The Hardangerfjord. Photo © Sverre Hjørnevik / www.fjordnorway.com

Exploring the Norwegian Fjords: The Hardangerfjord

If the Sognefjord is the King of the Fjords, then the Hardangerfjord is the Queen. At 179 kilometers (111 miles) long, it’s Norway’s second-longest fjord and is easily accessible from Bergen and other places along the southwest coast. The main fjord carves inland from the Atlantic Ocean about 80 km (50 mi) south of Bergen before splitting…

Commuter rail train. Photo by  Gustav Gullberg/Wikimedia Commons.

Public Transportation in Stockholm: Getting to and around Sweden’s Capital

Stockholm has an excellent public transportation network of commuter trains, subways, and buses, making it easy to get around the city and its suburbs. For trips on the city’s abundant waterways, there are passenger ferries and excursion boats into the archipelago on the Baltic Sea side and into Lake Mälaren. The city also has extensive rail, bus, and air links to destinations throughout Sweden and beyond.

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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.

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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.…

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.”

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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.

Half-timbered house in Ystad

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.

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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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Drottningholm: The Swedish Versailles

Located on an island in Lake Mälaren west of Stockholm, Drottningholm Palace is a stunning example of a royal residence inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France. Its cultural heritage value is so outstanding that the Royal Domain of Drottningholm – the palace and its associated buildings and grounds – has been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1991.

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Intimate Sculpture on a Grand Scale: Oslo’s Vigeland Museum and Park

Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) may just be Norway’s most important artist you’ve never heard of. There are very few works by this talented sculptor outside his native country, the result of an arrangement Vigeland made with the Oslo City Council in 1921. Vigeland agreed to bequeath all his works to the city in exchange for the lifetime use of a studio and apartment specially built for him at Frogner. For the last two decades of his life, Vigeland lived and worked in this space; after his death, it became the Vigeland Museum, now one of Oslo’s top attractions along with the adjacent sculpture park.

The view from Fløyen.

Exploring Bergen’s Seven Mountains

The number seven seems to be a magic number when it comes to hills. Rome was famously built on seven hills, and many other cities have made similar claims, including San Francisco, Seattle, Melbourne, Barcelona, and Istanbul, to name just a few. In Bergen, Norway, the residents dream even bigger: The city boasts not seven hills but seven mountains surrounding the city center.

Working the molten glass.

Go Crazy for Glass in Sweden’s Kingdom of Crystal

Sweden has a world-class reputation for fine crystal and decorative glass, and the place to go to explore this art is a region of Småland known as Glasriket, or the Kingdom of Crystal. The neighboring municipalities of Emmaboda, Lessebo, Nybro, and Uppvidinge are home to more than a dozen glassworks and glass studios where you can watch glass being blown, learn about the traditions of glassmaking, shop to your heart’s content, enjoy a drink in a bar made entirely of glass, and even enjoy hot shop herring (“hyttsill”), a festive herring dinner party right in the hot shop.

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Copenhagen Canals: The Water Route through Denmark’s Capital

Copenhagen is a great walking city – after all, it’s home to Strøget, the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe, as well as countless squares, parks, and other places to wander. But you’ll be missing out if you keep your feet on solid ground for your whole visit. One of the best ways to get a feel for this dynamic city is to take a cruise along Copenhagen’s canals.

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Roskilde Cathedral: Denmark’s Royal Burial Church

A visit to Roskilde Cathedral is a journey through centuries of Danish history. The first church on the site, made of wood, was built in the 900s by King Harald Bluetooth and was replaced in the following century by a stone church. The current brick church was begun in the 1170s and took more than 100 years to finish. The main body of the cathedral was completed in 1280 and is one of Scandinavia’s earliest examples of Gothic brick architecture.

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Follow the trail of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen

One of Denmark’s most famous writers, Hans Christian Andersen was born into a poor family in Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805. Andersen’s classic fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” and “The Princess and the Pea” continue to captivate children and adults nearly 140 years after his death.