The Most Beautiful Cities in Scandinavia

There is often a misperception when it comes to Scandinavia and the Nordic Countries, as many people tend to believe that it is one and the same thing. Well, it’s not.

The term “Nordic Countries” refers to the countries and islands situated in the northern part of Europe, including the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Jutland Peninsula, the eastern Baltic plain, and the islands found offshore from mainland Northern Europe. Consequently, Scandinavia, with its famous fjords, lovely mountains, lakes, and Ice Age reminders, is just a little part of Northern Europe that includes Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

These are my picks for Scandinavia’s most beautiful cities:

Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden

Maybe not as famous as Europe’s big stars, Stockholm, the gorgeous Swedish capital, enjoys a reputation of one of the most beautiful and sophisticated cities on the continent.

Strangely located in the south-east of Sweden, on an archipelago consisting of 14 little islands, Stockholm features a lovely Old Town (Gamla Stan) filled with castles and windy medieval alleys, one of the largest collections of museums in the world, splendid architecture, as well as a plethora of parks.

Moreover, the abundance of water, the vibrant nightlife, the new which blends beautifully with the old, the high quality of life, and the green environment make it one of the greatest cities not only in Scandinavia or Europe, but in the world as well.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark

Lying on the islands of Zeeland and Amager, Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities, is certainly a wonderful destination for any kind of traveler.

Arguably Scandinavia’s most beautiful city, elegant Copenhagen has it all, from gorgeous architecture, remarkable museums and galleries, charming canals, culturally diverse neighborhoods, and a fairytale-like old center to green parks, plenty of trendy cafés, the longest shopping street in Europe –The Strøget, the world’s most beautiful amusement park – Tivoli, and even a couple of beaches flying the “Blue Flag”.

Bergen

Bergen, Norway

Known as one of the rainiest cities in the world, Bergen, with its good-looking center facing the fjord of Byfjorden, has its fair share of natural grandeur adding to its beauty, along with the wonderful old wooden houses that dominate the waterfront.

Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city, and some would even say that it is also the most beautiful. However, one thing is for sure, the train ride from Oslo to Bergen is famous for being one of the top 5 most scenic train journeys in the world.

Oslo

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is a fascinating cosmopolitan city that still retains its small fishing town feel. It is a truly magnificent place where shiny skyscrapers blend beautifully with prominent German architecture, where the vibrant atmosphere merges with the utter beauty of the natural landscape, and where the flourishing development doesn’t overwhelm the thrilling Norwegian wilderness.

There are few cities in the world that can actually beat Oslo when it comes to outdoor activities, as the Scandinavian capital provides you with everything, from winter sports such as skiing and skating to other pleasant activities like kayaking, island trips, hiking, sailing, and much more.

Aarhus

Aarhus, Denmark

Beautifully located on the east side of the Jutland Peninsula, Aarhus, the chief port of Denmark, is a lovely gathering of woodlands, beaches, lakes, and charming Danish historical buildings depicting bygone epochs and various styles from all over the country.

Aarhus is a modern metropolis, but it has a heart and a charm of its own which lies not only in the pleasant layout, but also in the positive atmosphere, the locals’ genuine smiles, the perpetual Viking traditions, and the multicultural vibe that prevails all over the city.

Gothenburg

Gothenburg, Sweden

Besides being the doorway to the stunning landscapes of West Sweden, Gothenburg, the second-largest metropolis in the country, is also a wonderful city full of history, inspiring architecture, culture, amazing parks, botanical gardens, and nature reserves.

Furthermore, the multitude of pavement cafés, the great open-air Maritime Museum, the twisting canals and boat trip opportunities, the islands sprinkled on the coastline outside the city, and the picturesque cobbled streets of Haga, make from Gothenburg a wonderful outdoor city and a must travel destination while in Sweden.

Malmo

Malmo, Sweden

With beautiful century-old houses, dozens of pretty gardens, charming squares peppered with coffee shops, colorful buildings, and lovely brick houses, Malmo, the former capital of Sweden, is a pedestrian-friendly city and a real feast for the eye.

Green, vibrant, and steeped in history, the port city of Malmo is a wonderful experience whether you’re looking for culture, leisure, shopping, unspoiled nature, sandy beaches, or Scandinavian Christmas markets.

What’s your favorite city in Scandinavia?

  1. Great post, Miruna! Only been to Copenhagen, which is a gorgeous little city, but I am heading to Stockholm, Oslo and Bergen in a few months, can’t wait!

    1. please tell me what Bergen is like once you’ve been!! i’m trying to decide between Bergen and Gothenberg for my year abroad. They both sound amazing, but being a student i dont have much money to visit them myself!

    1. Gothenburg if you will spare money. And weather is generally much less rainy than in Bergen.

  2. My favorite city in Scandinavia is definitely Helsinki.

    1. Helsinki is in Finland. Not Scandinavia.

      1. Cecilia: Obviously, but I’m sure Timo was referring to Scandinavia as a whole (meaning all the Scandinavian countries), just as the post was. Finland is a Scandinavian country so they used the term correctly.

        Miruna: Lovely post. Looking forward to visiting all these cities in the future. I’m hoping to do a working holiday to one of the Scandinavian countries, though I’m not sure which one yet.

        1. Marianna: Can I get a valid reason why Finland is considered Scandinavian? It is considered Nordic, not scandinavian. The term for the geographical area that is Norway, Finland and Sweden is called Fenno-Scandinavia. Being Scandinavian denotes being either Swedish, Norwegian or Danish and sometimes Iceland is included since it shares history, culture, language and ethnicity. So there.

        2. Dear Ole.
          Finland does not share history, culture, language and ethnicity with the rest of the Nordic countries?

          My last name is Dahl, which was given to my ancestors hundreds of years ago by the Swedish army. Why? Because we used to be the same country for about 700 years. Finland is legally bilingual with Swedish as the second language and we all study Swedish in school for 6 years(if you go to high school, and are not one of the hundreds of thousands of Finns who speak Swedish as their first language).

          Ethnicity? Well, plenty of blondes around…

          I must say that Finland is not actually a part of Scandinavia, but only because of geography, not because of the reasons you stated. Even though we are not geographically Scandinavians, the rest of the world seems to think we are, so I call myself Scandinavian to avoid confusion. Skandinavia, Norden, who cares, weŕe the same, and our countries developed at the same pace in the 20th century to become by far the best place to live in the world. People in central Europe see a paradise from southern Denmark all the way to Lapland. They really don´t know the difference between Ikea and Nokia, so why must us Scandinavians always debate this, when no one else cares? 🙂

        3. Avatar Chrisdiss says:

          Finland is a Nordic country but not part of Scandinavia. The same goes for Iceland.

  3. Ålesund is the most beautiful and pristine city in Scandinavia. Don’t know if it’s official yet.

  4. Avatar Edward D. says:

    I’ve been to Malmö, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Aarhus and several other Danish cities and each was lovelier than the next. Helsinki is nice but doesn’t have the same charm the other scandinavian cities have. The The view out towards the Baltic from the Aarhus city hall was worth the trip it’s self. I can’t wait to return to this corner of the world. Thanks for your post.
    Best, Edward

  5. Malmö is my favourite. It has it all on walking or cycling distance. In addition it has some beautiful beaches and swimming places along it’s coastes, right next to the city center, as well as some vibrant beach bars. As a plus it is 30 minutes from Copenhagen, my 2nd favourite

  6. Avatar Saadatu Yakubu-SAKA says:

    I love Malmo, Bagen, Stockholm and Oslo. I am so looking forward to spending summer and Christmas in one of these places this year.

    Thanks for the lovely post Miruana

  7. Dear Miruana et al.

    Thank you for your great post. I loved The Bridge and The Killing so much that I got the train from Copenhagen to Malmo. There was even a festival at the latter. Since then I have been to Stockholm where I loved Fotographska and seeing all the islands from the boat. This summer I plan to go to Aarhus for the 10 day festival August-September, Gothenburg, Bergen and Oslo. What would the best way to do this? I thought I’d get the London Stansted flight to Aarhus and then Gothenburg to London after 10 days with a train trip from Bergen to Oslo in between. I’d appreciate any suggestions or information. Thank you Emily

    1. Hi Emily,
      I’m happy you enjoyed my post. I’m a fan of The Killing, too:). Unfortunately I can’t help you with your trip to Aarhus, but I’m sure you will find plenty of useful info online. Best of luck!

    2. Emily- what was your favourite city of those you mentioned?

  8. Finland is in Scandinavia.

  9. According to google The Nordic countries are Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Norway. But the Scandinavian countries are Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. I don’t see the big deal. They’re all great countries, does it really matter whether we think they’re Scandinavian or not? I love Finland and Iceland, they’re beautiful and great places to visit or honeymoon in (especially Iceland!).

  10. A hidden gem is Visby, a city called the Pearl of the Baltic Sea, and it definitely should have made this list. It’s located on the Nordic’s largest island, called Gotland, in the south east of Sweden. It has a lot of medieval buildings still intact and is a wonderful destination. Many Swedes go there to spend a few days during summers.

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