It’s no wonder Scandinavia is home to some of the world’s happiest people, consistently topping the UN’s World Happiness Report. In these northern European countries, creativity flourishes among pristine landscapes rich in beauty and history. The experiences you can have here are incomparable. Here are a few of our favorites.
Forget Bringing Down the House
At Oslo’s Opera House, it’s all about going up to the roof. Stroll up the sloped exterior to the marble-clad roof of this sleek landmark on the edge of the Oslo fjord for spectacular views of the harbor and visions of the city reflected in towering glass windows.
Go Looking for Trolls
Cruise through misty Trollfjorden, one of Norway’s most breathtaking fjords, keeping your eyes peeled for the giant mythical figures said to dwell amid these stark mountain landscapes. Or gape at the Trollveggen, aka the “Troll Wall”—Europe’s tallest vertical rock face at over 3,000 feet. Local lore holds that the unusual rock shapes are frozen trolls that failed to make it home before sunrise.
Follow in the Wake of Vikings
Travel to Trondheim, Norway, founded in the 10th century by Viking king Olaf I Tryggvason. At Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum, get steeped in the region’s seafaring legacy as you examine centuries-old wooden longships.
Get an Earful
At Ringve Music Museum in Trondheim, guided musical tours feature performances of the collection’s antique and more contemporary musical instruments, ranging from 18th-century Hardanger fiddles and old hunting and shepherding instruments to a 1968 synthesizer.
Go dogsledding with the Sami
Delve into the Lapland wilderness and experience the traditional way of life of the region’s indigenous Sami people. Set off by sled behind a team of huskies across frozen rivers and snow-blanketed valleys, embark on a reindeer sled ride to a Sami tepee, and learn about life below zero from local reindeer herders.
Walk in the Clouds
Geiranger Skywalk is the highest roadside viewpoint of a fjord in all of Europe. A glass-walled platform perched some 4,900 feet above sea level offers sweeping views of the deep mountain valley of Norway’s Geirangerfjorden—part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Go for a stroll on the cliffside walkway, or peer past the surrounding peaks to spot the Blåbreen glacier glittering in the distance.
Stay at the World’s Most Famous Igloo
Spend a night at the legendary Icehotel in the remote Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi. Here, at the world’s largest hotel made out of snow and ice—rebuilt each year—you can sleep in a heated room or opt for one of the ice or snow rooms, cozily outfitted with thermal sleeping bags. Wrapped in down parkas and woolen mittens, explore the ephemeral wonderland of snow walls, crystal domes, and whimsical ice sculptures.
Peer at a Preserved 17th-century Warship
Visit the Vasa Museum in Stockholm to learn about this notorious ship. After much fanfare leading up to its maiden voyage, the Swedish ship capsized and sank in 1628, having sailed less than a nautical mile. Vasa remained on the seabed for 333 years, until 1961, when it was raised from the depths and preservation work began.
See a Ship Fit for a Castaway
Marvel at the daring ambition of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl as you view his legendary Kon-Tiki raft at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. Over the course of 101 days in 1947, Heyerdahl sailed this balsa wood raft 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean—from Peru to to the Raroia atoll near Tahiti—in an attempt to prove that early settlers could have sailed from South America to Polynesia.
Venture to the Land of the Midnight Sun
Experience a true 24-hour day in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago above the Arctic Circle, where the summer sun never sets.