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7 Amazing Scandinavia Tour Ideas for First-Time Visitors

By: Greg
Last Updated: 23/09/2020
Posted in: Blogs, Scandinavia

Ancestral home of the Vikings, Scandinavia once saw warriors depart its shores for far-flung corners of the world. Today, the region lures travellers from all over the planet, each one eager for a chance of spying dramatic fjords, snow-swept winter landscapes or cosmopolitan cities.

Scandinavia tours have skyrocketed in popularity, not least because you can experience the northern lights or the midnight sun during a getaway. This is a place where pristine landscapes blend into the effortless cool of Northern European metropolitan chic: think Danish hygge or Swedish shabby-chic cafes.

If you’re looking for a real adventure with a dash of sophistication, set your sights on a tour of the Scandinavian countries.

What countries are in Scandinavia?

Norway, Sweden and Denmark are the three kingdoms that traditionally make up Scandinavia. However, nowadays you’ll find the region has a looser interpretation, with Finland and Iceland welcomed into the fold. (Fact fiends: these 5 states are technically called the Nordic countries.)

You’ll also find that famed Baltic cities like Tallinn of Estonia and St Petersburg of Russia are popular additions to guided tours of Scandinavia as well.

If you’re thinking of discovering the charms of this region, and are not sure where to start, we’ve listed the best tours in Scandinavia, whether you’re looking for summer fun, an Arctic experience, a city-getaway or an all-rounder.

Best tour ideas:

  1. Take guided tours of the Scandinavian capitals
  2. Cruise around Scandinavia and the Baltics too
  3. Head into the Arctic Circle in winter
  4. Go on a Scandinavian road trip
  5. Chase the Northern Lights in Scandinavia
  6. Take iconic train journeys to explore Norway
  7. Go on a classic Hurtigruten fjords and coastal cruise

1. Take guided tours of the Scandinavian capitals

Best Scandinavian tour for: city slickers

A tour of Scandinavia’s capital cities is ideal for those craving some cosmopolitan glamour, a little hygge and some stellar historical attractions. The main cities within this area of the Nordic region are Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.

Between these countries, you could spend lots of time trying to sort logistics of getting from place to place. So we suggest a guided tour of Scandinavia, with a pre-arranged itinerary covering the must-see attractions. As an added bonus, you'd be with like-minded travellers and have hotels, entrance fees and some meals in the tour included.

What is the best itinerary for a tour of the Scandinavian capitals?

Day 1 – Start in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, and explore the city centre. Flex your credit card down the popular shopping street Drottninggatan and dine in the district of Östermalm.

Day 2 – On day two, go to Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) and find your way through the ochre and red buildings to the Royal Palace, the Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum (yes, that Nobel).

Day 3 – Next, board a train to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen! This is an easy half-day ride across the forests and fields of Sweden, and you’ll arrive with enough time in the afternoon to enjoy attractions like the Amalienborg Palace.

Day 4 – Get to grips with Copenhagen’s charms with a local guide: check out the nostalgic Tivoli Gardens amusement park and go on a canal cruise to impressive Christiansborg Palace. If you’re a foodie, include a stop at the Torvehallerne food market.

Day 5 – Spend your morning in Copenhagen enjoying the photogenic Nyhavn, then head over to snap a pic of the fairytale heroine: The Little Mermaid, an icon of city. Later, board your ship and sound the horn – you’re off to Oslo, Norway's capital.

Day 6 – Once in Oslo, tour the top attractions like the Royal Palace and Akershus fortress. Make time for the Viking Ship Museum as well.

Day 7 – A week in, and you should be ready for what is considered to be one of the best train journeys in the world: Oslo to Flåm on the Flåm Railway, where you will be taken through Norway’s mountainous region.

Day 8 – From Flåm, you will bear witness to the majesty of Norway’s fjords by sailing along Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, the narrowest fjord in the world. In the evening, hop on a train to Bergen.

Day 9 – Whilst Bergen is not as famous as the other capitals on our list, it is perhaps the most stunning, thanks to its mountainous surroundings and its UNESCO-listed medieval wharf Bryggen -- perfect for a day of exploring.

Day 10 – Take the funicular railway to Mt Fløyen for an incredible view of Bergen’s surrounding fjords, and then maybe take in the bustling Fish Market before you head home.

2. Cruise around Scandinavia and the Baltics too

Best Scandinavian tour for: Baltic exploration

The Baltic Sea is inextricably tied to Scandinavia, and some of the most magnificent cities in Northern Europe perch on its shores. Enjoy the grand Baltic capitals of Helsinki and Tallinn, before seeing the dramatic beauty of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

This kind of itinerary -- with travel by train and ferry -- is ideal for anyone curious to see both the eastern and western sides of Scandinavia. Make this journey on your own, to enjoy extra free time, or join an escorted tour of the region to see the sights from a local's point of view.

What is the best itinerary for a tour of the Scandinavia and the Baltics?

Day 1 – Start in Finland’s lovely Helsinki, and explore the city solo. Go to the Helsinki Design District for some serious shopping, and then try some contemporary Scandinavian-Finnish cuisine.

Day 2 – Explore Helsinki’s many attractions today, such as Senate Square, Uspenski Cathedral and Finlandia Hall. Go to the Kauppatori central market too for souvenirs and fresh food.

Day 3 – Board a ferry to Estonia’s gorgeous capital city of Tallinn. Take in the UNESCO-listed Old Town, then stroll the Upper Town (Toompea). Tick the Toompea Castle and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral off your bucket list as you go.

Day 4 – It’s worth making the most of your morning in Tallinn by wandering through the Russian-influenced Kadriorg district, before boarding an overnight cruise to Stockholm – Sweden is up next!

Day 5 – When you wake up, you’ll be sailing through the 24,000 islands and islets that make up the Stockholm archipelago. By mid-morning you’ll be in the city, where you can shop down Drottninggatan and dine in Östermalm.

Day 6 – Once you’ve got a handle on Stockholm’s contemporary side, discover its historical one: go on a guided tour of the Old Town (Gamla Stan), and then see the Royal Palace. Incorporate a side-trip to Djurgården to see the extraordinary Vasa Museum.

Day 7 – Hop on a train from Stockholm to Copenhagen and enjoy the southern landscapes of Sweden on your way. On arrival, check out the celebrated Amalienborg Palace.

Day 8 – Discover Copenhagen’s romantic Rosenborg Castle and colourful Botanical Garden. With a whole day to sightsee, you can pop into the Torvehallerne food market for lunch, and then fit in an afternoon trip to Christiansborg Palace.

Day 9 – Catch a sight of The Little Mermaid poking her head above Copenhagen’s shores and spend a little more time investigating Nyhavn. At the end of the day, leave behind the fairy tales of Denmark and set sail for the home of Norse legends, Norway.

Day 10 – Step onto Oslo’s cobbled streets for a chance at exploring the Akershus fortress, the fascinating Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Viking Ship Museum.

Day 11 – It would be madness to come all the way to Norway and not see its lofty interior: Norway’s mountainous “rooftop“. Accomplish this on the train from Oslo to Flåm, and see quaint villages like Gol and Geilo.

Day 12 – From Flåm you can travel on a boat tour, where you will be treated to the wonderful fjord scenery of the Aurlandsfjord and the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord. Then board a train for Bergen.

Day 13 – Bergen, also known as the "Gateway to the Fjords", has a medieval city core you can explore called Bryggen -- a perfect window into the city’s past. If you have time, go see the Fantoft Stave Church too.

Day 14 – You’re done! Spend your morning relaxing in Bergen before heading home.

3. Head into the Arctic Circle in winter

Best Scandinavian tour for: Arctic adventures

The Arctic Circle is a land of wonder – home to polar bears, reindeer, sled dogs, killer whales, the Northern Lights and even Santa Claus. Especially in northern Norway, the landscape is magical during the winter... like Narnia brought to life.

If you’ve always dreamed of following in the footsteps of famed explorers, and hopping on the back of a dog sled and racing through the snow under the changing colours of the aurora borealis, then this itinerary is for you.

What is the best itinerary for a winter tour of the Arctic Circle?

Day 1 – Oslo is your first stop; go to the impressive Akershus fortress, the Norske Folkemuseum and the Viking Ship Museum for a cultural roundhouse before departing for the fjords of the north.

Day 2 – After you’ve taken in the sights of Oslo, fly up to pretty Tromsø, considered the capital of Arctic Norway. Keep your eyes peeled this first night as Tromsø is prime Northern Lights spotting territory!

Day 3 – Explore Tromsø and see attractions like the Polar Museum and the Arctic Cathedral. Or take the Fjellheisen cable car to Mt Storsteinen for sweeping vistas. In the evening, hop aboard a cruise ship bound for Kirkenes.

Day 4 – On this cruise, you’ll head for the North Cape (Nordkapp), famed for its landscape and wildlife. Spot whales, dolphins and the aurora borealis all from the deck of your ship.

Day 5 – At Kirkenes, deep in the Arctic Circle, you can spend a night in the incredible Kirkenes Snow Hotel. Whilst here, book a snowmobile safari and learn about the traditions of the native Sami people.

Day 6 – Wake up with a warming sauna after a unique stay in the Snow Hotel, and then embrace all the winter sports on offer here, such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding.

Day 7 – Enjoy the last of the beautiful winter light and landscapes before heading home.

4. Go on a Scandinavian road trip

Best Scandinavian tour for: a slower, more relaxing trip

Road trips are one of the best ways to get to know a place, a country and a region. If you really want to get to grips with the beauty of Scandinavia, there are few better ways than hitting the open road.

With this self-drive itinerary you can take your time and make the most of the incredible scenery of Sweden, Denmark and Norway -- all while taking advantage of parking the car as you wish to tour the towns of Scandinavia on foot.

What is the best itinerary for a self-drive tour of Scandinavia?

Day 1 – Kick off your tour in Stockholm, but don’t pick up your car just yet – relax a little, and stroll around Södermalm neighbourhood of Sweden’s capital, where you can shop and dine.

Day 2 – Spend a day exploring Stockholm. Sightsee around the Old Town and Djurgården, where many of the city’s finest museums are located.

Day 3 – Pick up your car and head north to Borlänge. On the way, stop off at Enköping, where you can see Grönsö Castle and some rock carvings from the Viking age. Driving distance approx 230 km

Day 4 – Before departing Borlänge, make time for the fascinating Gammelgården open-air museum. Then drive through the mountains towards the Norwegian border, to the UNESCO-listed town of Røros. Driving distance approx. 415 km

Day 5 – Drive from Røros to Lom. You’ll pass two national parks – Dovrefjell and Rondane – before you get there. At Lom, take advantage of the outdoor activities in the nearby Jotunheimen National Park. Driving distance approx. 315 km

Day 6 – There are a few different routes from Lom to the Sogndal region: the Sognefjell route, the Strynefjell route and the Geiranger route. All offer breathtaking vistas of the fjords; you just have to choose your favourite route. Driving distance the shortest way approx. 135 km (with detour over Strynefjell/Geiranger approx. 290/340 km)

Day 7 – Drive from Sogndal to Bergen, "the fjord capital", and see quaint fishing villages like Aurland and Flåm on your way. Driving distance approx. 240 km

Day 8 – Spend some time exploring Bergen’s historical treasures, such as the medieval Bryggen. Then drive east passing through Hardangervidda National Park before stopping in Geilo. Driving distance approx. 240 km

Day 9 – From Geilo, wend your way through the Hallingdal Valley to Oslo. Once in the Norway capital, explore attractions like the Viking Ship Museum and the Oslo Opera House. Driving distance approx. 240 km

Day 10 – After a morning in Oslo, cross back into Sweden and drive along the Göta älv River to Gothenburg. Don’t forget to see the Bohus Fortress, set just north of the city. Driving distance approx. 325 km 

Day 11 – Today, you’ll drive towards Copenhagen, the Danish capital. In Sweden's pretty Helsingborg, you can take a 20-minute ferry to Helsingør in Denmark. On the way to Copenhagen, drop by Kronborg Castle, the home of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Driving distance approx. 270 km

Day 12 – In Copenhagen, make time for the Amalienborg Palace, Nyhavn and, of course, The Little Mermaid -- the bronze figurehead of the city.

Day 13 – On this day, drive over the Öresund Bridge back to Sweden. Keep an eye out for the Glimmingehus, a medieval manor, and the Stenshuvud National Park. Spend the night in the Glasriket area. Driving distance approx. 300 km

Day 14 – Explore the Kingdom of Crystal (Glasriket), known for its famous glassworks, and a great place to pick up a souvenir. Then, stopover in Linköping, where you can drop into the Old Linköping open-air museum for an insight into the region’s past. Driving distance approx. 225 km

Day 15 – Head back to Stockholm by way of the quaint seaside town of Trosa, which is home to the lovely 18th-century Tullgarn Castle. Driving distance approx. 200 km

Day 16 – On your last day, return the car, then relax, shop and enjoy one last meal in Stockholm before you depart.

Good to know: all Nordic Visitor self-drive tours come with road maps, personalised travel documents and a 24/7 emergency helpline with our agents on call.

5. Chase the Northern Lights in Scandinavia

Best Scandinavian tour for: seeing the northern lights

Always dreamed of seeing the northern lights? Northern Norway is an ideal destination for glimpsing the aurora borealis illuminate the night sky. It is also the place to discover incredible Arctic wildlife, experience a stay in a snow hotel, enjoy some winter sports and meet the native Sami people that make this part of the world home.

You can live out your wildest winter wonderland fantasies here, as nowhere delivers quite like northern Scandinavia does. For a tour like this, we recommend you plan for a decent number of days -- enough to give you ample time to catch the mystical Northern lights before you depart.

What is the best itinerary for a northern lights tour in Scandinavia?

Day 1 – This itinerary starts in the city of Tromsø, “Capital of the North”, which is within the Arctic Circle. You can take an evening guided tour into the nearby wilderness, where you will hear about the local Sami folklore and hopefully see the blush of the aurora borealis.

Day 2 – On day two, you should take full advantage of your location and experience a dog sled tour through the surrounding pristine snowscapes of Tromsø.

Day 3 – Save this day for touring Tromsø itself. Duck into attractions like the Polar Museum and the Art Museum of Northern Norway. If you want more action, go cross-country skiing, ice fishing or take a cable car up to Mt Storsteinen.

Day 4 – If dog sledding kicked up the adrenalin, then you’ll be blown away by a private tour snowmobiling through the Arctic wilderness. A guide can lead you safely through some of the Tromsø area’s most spectacular spots.

Day 5 – Relax in the morning (you might need it after the snowmobile safari!) but spend the evening on a short cruise. This is a great way to see the small villages that decorate the surrounding fjords, and a stellar opportunity for catching a northern lights show.

Day 6 – Soak in the crisp air and the Arctic tranquillity before heading home from Tromsø.

6. Take iconic train journeys to explore Norway

Best Scandinavian tour for: a little of everything

Hark back to another time, where hopping on a train was the only way to travel. Crossing a country by rail is undeniably romantic, and Norway happens to be home to the Flåm Railway, considered to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

If you love the idea of watching the vistas and landscapes of Norway unfold before you from a train window, but would like to also experience sailing along the Norwegian fjords, then this tour was made for you.

What is the best itinerary for a train tour of Norway?

Day 1 – Get excited for your tour of Norway by starting in Oslo. Spend some time seeing some of its best attractions, like the Munch Museum, Akershus fortress and the Aker Brygge area.

Day 2 – One day in Oslo is not quite enough to cross off all of the capital’s stunning sights. If you missed them the day before, go see the beautiful Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Royal Palace and the Viking Ship Museum.

Day 3 – Today your train tour kicks off in earnest: hop on the Norway in a Nutshell® train towards Bergen, where you will be taken over the mountainous “rooftop” of Norway. Once you get to Myrdal, switch to the Flåm Railway for the remarkable ride to Flåm.

Day 4 – This day is reserved for exploring Flåm and its surroundings, where you can enjoy fjord safaris or kayaking tours.

Day 5 – The highlight today is a short cruise through two of the most breathtaking fjords of Norway: the Aurlandsfjord and the UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord. Then hop on another train to Bergen.

Day 6 – Once you’ve cruised the fjords, it seems only fitting to visit Bergen, which -- among its many nicknames -- is “The Capital of the Fjords”. Tour Bryggen, its medieval centre, and take the Fløibanen Funicular to Mount Fløyen for jaw-dropping views of the city.

Day 7 – That’s it! You’re done. Time to depart Bergen for home, and make all your friends jealous with your photos.

7. Go on a classic Hurtigruten fjords and coastal cruise

Best Scandinavian tour for: seeing the fjords

We could not in all good conscience write a list of the best Scandinavian tours without covering a cruise along the Norwegian coast and into the fjords of Norway. If you’re looking for a guided tour in Scandinavia, you can’t do much better than this.

This classic itinerary spends about 10 days weaving in and out of the undulating coastline of Norway, past sites such as Sognefjord, the Seven Sisters and the Bridal Veil. Best of all, you can still hop off and experience treasures on shore like the city of Ålesund.

Oh, and did we mention there's train travel as well? That's right, you also enjoy a trip on the wondrous Flåm Railway on this route.

What is the best itinerary for a tour of the Norwegian fjords?

Day 1 – Arrive in Oslo and enjoy a walking tour of the city, covering the Royal Palace, Akershus fortress, Oslo City Hall and the Oslo Opera House.

Day 2 – In the morning, hop on a train to Trondheim, which takes you over the Dovre mountain plateau. When you get to Trondheim, go see the Nidaros Cathedral and the Ringve Museum and gardens.

Day 3 – Embrace the maritime pastime of Norway, by setting sail along the lovely Trondheim Fjord. You’ll pass Hitra Island, Kristiansund and Molde, before docking in the beautiful city of Ålesund.

Day 4 – Take some time to explore Ålesund, a historic fishing town of the region. Discover its Art Nouveau architecture, then make time for the Atlantic Sea Park and the Fjellstua mountain viewpoint.

Day 5 – On this day, the fjords truly take centre stage. As you sail towards Geirangerfjord, you’ll be able to see the soaring mountains and dramatic waterfalls of the region, including the famed Seven Sisters and Bridal Veil. In the evening, return back to Ålesund.

Day 6 – From Ålesund, head down to Bergen and spend time down by the old wharf of Bryggen, an important heritage site in the city.

Day 7 – With another day in Bergen, it’d be a shame to miss out on the Edvard Grieg museum or the spectacular panoramic views from Mount Fløyen (courtesy of a cable car ride).

Day 8 – Depart from Bergen and get ready for some thrills as you travel from Voss down the hairpin bends of Stalheimskleiva. Once you’ve caught your breath, embark on a short fjord cruise to Flåm, and see the UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord, the narrowest fjord in all of Europe.

Day 9 – In Flåm you can explore and hike around the village, but save some energy for the glorious Flåm Railway trip, a picture-perfect ride 900 metres up to Myrdal Station. Here, you’ll change trains, and be taken over the magnificent mountainous terrain of Norway, all the way to Oslo.

Day 10 – You’ve arrived, and there’s nothing more to do except enjoy a Norwegian smørrebrød (an open-faced sandwich invented by the Danes) before departing for home.

There you have it! Why not make your first visit to Scandinavia easier by letting local travel experts arrange your trip? Nordic Visitor handles all your route planning, car rental, cruise/train fares, accommodations and more.

Have some tour ideas of your own? We can customise a tour package in Scandinavia to your interests.

View the tour ideas again:

  1. Take guided tours of the Scandinavian capitals
  2. Cruise around Scandinavia and the Baltics too
  3. Head into the Arctic Circle in winter
  4. Go on a Scandinavian road trip
  5. Chase the Northern Lights in Scandinavia
  6. Take iconic train journeys to explore Norway
  7. Go on a classic Hurtigruten fjords and coastal cruise



Greg Perkins
Post by: Greg

Greg Perkins is from Edinburgh but he adopted Iceland as his second country when Scotland (typically) managed not to qualify for football's Euro 2016. He loves nerding out over writing, SEO, board games and sci-fi. Among his top travel experiences are sailing along Geirangerfjord with classically trained singers providing the soundtrack, seeing the northern lights twice in one Reykjavík weekend, and enjoying 9:00am honey mojitos at a tobacco farm in Viñales, Cuba.  

Find Greg on LinkedIn.

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Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.