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The Dala Horse Factories of Nusnäs: Where Sweden’s Most Famous Handicraft is Made

Few symbols of Sweden are more famous than the painted wooden Dala horses from the province of Dalarna, in the Swedish heartland. People have been carving wooden horses as toys and decorative items for hundreds of years, but it was in the early 1800s that the Dala horse began to take its classic shape, with bright colors and painted flowers. The production of Dala horses was localized to four villages outside Mora, especially the small community of Nusnäs, where they are still produced today.

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Exploring the Norwegian Fjords: The Sognefjord

Sometimes called the King of the Fjords, the Sognefjord is Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, stretching 204 kilometers (127 miles) and reaching depths of up to 1,308 meters (4,291 feet). It’s the second-longest fjord in the world, surpassed only by Scoresby Sund in Greenland.

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On the Viking Trail through Scandinavia

A thousand years after Scandinavian raiders went a-Viking throughout Europe, their story continues to fascinate. The Viking legacy remains in the thousands of runestones scattered throughout Scandinavia, as well as in archaeological sites and museums where you can learn about how they lived, fought, and sailed the seas even beyond the boundaries of the known world.   The Viking…

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A Walking Tour of Stockholm’s Old Town

No one knows exactly when people first settled the place now known as Stockholm, but the city was first mentioned in writing in 1252 in documents signed by the regent Birger Jarl and his son, King Valdemar. Walking through Gamla Stan is like walking through Swedish history. The main tourist street, Västerlånggatan, is packed with souvenir shops and…

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Mine, All Mine! The Underground World of Sala Silver Mine

Deep underground at the Sala Silver Mine, my guide, Marcus, begins to sing. I close my eyes as the words of the psalm reverberate around me in the appropriately named Echo Chamber. There’s no other sound except this single voice bouncing off the soaring stone walls, 155 meters (more than 500 feet) beneath the surface. It’s unexpected and altogether magical.…

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What to Read Before You Go, Part 1: Scandinavian Crime

There must be something in the water in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark that helps authors write good mysteries, because Scandinavian crime writing has taken the world by storm. If you’re dreaming about an upcoming trip to Scandinavia — or reliving memories of a past visit — check out these authors. Stieg Larsson — Unless you’ve been living…

Borgund Stave Church. Photo by Pål Bugge / Innovation Norway

The Stave Churches of Norway: Architectural Treasures from the Middle Ages

Among Norway’s most striking historical buildings from the Middle Ages are its wooden stave churches. Erected at a time when other parts of Europe were raising great cathedrals in stone, they are, in the words of UNESCO, “one of the most elaborate and technologically advanced types of wooden construction that existed in North-Western Europe during the Middle Ages.”…

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From Copenhagen to Oslo (or Vice Versa) by Sea

One of the easiest and most comfortable ways to travel between Copenhagen and Oslo is to go by overnight cruise-ferry. DFDS Seaways operates two ships, the Pearl and the Crown, that depart at 4:30 p.m. daily from each city, arriving in the other at approximately 9:45 the following morning.

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Bird’s-Eye Views of Stockholm: Where to Go to See the City from Above

Built on 14 islands at the junction of the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, Stockholm is beautiful no matter how you look at it, but one of the best ways to get a feel for the city’s intricate maze of islands and waterways is to head to one of the viewing towers or scenic viewpoints where you can look down on Stockholm from above. Here are some of the best places to get a bird’s-eye view of the “Venice of the North.”

Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

A Night of Bonfires and Song: Celebrating Valborgmässoafton (Walpurgis Eve) in Sweden

In the Swedish calendar, the last day of April is known as Valborgmässoafton (Valborg for short), or Walpurgis Eve. Throughout the country people gather around bonfires to celebrate spring and herald the coming of summer.

Some Valborg celebrations begin in the afternoon with picnics and other gatherings, but things really get going as the sun starts to go down. That’s when the crowds gather, the bonfires are lit, and fireworks are set off. Swedes love to sing, and a big part of Valborg celebrations is the singing of traditional songs of spring around the fire.

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Crossing the Heart of Sweden on a Göta Canal Cruise

For a leisurely, scenic way to experience central Sweden, a cruise on the Göta Canal is not to be missed. Stretching for 190.5 kilometers (just over 118 miles), the canal route passes through 58 locks and numerous lakes between Mem near Söderköping and Södertorp on Lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden.

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Magical Light and Shifting Sands: Skagen and Its Artists

At the far northern tip of Denmark is a narrow finger of land jutting into the waters of Kattegat and Skagerrak, the two great straits that join the Baltic and North Seas. This is the Skagen Peninsula, a land carved by wind and waves, whose constantly shifting sand dunes have shaped both the landscape and the human life here – so much so that the town’s 14th-century church had to be abandoned in 1795 after it became increasingly difficult for the congregation to dig through the sand to attend services.

Brown bear in Hälsingland. Photo by Håkan Vargas/imagebank.sweden.se

Moose and Beavers and Bears, Oh My! Swedish Safari Tourism on the Rise

Wildlife-loving travelers dream of going on safari Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana…and Sweden? Yes, that’s right, Sweden. It may not have the elephants, lions, and giraffes, but if you forego the African animals in favor of Nordic species such as bear, elk, beaver, and seal, you’ll find that Sweden has a great deal to offer in the way of wildlife tourism.

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Midsummer in Sweden: Origins and Traditions

Given Scandinavia’s long, dark winters, it’s not surprising that the arrival of summer is a big deal throughout the Nordic countries. In Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve is one of the most important days of the year, rivaling Christmas with its festive spirit and traditions.

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Syttende Mai: The Most Norwegian Day of the Year

Syttende Mai (May 17) is Norway’s national holiday, the day the Norwegian Constitution was signed at Eidsvoll in 1814, declaring Norway to be an independent nation after more than 400 years under Danish rule. However, a brief war between Norway and Sweden in the following months led to a loose union between the two countries, with Sweden the dominant partner. Full Norwegian independence did not come until the dissolution of the union in 1905, but it is still May 17 that is celebrated as the country’s official national day.

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From Medieval Monks to Henning Mankell: Exploring Ystad’s History and Mystery

Located on Sweden’s southern coast, overlooking the Baltic Sea, the small town of Ystad is an idyllic sort of place, with flower-filled cobblestoned streets and half-timbered houses that reflect its medieval origins. It’s not the sort of place you’d associate with murder and mayhem, but thanks to author Henning Mankell’s bestselling series of crime novels about police detective Kurt Wallander, Ystad is now known as much for mystery as it is for history.

Runestone in Uppsala in Uppland, the province/county with the greatest concentration of runestones.

Runestones: Words from the Viking Age

Remnants of Scandinavia’s Viking past are scattered throughout the countryside of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Among the most intriguing are the stones covered in Viking runes that give a glimpse of the culture and society of the era.

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Frederiksborg Castle: Denmark’s Renaissance Masterpiece

The largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia, Frederiksborg Castle is located in the center of Hillerød, north of Copenhagen. It was built during the first decades of the 17th century by King Christian IV with the goal of demonstrating the power and status of the Danish monarchy. Following a fire in 1859 that destroyed large parts of the interior, the castle was reconstructed according to its original design. Since 1878 Frederiksborg has housed the Museum of National History, whose collections include paintings, furniture, and other artifacts representing 500 years of Danish history.

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Constitutional Monarchs: The Royal Families of Scandinavia

The Scandinavian countries are all constitutional monarchies with a king or queen whose role as head of state is mostly symbolic. In addition to serving in ceremonial capacities at home, the monarch – along with other members of the royal family – represents the country internationally, while actual political decisionmaking is in the hands of an elected legislature (which in all three Scandinavian countries is unicameral) and a government headed by a prime minister.