Sweden/Norway summer vacation suggestions
March 25, 2011 5:18 PM   Subscribe

We are a young couple looking to spend two weeks vacationing in Sweden and Norway, any suggestions of where we should go or what we should do? We are more interested in doing outdoor stuff and going to beautiful places than spend the entire time in Stockholm/Oslo.
posted by bucksox to Travel & Transportation around Sweden (12 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
We took the train from Stockholm (lovely) to Kiruna, in northern Sweden. We took a tour of the world's largest iron ore mine. The train ride was excellent and the air smelled of awesome tree-ness. If I were you, I would then continue to Narvik (Norway), just a short train ride away. From there you can go to the Lofoten islands; we didn't make it there but I wish we had.

Maybe then a flight to Bergen, which is beautiful, and some ferry trips to the surrounding fjords (Fjaerland, for example) which are gorgeous. One word of caution - it's very easy to burn through days in fjord country because takes so long to get around, so plan carefully.

We much preferred Stockholm to Oslo. I'd see the Vasa while you're there.

We didn't make it to the southern part of either country, but had more than enough fun in the north.
posted by Notorious S.O.C.K at 5:53 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oslo is boring. There's really not a lot of fun things to do there (the museums aren't worth it), and it feels like a small town. I'd avoid it unless you're visiting friends.
posted by halogen at 6:12 PM on March 25, 2011

If you want to do outdoor stuff in Norway, one (of many) places to consider is the Hardangervidda plateau in southern central Norway. It's stark, beautiful, and offers great possibilities for hiking and biking.

And @halogen: I think that the National Gallery, the ethnographic museum, and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo are all worth a visit--and I've lived in Berlin, Paris, and Chicago.

My last Norwegian vacation involved staying for a few days with friends outside of Oslo, then driving through Telemark to the southern coast (to my grandmother's native town), then westward along the coast to Stavanger. The oil museum there is worth a visit, including for the fine restaurant (Bolgen og Moi) in the museum; if you can handle crowds (and I mean crowds, far more than you'd expect for a short but challenging hike), the trip to the Preikestolen is amazing. I then took the ferry to Bergen, which is a good place to spend several days. Unfortunately, after that I needed to return to Oslo for work.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:38 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to Norway next week for a little longer than 2 weeks.

I look forward to spending a couple of days in Bergen, then I will hop on the beautiful national ferry the Hurtigruten, and head on up to Kirkenes, and then make my way back to Bergen about a week later.

I will also take the train from Bergen to Oslo.

While in Oslo I plan to visit the Vigelands Park as well as see the Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum.

Regarding Sweden, I spend some months working there in the 90s. Stockholm - and the neighboring archipelago - are absolutely a must. Elegant parks, wonderful food (oh the cakes! oh the strong coffee! the music scene was varied and wonderful then - can't imagine this has changed) and beautiful countryside.

I also spent some time in the Arctic in the spring and in the wintertime. If you go up to Kiruna in the summer, and indeed it's worth visiting!! do bring mosquito netting to wear over your hat. The mosquitos are legion (as they are everywhere in the arctic)
posted by seawallrunner at 9:06 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try the Norwegian Tourist Routes - the architecture is very impressive.
posted by jonathanbell at 12:55 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm living in Stockholm. Personally, I see no reason to leave this beautiful city to see the monotony of trees and lakes of the countryside, but maybe this is just me.

Taking the ferry from Stockholm to Åbo or Tallin is a nice way to spend two days and you'll get to see the amazing Stockholm "archipelago" which is a horrible translation for "skärgård" which is what it is called in Swedish. An archipelago is a series of small islands, the skärgård (which literally means hacked-up garden) is 10.000 small islands, some just barely big enough for a small cottage, randomly strewn in the Baltic. Absolutely amazing place.

The Swedish countryside south of Östersund is pretty boring. It is mostly flat and what you see from the train is trees and the occasional lake. Moreover, except for some protected national parks in the way far north, pretty much every tree you see has been replanted as a result of centuries of logging.

That being said, a very nice train journey would be to take the overnight train from the Stockholm Central Station to Östersund and then connect to the Inlandsbanan to Gällivare. The Inlandsbanan runs only during the summer months and it will take you through some really remote parts of Sweden. The train is a slow one that makes extended stops in Sorsele, Storuman, Wilhelmina, and some other small towns so you can get out and walk around a bit.

From Gällivare, take the "overnight" train to Narvik in Norway. Of course during the summer there isn't going to be much "night".

From Narvik work your way back to Oslo to end your trip. The scenery in Norway is staggeringly beautiful, but as someone mentioned with the fjords and mountains traveling is one long series of detours.

Oslo is a boring, unattractive city and the only reason to go there is to (quickly) catch a train to somewhere else. If you happen to be so unfortunate as to find yourself in the Norwegian capital, there is a really nice train ride to a place call Flåm, Norway. It's one of the steepest train rides you'll find anywhere and there is an awesome corkscrew tunnel towards the end.

July is holiday month in Sweden and the place is pretty much closed. August is much better, but by mid August it's getting quite cool in the evenings - especially in the North. Even July can be cold. I have seen it snow every month of the year except July. In other words, bring warm clothes and rain gear and be prepared to use them.

One final note. Mosquitos. From mid-June to about mid-August, the countryside is owned by mosquitos and gnats. Although the mosquitos are legendary, the gnats are actually worse. They can be a plague. Bring a mosquito net as few cottages have screens on the windows. When you are in Sweden look for a tin of stuff called "Wilmas Nordic Summer". It is nasty, vile stuff, but by far the most effective mosquito repellant there is. It really works.

Please mefi-mail me if you have any questions.
posted by three blind mice at 1:04 AM on March 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you are into trekking Sarek is the best you can find in Sweden if a bit remote. Maybe more realistic for a short trip, if you take the northern train trip other have talked about, is to stop in Kiruna and take the bus to Nikkaloukta. From there you can walk to the beautiful Kebnekajse fjällstation and stay the night. There are both camping possibilities and some pretty nice rooms, they also have a good restaurant.

The season in northern Sweden is delayed so I would not recommend trekking the mountains until late June.
posted by furisto at 2:30 AM on March 26, 2011

Completely agree re: Oslo being boring, Stockholm being fantastic and Preikestolen a must see.
posted by dance at 2:39 AM on March 26, 2011

I would agree Stockholm is probably more interesting than Oslo, but the Norwegian countryside is much more attractive than the Swedish countryside, which as tbm points out can be a monotony of trees punctured by occasional lakes. If you want to do outdoorsy stuff then the fjords has to be it, plenty of amazing walks, sailing or canoe trips, fishing trips to be had in stunning scenery. I would recommend a trip to the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the biggest glacier on the European mainland (IIRC). You might also consider heading for the Lofoten islands, this would give you an opportunity to take the Hurtigruten for a stop of two if you don't fancy doing the whole 5 day jaunt. The Lofotens are an island chain off the costs of northern Norway and are stunningly beautiful and can be a great base for biking, hiking, canoeing, fishing and more.

The fjords and the Lofotens are well served by hostels so you can keep your costs down if that is an issue, some have double rooms and kitchens available so useful just as a base of operations on the cheap. If you're not on a tight budget, consider some of them anyway, many enjoy unique premises such as the old fishermen's huts and the historical building museum in the lofotens.
posted by biffa at 3:42 AM on March 26, 2011

A later thought which you will want to consider is that the Swedish krona is ridiculously strong versus the American dollar.

Swedish restaurants and hotels are expensive even by European standards, so be prepared. (VAT in Sweden is 25% - the highest in Europe.)

The result is that Sweden is an extremely expensive destination for American tourists.

Keep this in mind as you plan your journey.
posted by three blind mice at 5:49 AM on March 26, 2011

Norway: Geiranger fjord and Trollstigen are probably the most impressive places. The only reasonable way to go there is by driving. The city of Bergen is gorgeous as well. If I would choose one city to go in Norway, it would be Bergen, even over Oslo. Jotunheimen and other mountains start so high up in the highlands that it wasn't really that special.

Trips from Norway onward:
Stockholm is the most beautiful Scandinavian capital, especially during the summer. You can also take a ferry to Helsinki (Viking Line, Silja Line) that goes from Stockholm to Helsinki and back within 24 hours. You see the best part of the archipelago between Finland and Sweden. Classy restaurants, and the sights of Helsinki make for a good day trip.

There is a bus which goes from Oslo all the way to Copenhagen along the coast, via that you can stop briefly in Gothenburg and Lund (close to Malmo, but Malmo itself you can avoid) on the way.

There is also a nice train connection from Stockholm to Copenhagen if you want to do the Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen triangle.

If you can swing it, try to go to Lapland in Norway or Finland. It really is different and the best option is to fly or take the night train. If you are not a vegetarian, the dried reindeer meat is delicious.
posted by Doggiebreath at 6:13 AM on March 26, 2011

I was just in Norway last summer and the thing I really enjoyed were:

In Oslo:
1. Vigelund Statue Park (mentioned and linked above). Doesn't take long and works well as part of a bike ride around town.
2. Kon Tiki Museum.

The best Oslo advice I can give you is to get an Oslo pass from one of the visitor stations. It will pay for itself with one ferry ride, museum visit, and a bike rental.

I took the Flam railway from Bergen to Flam and back, and it's breathtaking. While in Flam, I biked and kayaked the fjords. It was amazing.

I really wish I'd made it to Voss or Trondheim and kinda wish I'd skipped Bergen as there really wasn't much to see.
posted by Raichle at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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