the restaurants. Whilst the days aren’t so short here in winter unlike the North of Sweden, they’re considerably longer in summer. Go for Way Out West festival, a 3-day city music festival held in Slottsskogen Park every August. It attracts a whole host of great international acts including this year, The XX, Frank Ocean, Feist and Lana Del Rey.
Foodies, city slickers and Scandi style fans.