mahabis travel // alternative nordic city breaks
Stockholm. Copenhagen. Oslo. Helsinki. Amongst some of the most stylish and culturally interesting cities in Europe and boasting a never-ending list of things to do and see, these Nordic cities are our first choice for a short break.
However, the Nordic region of Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Finland has much more to offer than these four cities. Read on to discover eight alternative Nordic cities to visit.
Sweden’s third-biggest city is only a short train or bus ride from Copenhagen over the Øresund Bridge, and can easily be visited as a day trip from the Danish capital. You may wish to stay longer, however, as Malmo’s student population has ensured that the city is always bustling, and there is a vast selection of small cafes and bars to discover.
Soaking up the city’s culture scene will take several days, with a variety of larger modern art galleries such as Moderna Muséet, smaller galleries and artist-run exhibition spaces. The daily markets on Möllevang Square are an essential experience for any tourist, as is a visit to the iconic Turning Torso building.
photo: heat sweden
During the 19th Century, Tromsø was known across Europe as the ‘Paris of the North’, as visitors found the most northerly city in Norway to be much more cosmopolitan than they expected. Despite only having 72,000 residents, there are two hugely acclaimed galleries (The Art Museum of Northern Norway and Tromsø Gallery of Contemporary Art), and an abundance of both winter and summer festivals.
Whatever time of year you visit is sure to be spectacular, with constant sunlight in summer, and winter polar nights where the sun barely surfaces, providing the perfect conditions to view the Northern Lights.
Named as the European Capital of Culture for 2017, Aarhus is beginning to get noticed as an alternative Danish destination to Copenhagen.
Already known within Denmark for its design studios and art galleries, the rest of Europe is slowly catching on. Plan a visit now before the influx of tourists arrive, and sample all that this city of innovation has to offer. Take in the views of the numerous historical buildings from the rainbow panoramic path atop of the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, admire the Arne-Jacobsen-designed City Hall, and discover a variety of new restaurants serving food to rival their more famous Copenhagen-based contemporaries.
Previously considered the capital city of Finland, Turku has a bustling creative scene that attracts a young crowd. Galleries, cafes, hip bars and exciting new restaurants line the streets through the city and alongside the Aura River.
A variety of niche interest museums and galleries range from a maritime museum to a musical instrument museum, a biological museum and a gallery dedicated to the works of sculpture and artist, Waino Aaltonen. During the summer, there are plenty of places suitable for swimming, and several festivals and markets, whereas the skiing season takes over in winter.
photo: get in travel
Combining the youthful creativity of Berlin with historical cobbled streets and a picturesque coastal location, Gothenburg is a great reminder that there is more to Sweden than Stockholm.
Make the most of the water by sampling the famous seafood, island hopping around the archipelago and swimming in the summer months. The city’s Michelin star restaurant, Koka is reasonably priced compared to similar restaurants in larger cities, offering exquisite menus based around the finest local ingredients.
photo: arrival guides
Best known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old wharf, Bryggen, Bergen is perfectly placed for a visit to the Norwegian fjords. Ensure that you get out onto the water to experience the spectacular local scenery and to see the famous view of the harbour, but make time for exploring the city itself.
A short ride on the funicular will take you to the top of the highest mountain in the vicinity, overlooking Bergen with spectacular views. For those who seek culture, the restaurant scene is bustling and there are a variety of museums and galleries housing both contemporary and local art, including Galleri Nygaten, which is widely regarded as one of the most impressive galleries in the whole of Norway.
The second-largest city in Finland, Espoo is home to a staggering number of cultural spaces.
The largest art museum in Finland, EMMA exhibits a selection of contemporary art from around the world alongside local Finnish artists, and a series of constantly changing exhibitions.
Espoo is also an ideal destination for a relaxing getaway, with an abundance of spas situated both within the city and in the national parks surrounding it.
photo: skyscraper city
Although a longer trip circumnavigating the infamous ring road is tempting, a short break to the secluded island’s capital can be just as rewarding.
There are plenty of opportunities to get out of the small city and admire the otherworldly landscapes, soak in the Blue Lagoon, and try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, but ensure that you sample all that Reykjavik has to offer.
Contemporary art galleries flourish here, with must-visit establishments including i8 Gallery and Kling & Bang. The café culture is also thriving; the influx in tourists is propelling an abundance of coffee shops and vegetarian eateries in particular. The brightly painted buildings are a pleasure to walk around and admire, and Hallgrímskirkja church is an architectural masterpiece that must be seen.
photo: roman gerasymenko
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