Effortlessly chic cities meet remote forests, drawing style gurus and wilderness hikers alike. Rocking festivals, majestic aurora borealis. Scandinavia’s menu is anything but bland.
The great outdoors is rarely greater than in Europe’s big north. An epic expanse of wilderness – forests, lakes, volcanoes – and intoxicatingly pure air mean engaging with nature is utter pleasure. National parks cover the region, offering some of Europe’s best hiking as well as anything from kayaking to glacier walking to bear watching. Spectacular coasts, whether rugged fjords, cliffs teeming with seabirds, or archipelagos so speckled with islands it looks like an artist flicked a paintbrush at a canvas, invite exploration from the sea.
Stolid Nordic stereotypes dissolve in the region’s vibrant capitals. Crest-of-the-wave design can be seen in them all, backed by outstanding modern architecture, excellent museums, imaginative solutions for 21st-century urban living, internationally acclaimed restaurants and a nightlife that fizzes along. Live music is a given: you’re bound to come across some inspiring local act whether your taste is Viking metal or chamber music. Style here manages to be conservative and innovative at the same time, or perhaps it’s just that the new and the old blend with less effort than elsewhere.
They have proper seasons up here. Long, cold winters with thick snow carpeting the ground and the sun making only cameo appearances – if at all. Despite the scary subzero temperatures, there’s a wealth of things to do: skiing, sledding behind huskies or reindeer, snowmobile safaris to the Arctic Sea, ice fishing, romantic nights in snow hotels, visiting Santa Claus and gazing at the soul-piercing Northern Lights. Spring sees nature’s tentative awakening before the explosive summer’s long, long days, filled with festivals and wonderful boating, hiking and cycling. Autumn in Scandinavia’s forested lands can be the most beautiful of all, as the birches and other deciduous trees display a glorious array of colours, offering marvellous woodland walking before the first snows.