Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo & SW Norwegian Fjords (incl Bergen)
My partner and I are taking the trip of a lifetime this summer w/ our 10 & 15yo boys. We are staying multiple nights in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo. at the Kvikness in Balestrand and then in Bergen. We will be traveling between these destinations exclusively by train (and on 2 ferries) with the exception of a flight from Bergen to Copenhagen. We might rent a car in Balestrand, but likely nowhere else.
We've done lots of research (Rick Steves is a fave), and the 15yo has come up with multiple itineraries, but we would be grateful to hear about some lesser-known (but interesting/enjoyable/exciting/beautiful) sights to see, things to do, restaurants to try in any of the above areas.
This will be our first time in that part of Europe, so if there's any general advice about traveling in Scandanavia that you feel is worth passing along, we're very open to that. We will be in Copenhagen over the Solstice in case that's helpful.
Thank you in advance!
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Tivoli Gardens comes immediately to mind, of course, as well as perhaps the OG Legoland. I went when I was 16 and enjoyed it. Also it's fantastic that you will be there for solstice - it doesn't get dark! Look for local midsummer festivities.
Hi! My husband and I went to Norway in 2018, mainly Bergen because he has family there. We enjoyed taking the train to Flam and catching a boat down the Sognefjord and the Naeroyfjord (UNESCO world heritage site). In Bergen we really enjoyed the hike up Mt Ulriken, its really hard and there is a tram, but the hike was well worth it and you can take the tram back down! We have family in the Hardangerfjord area which is not well known but absolutely beautiful. Best to rent a car if going that way, there are tons of waterfalls there. We did a hike through a canyon to Vorringfossen waterfall and it was super fun and no one was there. Have fun! It sounds great!
The Vasa museum in Stockholm is worth a visit. It is in the guidebooks I'm sure, so it's not lesser known and may be crowded... I've been there twice and would go again. It's very dark and quiet and ominous in a good way. The Vasa is a ship that sunk on her maiden voyage in the harbor. Also if you have a younger child or if you just enjoy Astrid Lingren stories like Pippi Longstocking then Junibacken is really fun. You get to "visit" the story books by traveling on a gondola. We enjoyed it as well as the kids. There's also a fun amusement park- Grona Lund.
We took a fairly similar trip and loved it!! We loved the cities, and also going to the fjords in Norway (ferries, hiking, waterfalls, kayaking, etc). One recommendation to consider is to spend time out in the Stockholm Archipelago. You can take a ferry from Stockholm out to many of the islands. We stayed in a classic Swedish summer cottage on a small island with only walking paths (no cars or roads) for about 4-5 days at the same time of year you're going, and then took a few day trips out to other islands. We enjoyed this part of our trip so much because it was gorgeous, quiet, gave us a chance to get out of the city for a different experience, kayak, walk, play games, peruse adorable little towns, etc. Our kids were around the same age as yours are now and we all loved this part of our Scandinavian adventure. Have fun!!
How fun! This is a wonderful itinerary. Stockholm is my second home, and I have traveled extensively throughout Scandinavia, so I have a few ideas. In the summer, outside is where the Scandinavians love to be. The island of Djurgården in Stockholm is leafy, green, magical and has lots of things to see. One of these is the Vasa ship museum, an absolute must-see -- a 17th-century battleship that sank on its maiden voyage and has been recovered intact and restored in all its glory, housed in a huge building. The outdoor museum Skansen is definitely worth checking out... in particular the zoo with animals of Sweden. I love to grab lunch at the wonderful buffet at Blå Porten (The Blue Gate), which has a beautiful outdoor courtyard with tables. If you'd like to take a lovely walk, you can make the Djurkyrkogård (Animal Cemetery) a goal. It's a little-known spot for tourists. The outdoor swimming places around Stockholm are wonderful; the city is built on islands, so they are everywhere. A good central one is Långholmsbadet If you're at Hagaparken, there are a couple of swimming places along Brunnsvik. A great place for afternoon coffee/pastry or lunch is Flickorna Helin on Djugården. Södermalm was a working peoples' island in Stockholm, but now it's fashionable. There is an outdoor cafe with a great view out over Stockholm on Södermalm: Mosebacke Terrassen. A good restaurant on Södermalm is Blå Dörren (the Blue Door, not to be confused with Blå Porten). They have tasty Swedish husmanskost (traditional food). The same is true, in the northern neighborhood of Stockholm, of Tennstopet or Tranan (The Crane). Tranan has a herring plate to die for, if you like that kind of thing. Another site worth visiting is the Stadshuset (City Hall), where the Nobel banquet is held. You have to go on a tour, but it is an interesting one. There used to be a stand not far from the City Hall by the water that sold fresh herring (strömming) open-faced sandwiches. Really tasty. And the outdoor icecream stands are everywhere in the summer; look for the long lines for the best ice cream. When my son was your boys' age, he enjoyed the Royal Armoury at the Palace and the viking exhibits at the Historical Museum. The viking treasure room there will blow you away... I can guarantee that you have never seen that much gold in one place before. Because I live in the northern part of Stockholm (everything is pretty close by, it's not a sprawling city), I am partial to Vasaparken (always lively with lots of folks and ice cream) and Hagaparken, an enormous area with Crown Princess Victoria's residence (I have seen her out jogging with her jogging stroller), and fanciful monuments from Gustav III's reign (late 1700s) like the "copper tents." Worth seeing! In Copenhagen, you should definitely go to a smørrebrød restaurant, where they serve delicious, artistic open-faced sandwiches. A great traditional one is Schønnemann's, and a wonderful new one is Restaurant Carl Nielsen. Just outside of Copenhagen, easily accessible by train, is the Bakken amusement park. Wonderful place for kids and adults, an older park with rides and attractions. If you're heading to Kviknes from Oslo, you could take the route that takes you through Lillehammer (where there is an outstanding outdoor folk museum, Maihaugen) and Gudbrandsdal, a valley region that is stunningly beautiful. Trevlig resa!
What an amazing trip!! We are also going to Norway this summer for my cousin's wedding - and working in Copenhagen in too! I have an 11 year old. I have been 8 times to Norway over the course of my life because of family and mostly near Oslo, so hopefully this is helpful:
Balestrand is absolutely beautiful. We went in 2009. I don't remember the hotel we stayed at but I didn't feel we needed a car - we took the train from Oslo to Bergen. Ferry from Bergen to Balestrand. Everything was small and walkable in Balestrand. Train from there to Flam where we went back to Oslo. It was amazing. Bergen is amazing. So is Balestrand. Bergen is kind of like Seattle- but nicer and more walkable. It is the center of death metal in Norway and maybe the world. My 11 year old son thinks that is cool - not sure about your kids. This is a world class trip if this is your plan. Balestrand was so beautiful it was unreal. Bergen is an easy city, but also a unique and wonderful experience.
Oslo is nice, but I feel like Norway's strengths are not city but nature. In Oslo - Frognerparken and Munch Museum are worthwhile. Walking around is nice, and Aker Brigge (the harbor) and the Nobel Center are interesting. But all in all, if you had to choose - Bergen is a unique and interesting city, Oslo is just nice and tranquil. My cousin is 20, and right now doing study abroad in Copenhagen and for city stuff, and that is the real cosmopolitan center of Scandinavia.
This time, we are doing something different and I can't speak to it but here is our itinerary: Fly to Copenhagen. Take the overnight ferry to Oslo from Copenhagen (I did this in 1997 when I was 18, it was amazing - hopefully it still is)
My cousin is getting married in Laerdal and the mouth of the Aurlandsfjord. We will then stay in Aurland (near Flam) and maybe paddleboard on a fjord! Then back to Oslo.
But if you have Bergen and Balestrand in your itinerary this is a world class amazing trip. You will like it.
Hope this helps!
I just posted (I have the 11 year, and have been to Norway a lot) - but had to add: in Oslo two things my family loved: the Fram museum (Antarctic and Arctic Explorers Museum) in Bygdoy Island an Huk Strand - beach on Bygdoy - you can walk from the train. My son LOVED these and so did we. The tourists all go the the Viking Museum (worth it but very crowded) - the Fram was empty and amazing. The beach was nice and you can swim in the Oslofjord!
The science and the anthropology museums are across a small road from each other in Stockholm. Many activities are held there. The armory in the old city is pretty exciting. We also took a ferry to a little island in the Baltic. Everything is accessible by transit. Sweden is a great place for children/teens — lots of encouragement for independence, and friendliness.
In Oslo, you can take a tram up the mountain — beautiful views and a hiking trail at the top. The Munch museum is busy but pretty amazing. There is a nice walk along the piers where you can also take a ferry to various parks.
We went to Stockholm last summer with our then-14-year-old son. We had a great time and here were his favorite things: Vasa Museum, Viking exhibition at the history museum, changing of the guard at the royal palace (way more elaborate than in London and you can get closer), fika (mid-morning break for coffee and cinammon rolls), and just walking around. Also fun to take the ferry between islands (included with your transit pass). Have a great time!
It’s a beautiful part of Europe! We love Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm!! The only thing to note, which you are probably aware of, is how expensive Scandinavian countries on. They all have their own currencies and the exchange rate isn’t great for people from USA. Gasoline and restaurants also super expensive but it’s absolutely beautiful there so worth it! Enjoy your trip!!!
We took our kids to Copenhagen last year when they were 8 and 15 and they both really enjoyed the Workers Museum (Arbejdermuseet) and The Round Tower. They liked Rosenborg Castle (the Crown Jewels are there and thrones made of narwhal tusks) and Amalienborg Palace (there was an exposition of the Queen's private jewelry collection there). And they loved going to Normal and Flying Tiger (two shops). My biggest advice is to leave time to wander! Copenhagen is a great city for wandering. Find a bakery your kids want to visit and walk there! Just enjoy walking around and having the tie to discover things on your own.
My kids also greatly enjoy watching episodes of Richard Ayoade's Travel Man for the places we are going (on Amazon Prime and Tubi). I know that he has an episode in Copenhagen and another in Bergen (and I think Oslo too).