Journey between vibrant Nordic capitals—from Copenhagen to Helsinki, Stockholm, and Oslo—to experience an intermingling of cosmopolitan life with centuries of rich history. Encounter vestiges of the medieval era, when wealthy financiers developed these grand trading centers, and delve into the region’s seafaring history at Viking museums, seaside fortresses, and waterfront palaces. Witness the modernist mark left by avant-garde designers on city skylines, savor the flavors of the new Nordic culinary movement, and venture just beyond urban limits for a glimpse at the pristine beauty of Europe’s northern reaches.
Arrive in Copenhagen and enjoy a tour of the city sites, including the Old Stock Exchange; the Naval Church; and the Little Mermaid Statue, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale. Get to know your fellow travelers during a welcome dinner this evening.
Set off on a castle tour through the Danish countryside. At Frederiksborg Castle, a Renaissance landmark surrounded by stunning gardens, examine royal art and an impressive collection of shields. Continue on to the baroque Fredensborg Palace for a photo op. Then immerse yourself in the setting of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, a World Heritage site. Follow the Danish Riviera back to Copenhagen. Tonight, discover whimsical Tivoli Gardens—one of the world’s oldest amusement parks—at your own pace.
See Copenhagen from a different angle on a canal cruise, and then enjoy a traditional Danish lunch on the Nyhavn waterfront, lined with colorful houses and boats bobbing in the harbor. Fly to Helsinki and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Set out on an architectural tour of Helsinki, named the World Design Capital for 2012. Stroll past Alvar Aalto’s marble-clad Finlandia Hall, and step into the Temppeliaukio church, hewn into solid rock. Sample Finnish specialties at Market Hall, then board a boat bound for the island of Suomenlinna, home to an inhabited sea fortress. Built beginning in 1748 across six islands, this World Heritage site has at turns protected the Kingdom of Sweden, the Russian Empire, and Finland.
Fly to Stockholm and transfer to our hotel. This afternoon, step back in time on a walking tour amid the narrow alleys and medieval buildings of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. Visit the cathedral and Royal Palace before a group dinner in the historic center.
Learn about the country’s deep maritime traditions this morning. Hear from a local archaeologist about his National Geographic-funded exploration of the undersea wreckage of Swedish King Erik XIV’s legendary 2,000-ton flagship Mars. Using 3-D scanning technology to study the wreck and create virtual reconstructions, he is revealing history while preserving an important maritime battlefield on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Then visit the Vasa Museum, which holds the only preserved 17th-century warship in the world. After indulging in a traditional smorgasbord lunch on the tranquil island of Djurgården, trace five centuries of Swedish history at Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure to explore more of the city.
Visit City Hall and take in its glowing spire, as well as the rich mosaics and artwork of its ceremonial halls. Glide across the harbor to the meticulously preserved Drottningholm Palace, home to the Swedish royal family. Enjoy lunch, then amble through the 16th-century salons and baroque gardens of this World Heritage site.
Ride the train to Oslo, and check in to our historic hotel in the city center. Head to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which hosted events for the 1952 Winter Olympics. Take in 4,000 years of Nordic and downhill skiing history at the Ski Museum; and, from the observation deck on top, enjoy a spectacular vantage of Oslo and its fjord.
Spend the day discovering Oslo, beginning at the medieval Akershus Fortress. Walk amid the brilliant white marble angles of the Opera House, and stroll Vigeland Sculpture Park, populated with 200 works by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. After lunch, head to the Viking Ship Museum to examine three of the world’s best-preserved wooden longships. Then enjoy a specially arranged meeting with Thor Heyerdahl, Jr. at the Kon-Tiki Museum. Hear about his family’s scientific seafaring adventures, some of which were chronicled in the pages of National Geographic magazine, before viewing the famed Kon-Tiki raft, the papyrus boat Ra II, and other artifacts of seafaring history. Toast our Scandinavian sojourn at a farewell dinner tonight.
After a morning at leisure, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
- Scandinavia: Norway's Fjords Extension
Post-Trip, 4 Days
Following your urban adventure, immerse yourself in some of the world’s most spectacular scenery on a journey through the Norwegian fjordlands. Step aboard the world-famous Flåm Railway and ride across alpine peaks and emerald valleys only accessible by train. Take in stunning Aurlandsfjord from multiple angles—cruise below its sheer rock walls, hover above its dramatic chasm on a viewing platform, and sleep within sight of its natural beauty. Then head to Bergen to discover the colorful, Hanseatic houses of the city’s enchanting old wharf.
From Oslo, catch a train to Myrdal, and then board the Flåm Railway for an unforgettable ride along one of the steepest normal-gauge railroads in the world. Descend a steep valley through 20 tunnels and past thundering waterfalls to the fjord village of Flåm. Settle into your hotel overlooking Aurlandsfjord, and enjoy the rest of the day to explore this quaint town at your leisure.
Begin the day with a stroll through the picturesque village of Undredal, where you’ll sample the town’s world-famous brown goat cheese and visit Scandinavia’s smallest stave church. Return to Flåm for lunch at a traditional Scandinavian café, and then switch up your perspective of Aurlandsfjord from the nearby Stegastein’s viewing platform, which floats 2,000 feet above the fjord. Continue to Aurland village—the birthplace of the penny loafer—and visit a traditional shoe factory.
Cruise the spectacular Naeroyfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Marvel at the sheer rock walls as we ply the narrow fjord aboard a small rigid-inflatable boat. Then transfer to Bergen and take a walk along the brightly painted buildings lining Bryggen—a World Heritage site. Dine on your own tonight in this old port city, once an important trading center of the Hanseatic League.
After breakfast, transfer to the Bergen airport and fly to Oslo or Copenhagen to connect with your international flight home.