Known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, beautiful Northern Lights displays and prowess at the Winter Olympics, Scandinavia has a reputation as a prime cold weather destination. While winters here are impressive, it’s the summer months that really shine. Read on to discover everything the “Land of the Midnight Sun” has to offer this season.
For a summer in Norway…
Cruise the fjords
No trip to Norway is complete without taking some time to experience its signature feature—the fjords. With roughly 1,190 of these picturesque inlets on the country’s western coast, the possibilities for exploring are all but endless. While scenic hiking trails, auto roads and train routes offer stunning views of the Norwegian fjordland, the most unique perspectives of the surrounding scenery can be gained from the water.
See it for yourself
Whether you’re looking to arrive a day or two early for your tour or are planning your own Norway vacation, there are a number of fjord adventures to choose from. If your time is limited, independently run day cruises of the Oslofjord or excursions to Sognefjord and Lysefjord are your best bet. For longer journeys, overnight Hurtigruten voyages through the fjords are a popular option.
Take a stroll through Frogner Park
Situated in the heart of Oslo’s Frogner borough, the eponymous Frogner Park is a popular warm-weather respite for both locals and visitors alike. Each year, millions of people flock to the park to enjoy its crisscrossing walking paths, acres of green space, seasonal dining and vast rose gardens. The Vigeland Installation (the largest sculpture park in the world that features pieces by a single artist) is also a popular draw. Located within the center of the park, this impressive show of craftsmanship features the work of Gustav Vigeland, the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
Stay up late
With its gates open around the clock, Frogner Park is best enjoyed during the summer season. During midsummer, Oslo sees upward of nineteen hours of sunlight each day—we recommend packing yourself a late-night picnic or taking a midnight stroll, all in broad daylight!
For a summer in Denmark…
Spend a day at the beach
When summertime rolls around, the Danish head to the shore. It’s not hard to see why—Denmark’s coast is home to more than 4,000 miles of white-sand beaches, prime real estate for seaside activities. In Denmark, variety is the spice of life at the beach, and no matter your interests there’s always something to do. For the adventurous, cycling and windsurfing are two of the country’s most sought-after beachside activities. However, if you have more subdued tastes, hunting for seashells and sunbathing are both popular alternatives.
For a closer beach escape
You don’t have to leave the greater Copenhagen area to get to the beach. Amager Strandpark, located just outside of the city, boasts three miles of sandy shoreline and wonderful swimming conditions thanks to its warm waters and Blue Flag status.
Play games instead
History and thrills abound at Bakken, the oldest operating amusement park in the world. The park made its debut in 1583 as a restorative natural spring, and in the 433 years since it has transformed into a fully functioning theme park. With a wealth of rollercoasters, thrill rides, midway games and live shows to choose from, Bakken has something for all members of the family.
Know before you go
Since there’s no charge to enter the park, all rides and games are “pay to play.” If you know you’re going to want to get on every roller coaster, carousel and log flume in the place, discounted booklets of ride tickets or all-access wristbands can be purchased either at the gate or online.
For a Swedish summer…
Stay in a summer cottage
If there’s anything that Swedes cherish, it’s the time they spend in their summer homes. Each June, when the season officially begins, people leave the city in droves for simpler cottage living. The tradition of the sommarstuga has its roots in a time when the countryside was the most accessible vacation spot for most of the population. In the years since, this warm-weather respite to the cottage has become so engrained in the Swedish national identity that today, roughly 20 percent of the population owns one of these summertime retreats.
Take part in the tradition
If this laid-back summer lifestyle sounds like something that’s right up your alley, you’re in luck. A quick search on Airbnb returns hundreds of the classic red cabins that are available for rent—everywhere from the Stockholm Archipelago to more remote lakeside locations.
Hunt for treasures at the flea market
There’s no better place to find unique souvenirs on your travels than at the antiques market—and Stockholm is home to many. Some of the best of these are the outdoor markets that only set up shop during the warmer months. From traditional-style marketplaces to car boot sales, the Swedish capital in summer is full of opportunities to find your next treasure.
Our top market picks
Held at the Täby Galopp horse track just outside of the city, the eponymous Täby flea market is where Swedes come to sell everything from clothes to books from out of the trunks of their cars. As the largest market of its kind in the country, the variety of goods is unrivaled. For a more intimate experience, try checking out Hötorget. Located near Stockholm’s center, this more traditional market is much smaller in size, which makes it the perfect spot for a causal Sunday-morning rummage.
While Finland and Iceland technically don’t belong to Scandinavia, both countries are so unmistakably Nordic that it felt wrong not to include them.
For a summer in Iceland…
Go berry picking
From the beginning of August through mid-September, Icelandic locals head out into the countryside to take part in the longstanding seasonal tradition of berjamór, or berry picking. In late summer, the country’s fields are abundant with wild bilberries and crowberries, and it isn’t uncommon to find groups of people out filling up their pails.
Where to find the best berries
While prime areas for berrying are typically found in the northwest, you can still find good patches closer to Reykjavik. Some of the best spots include Thingvellir National Park and Heiðmörk, an outdoor recreational area just outside the city.
For a Finnish summer…
Try the crayfish
Believe it or not, one of the highlights of a Finnish summer is crayfish season. Beginning in late July, people (and restaurants) begin cooking up buckets upon buckets of these bright red mini-lobsters. This end-of-season tradition is so popular that at NJK—Helsinki’s most famous crayfish restaurant—alone, upward of 30,000 of the crustaceans are consumed during this two-month period.
Do as the locals do
Whether you find yourself a guest at an ever-popular crayfish party or tucking into a delicious meal on your own, there’s a certain etiquette (or lack thereof, depending how you look at it) to eating these summertime staples. Using your hands and slurping are both encouraged—so much so that it’s probably a good idea to don a bib or tuck a few napkins into your shirt collar. To really get the full experience, pour yourself a glass of akvavit or schnapps to wash it all down.
Have you ever spent a summer in Scandinavia? Tell us about it in the comments below!