Thinking about taking your kids to off the beaten track places in Europe? Think North! The Nordics have a lot to offer to kids all ages. None of the Scandinavian countries are on the classic European itineraries, which makes them a gem for those looking for authentic and adventurous experiences. Even more so when you think beyond the big cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. The best attraction in Denmark, Sweden and Norway is definitely mother nature. So if you and your kids are in for outdoor adventures, majestic landscapes, surprising history, modern culture, friendly people and great food, Scandinavia is the place to go.
There are lots of reasons that are keeping Scandinavia off the beaten track, some true, most false. Let me list a few. “Scandinavia is expensive” – True if you like alcohol and Mediterreanean vegetables. Not true if you can leave the wine and like to eat fish and berries. “Scandinavia is mosquito hell” – True during the 6-week mosquito season in June and early July. Not true in the other 46 weeks of the year. “Scandinavia is guaranteed bad weather” – True, but you are also guaranteed to have good weather. Weather changes quickly and often. As the Scandinavians say: There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. As long as you are prepared for all weather, you are ready to go. It is the weather that makes Scandinavia a year-round destination. Summers are bright and full of light, spring and autumn are short but beautiful and winters are long, dark and cold and offer the most mystical Arctic travel experience imaginable.
A good destination for kids you ask? Absolutely! As long as your kids are not afraid to get out and explore the great outdoors and eat something different than your average fast food, Scandinavia is one of the best places to take your kids in Europe. Let me take you on a virtual tour along 10 known and unknown kids attractions in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. We visited all of these in a 3-week family holiday in the summer of 2009 (all descriptions reflect 2014 situation).
This is a blog in two parts: This is part one, describing my top-5 places to go with (or without) kids in Denmark and Sweden. Part two covers the top-5 places to go with kids in Norway.
Top-10 off the beaten track places for kids in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, as described in this blog (click to enlarge).
#1 Lego City – Legoland Billund, Denmark
This is one of the top attractions of Denmark, located at the place where Lego first began. The city of Billund is the one and only Lego City in the world. Legoland is touristy, but still the best place to start a kids holiday in Denmark! It is also the first (1968) and in my opinion best Legoland park in the world. Just don’t buy your Lego in the stores here. It is cheaper outside Denmark…
These boats have been an attraction in Legoland for over 40 years now. I have pictures of me sitting in these same boats in 1976! A true European classic.
Hey, I am a spacegeek. Legoland World is my favorite attraction in this park. Famous places from all over the world in millions of Lego bricks. Including the Space Shuttle, that launches every couple of minutes.
#2 Fairytales – HC Andersen Hus Odense, Denmark
This is the childhood home of famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen. His house is part of the wonderful HC Andersen Museum in the nice city center of Odense. Kids from all over the world will recognize the stories.
#3 City on the water – Copenhagen, Denmark
If you are camping, this is one of the best places for visiting Copenhagen. Camping Charlottenlund Fort is built inside an old fortress, complete with guns and defense walls. It is also right on the sea and with easy access to the city. Great for kids!
Copenhagen is a typical European citytrip destination, although it is less crowded in summer season as one may expect. The old “Nyhavn” is one of the most picturesque spots. You can catch a boat here to take you around the city…
Boat trips are great for kids! Like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is built around many attractive canals, best viewed from a boat.
You can take the famous Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen to drive to Sweden, but for the same cost (or less if you book in advance) you can take the short ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingör in Sweden, which saves you a lot of driving distance too.
#4 Ships and Cars – Göteborg, Sweden
The second city in Sweden, Göteborg, is a city that deserves more attention. City life here evolves around two things: Ships and Volvo. The old port is home to many tall ships, docked just outside the attractive small city center.
From “Göteborgs Utkiken” in the red-white “Lipstick” tower on the harbour, you have great panoramas over the busy port.
Underneath the tower you will find the “Maritiman” maritime museum. The museum has a nice and varied collection of ships that you can visit, including this 1962-built Swedish Navy submarine “Nordkaparan”.
Check out the fresh fish that is delivered to the “Feskekörka” Fish Church. No religion, just the best fresh fish in the country. Great fish restaurants on the first floor too.
Göteborg is also “Volvo City”, with large car and truck factories all around town. Heart of the complex is the Volvo Museum, with a great collection of cars depicting the long history of one of Sweden’s best known brands. Kids can get inside the big truck cabins, with all buttons functional!
Feel like a kid again in the Volvo Kid’s Safety displays. One of the safest places in the world!
When in Sweden, eat like a local. In all towns streetside stalls and food trucks sell the famous Swedish hot dogs, called “Korv“. Eat it with a little ketchup for an authentic and cheap Swedish snack!
#5 Copper Red and Dalarna Horse Red – Falun, Sweden
A few hundred kilometers north of Göteborg is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Falun. This is where the famous red-brown Falun Red colour, abundant in all of Scandinavia, originates from. These are the famous medieval copper mines that funded the Swedish empire from medieval times.
On a guided tour you are taken deep into the medieval underground part of the “Falu Gruva” copper mine. Bring sturdy and waterproof boots and warm clothes. It is cold inside the old tunnels. A great climbing adventure for kids! Check the official website for opening hours and tours.
The area around Falun is home to endless woods and thousands of small and larger lakes. A wonderful land for hikers, fishermen, boaters and adventurous swimmers. Almost all campsites here are on the waterfront.
Falun is one of the six largest cities in the province of Dalarna. This province, just south of Swedish Lapland is home to a lot of arts and crafts, of which the famous Dalarna Horses are the best known. At several places, but most famously in the small village of Nusnäs, you can visit workshops where these brightly coloured horses are being manufactured.
After our adventure in Denmark and Sweden we crossed the border into Norway. See the second part of this blog for the remaining top-5 sights for kids in Norway! ———>