Sights to see for a week in Denmark & Sweden?
July 17, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm landing in Copenhagen July 26th, and flying out of Stockholm August 1. In those 6 days, what must I not miss? It will be my first time in the region.

I'm an American traveling to these two countries for the first time as the end of a longer trip. I have a decent budget, and don't aim to go too low (staying in hotels not hostels) but not too high either (no Michelin starred restaurants for me). I haven't planned much beyond finding a hotel in Copenhagen, and checking the rail system to get me to Stockholm.

As a traveler, I like scenic views and natural areas to photograph, bustling markets and thriving neighborhoods, street art, and day trips to unique and off-the-beaten path towns & sights. I'm also an adventurous foodie and would love to try as much local cuisine as possible. For example, highlights from my favorite trips abroad include paragliding over the Sacred Valley in Peru, searching for tarantulas in the Costa Rican rain forest, tasting the sacre torte in Vienna, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and going to a locals' speakeasy in Berlin.

So during this week, what can I not miss in Denmark and on the way to Stockholm? Thank you.

(Side note, I'm already aware that things tend to shut down in the summer in Europe, so recommendations to places that for sure are going to be open are very much appreciated.)
posted by lychee to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Lunch at the Torvehallerne food market in Copenhagen.
posted by iviken at 2:21 PM on July 17, 2014

Well, here are a couple of neat things to do in Denmark if transportation is not an issue (trains ought to get you there - sorry, I know Denmark so much better than Sweden):

As you probably know, Copenhagen is on an island (Sjaelland), not the main Danish peninsula itself.

I have never personally been to Christiania, but that might be a unique experience. Can't vouch as to its safety.

Head up north from Copenhagen to Helsingør to visit Kronborg Castle (English-speakers know it as Elsinore). It's a nice little historical castle, you can see Sweden from it the shore, and in the basement you can say hello to Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane), the sleeping giant who protects Denmark. Sometimes in summer Shakespearean companies do productions of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, which as you can imagine is a really unique experience.

Here is a tourism website for other things to do in that part of the island.

One of my favorite childhood memories was horseback riding through the Deer Park in Klampenborg near the royal palace at Charlottenlund. The fallow deer there are incredibly tame and just stare at you as you trot by.

Tivoli is kind of fun, actually, at any age; my father apparently saw the Stones there in 1965.

Classic things to eat (that are hard to get in America - this is everyday eats, not NOMA fare):

Leverpostej (it's not really like pate)
Real Danish rugbrød (similar to German, but not American, pumpernickel)
Pølse (from a street cart, of course)
Ymer / Ylette (skim/diet) - this is a kind of yogurt dish you eat for breakfast, with crumbled brown sugar/rugbrød (ymerdrys) and maybe raisins on top. Not a kind of yogurt that you run into in the US.
You can eat chocolate on bread, too!
I ate a lot of pickled herring (sild), but you can get that in the states. But not on rugbrød.
I have only rarely run into this in Scandinavian bakeries in the states - the Kartoffelkage.

For the record, "Danishes" are Wienerbrød (Viennese bread). :)

Of course, you can get steak and sushi and so on and so forth there, but if you want to eat traditional Danish food, that's a short list of stuff I personally love.
posted by vetala at 3:12 PM on July 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

A few ideas for Copenhagen:

Christiania to see Pusher Street with a de facto legalised zone of cannabis, and a good place for concerts.
Nyhavn to have a beer and relax in the sun.
Nørrebro for a more 'authentic' view of Copenhagen, with lots of street art.
The restaurant in Hotel D'Angleterre, Denmark's most famous and best hotel, which might be out of your price range to stay in - but have a tea in the restaurant!

Day trips:
Louisiana for art.
Odense for HC Andersen's birthplace.

Eating out is ridiculously expensive in Copenhagen so perhaps it's not the best place for you to really get to grips with a local cuisine - except if you're into hot dogs or kebabs!
posted by nagoya at 3:13 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm. A 17th Century warship that sank on her maiden voyage was pulled up from the depths in the 1960s and is housed in its own museum. Since it was full when it sailed, there's all sorts of interesting 17th Century stuff in the museum beyond the ship itself. And when I visited eight years ago, their cafe had excellent potato soup.

Also, the Skansen Open-Air Museum is very, very cool.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:25 PM on July 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Christiania is totally safe unless you wave a big camera around in Pusher Street.
posted by kariebookish at 3:38 PM on July 17, 2014

I have absolutely loved visiting Scandinavia and hope you have a blast! Based on your description, I feel like you and I have a lot in common when it comes to travel so here you go:

- My favorite place was actually Oslo, Norway, but that's a bit out of the way and everywhere was great. However, I was pleasantly surprised that, for example, many major cities are not too far via train. I booked my tickets in advance and got some great deals: traveling from Stockholm to Gothenburg first class with a meal included was a very happy memory.

- I personally would spend maybe two days in Copenhagen, one in Malmo, and three in Stockholm BUT I don't think you can go wrong however you divide it as there is so much to do all over.

- As people have said, food is quite expensive, especially in Denmark (you know, because people are paid living wages, etc. :-) but it's fine for a week. I mostly ate big hotel breakfasts and then supplemented them with grocery store visits, etc.

- I found Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes to be SUPER nice and helpful (and amazing at English and very American-friendly), if a bit reserved, so please don't hesitate to ask people for directions, advice, etc.

- A lot of Swedes will probably be in their summer cottages but that's neither here nor there. There were many tourists but Scandinavia is kinda off the beaten track for mass group tourism (which is fine, too) and had a much more relaxed vibe than many places I've visited.

- I hadn't realized how aquatic Scandinavia is -- all the cities I visited were on the water -- but, then again, it should have been no surprise considering the Vikings, Pippi Longstocking, etc.

- Lösgödis is like heaven on earth for people with a sweet tooth and the ever-present 7-11s have a good selection at a great price. (That blog isn't mine but was nice to read in advance.)

- If you like arts and crafts and home decor and family stuff with a fun twist, I recommend the DosFamily blog.

- I was able to pay for essentially everything with my credit card even though it doesn't have a chip; having some cash on hand is certainly useful but honestly you could probably wait until you get there and find an ATM.

- There are no free-standing post offices anymore in Sweden but most supermarkets have stamps and everything else you'd need at the counter.

- I felt very safe everywhere, including walking around at night alone as a woman.

- All the airports I went to were nice. And, as you know, if you take Ryanair, make sure to print your boarding pass in advance. (Oh, how could I have forgotten that one time and then had to pay the huge fine?!) If you're taking Icelandair, be sure to stock up on food as they do not serve any free meals. (Oh, I miss the old days of cheap flights with meal after meal!)

- You're an experienced traveler so you surely have your tried-and-true routines and equipment but... I didn't have a cell but was so glad to bring my laptop as I'd notice ads for museums and events while walking around and then could look up the details at the hotel at night.

- I did not visit any small towns or rural areas and wish I had so perhaps other Mefites can share their tips. For example, if I go back, I hope to see some of Värmland.

- I enjoyed watching this series of videos!

- FWIW, I lived for a few years in Germany and found Scandinavia to be both comfortably familiar and refreshing different. For a random, totally unscientific comparison... Stockholm reminded me of Hamburg, Gothenburg of Berlin, Malmö of Frankfurt (taking liberties here!), Oslo of Leipzig (again, REALLY taking liberties here!) and Copenhagen of, um, New York. (I totally welcome and encourage other Mefites to disagree with me there! ;-)

Copenhagen: I don't know it as well as other places but enjoyed it in winter. I went on a walking tour through tourist information and felt it worth it. The Andersen's Bakery across from the central station, just outside of Tivoli, has danishes that are TO DIE FOR: some of the best baked goods I've ever had. I liked Louisiana but honestly felt a little let down after wanting to visit for years and years: it's a great art museum but not the best I've ever been to.

Malmö: It's a smaller city (that "looked" quite German to me) but I stayed here for a week and found plenty to do! I'd recommend it for at least a day trip as you'll be literally like 40 minutes away in Copenhagen. I'd walk around the old town area, the main city park, and go back to the impressive Stadsbiblioteket. I was very happy with this hotel in terms of price, amenities, breakfast, and people. I believe the Malmö city museum has free admission right now during renovation as well as a cool retro cafeteria. Oh, and tourist information near the central station has nice souvenirs at good prices. I wish I could have done a day trip to Ystad.

Gothenburg: A cool city but probably best saved for another time. If you do go, I'd suggest visiting the archipelago (easy and cheap to get to as public transportation passes include the ferries!) and the Varldskulturmuseet was, excuse the pun, out of this world!

Stockholm: SUCH an amazing city and surprisingly walkable!! I cannot recommend this hotel enough as it was a great location, great price, great breakfasts, and loved the thrift stores and shops nearby. The Moderna Museet is now one of my all-time favorite art museums. I had an absolutely delightful outing at Millesgården and suggest a visit -- it's not hard to get to -- if you like art and nature (plus there's an Austrian connection!) I wish I had gone to Skansen but was very happy visiting the Nordiska museet instead. Another surprise favorite was the guided tour of the Royal Swedish Opera.

Oslo: If you decide to go, I can write more details.

I wish you a wonderful trip and thank you for the chance to stroll down memory lane. And please do write back after you trip to let us know how it goes!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding Louisiana HARD if you can tolerate art AT ALL, and if you care for modern art, make it a must-do. Because aside from the fantastic collection, its seaside campus is one of the best places to enjoy a beautiful Danish summer day (I'm given to understand you can combine it with the trip to "Elsinore," but I didn't feel like I was missing anything by just going there). I also loved the Moderna Museet in Stockholm but that can hardly come as a surprise. ;)

Also it's a chain, whatever, but I HIGHLY recommend Lagkagehuset as a great place to stop in Copenhagen for pastries sweet or savory.
posted by kickingthecrap at 5:16 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

3rding Louisiana. It is a playground and delight for both mind and body.

There's also that water tower in the middle of the Copenhagen that's fun to climb, especially if you're narrow!
posted by batter_my_heart at 5:47 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have a few hours and a nice day in Stockholm, a ferry trip to Vaxholm would be well worth it.
posted by superfish at 11:44 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stockholm: Vasa Museum. Walk around Gamla Stan. I like the modern art museum there. It's such a gorgeous city. Get out on the water if you can (see the archipelago).
posted by persona au gratin at 12:59 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, have lunch in Söder and walk around there. It's the Brooklyn of Stockholm.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:01 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

3rd'ing the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. It's the thing that inspired us to plan a Scandinavian vacation in the first place, some years ago.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 12:55 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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