2 Weeks in Scandinavia

For our family trip this summer we definitely wanted to go to Europe but where in Europe was up for debate.  Once all of the flights to France and Croatia had a stop over in Copenhagen I thought, this has to be a sign. .  It was a place keen on design, ahead of the curve on food, and if all people my husband Craig had met over the past 20 years in advertisng were any indication,  a country with some of the nicest and most interesting people you could meet.  So Copenhagen it was!

 

When we travel we love to be on the move and see as much of a country as we can. We had 2 weeks in August and due to its proximity, it seemed like Sweden could also make it on the itinerary. Planning the stops and how to get around took a lot of reaching out and a lot of research.  We finally planned on the following route; Copenhagen, Bastad, Smogen, Stockholm, Visby, Odense, Arhaus and back to Copenhagen.  Ambitious - yes,  but felt very doable and it had something for everyone.

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We left NY in the evening and after a few delays we ended up in Copenhagen at about 1:00pm.  Since Uber has recently been banned in Denmark we knew the metro would be our best bet.  The system which leaves right from the airport could not have been nicer or easier to use.  

We stayed at the Hotel Kong Arthur.  The location was really great and the rooms were a fine size.  The only negative here  was the incredible amount of noise.  Because it is cool there are no air conditioners in the rooms.  It is lovely to open the windows but at this hotel noise was a real issue.  I would recommend earplugs (which worked perfectly) or to stay here in cooler months.

 

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After a quick nap we headed out to meet some friends for diner a great market called Paper Island.  It was tucked away on an isle covered with warehouses in an area of the city known as Christiansholm.  Each of us had something different and none of it disappointed.  Just make sure everyone gets something different and you cant miss.  The clear winner were the the duck fries.

After dinner we got a great walking tour of the area from our friend.  He took us through the Freetown which was a must see.  There are incredible homes built around the water in this area worth taking a look at - just note it can be a little overwhelming.  Drugs are pevelant there and are being sold openly in the small town.  The only rule here is no cameras and absolutely no photos. We headed back to the hotel but not before grabbing an amazing freshly made cone with super rich ice cream from Vaffelbageren on Nyhavn.

Frikadella and potato salad smorgesbord.  Watch for this in the recipe section.

Frikadella and potato salad smorgesbord.  Watch for this in the recipe section.

The next day we set out early in search of danish for breakfast.  We went to XX which was great for us and even better for Craig who has celiacs disease and can only eat Gluten Free.  To get our bearings and to see the city we took a boat ride through the canals.  We knew we’d be back at the end of our trip for 2 days so we took it easy and wandered the streets.  We had smorgasbord for lunch from a great market and ventured over to the lakes where the girls rented a swan boat while we enjoyed some sunshine and ciders while watching.  We made it back to the hotel for cozy hour (free wine and snacks that you can enjoy outside wrapped in light blanket if the evening is cool). 

 

For dinner we took a lengthy walk to the meatpacking district for an amazing meal at Kødbyens Fiskebar.  Get the brill - it sounds crazy but is just sooo good.

 

The next day we woke up early went back to the market for breakfast (more smorgesbord and juices) and headed to the metro for our 20 minute trip to Malmo, Sweden.  The train ride was easy and the bridge connecting the two countries was awesome to travel over.  The sea on both sides is full of windmills and looks so crisp and future forward.  Once at Malmo we grab our rental and headed to our next stop, Bastad, and the Hotel Riviera Strand.  This place was great!!!  You could do a quick wooded hike, wade into the icy sea, swim in the pool, rent bikes, play mini golf or walk to a hidden away tapas spot.

For lunch we drove into the old and stately town - it is perfect, situated right on the water with great views and delicious out door restaurants.  You can wander around the streets and explore the tennis center (Bastad is the Forest Hills of Sweden) if you still need to workp an appetite.  Ee ate t the CoveXXXX whee we had a seafood chowder that is easily one of the greatest things we ate on holiday.  It was rich yet light and teeming with fresh local seafood and herbs. (Try it yourself with my Swedish Seafood Chowder recipe). This main area is also where we came for a great dinner. We stayed outside on the veranda (at the restaurant, Veranda) kept comfortable with heat lamps and lovely knit blankets eating and enjoying an incredible 9:00pm sunset.

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After breakfast at he hotel we left for Smogen.  We left early because it was a 3 hour drive and we had booked a Mussel & Oyster Journey that left at 1:30pm leaving from Lysekil Norra Hamnen dock.  The ride there was uneventful, finding the boat to get on was really the mornings adventure.  We boarded a small fishing boat in the light rain with the 2 gentleman who ran the tour and 4 Swedish women.  We learned how mussels and oysters were harvested and then pulled up to a rocky island with a small shack on it where we were to get out and have lunch.  I was a little nervous as it was both chilly and wet.  As soon as they opened the door on the shed I realized we had nothing to worry about.  Inside was a tiny dining room with a long wooden table and a chandelier.  We sampled different oysters and then ate a mussel stew that they made over a fire on site and a carrot cake that one of their wives made that morning.  The entire trip was a 10!!  Worth driving from wherever you are visiting in Sweden to take part in.  Reach out to Adrienne via email at adriaan@orustshellfish.se to reserve your spot.

We drove 30 minutes to our hotel for the next 2 nights, Hensbacka Hotell & Restaurant. This was a very interesting place.  There was a large Manor house and tons of property with a more modern hotel building along the side. The owner and general manager went way above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed and convinced us to stay there for dinner (an awesome choice both nights!!!!).  We loved the spot and hope to someday return to the area.

The area is very rural with most towns being situated on the coast and far apart from one another. One thing we read about that sounded like a great adventure was driving to Ramsvikslandet and hiking the pink granite cliffs.  We paid a few dollars and parked in Ramsvik Stugby & Camping parking lot,  an adorable place right on the water that rented little red wooden cabins.  It was like the Swedish version of Dirty Dancing’s Kellermans.  The people at the front desk were so helpful and provided us with a great map of trails they managed and marked.

 

The trails are incredibly well marked and we opted for the 4km white trail with a slight excursion onto the granite along the way.  The hike started out slowly and we were a little worried it might be a bust.  After the first 11/2 km we made a left and went straight up a well marked ridge of rocks.  When we reached the top the payoff could not have been better.  It was pink stone all the way out to blue ocean with small bursts of green and lavender between the stones.  We couldn’t stop exploring the topography was like nothing we’d seen and the sun was so warm and inviting on top of the rocks.  It was actually so glorious we had one of the photos blown up to hang in our living room.  The trail continued with lots of climbing and tons of great views.  Sweden has tremendous jelly fish which were so easily seen in several parts of the walk.  That said use extreme caution if wading in.

 

We must have spent 3 plus hours here.  When we were done we drove to the town of Smogen. Once we found parking and worked out the toll machine (there is button for English) we ventured into the wharf area that does not permit cars.  They had a massive candy store worth a visit and great restaurants right on the water.  We had open face sandwiches topped with sweet and delicate local shrimp and fresh mayo.  After lounging by the water for a bit we drove to explore and stumbled upon a creamery that specialized in homemade ice-cream, Lilla Glassverkstan (Vägga Sörgård 20, 456 34 Kungshamn).  It had a great outdoor area and a soccer field to play on. We headed back to the manor exhausted.  We stayed for a great traditional dinner with delicious wines to complement each course (and possibly the biggest pour in Europe).

 

The next morning we headed out for Stockholm.  This was an easy drive with some decent scenery, we only stopped for a burger and a quick bathroom break.  Once we got to Stockholm we returned our car and walked a few blocks to our hotel, the beautiful Kung Carl (Birger Jarlsgatan 21).  We adored this location and the hotel itself.  There was plenty of room, great amenities and a wonderful breakfast.  A real luxury.  As soon as we checked in we changed and set out to explore a bit.  We ended up in Gamla Stan (the old town).  This was my daughters favorite part of Sweden, the cobblestone streets and alleys lined with cafes and tiny stores felt like we had gone back in time.

 

In Stockholm I definitely recommend getting the Stockholm card.  The museums here can not be missed and it easily pays for itself.  While our first afternoon was spent wandering about day 2 was set aside to get our monies worth on that card.  We started by taking the boat to the area that most of the museums are located called on our boat, the Vasa Stop.   The museums here are amazing.  They are interactive, interesting and were a huge hit (I think it goes without saying museums are not always that).

 

We started at Junibacken a museum that celebrates children’s author Astrid Lingren’s work.  My family thought I was crazy for taking them to this children’s museum.  I had read that they have a story train which is a ride that travels through the fictional lands created by her famous children’s books.  Once the 10 minute ride was over everyone was in agreement that the trip to Junibacken was totally worth it.  It also inspired my girls to read one of her books when we returned home.  We then headed over to the Nordic Museum, it should be noted all of these museums are walking distance from one another and were very quick to get into with the card.  Nordic had some great exhibits on furniture, home building and the northern lights.  That said it was the driest of all the museum visits.

 

Next stop Skansen.  Skansen is billed as living history.  It is a massive open-air museum (the oldest in the world founded in 1891) that showcases Swedens past, their animals and their landscape.  Everything there is from the past.  They have all original buildings and recreations of an old Swedish city, town and farms.  You could spend the entire day here.  There is a zoo and a sea center as well as food carts and restaurants.  We spent about 11/2 to 2 hours here and felt like there was lots more to see.

 

The highlight which most people will tell you is the Vasa. It is a real viking ship that sunk right off the coast because it was built unevenly.  It was discovered in the 1940s nd after many years brought up and preserved.  A museum was built around it and it has to be one of the most arresting places I’ve visited.  Watching the excavation and then seeing the ship is awing.  Everyone who travels to this area goes to the Vasa. To avoid as much of a crowd as possible we made this our last stop.  It lived up to all the hype.

 

This is also the location of the ABBA museum (we ran out of time) and Tivoli (we planned on going in Denmark). Both are awesome choices for your evening.  We chose to go back and walk around some areas we hadn’t seen yet.  This included avvisit to the palace and a late afternoon stop for Fika, a Swedish tradition we still maintain, a 3:30 coffee and small sweet. Then that night desperate for Swedish meatballs we went to Tradition on Gamla Stan for the best version of this dish any of us had ever had, both regular and gluten free.

 

Our second full day in Stockholm and we were feeling ready to get further away from the hotel and see more of the city.  We traveled on the double decker bus to get a good look at the city and to travel out to the Fotographica Museum. This was a part of the city we hadn’t explored much so we got off a stop early and walked a bit.  The museum and the museum gift shop were excellent.  They also had an amazing cafe with food that looked so good and some great views.  We however had seen an awesome looking Magnum ice cream shop a few blocks away and decided to walk there for a late breakfast. We ventured way outside the city for a blindness exhibit that could not accommodate us for several hours.  The trip showed us lots of the city and worked up some appetite.  We visited an incredible food market where we all split up and met back up with incredible treats - smoked salmon open face sandwiches, Fika for the girls and xx for Craig. We ate everything in a small church courtyard across the road.  We promised to only get something small so we would all be hungry for our culinary highlight of Stockholm, Ekstedt.

 

A few months before our trip my youngest daughter and I started searching for travel shows on Amazon and net flicks about both Denmark and Sweden.  One evening we stumbled upon Emeril getting a culinary tour of Sweden from Marcus Samulson.  While in Stockholm they visited Ekstedt.  The chef cooks in a very traditional manner that he referred to as Game of Thrones cooking.  There is no traditional oven in the kitchen and every dish is so layered and with flavor and beautiful to look at.  We all had a three course tasting menu plus cheese (about 8 courses in total).  My daughters were so excited they swore they’d eat anything!  We had incredible reindeer heart tacos XXXX.  After dinner we also got a tour of the kitchen.  If I ever return to Stockholm (which I’m sure I will) I will make this meal a must.

 

The following morning we tearfully said goodbye to our awesome hotel and headed to the airport.  We took a very short flight to Gotland, we rented a car there and stayed right outside the walled city of Visby.  Visby is the oldest walled city in XXX.  It is like stepping into a fairy tale.  Once you enter the city it all cobblestone streets and tiny squares and shops alternating with incredibly dramatic ruins.  Where to start here is hard to decide.  You can walk the perimeter of the wall and even climb many of the watch towers.  You can wander in and out of ruins and visit an incredible old church.  I should also mention the restaurants in the town are incredible.  We ate at the following and had one great meal after the next.  The town is much larger than I imagined what was still small nd quaint enough to split up from the girls and allow them to go out to lunch without us.  Once again, like all our Swedish stops, the seafood here was unbelievably fresh and full of flavor.  Often tasting nothing like the farmed American version we are accustomed to.  This was especially true of the shellfish.

 

Our second day we wanted to explore more of the island and at the urging of the woman at the front desk (the only great thing bout our lodging) we ventured out o the blue lagoon.  It was about an hour away but was completely worth the ride.  Firstly the area is beautiful, greenery dotted with old churches and ruins.  The blue lagoon was a wonderful bright blue swimming hole with a white rock bottom and lots of people picnicking and lounging at the waters edge. The water was freezing but you could not resist going in.  The second tip we got was to go around to the north west tip of the island to the XX preserve.  We were told if we parked by a lot to a nature walk we could hike 1.5 miles in and there was a great little restaurant with great food and views.  This was not easy to find, I have included a few pictures so you will know your in the right spot.  Once you get to the halfway mark there is signage and some sense of relief.  Just as we were about to give up this tiny house came into view.  The lunch here was incredible.  Very European and very rich.  We felt like really earned this one with all the navigating through the woods and the hiking unsure of direction.    

 

We stopped at another beach on the way home to see some viking ruins and a great old cemetery and church.  We the dinner in the walled city nd got ready to say goodbye to Sweden.

 

The next morning we arrived at Gotland airport which was completely closed.  We waited outside until the tiny airport opened (50 minutes before our flight).  Once we were checked in everything moved very quickly and we were back in Malmo in no time.  We rented a car and headed back to Denmark to see a bit more of the country.  Up until this moment very choice we made about where to visit had been a home run. Here, I may rework things.  We headed to Odense, birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson.  It was a little town that was very cute and home to the HCA museum.  We were able to tour hs home and read about his upbringing and his stories inspirations.  We also had an incredible very authentic Italian dinner at XXXX in an adorable cobblestoned alleyway.  We said about 5 miles outside town at .  It was very comfortable, quiet and roomy.

 

The next morning we headed out for our 2 hour drive to the college town and the 2017 Cultural Capital of XXX, Arhaus.  We stayed at great sleek city hotel, xxx.  We walked along the canal and explored the downtown.  We had an amazing lunch at of noodle soups and pho.  We went to the main park and got to see the Redbull sponsored soapbox derby.  It was a great festival with food, beer, music and lots of locals.  We stayed here for hours.  After wandered to the museum and back to our hotel.  That night we decided to go for a very traditional Dish meal at a very old traditional restaurant XXXX.  We had fried bacon red cabbage, mini potatoes and schnitzel.  It was so comforting and so filling.  We rolled back to the hotel and relaxed.

 

The following morning we left early and drove to Copenhagen for the last 2 days of our trip.

My girls were so excited to get back there.  We pulled into town around lunchtime and checked our luggage into a locker outside the rain station until our air b&B was ready.  We headed over to the meatpacking district to visit a little Indian place we spotted last time we were hear Bollywood.  We all aha lunch special and a lasse and tried to plan out the must sees for the next 2 days.  Our Airbnb was right near the meatpacking district right on the edge of the red light district - as you can imagine lots to see and explain.  That said the location was great and it was so much space.  We started our afternoon touring with the palace gardens and some crown jewels.  At about 5 we left and headed over to the much anticipated Tivoli Gardens.  Our girls could barely wait to get here and could barely contain themselves once we were there.  The rides were so fun, the treats delicious and the layout of the park and gardens spectacular.  You can see why Walt was inspired.

 

6 hours later we made it back and fell into bed.  Our next morning we went for incredible bowls at a local place calledXXX. The owner was incredibly nice and very helpful with some must sees.  After breakfast crossed the main canalXX and toured some of the other side.  We rented bikes and rode around a bit and eventually ended uo at ST XXX where we waited on line and climbed the spire - a great climb and awesome views of the city.

 

We felt even though we had seen the Little Mermaid statue on our original boat tour we really hadn’t seen it up close.  We walked there and on our way saw changing of the guards and an absolutely beautiful neighborhood adjacent to the palace.  We walked along the water until we got to the famed statue (its so tiny) and walked back via the XXX.  We walked straight to our market from day 2 and each got a dish we had been thinking about from last time - Frickadella smorgasbord for Parker and I and tacos for Craig and Avery.

 

 

We went back and did some shopping and packed up.  We spent our last night eating once again in the meatpacking district and reminiscing about our favorite parts of the trip.  We could not have been happier that we ended up here and we would all remember this adventure forever.