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Is Scandinavia on your travel wish list and you don’t know where to start?
I thought I would share our 11 day Scandinavia itinerary taking in three countries, four cities, and the fjords of western Norway to help with your trip planning.
You discover pretty harbours, modern architecture, unique Nordic culture and the waterfalls and soaring peaks of the fjord country.
Travelling mainly by train and boat, you are surprised at how relaxing it is to travel without a car, with the added benefit of choosing an environmentally friendly mode of travel.
Along the way you enjoy the delicious seafood and baked goods for which Scandinavia is famous.
Sounds amazing right?
Let’s get planning!
What's in this article
The Scandinavian countries itinerary is suitable for all types of independent travellers; from families and couples to solo travellers and was straightforward to organise. Example – All of the booking sites have versions in English so it is hard to get into a muddle.
Responsible travel choices
We are trying to be a lot more thoughtful about how we travel so the program was built with responsible travel choices in mind.
The itinerary uses trains and ferries to get around. This mode of travelling is not only much more eco friendly but also incredibly scenic with a few added bonuses such as wifi and a children’s play area thrown in for good measure.
In Scandinavia, the countries and many of the hotel chains are committed to sustainable travel choices. When researching our Swedish stop in Gothenburg I was thrilled to learn that 86% of the hotel rooms in Gothenburg are environmentally certified. So this part of our planning was made very easy for us.
Getting to and from Scandinavia
Norwegian Air flies into Bergen and Copenhagen direct from New York, London and several major cities in Europe. We have flown with Norwegian many times now and like the efficient Nordic service, leather seats and flight schedules. It was difficult for us to find flights at the times we wanted with premium airlines.
Norwegian is a low cost carrier competing with EasyJet and WizzAir so do not expect luxury. Apart from the efficient service, the difference to those airlines is Norwegian fly out of higher quality airports and terminals so the experience is more pleasant.
We are not budget travellers, but on this trip were careful keep an eye on our spending as Scandinavia is notoriously expensive. I have added some tips on doing the same towards the end of this post.
Day 1 – Explore Bergen, Norway
Today visit Mount Fløyen for panoramic views of the surrounding area, check out the colourful fish market and wander around pretty Bryggen harbour. Read more about beautiful Bergen
Good to know – Bergen airport transfer information
Recommended hotel in Bergen
Day 2 – Bergen and fjord cruise
Time to take to the water and join the half day Mostraumen fjord cruise along the beautiful Osterfjord. The cruise takes you past tiny hamlets and through narrow waterways where mountains rise majestically overhead.
The cruise leaves from the pier outside the fish market at 10:00am, 14:00pm each day with a 18:00pm sailing during summer. You can buy tickets from the Bergen Tourist Information Office nearby.
Good to know – the cruise is suitable for families and those with a disability. Strollers and wheelchairs are allowed onboard
Use the other half day to explore one of Bergen’s museums and galleries. My pick – the newly opened Norwegian Fisheries Museum.
Recommended dining in Bergen
We devoured all the fish dishes at Bryggeloftet & Stuene in Bryggen
Day 3 – Bergen to Flåm by ferry
The Søgnefjord is known as the King of the Fjords because it is the longest and deepest. From May 1st to September 30th you can take the 5½ hour journey to Flåm along the Søgnefjord from Bergen to Flåm on the ferry express boat. Take this slightly slower option if you like to relax and watch the scenery go by in comfort.
Departing at 08:00am from Bryggen in Bergen, the ferry stops at several towns along the route and slows down for those all important photo opportunities on deck.
We lost count of the waterfalls we saw along the way and I would rate the journey as one of the highlights of our trip. Many passengers spent the entire journey on deck breathing in the pure fjord air.
Book tickets for the journey on line at Norled
The alternative route is to take the train from Bergen to Voss and then continue by bus to either Gudvangen or Myrdal to transfer to Flåm by boat or the Flåm railway.
Good to know – there is a large luggage storage area, free wifi, clean bathrooms and a basic cafe with hot dogs and muffins on board the ferry
Flåm and a fjord safari
The ferry arrives into Flåm at just after 13:00pm. This gives you plenty of time to check in to your hotel and wander around tiny Flåm for an hour or so. If you are feeling energetic there are several walks in the area for all levels of fitness. Pick up this information at the Flåm Tourist Information Office or your hotel.
Or you could take a Fjord Safari. We took this option and loved flying along the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord in a little speed boat, listening to our guide’s tales of the area and looking out for local wildlife.
This unforgettable experience puts you right on the water with the mountain peaks soaring overhead. You can also choose, as we did, to combine the fjord safari with a stop at Undredal to taste the local award winning cheese.
Good to know – Safety and comfort are priorities on the tour. You are kitted out in warm waterproof suits, hats, gloves and life jackets. in Spring and Summer the fjord safari is suitable for families with small children. Our three year old twins had a great time looking out for ice monsters and seals.
Recommended hotels in Flåm
Day 4 – Flåm railway | Flåm to Oslo by train
Today you take to the rails and begin the journey east to Oslo.
If you’re organised you could also add in a trip to the Stegastein Viewpoint prior to your train departure from Flåm. The panoramic views from the lookout give another perspective of this incredible landscape.
Take the bus to Stegastein at 10:00am which gets you back to Flåm in plenty of time for the 12.20pm departure to Myrdal on the Flåm railway.
One of the world’s classic rail journeys, the Flåm railway takes you from the Aurlandsfjord to Myrdal mountain station, 867 metres above sea level. Along the way the scenery is dramatic and awe-inspiring. Waterfalls cascade down cliffs and tumble down to the fjord. It’s an experience not to be missed. Book Flåm railway tickets
Tip – make sure you get out and walk the full length of the platform at the Kjosfossen waterfall stop. Otherwise you might miss the fjord sirens singing through the waterfall
At Myrdal Station transfer to the train to Oslo for the 5 hour cross country journey across Norway. The scenery changes dramatically as you descend from the mountains and icy lakes, still covered in snow in Spring, to the meadows of central Norway. Though not as dramatic as the Flåm railway, the landscape is mesmerising and the time passes quickly.
Check timetables and book your train tickets online at NSB – Norway’s train network provider [site in English available]
Good to know – there is a soft play area on board the train for families – this is pure genius! We did not see our kids for hours and they had fun making friends with little Norwegians. The food service on the train is limited so take some snacks. The bakery at Flåm is a good place to grab a sandwich.
Day 5 – Oslo museums and culture
Time to take in some Norwegian culture and explore Oslo. Head to the Bygdøy Peninsula, where most of the city’s museums are found, on the number 30 bus from outside the train station or museum ferry from Pier 3 outside City Hall.
Tip – the Oslo Pass city card includes free entry to the museums and public transport in the city – read my post about Oslo and the Oslo Pass for more information
Spend the late afternoon relaxing by the fjord at Oslo’s beautiful Opera House.
Recommended hotels in Oslo
Day 6 – Explore Oslo | Train from Oslo to Gothenburg
It might surprise you that Oslo is great city for exploring the outdoors. Today visit Vigeland Sculpture park in Frogner Park. Just a short ride from the city centre or Aker Brygge wharf, you can spend a couple of hours wandering the park and admiring over 200 sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland.
Enjoy lunch by the harbour and then take a ferry to one of the islands in the Oslo fjord. Disembark and take a stroll around one of the islands. You can even join the locals and go swimming in summer. Read more in my Oslo guide
The ferry drops you back at Akers Brygge, Oslo’s harbourside where you can enjoy the cafes and shops before you go to the train station for your onward journey to Gothenburg.
Next stop, Sweden! Take the train to Gothenburg from Oslo S (Oslo Central Station). The journey takes 3½ hours and before you know it you are in another country. Don’t forget your passport! Book your onward journey to Gothenburg with NSB – check timetables and book tickets online.
Day 7 – Discover Gothenburg – Swedish city by the sea
Gothenburg is a compact city, easy to explore on foot, bike or using the efficient tram system. But I suggest you get your bearings by taking a paddan boat tour through the city’s canal system and out into the working harbour.
On a sunny day you must take a trip out to the archipelago and visit some of the islands by ferry. Many of the islands are car free and perfect for exploring on foot. More about tripping the archipelago in my Gothenburg guide.
Have you visited a Scandinavian amusement park? You should. Liseberg in Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s biggest amusement park with over 40 rides and attractions. We were impressed by the retro and modern rides, short lines and reasonable ticket prices.
Tip – entry to Liseberg is included in the Göteborg city card
Recommended hotels in Gothenburg
Day 8 – Gothenburg | Train from Gothenburg to Copenhagen
Stroll around Gothenburg’s Haga district and enjoy the ambiance of the cobbled streets and cute as a button boutiques and cafes. If cinnamon buns are your thing you must stop at Cafe Husaren to check out the biggest buns (though perhaps not the tastiest) you have ever seen.
Cross the canal and head on over to the indoor fish market Feskekòrka and enjoy checking out the catch of the day. Continue along the canal until you reach the Botanic Gardens where you can relax on the grass or wander through the themed gardens.
Tip – grab a picnic to eat in the gardens from the wonderful providores at the Saluhallen indoor food market
Onward to Denmark! Leaving from Centralstation the journey to Copenhagen takes just over 3 hours. The highlight of the journey is feeling like you are flying over water on the 8 kilometre long Øresund cable stayed bridge. Book your rail tickets online at SJ – Swedish Rail.
Recommended dining in Gothenburg
Restaurang Gabriel inside Gothenburg’s famous fish market Feskekòrka is the place to go for the tastiest seafood in town
Day 9 – Copenhagen highlights
Wonderful Copenhagen is a relaxed and friendly city that is easy to explore on foot. But you really should hire a bike and do a tour of the city on Denmark’s favourite mode of transport. We did it and you can cover all the major sites easily in a day, stopping to take in the views and atmosphere of the beautiful Danish capital.
But if biking is not your thing, start at the Little Mermaid and stroll along the waterfront to Amalienborg Palace to see the changing of the guard.
Next, visit Copenhagen’s pretty harbour Nyhavn and catch a boat tour around the city’s canals before crossing the pedestrian bridge to Papirøen and the Copenhagen Street Food market.
After lunch take a walk through bohemian Christiania, a unique Copenhagen neighbourhood surrounding a pretty lake.
Recommended hotels in Copenhagen
Day 10 – Copenhagen | Rosenborg Castle | Nørrebro
On your second day in Copenhagen take a visit to Rosenborg Castle, one of the prettiest castles in the world in my humble opinion. Set in the glorious Kongens Have or King’s Gardens the castle was the summer house of the Danish Royal Family and is home to the Danish Crown Jewels.
In the afternoon visit one of Copenhagen’s interesting neighbourhoods Nørrebro. Wander through Assistens Cemetery, the final resting place of Hans Christian Andersen until you reach Jægersborggade. This funky street is home to cafés and boutiques and is a great way to soak up the city’s laid back vibe.
Read more about Copenhagen in my post: How to fall in love with Copenhagen
Tip – stop for a delicious ice cream at Istid and watch it appear through a haze of smoke! The ice cream is made using liquid nitrogen
Recommended dining in Copenhagen
Torvehallen – this centrally located food market (near Nørreport station) has more eating options than you can imagine
Manfreds – laid back dining with a focus on vegetables in Nørrebro
Mielcke & Hurtigkarl – a splurge and one of my all time dining highlights – sophisticated menu in a stunning dining room
Read more about Nordic cuisine: Discovering New Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen
Day 11 – Copenhagen | Tivoli Gardens
No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit to Tivoli Gardens. So much more than an amusement park, Tivoli has been entertaining the people of Copenhagen since 1843 and has a charming retro feel.
Here you can enjoy fairground rides, walking through the gardens bursting with floral displays or enjoying the scheduled entertainment. The highlight of the daily program at Tivoli is the spectacular Illuminations, a sound and light show on the Tivoli Lake.
Tivoli has something for everyone but we especially loved the sweet Flying Trunk ride that takes you on a magical journey through 32 fairytale scenes.
Tip – start at Tivoli Gardens and walk all the way down Strøtget to the 17th Rundetaarn tower
End your Scandinavian trip on a high with a stroll down Strøtget, Copenhagen’s famous pedestrian shopping street.
Throughout your trip you have no doubt admired the sophisticated yet cosy Scandinavian style. You will definitely find an appropriate souvenir to bring home with you.
As promised here are our tips for ensuring you don’t go over budget on your trip to Scandinavia.
When to visit, accommodation and food
Scandinavia is no different to any major tourist destination in that visiting during the shoulder season during late Spring and early autumn gives you the best chance of good weather and reasonable prices.
Norway in particular sees particularly high rates over the peak summer months in the fjord regions.
The highest accommodation costs we had was in Flåm where there are only two hotels. For this reason I would avoid staying in Flåm if you are on a strict budget.
We were impressed with the way Scandinavian hotels have responded to the cost issue. Some offer a buffet breakfast and dinner service included in the room rate or as a small additional charge.
Shopping at the local markets and street food outlets (of which there are many) means you avoid restaurant service charges and uplifts. The standard of food is excellent across Scandinavia so you will eat well regardless.
Alcohol is very expensive in comparison with southern European countries so you can save some pennies here by going on a mini detox.
Transport and attractions
The city cards we used during our trip were great value – especially in Oslo. They include public transport and free or discounted entry into the main attractions of the cities we visited. You can buy city cards for 24, 48, or 72 hours. If you plan your time effectively you can save significantly this way.
Prebook trains well in advance and you will get the best deals. In Norway there are a limited number of heavily reduced minipris fares, that are non-changeable and non-refundable available to book online.
Cost is probably one of your major inhibitors of a family trip to Scandinavia. Am I right?
Well we were surprised to learn that most travel and attractions are free for children under 4 years old with significant discounts for children 16 years and under. Even the fjord safari was free for our 3 year old twins so I didn’t really mind when one fell asleep in the middle of it.
If you can overcome the cost issue then Scandinavia is wonderful for travelling with children. Public transport is a breeze with easy to enter vehicles and often special designated areas for prams and buggies.
The inter city trains in Norway have specially dedicated family carriages which have a children’s soft play area and tv that runs cartoons. They are understandably very popular so it pays to book early and secure your seats.
The only problem with the train system across Scandinavia was a poor food service. On one leg we resorted to emptying our change into a vending machine and our choice of salted licorice was not a good one!
Accommodation in Scandinavia
We were pleasantly surprised with the accommodation options we found across Scandinavia. Some hotels have drop down bunk beds and play areas for small children. The buffet dining options at dinner are a great option for families looking for convenience after a long day sightseeing or travelling.
Scandinavian cuisine features lots of fish. Our children love fish but some don’t. In this case, you can always turn to kid friendly favourites like hot dogs, pasta and burgers which you can find everywhere.
We always head to the markets on our travels as they are great places to pick up delicious and interesting local food. I have mentioned these throughout the above itinerary.
Hotel breakfast and dinner buffets are great places to stock up on healthier options like fruit, yoghurt and vegetables. We were very surprised at the quality and variety of dishes on offer. There was always plenty of salad to offset the quite remarkable dessert sections.
The fun stuff
Lastly, you should definitely make time for a stop at the famous amusement parks Liseberg in Gothenburg and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. With rides and activities for children of all ages at reasonable prices, these parks help mix up the activities on your trip. And who can resist a rollercoaster?
This itinerary doesn’t cover Finland or Iceland but if you want to add them onto to your trip, take a look at these useful resources:
▪️ Lonely Planet’s Scandinavia guidebook was a great help in planning our trip
▪️ How much does it really cost to visit Iceland?
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