Scandinavian cities are renowned for the quality of their cultural offerings, minimalist style, design aesthetic and excellent accommodation, making them ideal for a holiday. Whether it’s part of a longer itinerary or a short city break, you’ll be treated to fine dining restaurants and world-class museums and art galleries.
Browse by country:
Surrounded by forested hills and picturesque lakes, Oslo is a true outdoor playground for a city break. Day trips out of the city reward explorers with excellent hiking, cycling, boating and – come the season – skiing. Back within the city limits, you’ll find a full complement of museums and an opera house whose world-class performances are only matched by its outstanding contemporary architecture.
The country's second largest city – Bergen – is set on Norway's fractured west coast. Thanks to its location, it's enjoyed a rich history as a port town that can be still seen in the wooden buildings and alleyways of its Hanseatic wharf. It's also perfectly poised for day trips in the picturesque Norwegian fjords.
Further north, the gateway into Norway's Arctic Circle, Tromso is a launchpad for discovering the country's wintery delights. Jump on board a snowmobile or take control of a pack of huskies to mush through snowy fields perhaps in chase of the spectacular Northern Lights. In the evening, return to lively nightlife in historic beer halls and lively restaurants.
As the world’s most northerly capital, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Reykjavík merely survives. But, instead, thanks to its superb museums, international galleries and quirky, colourful buildings, it flourishes. It’s also a perfect launchpad for tours into Iceland’s pristine wildernesses. Spot whales, trek through forests and listen to the crashing of waterfall torrents on day trips out of the city.
Sweden's character-packed capital, Stockholm, makes for a fantastic city break, since despite being the region’s most populous city, its 14 islands are perfectly intimate. Walk through its cobblestone streets and inner-city parks to discover royal castles, ship museums, the history of ABBA and Skansen – a ‘Sweden in miniature’ museum.
Over on the west coast, laid-back Gothenburg’s neoclassical architecture is plied by trams and arts lovers alike as visitors are treated to collections of Scandinavian art in its galleries and world-class exhibits in its Maritime Museum. You'll also find sights that range from English gardens – littered with sculptures – to 17th century barbicans that look out over the city.
Then, in the far south just a stone's throw from Denmark, Malmö’s canal-encircled boho and café culture is starting to show signs of its neighbours influence, imported by the Öresund bridge that links the city with Copenhagen. Find classic Scandinavian design in its buildings or preserved in its museums while a multicultural population has created a fantastic restaurant scene.
A city break is the ideal way to explore how Copenhagen’s forward-facing outlook belies a royal past – exemplified by Rosenborg Castle. Wander through 19th century Tivoli Gardens or head to the excellent Nationalmuseet for an introduction into Danish history and culture. It also has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in the world; feast on regional goodies and world cuisine alike.
Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark
Helsinki’s waterside is littered with bays, inlets and islands all waiting to be explored. Back on land, consider its past in the art-nouveau Atenum art gallery or look to its future in metallic Kiasma, a contemporary architectural tour-de-force. In between, cutting-edge design studios and a thriving restaurant scene round off one of the region’s most interesting cities.