Who else is looking forward to the return of travel this year? Think it’s happening??
Have you thought about where you will go when it does return?
We were lucky enough to spend two amazing weeks in Scandinavia in 2019. My hope in sharing our itinerary with you is that I am able to get you as excited about planning a fun trip in 2021 as I am!
And hopefully a trip to beautiful Scandinavia is forefront in your mind!
Our Trip At A Glance:
- 16 Day Itinerary
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Malmo, Sweden
- Gothenburg, Sweden
- Oslo, Norway
- Our Own Version of the Norway in a Nutshell Tour
- Bergen, Norway
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Fly Home to San Diego
I love to celebrate milestone events in my life with travel. It helps me remember the milestone with amazing memories 😊. When our youngest graduated high school in 2019 and was off to college, I decided to celebrate our new empty nester status with two amazing weeks in Scandinavia.
A little glitch in my plan was that she ended up going to the University of Oregon- a school on the quarter system who’s move in day for incoming freshman was the last week of September… I planned our empty nester trip for the last week of August and first week of September 😳. So I guess you could say this was a pre-empty nester trip 😂.
16 Day Itinerary
- Day 1 and 2: fly to Copenhagen for a three night stay at Hotel D’Angleterre
- Day 3: Copenhagen
- Day 4: Copenhagen
- Day 5: train to Gothenburg, Sweden for a two night stay at Elite Plaza Hotel with a lunch stop in Malmo, Sweden
- Day 6: Gothenburg
- Day 7: train to Oslo, Norway for a two night stay at Grand Hotel Oslo
- Day 8: Oslo, Norway
- Day 9: train to Flam, Norway with our own version of Norway in a Nutshell for a three night stay at Fretheim Hotel Flam
- Day 10: Flam, Norway
- Day 11: Flam, Norway
- Day 12: Boat, bus, and train to Bergen for a two night stay at Hanseatic Hotel
- Day 13: Bergen, Norway
- Day 14: Fly to Stockholm at 9pm for a two night stay at Berns Hotel
- Day 15: Stockholm, Sweden
- Day 16: Fly home to San Diego
Our trip didn’t really start until day three because we went straight to bed upon arrival as we didn’t get in to Copenhagen until late the night before.
Plus with the time change and long flight, it takes two days to get to Europe from San Diego. I have to say arriving late at night really helped us adjust to the time change quickly.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hotel D’Angleterre for three incredible nights.
Besides having an insane location right in the heart of Nyhavn, our room at this hotel was VERY spacious for a European hotel. If you are looking for an upscale place to stay in Copenhagen, I would absolutely tell you to look into this place!
- Canal Tour
- Little Mermaid Statue
- Churchill Park
- Bridge Street Kitchen
- Freetown Christiana
- Church of Our Savior
- Rosenborg Castle
- evening walk past Borsen, City Hall, Christiansborg Palace
Nyhavn and Canal Tour
Once we woke up the morning after arrival – we jumped right in to do all the tourist things like walk around Nyhavn and do a canal cruise.
We got on a canal cruise with Stromma which started in the Nyhavn Harbor. We bought our tickets about an hour before it started at the ticket booth right in the harbor. Our boat was filled but I am not really sure if this tourist attraction sells out or not.
We were there on August 26, 2019 and the crowds were pretty decent but not obnoxious and we only had to wait one hour for the next available boat.
Little Mermaid Statue
After our canal cruise we walked to the Little Mermaid statue – which is TEENY btw and very very very crowded.
To be perfectly honest, we were quite disappointed in this iconic tourist attraction in Copenhagen but hey – had to see it for ourselves I guess.
After our brief look at the statue, we walked around Churchill Park and Kastellet which is a very well kept up old fortress.
We enjoyed the lack of crowds in this park as the statue had multiple tour buses parked in front of it – not something I am a fan of.
Bridge Street Kitchen
We slowly made our way around town to eventually cross the river and eat at The Bridge Street Kitchen which is a great place to appease all the different tastes of anyone in your party as it is multiple food stands in one place.
If you have read any of my previous travel blog posts, you know we are all about walking, walking, walking when we travel.
In fact, it is a fun goal of ours when we travel to get as close to 25-30,000 steps a day now. We’ve been known to stay out later than usual to meet this goal even 😂.
We have learned you find so many random things when you get around a destination like that.
Plus now that we are traveling sans kids – we really don’t have any set itinerary in mind and wandering/getting lost is fun for us! It is a really fun way to explore a new place- and the architecture in Europe has always fascinated me!
We are also not big fans of organized tours or cruises. We enjoy going at our own pace and on our own itinerary. As most of you that are following my blog know, I am a HUGE planner and very organized/detail oriented so planning our trips is really part of the fun for me!
On our second full day in Copenhagen, we did a photo shoot with Flytographer first thing in the morning before the crowds appeared (the weather on this day was drizzly but oh well 🤷♀️).
Use the link above to go their website and use code PASHAISHOME to get $25 off your first photo shoot!
This has seriously become one of my favorite parts of our travels lately- even with rain!
Flytographer is a company that finds local photographers that will spend one hour with you in their hometown and will share fun facts and places to go with you as you are walking around their town taking photos.
Once we were done with our photo shoot, we went to the neighborhood of Freetown Christiana.
This was a very QUICK walkthrough as it was most certainly not my cup of tea. For those of you unfamiliar with Christiana (as I was until our Flytographer told us about it) – it is an intentional community and commune who’s primary focus seems to be more of a hippie community that has open cannabis trade.
You can read more about the Christiana community here if you want.
Church of Our Savior
After that quick and uncomfortable experience, we walked to the top of the Church of Our Savior to get a great view of all of Copenhagen. You walk outside the steeple in single file to get to the top.
While it is a pretty awesome view- if there was a huge crowd, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this that much…
After we got some ice cream and water (we were quite hot at this point!) – we headed back over the water to tour the Rosenborg Castle.
We got here about forty minutes before it closed but honestly that was plenty of time for us in this castle. It doesn’t have a whole lot to see besides the throne and crown jewels and nothing was written in English for us to read so we were fine just kinda checking it out and moving on…
If you are wondering where we ate on this day- we didn’t eat much.
And yes, we got a tad cranky with each other as the day was hot and even hotter going up those church stairs!!
At the end of the day, we ended up back at the Bridge Street Kitchen. I am a really picky eater. Don’t even bother getting on my case for not having an interest in local cuisine when I travel – it’s just not my cup of tea.
Therefore, eating in a food market really works quite well for us when we travel so that my not so picky husband can have something fun while I have something relatively plain.
Borsen, City Hall, Christiansborg Palace, and Tivoli Gardens
Our evening wandering took us past the Tivoli Gardens amusement park.
We are not big amusement park people so our interest in actually going in was zero but it was fun to walk by and see the second oldest amusement park in the world!
If you are a big fan of amusement parks (i.e. Disneyland) – you should definitely add this to your itinerary!
We loved checking out the architecture in the city at dusk and got this amazing sunset over the Copenhagen buildings to finish off our walking tour of this beautiful Danish destination.
We didn’t get many photos of most of these places as the lighting was off at this point but it is certainly doable to see all these fun buildings in one evening (if you are walkers like us that is!).
We always buy first class train tickets when we travel via train because it is usually not as crowded as 2nd class and we can have a guaranteed seat together. You still have to make a seat reservation though!
I usually buy my train tickets about 6-8 weeks before our departure and make the reservations online at that time so that I don’t forget.
On day five of our trip, we took a train to Gothenburg, Sweden with a lunch stopover in Malmo, Sweden. Both are quaint little Swedish cities that are worthy of a stopover on your way to Oslo if you do not want to make the LOOONNG trek in one day.
Where We Stayed
We arrived in Gothenburg around 7pm in the evening where we stayed at the Elite Plaza Hotel for two nights. It is a decent hotel with a beautiful lobby and a very nice staff. However there is no air conditioning in this old hotel and our room was quite stuffy but as far as my research could tell – it is one of the nicer hotels in the main part of town…
I honestly do not even have one picture of this property (can you tell this trip was before I was a blogger???!!)
We spent our only full day in this college town wandering (as usual).
Most of our day was spent in the super cute neighborhood of Haga where you can find great antique shopping and quaint restaurants.
We stopped in on an off the beaten path antique store and got some really fun vintage mementos that could still fit in our suitcase. Our newest trip memento that we are loving to collect is old vintage books especially!
It is a four hour train ride from Gothenburg to Oslo.
I bought those train tickets on the Norwegian train website in early July (about two months before our trip).
We arrived around 5pm in the evening and went straight to check in and then eat as we were quite hungry by then.
Where We Stayed
- Munch Museum
- Damstredet Street
- Mathallan Dining Hall and Grunnerlokka
- Oslo Opera House
- Vigeland Sculpture Park
We spent our only full day in Oslo wandering around town. We accidentally stumbled upon Munch Museum and saw the famous painting “The Shriek”.
This street is one of the most photogenic streets in all of Oslo.. so of course we had to head over this direction!
The fun part about wandering with no destination in mind is you stumble across so many places you very likely would not have known about otherwise!
We found Mathallan Dining Hall in the artsy and lively neighborhood of Grunnerlokka in our wandering so we ate lunch there ☺️. Remember how I said food halls work best for this picky eater? I seem to have really lucked out in finding so many of them on this trip!
Oslo Opera House
After lunch we walked through Grunnerlokka back to the rooftop of the Oslo Opera House for the view.
Vigeland Sculpture Park
We then continued to walk through the Royal Palace grounds to the Vigeland Sculpture Park – it is a free park to wander around in with quite unique sculptures 😜.
We ate dinner at Villa Paradiso Italian in the Skillebekk neighborhood and then walked home. I am pretty sure our health apps told us we walked around 60k steps that day-twice as much as our usual goal 😂.
Our Own Version of the Norway in a Nutshell Tour
Norway in a Nutshell is one of the most popular fjord tours available in Norway.
You can buy these tour tickets by googling that experience but to be honest- if you are like us and really do everything you possibly can to avoid all tours and crowds – it is quite easy to piece this experience together yourself.
Then you will be on your own schedule and terms- which is how we like to roll.
I am not sure how much money we actually saved doing it this way but have read it is in the $100’s per person. But our main goal with doing it this way was to avoid the crowds on the tours 🤪.
Norway in a Nutshell usually starts in either Oslo or Bergen – our version started in Oslo (obviously) so here is the list of what tickets I bought and arranged ahead of time:
- Oslo to Myrdal via train – I bought two first class tickets for the 8:25am to 12:58pm train on the Vy website for $172
- Myrdal to Flam via train – I bought two tickets for the 1:27pm – 2:25pm train also on the Vy website for $305 (there are no 1st/2nd classes on this train).
- We then stayed in Flam for three nights at the Fretheim Hotel
- Flam to Gudvagen via boat – purchased two tickets for the 9am – 11am boat on the Visit Flam website for $105 IN ADVANCE!! Buy your tickets as soon as you have decided to do this trip as this boat sells out fast!
- Gudvagen to Voss via bus – tickets can be purchased using the Skyss app after you arrive in Gudvagen or even after you get on the bus (just make sure you have cash for the driver!). We bought our two tickets for the 11:40am-12:55pm bus on the app for $30.
- Voss to Bergen via train – purchased our two tickets on the Vy website for $51
Myrdal to Flam Train Ride
The views on the Myrdal to Flam train ride are some of the most spectacular in Norway!
Where We Stayed
We spent three nights in Flam at the Fretheim Hotel Flam and oh my heavens- this was where we really started to relax and feel an immense sense of calm.
The view out our window was of the Norwegian Nærøyfjord Fjord. We didn’t even close our curtains at night in our room so that we could wake up in the morning and see the immense beauty from our hotel window.
- Brekkefossen Waterfall
- Stegastein Viewpoint
- Borgund Stave Church
On our first full day in Flam, we spent an incredibly relaxing day hiking to Brekkefossen Waterfall where we ate a picnic lunch.
There are not a lot of dining options in Flam which made our decision to eat dinner at our hotel restaurant that night quite easy.
Stegastein Viewpoint With a Flam Travel Tour Guide
We woke up on our second day in Flam and saw a HUGE cruise ship in the tiny Flam port. I was rather disappointed to know we were going to be sharing this tiny valley with thousands of cruise goers.
Truth be told, I knew the cruise ships would be in port as you can look up when ships will be in any city on any given day.
What I didn’t know was that the town of Flam pretty much just consists of two hotels and a handful of restaurants which means sharing this tiny village with thousands of cruise goers was clearly going to be undesirable…
We made a shuttle tour arrangement to spend the day at the Stegastein viewpoint and Borgund Stave Church with Flam Travel.
Our luck was that NO ONE ELSE signed up that day and we got a private driver for these places!!
At the same time we saw the thousands of cruise ship people getting into their overly crowded shuttles so I was so happy to once again be a “go the beat of your own drum” traveler and travel planner 😉.
We absolutely LOVED our tour guide, Martin- a local from the area who ended up taking us all over the area and even took the long way around with stops in the quaintest Norwegian towns!
Views from Stegastein Viewpoint
One of the cute towns we hit on this journey was Laerdalsoyri.
We saw multiple quaint towns like this while driving but this is the only one we stopped in and stretched our legs at. I imagine if you rent a car to explore Norway, you could expect to be wanting to stop ALOT!!
Borgund Stave Church in Laerdel
The construction of a wooden stave church is made out of poles (or staves in Norwegian) – thus the name stave church.
They are considered to be some of the most important examples of wooden Medieval architecture in Europe and can date as far back as 1150. However only 28 are still standing today.
Borgund Stave Church was just as majestic as I imagined it would be. I truly could not stop staring or taking photos!!
Electric Car Rental to Take a Quick Drive to Aurland
We got back to Flam after our tour early enough to rent one of those silly mini electric cars and drove ourselves to Aurland where we thought we would have dinner… but in early September there wasn’t a whole lot open so we ended up back at the Flam Marina for dinner.
But the photos alone and the fun ride through the Aurland tunnel in that mini car were worth the experience!
Boat Ride to Voss Through Naeroyfjord
We continued on with our own version of the Norway in a Nutshell tour by taking the boat through the insanely stunning Nærøyfjord of Norway to Voss.
Views of Naeroyfjord from the boat
A Private Hike in the Voss Area
I had arranged with a hiking company in Voss to do a private hike to Kiellandbu.
But unfortunately the weather was not working with us and that hike was too dangerous that day.
So our guide took us to another local hike where we saw multiple hunting huts in the hills.
It was good to get out in the woods with a guide but I must say we were SOAKED for our train ride on to Bergen after our hike!
Where We Stayed
After a short evening train ride from Voss to Bergen, we stayed two nights at the Hanseatic Hotel– highly highly highly recommend this accommodation! Besides its ideal location right in the center of Bryggen the uniqueness of this boutique hotel was just plain fun!
- Old Bergen Museum
- Stock Exchange Hall
- Strangebakken Street
- Mount Floyen Furnicular
We woke up and got straight to wandering around this cute area of town!
I must say- I think Bergen is currently top runner for my all time favorite European town. It is definitely on my return to list – hopefully even for a Christmas trip someday!
I seriously could not get enough of these cute neighborhoods in this town!
Old Bergen Museum
We leisurely wandered over to the Old Bergen Museum.
It is a living history museum but on this day was rather empty without any characters around so we just did some exploring on our own for about an hour here.
Stock Exchange Hall
Then we headed back towards the main part of town again and ate dinner at one of the coolest dining halls I have ever been in called the Stock Exchange Hall.
You have got to eat here for at least one meal while you are in Bergen!!
On our next day in Bergen, we had a night time flight to Stockholm so we spent the morning walking over to Strangebakken Street (another must for anyone wanting to see the most picturesque neighborhoods in all of Norway…). So many cute streets in this area- an Instagrammers dream!!
Mount Floyen Furnicular
Then we took the Mount Floyen Furnicular where you can see all of Bergen and the bay.
After this we headed to the airport to take a quick two hour night flight to Stockholm, Sweden for the last two nights of our trip.
Where We Stayed
We woke up the next morning at the Berns Hotel – another centrally located and BEAUTIFUL hotel.
Can you tell I am all about central locations so we can minimize our need for any means of transportation besides walking combined with as luxurious as our budget will get us?
- Stortorget and the streets of Gamla Stan
- Marten Trotzigs Grand
- Monteliusvagen (view of the city)
- Mosebacke Park on Sodermalm Island
- Royal Palace and changing of the guards
- Museum Island
Once we leisurely woke up, we literally slow walked to the famous neighborhood of Gamla Stan.
We pretty much just spent the entire day in this city walking and checking out the various neighborhoods.
Stockholm is such an easily walkable town.
I mean I am pretty sure we ended the day with around 40k steps again but we both felt we got a good sense of this amazing city in the one day we had to explore it!
Obviously we need to go back so I added it to my Christmas trip bucket list…
We decided to go off onto the side streets to get away from the crowds.
Turns out the Stockholm Marathon is also the first week of September (which is when we were there!). So needless so say – the town was bustling!!
And we are not huge fans of crowds so we wandered off the beaten path to find these views:
I was on the hunt for an antique copper tea kettle this entire trip and FINALLY FOUND IT HERE in Gamla Stan at a teeny tiny side street antique store! Literally in the last hours of our vacation 😂.
Marten Trotzigs Grand
This is the narrowest street in Stockholm and quite the Instagram photo spot.
It is rather subtly located off one of the side streets in Gamla Stan… we honestly accidentally found it.
Usually by the last day of our trips, I have completely forgotten all the sights I plan to see and just wing the day.
But once I saw this street sign and people taking photos walking on this street – I was like oh yea I wanted to see that 😂. You can use Google maps to find it wherever you are in the city though!
Monteliusvagen on Sodermalm Island
In my planning, I had read this pathway is a really nice stroll along the river with a panoramic view of the city. And being that we search for non-crowded parts of the cities we visit, I figured this would be a nice addition to our itinerary. It was quite peaceful for sure but as far as photo ops – I was only able to get this view below which honestly didn’t really impress me 🤪.
It is a bit of a challenging walk through construction to cross over the river to get to this scenic pathway. See that roadway in the photo? You have to maneuver your way around that! But this island is definitely worth the challenge. The cobblestone lined pathway is technically only about a half mile long but it a perfect place to start wandering the streets in this neighborhood.
Mosebacke Park on Sodermalm Island
This park is in a quieter part of town with the oldest private theater across the street and a casual dining cafe around the corner that has a great view of the city!
We took a breather here for about an hour and just enjoyed the views…
By evening, our wandering brought us all the way to museum island but after all the museums were closed.
Which to be honest with you, we have never been big museum goers anyway so that was not at all a disappointment for us.
The architecture and green parks on this island are incredible and worth exploring without actually going in the museums!
We ended up having dinner in another food hall on the other side of town but unfortunately I did not write the name of that one down!!
Fly Home to San Diego
Time to pack the bags and head home on British Airways via a quick stopover in London.
We love this airline because of the nonstop flight from London to San Diego. Once you are all settled into your seat- you can just watch five movies and sleep a little bit and then be home!
We have been spoiling ourselves with Premium Economy seats ever since we stopped bringing the kids along (sorry kids…) and even have favorite seats on those flights! Ask me if you want to know which ones they are- I would divulge it here but what if we are on the same flight? 😂
I hope this blog post was informative and inspiring enough for you to plan your Scandinavian adventure!!
It truly is one of the most beautiful and quaint places I have ever in my life been- the perfect mix of mountain and city for both of us!
Cheers to making happy memories this year!!!!