What to See in Scandinavia

The forests and fjords of Scandinavia are legendary, but the region’s cities shouldn’t be overlooked. They all provide opportunities to dive into these countries’ food, culture, and design. Here are some favorite stops in two of Scandinavia’s capitals, Copenhagen and Stockholm, but consider these as merely starting points as you come up with your own must-see itinerary.

Øster Voldgade 4A, 1350 København, Denmark
Rosenborg Castle is so preposterously pretty it looks like an illustration from a fairy tale by local hero Hans Christian Andersen. Built around 1606, it’s surrounded by a moat and is topped off with verdigris-covered towers and turrets. The beautiful gardens—the oldest royal gardens in Denmark—feature box hedges clipped into star patterns. The only downside is that the castle can often be crowded with visitors who come to see the Danish crown jewels and throne.
Sockenvägen, 122 33 Stockholm, Sweden
Designed by Gunnar Asplund, one of the big names of 20th-century Swedish architecture, this beautiful graveyard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the final resting place of actress Greta Garbo. A wonderfully peaceful combination of great architecture and shady woodlands, there’s nothing gloomy about this extraordinary resting place. In fact, an hour or so spent walking here is bound to lift the spirits.
Foodies, rejoice. Torvehallerne is a one-stop shop for several meals, snacks, and gourmet groceries or gastronomical gifts. It’s an airy, light-filled building with all kinds of purveyors, from fantastic coffee shops, chefs cooking fresh pasta and serving it hot to you at the counter, a farmers market outside, a tapas bar, you name it. If you’ve ever been to Florence, think of Mercato Centrale, but in a nicer setting and housing more variety. Ride your bike there to grab a bite or to spend the day enjoying its bounty.
12 Ravnsborggade
Ravnsborggade is one of the livelier streets in one of Copenhagen‘s livelier neighborhoods, Nørrebro. Running parallel to the lakes, the speciality here is antique and vintage stores and you’ll find a half dozen of them lining the street north of Nørrebrogade. There is an abundance of Royal Copenhagen china on sale, as are highly coveted pieces from the peak post-War period of Danish design. Don’t expect bargain prices for mid-century items—the shop keepers are well aware of the popularity of vintage Danish pieces—but you will find items here that you are unlikely to see anywhere else.
Humlegårdsgatan 1, 114 46 Stockholm, Sweden
Östermalms Saluhall is one of Stockholm‘s most famous markets. While the prices aren’t cheap, since 1888 the market has been where those looking for the very best fish, meat, and produce shop. For most travelers in Stockholm, it provides a good lunch option if you want a fish sandwich or snack in an atmospheric Victorian food hall. The Saluhall will be closing for renovation and moving to a temporary building across the street in January 2016, and is scheduled to return to its home in 2020 after it has been refurbished and upgraded, ready to serve discerning Stockholm residents for another 125 years.
På Bjerget 14B, 2400 København, Denmark
To the northwest of central Copenhagen, much-photographed (though less frequently visited) Grundtvigs Kirke is notable as a rare example of a church constructed in the expressionist style. Architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint won a design competition for the church commission in 1913, but World War I delayed construction until 1921, and the structure was not completed until 1940. (Jensen-Klint was also responsible for the surrounding residential development.) Grundtvig’s monumental and severe exterior was inspired by traditional Danish churches, while the soaring interior is filled with light that pours through the clear windows on sunny days and illuminates the pale yellow bricks. A bit off the beaten path, the church is about a 20-minute bike ride from the city center. The trip takes longer if you use public transportation, so do as the Danes do and hop on a bike.
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