Explore the Hidden Treasures of Northern Denmark and Southern Norway
Get to know the lesser-known heroes of two countries in one trip, taking in the dazzling scenery of southern Norway’s coastal communities alongside the cultural gems of northern Denmark.
This 10-day tour of northern Denmark and southern Norway covers local culinary delights and off-the-beaten-track experiences that help you get under the skin of this beautiful part of Europe. Discover dramatic waterfalls and churches hidden under the sand, sail across fjords, and hike to the Trolltunga, a stunning rock formation that juts out over a lake in Norway. From jaw-dropping scenery and cozy fishing villages to world-class eats, these under-the-radar destinations are an ideal way to travel deeper in the Nordic countries. Turn to 50 Degrees North for even more travel advice.
ItineraryPLAN YOUR TRIP
Day 1Explore Architecture and Design in Aalborg
Stay at the Comwell Hotel Hvide Hus, considered one of the city’s architectural landmarks, close to the city center and next to the leafy Kildeparken Park where you’ll find The Singing Trees. This collection of trees celebrates the musicians that have visited the city, from Guns N’ Roses to Elton John.
Explore the city’s extraordinary design and architectural heritage beginning at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, designed by Alvar Aalto. The collection includes works by major Scandinavian artists Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby, along with a sculpture park that welcomes musicians, pop-up events, performances, and more on Wednesday evenings during its Summer Lounge series.
You can also go on a guided walking tour with Aalborg Tours and check out the city’s surprising modern street art and an underground monastery. Be sure to stop by the harborfront where you’ll find the Utzon Center—don’t miss its restaurant, Restaurant Jørn, for local smørrebrød—the stunning silver House of Music, and a well-deserved ice cream at the marina.
An optional day trip could take in Regan Vest, to the south of Aalborg and recently opened to the public. The underground museum was designed to house the Queen and Danish government in the event of a nuclear war.
Take your pick from Aalborg’s many restaurants in the evening. At Restaurant Bühlmann you can relax in the garden or conservatory. Restaurant Tabu, the town’s top gourmet restaurant, offers a sublime tasting menu. Round off your first day with an evening drink at your hotel, Bar V at Comwell Hvide Hus.
Day 2Discover the Painter’s Colony of Skagen
Check into your hotel—take your pick from classic seaside hotels Color Hotel Skagen, Brøndum’s Hotel, or Ruth’s Hotel—before visiting the town’s museums. Book a guided tour of Skagen’s Museum and Anna and Michael Ancher’s House to see what the artists created. The evocative scenes of life in this fishing town more than 100 years ago give an insight into its history and culture, from beach life to working-class life.
Follow the theme with lunch at Skagen Fiskerestaurant in Skagen Harbour, where fish have been brought in since the early 1900s, or take a trip to Restaurant BLINK at Skagen Lighthouse for dishes created with herbs and seaweed foraged by chefs on the beach.
In the afternoon, the quintessential Skagen experience awaits, a trip on the Sandormen (literally “the sandworm”) tractor across the sands at Grenen, the very tip of Denmark, where the Kattegat and Skagerrak seas meet. The waves overlap in a fascinating pattern here at the furthest reach of continental Europe.
Soak up the atmosphere of Skagen in the evening with a glass of wine before dinner at Ruth’s Hotel, renowned for its French flair and beachfront view. Enjoy dinner at Brøndum’s Hotel, famous for its seafood, and relax with a view of the late evening sunset from the beach.
Day 3Uncover the Secrets in the Sands of Råbjerg Mile
Follow your sandy excursion with more sand at Råbjerg Mile migrating sand dune. A 15-minute drive from the church, this nature reserve is the largest moving dune in Northern Europe, traveling around 60 feet east every year.
Shake out the sand and take a cross-country drive to Lønstrup, an hour away, for check-in at Hotel Villa Vest. One of Denmark’s beloved beach hotels, it’s renowned for its timeless quality, classic design, and excellent food—its restaurant, Restaurant Villa Vest, won a Michelin star in 2023.
Enjoy a local lunch and explore the galleries and craft shops including Keramoda ceramics and Giebelhausen ceramics, where you can find distinctive souvenirs to take home. From here, rent a bike from the local tourist office to explore Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, which was recently moved inland to save it from the sea after perching on the edge of the cliff for 120 years. Spend the evening at your hotel after an exceptional dinner at Villa Vest, where dishes feature the fresh fish brought into Hirtshals fish market in the morning.
Day 4Explore the Beach Towns of Denmark’s West Coast
Enjoy lunch at Huset Havs (pro tip: reservations are a good idea) and explore the town of Løkken at your leisure. Or take a drive down the coast to the popular seaside town of Blokhus where you can dine at the Blokhus Beach Hotel, known for its fish, before driving back up the coast to Løkken for the night.
Day 5Welcome to Kristiansand, Norway
Check into the modern Hotel Radisson Blu Caledonien Hotel in Kristiansand, a design hotel and a short taxi ride from the ferry terminal. Head to the Fiskebrygga, the fisherman’s wharf, for a typical Kristiansand dinner in a local restaurant where you can choose fish from the tanks. (Hos Moi is particularly recommended and is lauded for its wine.) On summer evenings, the area comes alive with live music and a festival-like feel.
Day 6Explore Mandal and More Along Norway’s Southern Coast
The drive continues in the afternoon as you head to Lindesnes. You’re now at the southernmost point of mainland Norway. Visit the historic Lindesnes Lighthouse and hike along the scenic coastal trail. If you’re in the mood for the most extraordinary dinner of your life, book a reservation at Under, Lindesnes’s gourmet restaurant located 18 feet below the surface of the North Sea, where the set menu includes plenty of the sea life you can see from the dining room.
Alternatively, drive to the town of Flekkefjord, the westernmost town in southern Norway, and eat at Café Albert. Stay at the historic Grand Hotel Flekkefjord in the Dutch quarter of town or in the central Maritim Fjordhotel, overlooking the water.
Day 7Norway’s Otherworldly Scenery
The next step of the journey plunges you into the awe-inspiring Jøssingfjord, where you can spot waterfalls, go fishing, or simply admire the views. This area of dramatic mountainsides and plunging drops gives you a taste of life in the fjords of Norway, complete with two exceptional houses at Helleren, sheltered by a dramatic overhanging cliff. The area is part of the Magma UNESCO Geopark, a region carved by glaciers. Many of the rocks found in the area only exist in one other place—the moon.
Finish this monumental day of nature with a dinner of traditional Norwegian food (try the local salmon and the crayfish) at Sogndalstrand Kulturhotell and a drink in the Old Prison, one of the hotel’s houses that’s been turned into a bar.
Day 8Stavanger and Beyond
Later, take the ferry across the fjord to the gorgeous Ryfylke region, where the drama of southern Norway reaches its peak. Along the Lysefjord, you can drive through the mountains and see awesome views along the way. Pulpit Rock, the most famous landmark, is a 40-minute drive from Stavanger, and you’ll find plenty of lesser-known spots too, including waterfalls and architecture, as you drive the Norwegian Scenic Route.
Take a drive as daylight stretches into evening to reach Sauda, a small fjord town that was once home to the Vikings. Stay at the Sauda Fjordhotellet, a grand white hotel surrounded by manicured lawns that dates to 1914, and savor a traditional Norwegian dinner in its historic restaurant to round off your day.
Day 9Norwegian Nature
A 40-minute drive takes you to the town of Odda, the hub for all adventurous activities in the area, including the more than 10-hour hike to the Trolltunga viewpoint. This rock formation seems to float nearly 2,300 feet above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. It’s advised to go with a guide and to allow two days to complete the adventure. Trolltunga Active offers a two-day sunset/sunrise overnight adventure including a stay in a transparent dome.
Begin your drive back to Stavanger but don’t say goodbye to nature just yet. Stop and stay at the Bolder Lodges, extraordinary off-grid cabins designed by Snøhetta focused on back-to-nature experiences with the best views of the area. Self-catering is an option—pick up some local food from the towns you’ve passed through—or you can book a private chef. If you choose to drive straight through to Stavanger, opt for the central Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel, a city landmark, where you can dine at its North American–Nordic restaurant, FireLake Grill House.
Day 9City Life in Stavanger
Make sure to visit the famous Sverd i fjell (Swords in Rock) monument, a sculpture created to commemorate the unification of Norway in 872 C.E., and follow it up with lunch at Fisketorget, a stylish seafood restaurant serving the catch of the day from local suppliers.
For your final night in Norway, head to Pedersgata. This street was formerly where harbor workers lived in close quarters and today it’s a vibrant foodie hub, where Indian restaurants sit beside bao bun bars, Mexican cantinas, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and buzzing bars. Toast to a great trip at the local brew pub, Lervig Local, before your return journey the following day.