Wanderlust: Northern Europe edition

August 5, 2014 in Netherlands,Places,Sweden

Northern Europe (and more specifically, Scandinavia!)  is one of my favorite regions in the world: it’s a group of countries that I’m constantly recommending to friends, as well as personally scheming to get back and explore more. I traveled solo through Stockholm and celebrated Museum Night with friends in Amsterdam back in 2010 (holy moly how time flies!), and I’ve been drooling over photos of Norwegian fjords and colorful Copenhagen streets on Instagram lately.

Stockholm, Sweden by C'est Christine

Although I’d love to celebrate Midsummer in Scandinavia one day, I have such fond memories of the leaves changing colors and curling up in a cute cafe with a hot apple cider in autumn. I figured I’d share a few favorite things about Northern Europe in case anyone is considering an escape in the coming months.

Stockholm, Sweden by C'est Christine

The cinnamon rolls are out of this world.

Whenever someone mentions a trip to Stockholm, I have one recommendation: Cafe Saturnus. The cinnamon rolls are insanely delicious and as big and dense as your head! I still daydream about a Swedish cinnamon roll and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast.

Amsterdam, Netherlands by C'est Christine

It defines “bike-friendly.”

I bike plenty in New York City, and I joke that I’m always relieved when I make it home alive–this city is not exactly a cyclist’s paradise, certainly not when compared to Scandinavia. Extensive networks of wide bike paths, great options for bike parking and a general love of biking (read: not as many angry taxi drivers honking at you!) make cycling around Amsterdam and Stockholm a dream. I rented bikes in both cities, and it was such a fun and easy way to get around.

Stockholm, Sweden by C'est Christine

Cool off in the great outdoors…

One of my favorite things to do in Stockholm is explore Djurgården.Home to the Vasa Museum, Skansen and an amusement park, this island-slash-park is full of shady trees, winding paths and open grassy spaces. Rent a bike and explore the further side of the island: you can’t find a spot more peaceful in the city.

…and then sweat it out in the saunas.

My HOSTEL in Stockholm had a sauna: that’s how ubiquitous sauna culture in Scandinavia is! Especially when it’s chilly outside, there’s nothing I love more than coming back after a long day of sightseeing and unwinding in a wood-paneled sauna.

Stockholm, Sweden by C'est Christine

It’s a good place to be a woman.

Scandinavia is notorious for being one of the best places in the world to be a woman, especially when it comes to education and career support. I loved this piece on Cup of Jo on 10 surprising things about parenting in Norway: 10 months of fully-paid maternity leave! Nature preschool! 37.5 hour workweeks! For travelers, that translates to be EXTREMELY safe for solo female travelers: they’re super open to independent women, and I never felt threatened or unsafe.

Amsterdam, Netherlands by C'est Christine

Arts and culture is just more fun!

My biggest recommendation for Scandinavia: go to Museum Night in Amsterdam. It’s the first Saturday of November and all of the museums stay open late with DJs, dancing and bars–right in with the works of art. You can even rave in the greenhouse at the nature museum or have a beer and play with the exhibits at the science museum–and I was blown away by the opportunity to see the Portuguese Synagogue lit completely by candles. Without a doubt, one of my favorite experiences in Europe!

Amsterdam, Netherlands by C'est Christine

You don’t have to worry about a language barrier.

One of the things that most impressed me in both Amsterdam and Stockholm is how well the locals spoke English. Even though I recommend learning a few basics–hello, thank you, where is the bathroom, etc.–no matter where you go, I found it exceptionally easy to travel in Northern Europe as a native English speaker. Bonus: the tourism infrastructure, along with the rest of their public services and customer service trades, is just GOOD. You get what you need, when you need it.

Where do you most want to travel in Northern Europe? 

  • HippieInHeels

    I haven’t spent any time in North Europe! I think the furthest up I’ve gone is netherlands/germany/poland! I must get back to Europe soon…

  • camorose

    Yes! I’m about due for a visit too!

  • I went to Norway last April and ::sigh:: it was amazing. I went on a cruise through one of the “baby” fjords and it was spectacularly beautiful. The train ride from Oslo to Bergen takes you through a variety of landscapes, all of which can blow your mind. I definitely want to go back during the summer when everything is green; I think it’ll be even more gorgeous. Everyone I spoke to spoke really good English so I think Norway (or any place in Scandinavia) would be a really good first international trip for someone who wants a baby step.

    I’ve actually been feeling compelled to return to Europe (partly because I’ve seen a few too many blog posts and photos lately) and was trying to decide between Norway and Provence. I think, for now, Provence has won out, but you never know until you book the ticket. :)

  • I would love to go back to Norway. I miss it so.

  • Briel79

    Ugh, stop! This area is where I’ve been wanting to go for a couple years now and your post just made me want to go even more. I’m hoping it will be my big trip next year! Time to start saving starting NOW! :)

  • Dana

    I visited Scandinavia in 2010 as well- it’s beautiful! I went in spring but would love to come back in the summer. I definitely didn’t spend enough time in Copenhagen. My favorite Scandinavian country is probably Iceland – I actually didn’t realize I could group the Netherlands in with them! You’ve definitely convinced me to hit up museum night this coming year! Bisous!

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  • angela serednicki

    In January I’ll be taking a semester abroad at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus. While Scandinavia isn’t as affordable as Eastern European countries, posts like this make me think Sweden and Norway is worth the price tag.

  • camorose

    Ahhhh I have been wanting to do more exploring through the Norwegian fjords–have heard nothing but amazing things and seen SO many gorgeous photos! Definitely high up on my list!

  • camorose

    Eek! So high on my list–I need to go!

  • camorose

    Yes! It’s definitely one of the more expensive regions in the world–easy to travel, but not cheap! Would be such an amazing trip though!

  • camorose

    Yes! Definitely go to Museum Night–one of my absolute favorite experiences in Europe!

  • camorose

    Totally worth it–enjoy your time there!

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