Explore the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord from Flåm
NORWAY IN A NUTSHELL WILL FLOAT YOUR BOAT
Float with me as we continue our Norway in a Nutshell tour through the gorgeous Norwegian Fjords. More than one scenic train ride stemming from Oslo yesterday brought us to charming Flåm for a relaxing overnight once the tourist hoards had vacated. Bellies sated from the full Nordic buffet at the Fretheim Hotel this morning, we check out and head to the harbor to start the boated portion of our pre-planned Norwegian package.
Wending along in the eighth of ten cars, feeling the pull and sway along the tracks. Remarkably insulated from the bracing sound of metal wheels upon steel rails. Infrequent is the clickety clacking one most associates with this mode of travel. I love riding the train.
Save for the engineer’s voice announcing the next stop in Norwegian or the shape and color of the farm houses flying their Norsk flags dotting the countryside – it could be Oregon. Instead of Douglas Fir trees, Norwegian Spruce cover the hillsides. Wait – what? HILLSIDES?!? Ahhhh…. topography. Feels like home. It’s what I’m used to. It is beautiful. Snow still tops some of those distant green hills. Not so in Oregon this year. My mother visiting from my from worries for her yard and town and state with the lack of snowcap and exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.
Not a problem in Norway. (Not really in Denmark either.) In stark comparison, a wetter than normal winter and spring have proffered a beautiful, verdant and lush landscape ripe with wildflowers and light green leafy growth. The overcast skies we woke to on our third morning in Oslo didn’t make it past Hønefoss as we travel north and westerly towards Norway’s famous FJORD country. Today’s eventual destination is the little town of Flåm at the base of the Aurlandsfjord. All aboard the first leg or our Norway in a Nutshell tour. We are underway on a gorgeous rail ride through the Norwegian countryside beginning from Oslo’s Central Station.
I fell in love on a wrong turn back in August last year. I was exploring on a recce visit while my husband was working in Aarhus. I had no idea at the time that this quiet little full of color and charm street would be in my very own neighborhood. Oh to bike home to one of those brightly painted little row houses on a coming grey day. In summer they are a bloom with tall and brilliant hollyhocks and roses and lavender. (One of the Top 10 reasons I love summer in Copenhagen!)
When our American family of five expatriated from Portland, Oregon to Copenhagen, Denmark in the depths of December’s dark Danish days, everyone said – wait for summer. It’s amazing here. And it is. Summer in Copenhagen. But, speaking from experience, just don’t expect perfect weather. When it’s blue blue skies over head, there are few places better. Be prepared for some good days and some potential grey days. Remember to bring layers! Even if you turn up during a few of the more lacking days weather wise, you can absolutely still enjoy this beautiful city and have a great time exploring. So, without further ado, here are my favorite things to do in summer in Copenhagen, so far.
My Top 10 Danish Summer Experiences in Copenhagen – in no particular order:
Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world. (Bakken, right up the road in Klampenborg is the oldest, but we bought annual passes to Tivoli so it makes my list and should yours too!) Tivoli is all sorts of charming, but it can be crowded with tourists in the summer. A small luxury having annual passes, we can hop in and out as we please if the lines are too long. Just chilling on the lawn while the kids dart in and out from ride to ride is truly a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Most Fridays in the summer – there are free concerts (after you pay admission) from the lawn stage. My daughter loved Jessie J recently and we can’t wait for Snoop Dogg arriving soon! You can find the current events listing here as well as visiting hours and park plans.
Simple sampans on Tivoli Lake
The Dæmon offers more excitement
Tivoli Boys Guard adds charm
Saturday fireworks at Tivoli
2. Picnics –
There is a ton of green space in Copenhagen – large parks and gardens where you can enjoy the outdoors. We love our nearby Fælledparken in Østerbro and the Kings Garden (Kongen Have) by the Rosenborg Slot in the center of town. My absolute favorite place to picnic is really anywhere by the water, particularly a beach. Bellevue Beach in Klampenborg is worth the effort to get to (just jump on the C train and get off at the Klampenborg stop – then head towards the water). If that is too far from town for you try Amager Strand towards the airport with views of the Øresund Bridge. Our go to local hangout is Svanemøllen Strand – perfect for a dip, instant grill and a game of football. (And by football, I mean American football.) You can pick up a 20DKK disposable grill (approximately €2.7 or $3.00) at most grocery stores during the summer months. There are many excellent places to procure picnic provisions – but my favorite has to be Torvehallerne – the Glass Market near Nørreport Station in the middle of town. Lots of great take away options to eat there right there or take to nearby Botanical Gardens.
Pølser picnic at the beach
Insta grill at the beach
Rosenborg Slot Rose Garden
3. Boating in the canals –
Really – you must do this. Copenhagen is a harbor town. There is water everywhere. You must get out on it. Especially in the sommer. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Go Boat rents charming electric picnic boats by the hour. There is also a boat rental outlet near Fisketorvet. You can also rent kayaks from several places. But I adore the slow, cozy, picnic table centered Go Boats for their charm, ease and maneuverability. Highly recommend it at least once. So very fun fun!
4. Swimming in the harbor –
This is a so very Copenhagen thing to do. There are several Harbor Baths on the main canal where you can swim free of charge. And by baths – don’t think large men in towels – this is just a swimming pool on the water with lifeguards. Islands Brygge can be quite a scene when the weather is nice. People go to see and be seen hanging out on the lawn. My kids ignore the masses and LOVE jumping off the platform into the cool canal. Don’t like swimming with the masses – try the Copencabana Harbor Pool by Fisketorvet Shopping Mall – you can still jump off a slightly lower platform, but there were FAR fewer people there. More geared at lap swimmers and kids who like to jump in and out repeatedly. Worked for us!
5. Biking in the breeze –
No list would be complete that didn’t include biking in Copenhagen. This town is made for it. There are ROADS with their own stop lights for bikes here. Something about warm breezy weather and just biking bespeaks sommer to me. Perfection. Now that I can ride a bike that is! Yay me! Bike to your picnic. Or to a Harbor Pool. Or to a park! Or to drinks on the water… it can ALL be done on a bike in summer. (Or really anytime here in Copenhagen.)
When in Copenhagen
6. Drinks by the water –
Literally anywhere by the water. BYOB and pull up a bench along the canal or on the beach. Copenhagen has a very tolerant open container policy which I will admit feels very strange to me, but seems to work here and with the price of a drink out, I appreciate the option. Or try one of the many charming spots right on the water. I love the little kayak bars that skirt Slotsholmen or sit on the super darling canals in Christianshavn. So cute. Not out and about in a boat? But still want to feel part of the canal action? Go to Papirøen and the home of Copenhagen Street Food. Yummy drinks and so many good food choices. Or on the opposite side of the canal down near the Kastellet (not far from tourist stop the Little Mermaid) – go to Toldbolden. Drinks are a little spendier here and the stylish crowd reflects it, but the atmosphere is lovely. Nab a lounger and enjoy the people watching on and off the water.
Copenhagen Street Food
7. Fresh Danish Jordbær and Kirsebær –
Bright red, shiny, delicious and fresh Danish strawberries and cherries. You can buy them all over town. There is a fruit stand right by the Royal Botanical Garden. Another perfect spot for a picnic in the sommer to enjoy the flowers. You can also pick up fresh fruit and vegetables with your picnic supplies and excellent take away food at the Glass Market near Nørreport Station. A sunny late afternoon, early evening at a table outside at Torvehallerne is perfection. Grab a glass of cava or rosé and the duck confit sandwich from Ma Poule or tacos from Hija de Sanchez and enjoy. Delightful.
8. Flowers everywhere –
Speaking of flowers, they are abloom everywhere in Copenhagen. Hard not to notice them. Fragrant and lovely, the roses are beautiful here. Coming from a town known as the “Rose City,” (Portland, Oregon) I appreciate and adore this about sommer here.
Roses around the doors in town
A rose a day
Dragør a bloom
9. Is –
I scream, you scream, we all scream for is cream! Danish ice cream is delicious. Paradis is a chain that is all over town and affords an excellent scoop or two. My personal favorite is Østerberg Is in Østerbro. It is a small shop on Rosenvængets Allé run by Catherine Østerberg and family. Every flavor we have tried here is fantastic, but my go to (if it is available) is the lakrids (yes, licorice! The Danes are seeping in!) and kokos (coconut.) YUM. My husband loves the avocado and the kids go for the havtorn and hyldeblomst – also very Danish flavors.
Get off at the Klampenborg Train Station and head up the hill to the bridge. Here you can hire a horse drawn carriage to take you to the oldest amusement park in the world – Bakken. Or you can ask them to take you through the enormous Dyrehaven (Deer haven) Park up to the castle and see the huge herd of royal deer. Dyrehaven is also an excellent place for a picnic.
Carriage ride through Dyrehaven
More to add? Things so very Danish that I am missing? Please share. Cheers from Denmark! – Erin
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Exploring Viking Roots at Viking Museums Around Scandinavia
WHERE TO LEARN ABOUT VIKINGS IN DENMARK AND NORWAY
(Originally posted in 2015, updated June 2018)
Or where to go to learn about your fierce ancestors in Scandinavia. Not your ancestors you say? Could be! Read my last post for a wee bit of ancestral insight. So when in Rome – you know – you learn about Romans. And Italians and the Renaissance and such. (Can’t wait to show my kids!) When in Scandi-land, you learn about Vikings. And at every turn, there seems to be a Viking Museum. Ok, slight exaggeration. But we’ve been to three in the past 7 months. Not because we’re obsessed with the axe-wielding, long-haired, long-boat rowing, ancient warrior nation. I mean – I adore THOR. Especially Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor in the modern Marvel adaptation of the Avengers. We almost named our first born son Thor. Almost. Not really. But it is a good story. Ask me sometime. And there’s Oden (Thor’s dad) who gets his own day here – every week – on Onsdag. Or Wednesday in Danish. He inspires me to wander.