Just Back: The Capitals of Scandinavia

Lee Copenhagen
A Canal Cruise in Copenhagen allows travelers to see the colorful sights of the shipping district of Nyhavn.

Family trips to the beautiful countries of Scandinavia are a hot ticket these days. The incredible vistas, easy walking cities and locals speaking fluent English all add to what make Denmark, Sweden and Norway some of the most coveted European places to visit. This summer, Melissa Lee and Kendra Thornton, from Signature Travel Network agency Royal Travel & Tours, took separate trips to Scandinavia with their young children and wanted to share their family travels and a few tips for the capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.

Both consultants are Chicago-based and snagged amazing airfares on SAS that flew nonstop from Chicago to Copenhagen. The Airbus planes were new and well appointed with three separate and comfortable cabin options: economy, SAS plus and business.

Lee SAS Flight

Ready to roll: Melissa Lee and her four children, Marina, Magnus, Oliver and Sophia, check into their SAS flight at O’Hare.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Hotel d’Angleterre is a luxurious oasis next to Copenhagen’s most fashionable streets and within walking distance to many must-see attractions, quality shopping and the best Danish dining experiences. The hotel’s pool and Michelin-starred, family-friendly restaurant mean the whole family can enjoy the amenities and offerings of the hotel.

Copenhagen is home to Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park, which opened its doors in 1873. The park today has a thrilling rollercoaster; a wide array of restaurants, ranging from fast food to high-end dining; outdoor concerts by world-class performers; theater and dance performances and beautifully landscaped gardens. We spent a morning here checking out the rollercoaster and had lunch at a beautiful sit-down restaurant where the adults had wine and fresh shrimp open-faced sandwiches.

Lee Skansen Stockholm
 
Lee and her children are sitting on a Dala Horse at Stockholm’s Skansen.
 
For another perspective of Copenhagen, we boarded a canal cruise to see the colorful sights of the old waterfront shipping district of Nyhavn and were wowed by the modern design and architecture of the National Gallery and Opera House, the Christiansborg Palace and the iconic Little Mermaid statue based on the popular Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. 

Stockholm, Sweden 

The Grand Hôtel in Stockholm was the elegant and historical waterfront hotel to begin our grand tour of the Scandinavian capitals. Its location in the city center between the Royal Palace and Old Town meant we could walk to many of the sites and were never far from the user-friendly public transportation.

Lee Viking Museum Stockholm

A replica Viking ship at Vikingaliv in Stockholm.

Stockholm is a city made up of 14 islands in the Baltic Sea archipelago. A short ferry ride from Old Town is the island of Djurgården, a veritable wonderland full of museums and entertainment from Viking history and modern art to an ABBA experience and rollercoasters.

Not to be missed are The Vasa Museum, which houses an intact 17th-century Viking warship; Junibacken, an interactive museum dedicated to the world of author Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking; Moderna Museet, Stockholm’s art and design museum featuring the most influential Scandinavian artists and Skansen, an open-air museum showcasing Swedish culture, tradition and home life of past days. And, of course, a visit to Stockholm would not be complete without checking out the new ABBA The Museum, where visitors can not only see famous memorabilia and learn about the group, but also have the unique opportunity of becoming the fifth band member through their interactive studio experience.

Thornton B

Thornton strolled with her children through the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Oslo, Norway 

Oslo is the smallest of the three Scandinavian capitals, but its intimate size only enhances its charm and makes it such an easy walking city when traveling with young children. Book a room at the centrally located, and Signature preferred, Hotel Continental, which is just a block away from the Palace and close to the waterfront as well as the best shopping areas and restaurants.

For the adrenaline junky, a summertime visit to Oslo must include a zipline ride at Holmenkollen ski jump, site of the 1952 Olympic winter games and several world championships. From the top of this landmark, you can enjoy the best views in Oslo and then descend 1,185 feet with the same speed and sensation as the ski jumpers.

Thornton C

Thornton and family; Declan (11 years), Dylan (9 years) and Karys (7 years), at The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.

Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum, where you can see the world’s oldest, best-preserved Viking Ships as well as treasures and household items found in Viking tombs buried around the Oslo Fjord centuries ago.

One can easily explore Oslo on foot to see some of its national treasures. For example, The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, which opened in 2008 and is designed to look like a great iceberg coming out of the sea, is an architectural gem and fun to walk across. 

Thornton A

Thornton and her youngest enjoy the zipline at Holmenkollen ski jump.

A visit to the National Museum is easy for young children due to its smaller size. Here, one can see works from the great Norwegian artist Edvard Munch as well as post-impressionists Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. 

A fun family activity is to stop by the Palace at 1:30 p.m. any day of the week to witness the changing of the guards. Kids will love that there are no gates out front and you can walk right up to the front of the Palace. A beautiful garden is set behind and is a lovely place to stroll or have a picnic.

ThorntonD

Thornton’s kids at Karl Johans gate in the heart of Oslo.

You cannot spend time in Oslo without wandering through Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions and the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. For young children who need a break from sightseeing, there is also an incredible playground within this park.

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