We left Finland inspired and ready to explore. Anthony and I always wanted to visit Scandinavia because, well, we’re designers which inevitably has us appreciating the beauty of Scandinavian design.
We started in Stockholm, Sweden and traveled west to Oslo, Norway. From there, we hopped on the NSB for a 7-hour train ride further west to Bergen. The train route itself has been dubbed the best train ride in the world. From Bergen, we caught a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Our first stop: Stockholm, the cleaner, prettier, Scandic version of New York City that was full of well-dressed 6-feet tall blondes and beautifully manicured open spaces.
To go from our experience in Finland to Stockholm was a nice departure. We knew it would feel more metropolitan and expected to be a little more jarred by the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Instead, we fell right into the groove of things and I credit that to living in New York for 6 years.
After spending the first day walking through Gamla Stan (“The Old Town”) in the rain, we spent our second day wandering around Djurgården, a large public park. It’s a beautiful island in Central Stockholm that is home to attractions like Gröna Lund, the Vasa Museum, and the Abba Museum.
One of the most quaint places we stumbled on was a small garden situated in the middle of the park called Rosendals Trädgård. It had a small café and gift shop along with a flower shop where the flowers were picked straight from their beds a few feet away.
We ended our visit wandering the streets and docks of Stockholm taking in all of the amazing architecture, eating remarkable food, people watching and doing a little shopping. Then, we were off to the airport to Oslo, Norway.
Oslo was different. It was quieter, less crowded, and the buildings were shorter in stature. The collars, suits, briefcases, and designer footwear that we saw in Stockholm turned into plaid shirts, hoodies, backpacks, and tennis shoes.
Here, we started noticing a common theme: gigantic, beautiful parks.
This was our shortest leg of our trip (and also the most expensive) but the only place we had friends, Gjermund and Anders (of Tight Interactive), that we met at SXSW a few years ago.
We visited the beautiful, sprawling Frogner Park and Vigelund Sculpture Garden, ate the freshest sushi we’ve ever had, drank delicious Norwegian beer, roamed around the Viking Museum, and walked on the cobble stones surrounding Akershus Castle.
The Train to Bergen
We didn’t know what to expect from the train ride besides the fact that it would take us 7 hours to reach our destination of Bergen, Norway, situated on the west coast amongst rivers and fjords.
What we witnessed blew our minds. The terrain changes were fascinating; it felt like we were sitting through a National Geographic documentary. It is a captivating country, from it’s lush green mountains and waterfalls to it’s stark cold high-elevated lands.
At one point in the train ride, we reached Finse which is a village that sits at an elevation of 1,222 metres (4,009 ft) above sea level and was the highest point of our train trip.
Fun fact: Finse also played the ice planet Hoth in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
From there, we passed Flåm and the beautiful rivers and lakes of Voss (which I later found out that Voss Water is not bottled in Voss, Norway).
After hauling our luggage from the train track to the streets, we were captivated almost instantly and immediately felt a tinge of regret for not spending more time in Bergen.
The colorful buildings, known as Bryggen (“The Wharf”), is a UNESCO Heritage Site; the buildings all leaned in unison with intertwining alley ways connecting them together.
At dusk, we noticed the boats would all sail into the harbor one by one. Seafood seemed far from scarce; you could see the fresh catch of the day in the morning when the fisherman laid them all on their tables at the farmer’s market.
There was so much history here. It’s no surprise since the city was established before 1070 AD. On our last day, we took the Fløibanen up the Fløyen mountain to catch a glimpse of the city from above.
Copenhagen was our favorite stop on the trip. It felt like a combination of Austin, Portland, and San Francisco. It was young, vibrant, stylish, bike-friendly with a perfect eye for design yet unassuming and down-to-earth.
On top of that, there were awesome coffee shops, bars, and restaurants scattered throughout the city. It was a shame we couldn’t eat at Noma, which has been voted the best restaurant in the world.
There were open air markets everywhere with fresh vegetables, artisanal goodies, and handmade gifts.
We also found out that during rush hour, unlike most cities where cars flood the streets, 30,000 bikes flood the streets of Copenhagen.
On our last night, we walked the grounds of Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. It was in pristine condition considering it’s age.
Although it was the beginning of September, the brisk air and lights that illuminated the park made it feel like Christmas. It was truly beautiful at night time.