In the very north of Europe, beyond Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, towards the Arctic, lie the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, sometimes known collectively as Scandinavia. They are becoming increasingly popular holiday destinations, renowned for their rich culture, unrivalled hospitality, stunning architecture and breath-taking scenery. In the colder months, parts of these countries see little daylight and instead the sky is streaked and rippled by the mind-blowing Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. For a magical, unforgettable winter holiday, look no further than the Nordic countries where the air is clean, the snow is deep and the stars are bright.
Though the Scandinavian countries have a lot in common, each cultivates and boasts its own unique quirks and treasures to be discovered, from the capital cities to the countryside. As such they are all worth exploring individually or as part of a Nordic tour. A range of airlines offer flights to Copenhagen, the most southerly of the Nordic capitals, from all over Europe and beyond. Once there, the delights of Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia are at your fingertips but be sure to thoroughly explore this buzzing metropolis first. The list of things to do in Copenhagen is long and varied. Stroll around the trendy canal quarter of Christianshavn, indulge in a spot of shopping or catch the street entertainment on the Strøget or enjoy international cuisine in one of the city’s many restaurants. Packed with palaces, visitors to Copenhagen are spoilt for choice on architectural wonders. Cross one of the bridges over the moat to the island of Slotsholmen, home to the Danish Parliament and Christiansborg Slot, an 18th century palace. Literature lovers should make a pilgrimage to Krongborg Slot, Shakespeare’s inspiration for Elsinore Castle, the setting of Hamlet. Scandinavians are renowned for their ability to party and the locals of Copenhagen are no exception, enter into the fun the Danish way at the city’s world famous ice bar and feel the chill. Flights to Copenhagen from London are frequent and short at less than three hours and you can choose to depart from Stansted or Gatwick.
Not to be outdone, there are equally many things to do in Stockholm, where you will discover that there is more to Sweden than ABBA, Vikings and meatballs. The Gamla Stan district is a medieval labyrinth of streets, cobbled squares and historic churches, dating back to the 13th century. Take a tour of the Stadshuset, the Stockholm’s City Hall, home to the Nobel Prize ceremonies and depictions of the country’s history made from gold leaf mosaic. Get involved with the locals and their favourite pastime – indulging in ‘fika’, a cup of strong coffee served with a pastry; it is best enjoyed over a good gossip. Take in the views from Gondolen rooftop bar or party like a rock star in one of Stockholm’s trendy nightclubs. Meanwhile, distinctively Swedish cuisine can be enjoyed in restaurants all over the city and typically includes meatballs, herring and beetroot, not to mention a good, warming shot of Aquavite. Flights to Stockholm depart from major airports across Europe and while you are there, why not hop on one of the frequent flights to Oslo to savour the delights of the Norwegian capital. Located right on the fjords, Oslo is a dramatic, historic city, home to the Viking ship museum, Fram – the strongest ship ever built from wood, the imposing 14th century Akershus Fortress and the hugely popular Vigeland Sculpture Park. Restaurants serve a range of pan-European fare as well as a strong tradition of authentic Norwegian cuisine.