Although I haven’t mentioned it explicitly before, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark are some of my favourite countries in Europe to visit. I was therefore quite intrigued when Holiday Lettings, a Tripadvisor service, contacted me asking if I would be open to an exclusive guest post featuring Scandinavia. I found the article interesting, and thought it might be of interest to my readers too, so I said yes. To clarify, I have received no commission or financial benefit directly or indirectly from the service. Enjoy!
When you crave mystique rather than the Mediterranean, head north and experience the backdrops of TV’s most unnerving series.
Scandinavian crime continues to hold us in its cold grip, and the trend is set to stay strong throughout the year. Films and series from Denmark, Norway and Sweden gain in popularity and sweep up awards.
But conspiracies and hair-raising deeds aside, the stories are often set in locations worth exploring. Whether the plots unfold in capital cities, countryside villages, or even between countries, they showcase Scandinavia’s atmosphere.
Travel here for long sunsets, world-leading dining, and open spaces where no one else can disturb the silence (or hear you scream). Make this summer the one where you follow in the footsteps of famous, if imagined, detectives and villains.
When you return, you can name-drop streets and plazas from the safety of your sofa while catching up on the series. So pack your bags – the folk and the forests of the fiction are waiting for you.
Just don’t walk too far into the woods.
As seen in: BAFTA and Emmy-winning TV series The Killing
Famous for: Ferocious warriors, superb furniture and the world’s best restaurant
At a population of around two million, Denmark’s capital isn’t huge, but it punches far above its weight in many ways. This is a melting pot of stylish culture, thick crowds, and fantastic cooking.
The Killing’s Sarah Lund tore through the town at a frantic pace when hunting a serial murderer, but Copenhagen is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Take your time at the cafes and the bars.
Open your stay with a trip to The National Museum for a sample of the nation’s adventurous past. This is Viking territory, and the traces are plenty and impressive. Don’t let the weapons trouble you – they’re all secured or too heavy to lift.
Still want more? Zip to Rock‘n’Gold near Strøget for a dose of quirky, Viking-inspired jewellery and art, then rest during the short train ride to Roskilde’s Viking Ship Museum.
If you’re after something to brighten your living room, Denmark is home to some of the best furniture designers on the planet. Dip into the best of the best at CasaShop on Store Regnegade, Hay Cph in Pilestræde, or Normann Copenhagen at Østerbro.
After dark, head towards Vesterbro for a taste of the nightlife – it’s second only to Danish pastries. But before venturing into club land, go past Christianshavn and dine at Noma, repeatedly crowned as the best restaurant on Earth. Tables need booking several months in advance, so get to it.
If you have time, leave the capital and make your way south to Gedser, Denmark’s southernmost town. This is where Sarah Lund was relocated at the start of the second season of The Killing before she was plunged into new gruesome dramas. But as Gedser is a tiny, tranquil town, we can (almost) guarantee that your visit will be peaceful.
The Øresund Bridge (Denmark/Sweden)
As seen in: Scandinavian TV series The Bridge
Famous for: Traffic, tunnels and murderous road tolls
Not so much a location as a link between two nations, this award-winning bridge has been the stage for repeated and macabre imaginary crimes.
It was here the series’ psychopath planted his terrifying bait that pulled officers Saga Norén and Martin Rohde into his elaborate plan. Later, during the violent showdown, the protagonists once again found themselves on the bridge. You’d forgive them for choosing the ferry in future seasons.
In daylight, the bridge is a piece of excellent and efficient engineering. At night, it looks like an endless road into the darkest recesses of the human heart.
Still, we recommend a visit, if a brief one. Don’t let its height trouble you – the railings are high, and statistically it’s very unlikely that someone would push you.
As seen in: Jo Nesbø’s The Headhunters
Famous for: Skiing resorts, Viking fortresses and fjord cruises
While Roger Brown, Headhunter‘s nervous recruiter and sometime art thief, jets between lush offices and champagne-laced exhibitions, this historical town offers many pleasures for the general traveller.
Founded in 1048, Norway’s capital has had time to learn how to have fun, and its number one tourist attraction is the surrounding mountains. Skiers and snowboarders from near and far visit to combine city breaks and shopping with racing down the slopes.
For those less inclined to throw themselves off cliffs, there are fabulous museums that showcase treasures from Oslo’s past. Just outside the city is Bygdøy, a large centre for Norwegian Viking history.
Somewhat closer to the city hotels is the Munch Museum, where you’ll find treasures such as renowned painting The Scream, and also a state-of-the-art alarm system. Remember what happened to Roger.
As seen in: Film adaptations from Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels
Famous for: Medieval buildings, rolling hills and seaside (possibly deceptive) calm
Step into the world of harried detective Kurt Wallander and you’ll find this town as picturesque as it appears in the films.
Navigating its small squares and narrow cobblestone streets, one passes through a host of locations used in the films. Numerous guided tours are available, as are brochures, apps, and complete Wallander-themed tourist packages.
Ystad is also home to two famous examples of Brick Gothic architecture: a beautiful abbey and a grand church, both dating back to the 13th century. Not far from the town are beaches and deep forests – ideal for walks. After all, few can be such trouble-magnets as Kurt Wallander. Right?
Known from: David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Also known for: Trekking, fishing and serious R&R
Embedded in orchid meadows, country houses, and camping cabins, Björkvik feels like the safest of places – despite what Hollywood tries to tell us about isolated cabins. Still, Fincher’s location scouts turned to this scenic spot for shooting events around the fictional Vanger Estate.
Wander away from the town to experience true solitude which, depending on your viewpoint, may or may not be relaxing. Ask a local to point you to Hofsta Säteri, the manor used as Vanger’s home in the US movie, and picture Henrik Vanger looking back at you from behind the dark windows.
Being a farming community with fewer than five hundred inhabitants, imagining this as a site of vicious abuse and murder is hard, but still water runs deep. Did we mention canoeing is popular here? Don’t miss out.