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Family of 4 Melt in Scandinavia--Stockholm, Copenhagen and the Lofoten, Oh My!

Family of 4 Melt in Scandinavia--Stockholm, Copenhagen and the Lofoten, Oh My!

Old Aug 30th, 2018, 01:06 PM
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Family of 4 Melt in Scandinavia--Stockholm, Copenhagen and the Lofoten, Oh My!

My husband and I and our two kids, 16 yo son and 15 yo daughter, traveled to Scandinavia the last 2 weeks in July. We spent about 4 days each in Stockholm, Copenhagen and the Lofoten Islands, Norway plus a day in Oslo.

We loved it. The cities are clean, beautiful and a wonderful mix of old and new. The landscape is gorgeous. The tap water is absolutely delicious. The people are friendly, kind and pretty much unflappable. We did not see any real extremes of anger/flustered/excitement/joy from people. English is readily spoken by just about everybody. (Though in the Lofoten, it was more rudimentary English.) A few people actually rolled their eyes when I asked if they spoke English before asking my question (I hate being presumptuous). They abide by the law, absolutely no jaywalking. If that crosswalk guy is red, you do not cross the street even with no cars in sight. Speed limits are strictly adhered to, to the km/hr. If it is 60, they go exactly 60. One place where it is every man for himself, however, is on the plane. As soon as that jetway door opens, people in the back of the plane push their way to the front to get off first. There is no orderly plan to disembark row by row from the front. The behavior, which we witnessed on all 5 flights, is such a dichotomy from what we experienced elsewhere. Public transportation is easy, reliable and plentiful. It is so nice to have screens on the buses announcing the next stop or a digital sign at the bus and subway stops counting down the time to next bus/train.

As it was July, Scandinavia was on holiday. Stockholm felt quiet to me but that could be just the way it is laid out around the water. Copenhagen did not feel quite as quiet. However, the seemingly never-ending loads of buses filled with Chinese tourist groups certainly added to the bustle at tourist stops. I expected the Lofotens to be more crowded based on what I had read, but it didn’t feel crowded at all.

It is interesting how much the weather influences your views of a place. Heat, cold, sun, rain, wind all have a part in forming your feelings of a location. When we planned this trip last fall, I had visions of spending 2 weeks in its typical beautiful, cool low-70s degree weather, a wonderful respite from our hot/humid Julys in the mid Atlantic US. Unfortunately, not only were we there during Europe’s worst heat wave but during the hottest of the wave. Stockholm was close to 90 degrees (30C). Someone told us it was the hottest summer in 200 years. People were very concerned about the wildfires too. The day we arrived in the Lofoten, above the arctic circle, it was 88 and our first full day was over 85. It is funny that my kids will always associate Scandinavia with heat.

Fortunately, it was not too humid, so while the sun was very hot, it was nice in the shade. The downside was, since there is no reason for air conditioning, you walk into a shop, restaurant, train, bus, even subway and expect to be hit with cool air (because of what we are accustomed to at home) and instead you are hit with a wall of stagnant heat about 20 degrees warmer than outside. Thankfully, dining outside is quite the norm so we took advantage of that whenever possible. And we had almost no rain until close to the end of the 2 weeks. Every day, we’d set out, look up and exclaim, “Oh, another beautiful blue sky day. No clouds in sight to take the edge of the unrelenting sun! Lucky us?!?!”

Transportation Logistics

We flew over using AA miles from JFK to Stockholm via Heathrow (AA and BA) and flew home on UA miles from Oslo to Newark via Heathrow (SAS and UA).

We took the SJ train from Stockholm to Copenhagen. Tickets cost $67, purchased 3 months out on the SJ website, for our family of 4. A one way air ticket would have cost at least that for one person. They are doing track work so instead of departing from Central Station, we departed from Södra Station on Sodermalm—a pit of a station compared to Central. We also had to change trains in Malmo. Talk on the forums had me worried that the train would be very delayed. It did stop for no reason for about 5 minutes about a half hour into the trip and we arrived in Malmo 7 minutes late making the connecting time a short 8 minutes, especially having to change from the regular platforms to the B platforms. But we made it in time and that train ended up arriving into the station about 5 minutes late as well. The train was comfortable, the scenery was pleasant (not spectacular) and the Wifi was fast and reliable.

We flew SAS from Copenhagen to Harstad/Narvik airport via Oslo. And then back to Oslo for our return trip home. Harstad airport is about a 2 ½ hour drive to Svolvær, the first good sized town in the Lofotens. We could have flown to Leknes and eliminated that time/drive, but the price was significantly more when adding up 4 tickets and we decided it wasn’t worth it. We made this decision last fall, so I don’t quite remember the details but I think the flight times weren’t as convenient either. Plus the rental car options were more plentiful/cheaper at Harstad. We rented a car from Hertz and I think at $90/day it is the most expensive car we’ve ever rented. We reserved a VW Golf/ manual/ no a/c and were upgraded to a hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander/ automatic/ a/c which was very nice. Who would have thought we’d be happy to have a/c that far north??

All flights were on time and uneventful. We travel with a normal carry on roller and a daypack each. On the BA flight from London to Stockholm, my daughter and I were allowed on with both but my husband and son, further back in the line, had to gate check their carry ons. On SAS we had to check our carryon bags, including on our flight to London/Newark. Back in Newark, everyone’s bags arrived but mine. Getting to the United services desk to report the missing bag was the biggest hassle of the trip. Dealing with rude employees, being told to go to a different terminal, waiting in line for 45 minutes. Welcome home indeed! The baggage service guy scanned my luggage ticket and said that the bag was at Newark. So I had visions of someone grabbing it thinking it was theirs and being at their mercy to return it. The bag was delivered 2 ½ days later and turns out he was wrong and the bag never made it onto our London to Newark flight and it came over the next day.

Getting There

If given the option, I will always choose to take the day flight to the London. I hate to sleep on planes. Though I have to say I purchased the Trtl travel pillow recently and, for the first time ever, I am able to drift off to sleep while sitting upright. But the dinner smells on those overnight flights make me nauseous and you really don’ t have much time to sleep, so I much prefer flying during the day and sleeping in a bed that night.

Our flight from JFK arrived at Heathrow at 9:45pm. Immigration took about 40 minutes and then we had the long hike to the train to connect to Terminal 4. Luckily, we only waited 5 min for the train. Then we walked to the Premier Inn (£45 for a family room sleeping 4) arriving around 11pm. Our flight to Stockholm departed at 7:05am giving us less than 5 hours to sleep. And we all did and were thankful to do it in a comfortable bed.

Up and at ‘em the next morning to catch the 4:50am public bus #482 or 490 at the stop right outside the hotel to get to Terminal 5. The bus is free within the airport zones. But, it was shift change time and the 490 bus arrived and was packed. Luckily, the 482 was a couple minutes behind it, a double decker bus and we were able to squeeze on. Almost all the people got off at a parking garage before we got to Terminal 5.

At Terminal 5, we breezed through security, though they are so much more thorough there than at home, for which I am grateful. And we were off to Stockholm!

NEXT: Are we there yet?

Last edited by lolfn; Aug 30th, 2018 at 01:10 PM.
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Old Aug 30th, 2018, 02:21 PM
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Old Aug 30th, 2018, 02:36 PM
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“A few people actually rolled their eyes when I asked if they spoke English before asking my question (I hate being presumptuous)”

i always ask too. A train ticket seller in Copenhagen once replied “what else would I speak?”
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Old Aug 30th, 2018, 07:50 PM
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planning a similar trip for next year - eagerly soaking in your experiences. I'm curious why you decided to go to the Lofoten Islands?
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Old Aug 30th, 2018, 09:59 PM
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Wonderful start to your report. Looking forward to reading more!
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by lauramsgarden
planning a similar trip for next year - eagerly soaking in your experiences. I'm curious why you decided to go to the Lofoten Islands?
Back in 2000, my husband and I spent a week in Norway enjoying Oslo, the NIN/ Flam trip, ferry to Balestrand/Kvikne hotel, ferry to Bergen for a few days and train back to Oslo. It was wonderful and highly recommended but we were looking for something different this time. We considered Alesund and around Geiranger fjord and then people on here suggested the Lofoten Islands. The more we looked into it, the more we couldn't stop thinking about visiting there and so happy we did.
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by xcountry
“A few people actually rolled their eyes when I asked if they spoke English before asking my question (I hate being presumptuous)”

i always ask too. A train ticket seller in Copenhagen once replied “what else would I speak?”
I did love it how someone would say something to me in Swedish/Danish/Norwegian and it took about a millisecond of my blank stare for them to immediately repeat it in English.
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 07:20 AM
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Thanks for following along. Hopefully some of this is helpful for those planning a trip or reliving one of their own. I'm happy to answer any questions about our experience.

STOCKHOLM

Sunday 7/22 to Tuesday 7/24

Some photos of mostly the skylines and buildings can be found HERE

Instead of detailing our day to day, I'll note the logistical stuff and then list what we did with my thoughts.

We arrived at Arlanda airport at 10 am to bright sunny skies. Immigration took 15 minutes. On a side note, our plane included a large group of English preteens who were embarking on a 6 day camping trip in the Swedish wilderness. They were quite rowdy and I had to admire the three group leaders who had taken on this undertaking. I could never do it myself.

We had pre-purchased tickets on the Arlanda Express, a summer special of 2 adults for 300 SEK ($34) and the kids were free. The trip to Central Station took about 20 min.

Stockholm is such a beautiful city. Sitting on 14 islands, the surrounding waters really add to the beauty and the feeling of openness and cleanliness. The architecture is stunning and there are plenty of scenic viewpoints to take in the different skylines. We focused our time in Gamla Stan (the old town), Djurgarden and Sodermalm. Unlike previous trips we’ve taken, I purposely did not create a jam packed itinerary. And, due to the heat, thank god we weren’t racing around. It was really nice to just stroll through the old streets or sit waterside and really take in the ambiance of the city. My favorite viewpoint was looking down Strandvagen with the elegant old buildings on one side and the bustling water on the other with many pleasure boats out and about.

Accommodation: We chose to stay at the Scandic Continental which is across the street from Central Station. When looking through the Scandic website, I found deep in the site that they offer “teen rooms”. If you reserve a standard room, 60 days in advance, based on availability, you can reserve a second room for your teens for €65/night. We reserved a refundable large family room at another hotel (which would have been a tight squeeze) as a backup. Then 60 days out, called Scandic to check on availability and reserved the two rooms for two nights. It saved us about $150/night and we got to spread out to two rooms.

The hotel was perfect for our needs. Great location, clean and modern rooms, nice views from our rooms which were next to each other and on the top floor. And really good air conditioning which was the last time we’d have that and we would sorely miss it. Breakfast was included and they had a very nice spread each morning including hot and cold selections plus make your own waffles. We overfilled ourselves both mornings so we didn’t feel the need to eat again until late afternoon.

They have a rooftop bar on the 8th floor with nice views of the city. We were on a different wing on the 10th floor. Our view was to the west so wasn’t as nice as looking to the east and over the water and old town. A number of reviews note that the bar can be very noisy with deep bass sounds late at night in nearby rooms. Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue for us.

Passes: We debated purchasing the 2 day Stockholm Pass for Monday and Tuesday because it was a pretty much a breakeven deal for us. In the end, we got them just to eliminate the hassle of purchasing tickets everywhere. And this turned out to be helpful at the Vasa and Drottningholm where the lines to purchase tickets were fairly long and we were able to skip up to the ticket scanner person. They actually had a separate line at the Vasa for pass holders. Plus, with the sunk cost well behind us in our memories, we didn’t feel bad if we ducked in and out of a place quickly. I did the mobile pass option and received 4 QR codes via email. Maybe I’m just clueless, but there was no way to save them to your phone, such as in the wallet, so I’m not sure what is so “mobile” about this option. It was just an email. I took a screenshot of each code and sent one to each person who then saved it to their photos. They scan the code at each attraction so that worked well.

Transit: We picked up 72 hour travel cards at the info kiosk in the train station for the duration of our time in the city and those did save us a lot of money. While we walked 8-9 miles per day, we also used the buses, subway and trams quite a bit. The SL app was very useful in mapping out the fastest journey utilizing all forms of public transport so I highly recommend downloading that. We most enjoyed the quick ferry rides from one island to another.

Bakeries: We did our best to sample as many bakeries as we possibly could in both Stockholm and Copenhagen, which isn’t hard as they are everywhere. They take their pastries and cinnamon or cardamom buns seriously and we thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon fika (and maybe sometimes 2) each day.

Dining: Frustratingly, we have an extremely picky 16 yo. The boy will choose to starve instead of eating something he thinks he will not like. Since restaurants are so expensive in Scandinavia, we focused on just filling our bellies with food that would make him happy, as cheaply as possible, and not searching out culinary experiences. The last thing we needed was to have him stare down a $40 entrée and not eat it. We had a lot of pizza, burgers and of course, hot dogs. Luckily, Stockholm has a number of great burger joints, though be prepared to pay $25-30 for your burger. Many of them focus on local, organic food/ grass fed beef/ pastured chicken, etc which is how we choose to eat at home. So we appreciated that. We found some good hole in the wall pizza places. I really enjoyed the kebob pizza.

We did go to Ostermalm’s Food Hall but it was closed for renovation. There was a temporary site next door with stalls but it was mostly food to take home to prepare. Nothing really appealed to us so we moved on but we were unable to find anywhere that we wanted to eat in that neighborhood which was mostly residential. We were headed back toward Djurgarden and I had seen good reviews for Sjocafeet restaurant right on the water after you cross over the bridge to the island. Normally, I would think a touristy place like that (there really are not any places to eat around those museums that I noticed) would be expensive and poor quality. But, due the reviews and our desperation we tried it and had a lovely lunch sitting outside next to the water. We each had a pizza and it was quite good. So don't be scared away if you are looking for a place to eat by the museums.

Money: The only place we got cash was in Copenhagen and that was just to do laundry at a laundromat close to our place that only took coins. So we got cash from an ATM and exchanged them for coins at a shop. We used credit cards everywhere else.

Next: What we managed to do without passing out from the heat...
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 02:29 PM
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Other than spending time soaking up the city and its streets, the following is what we visited during our stay. And, as a side note, we are not big museum people so did not visit many during our trip:

City Hall – City Hall is not included with the Stockholm Pass so it was our first stop on Sunday. You can only purchase tickets on site and you are assigned to the next available guided tour. The tours last about 45 minutes and take you through the building, giving you the history and interesting tidbits. It was a good introduction to the Swedes. The gold room is the star of the show and rightly so with over 18 million golden tiles making up the mosaics. With the banquets held there each year, she spoke a lot about the Nobel Prizes and I had never known that they split the prize banquets between Stockholm and Oslo because the two countries were in partnership at the time of Nobel’s death and he stipulated in his will that both cities should host events. (When we were in Oslo 18 years ago, we were upgraded at the Grand Hotel to the Nobel Suite where the Peace Prize winner stays every year. Very fancy digs.) The Hall sits right on the water with beautiful views from its waterfront promenade and terrace in front of it. You can also climb the tower at the Hall, separate timed ticket and also only purchased first come first served on the day. We arrived too late to get tickets.

Monteliiusvagen Viewpoint — We took the commuter ferry across the water from Klara Malarstrand to Söder Malarstrad and disembarked below the Monteliiusvagen view point. Södermalm sits high up on a cliff and there are beautiful viewpoints looking back toward the main city and the old town. We took the switchback path up the viewpoint and thoroughly enjoyed the views. Skinnarviksberget is another popular viewpoint a bit to the west of this one but we didn’t make it down there.

Södermalm – We happily and lazily wandered around the northern part of Södermalm considered to be the hipster area of Stockholm. The area had a really good vibe with people out enjoying the afternoon, eating and drinking.

Gamla Stan – The old town, founded in 1252, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe. We arrived later in the day, hoping that the many tourists and cruise ship day trippers had moved on. It was still busy but not overly crowded. It is fun to wander the old streets, wondering about life years ago, even though most of the streets are now lined with souvenir shops. We stopped by Mårten Trotzigs gränd, the skinniest street at just less than a meter wide. The graffiti takes away some of the allure though. We wandered through the famous square, Storoget, and checked out the tiniest statue, Järnpojke.

Vasa Museum – This museum is a must see as it is one of the most unique museums in the world and one that I think most people would find fascinating. We all enjoyed it and thought it was very well laid out. Get there early as it gets crowded and those Chinese have zero sense of personal space. It is mind blowing that 98% of the ship you see is original to 1628. The depiction of life on board was quite detailed and we thanked the stars above to have been born in the 20th century. We loved how they talk about how lucky we are to have such a specimen of a great warship from 400 years ago. If it truly was great, it wouldn’t have sunk before it left the harbor’s waters!

Skansen Museum – People either seem to love it or hate it. I wanted to go because my mom’s ancestors all came over from Sweden in the mid to late 1800s. I thought it would be interesting to imagine how they had lived. We weren’t interested in the zoo, just the open air museum part. I was imagining something akin to Williamsburg. Unfortunately, there were no people working in the area (like you see on the website.) Most of the business buildings were closed. We could walk into a few buildings and that was it. We walked by the farmsteads and the old church but the whole area had no life to it. I was disappointed. And it was hot and up a steep hill which didn’t add to our enthusiasm. I don’t understand why it was so dead, all the workers on holiday?

Gröna Lund – the amusement park. My kids, especially my son, are theme park fanatics. In fact, I’ll be extremely surprised if my son does not end up working in that industry. Once he got a look at Gröna Lund from afar, he had a one track mind solely focused on when we could go. He drove me nuts. It couldn’t wrap his head around visiting other sites that closed at 5pm while the park was open until 11pm, he just wanted to get there. We spent our second evening there and loved it. But, we love thrill rides. The top 2 favorites were the swings that rise up 400 feet and spin up to 43 miles/hr from 26 foot long chains. The views of Stockholm were spectacular. And a 300 foot drop tower that tilts you 90 degrees at the top so you are facing straight down, leaves you hanging like that for 8 seconds before plummeting 90km/hr to the ground swinging upright at the last second. I was always curious what it was like to sky dive and I feel like now I might have a small sense. There are 4 coasters, 2 other drop towers and more classic rides. For $38 each we purchased the unlimited ride wristbands—a deal compared to parks in the US. The park area was very compact for the number of rides. It was relatively busy with about 15-30 min wait times. Unlike Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, I don’t think it is charming enough to go to just experience the park without the rides.

Royal Palace in Gamla Stan – This is also another attraction that many people find not worth the time. I think I agree. First off, it was about 100 degrees inside with no moving air. I think one room had a fan and the ‘guard’ in that room was napping in a chair in front of it. Secondly, not much stood out to make it seem special. We moved pretty quickly through it. One feature that stood out to me in both this palace and the one at Drottningholm were the kakelugn, the blue and white tiled masonry stoves.

Drottningholm Palace – the current residence of the royal family. We enjoyed this excursion. You take a one hour boat ride to get to the palace and then enjoy the palace and grounds at your own pace. We took the first boat of the day at 10 am (arriving at 9:30 to line up) and it was packed. We grabbed seats outside at the front of the boat and those that went inside were regretting it. We could see people fanning themselves with brochures. It was hot inside. The boat becomes a ferry and made a few stops to pick up people at docks and drop them off, adding to the crowds on deck, especially when they are bringing on bicycles, dogs and large packages. One guy came down to retrieve his daily newspaper from the boat. The coastline was very pretty. Every rock and beach was filled with people trying to cool off though.

The palace was beautiful and was more to my liking with a more laid back/casual style with a lot of slip covered chairs, plain pine floors and those beautiful kakelugns. The gardens were pretty though fairly parched in the heat wave/drought. We visited the Chinese castle which was ok. Again, we were hot and getting tired walking around which unfortunately affected our viewpoints.

My family did not want to deal with another hour-long, possibly hot and crowded boat (whoever thought a boat ride could be hot?) So we hopped on a bus to Brommaplan and then the subway back into the city. It was very easy and took about 30 minutes to get back to the city.

Subway art – Stockholm is known for the art installations at its subway stations. Over 90 of the 100 stations have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings and reliefs by over 150 artists. Since we were already down in the system, we decided to take an hour and travel to some of the more popular stations. It was a nice change of pace from walking around on a hot afternoon and was interesting to see the different stations. Below are the stations we checked out:

Thorildsplan, green line, above ground station—we had to change trains here anyway. The walls have been tiled creating pixilated artwork which includes clouds, a bomb and pacman.

T-Centralen, the blue line is the deepest so it was nice and cool—These blue and white paintings depict workers and further down flowers.

Radhusset—staying on the blue line, this station is painted in browns and feels most cave like. There are large worker boots bolted upside down on the ceiling.

Solna Centrum—A few more stops on the blue line and the most dramatic. The ceilings and walls are painted blood red. The walls depict countryside scenes in red and green.

Tekniska Högskolan—we returned to T-Centralen and switched to the red line to head north a few stops. This station depicts a stormy sky.

Stadion—Heading back to T-Centralen, we stopped on the way here, the rainbow station

Fotografiska—the photography museum is another great, unique museum in Stockholm. I’m not a huge museum fan but enjoyed this one. The Linda McCartney exhibit is on now and features snapshops of their everyday life which I enjoyed.

Fjallgatan viewpoint—On the cliff above the Fotografiska is a nice walkway with beautiful views of Djurgarden, Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen and Gröna Lund. The blocks around Fjällgatan, Stigbergsgatan, Mäster Mikaels Gata, Fiskargatan, and Södra Teatern are lined with well-preserved wooden buildings from the 1700s on one side, including what I was told is the smallest house in Stockholm, and a magnificent view of the other. Very nice area to stroll around.

Shopping—One afternoon we walked back to the hotel along Drottinggatan, the pedestrian shopping street. All I wanted was a convenience store to purchase a drink and none were to be found. The street was pretty crowded and filled with mostly clothing shops, from what I remember. On our last afternoon in the city, my daughter wanted to check out the H&M flagship store. My husband and son were happy to chill out in the A/C in our hotel lobby instead of join us. And, as you can imagine, it was just a huge H&M store but neither of us were too into serious shopping. I did enjoy the large homegoods section as that is usually lacking in most of the H&Ms here. We also swung by Grandpa, which seems to make the list if you read any blog or places to go article for Stockholm. It sells hip and well curated items. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed, other places like Anthropologie do a much better job. But for a small joint with a couple locations, they have phenomenal PR. I would have loved to have gone to the flagship Ikea but, from what I undestand, it is a bus ride to the outskirts of the city.

NEXT: A relaxing day on the Archipelago
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Old Sep 1st, 2018, 09:29 AM
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Thank you so much for your detailed and interesting report. I'm especially impressed with your ability to spell all the place names correctly. I always find this challenging after a trip to another country, and don't want to be boorish by getting it wrong. I've not been able to get Fodor's guides in tangible form for Scandinavia and am finding the other guide books less useful for getting a sense of place - you are doing a lovely job of giving that insight. We are going in early-mid June so am praying the crowds won't be quite so bad. Looking forward to the next installment
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Old Sep 1st, 2018, 09:43 AM
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Your commentary on each site is excellent.
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Old Sep 1st, 2018, 10:20 AM
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Great photos, I hope you'll share more.
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Old Sep 1st, 2018, 06:07 PM
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Thanks for taking the time and care to write such a detailed and entertaining trip report, and your wonderful photos conveyed a real sense of what it's like to be there. Look forward to reading the rest!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2018, 06:11 AM
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Sometimes I go with "May we speak English?"
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Old Sep 3rd, 2018, 12:37 AM
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Thank you for posting your trip report. I was melting in Scandinavia in late July/early Aug too I was considering posting a trip report but I think you are doing an amazing report with a lot more detail than I will have. But I might post an abbreviated version in a couple of weeks. More from a solo female in Scandinavia perspective. I went to Copenhagen, Gotenburg, Oslo, Bergen and Stockholm.

Last edited by Ozgirl07; Sep 3rd, 2018 at 12:38 AM. Reason: Adding to my post.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2018, 12:30 PM
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Thanks all, here's the next installment...

@lauramsgarden - don't worry about the crowds, even at the time we went, they weren't terribly bothersome--unless you got stuck behind a busload of Chinese tourists

@cmstraf - actually, that is the perfect thing to say

@ozgirl07 - please do write up a report. I, for one, love hearing about everyone's experiences and it is always nice to read different viewpoints when researching.


Älgö ö

Some pictures can be found HERE though we really didn't take too many at this spot.

Tuesday 7/24 pm to Thursday 7/26 am

While in Stockholm, we wanted to experience summer life out on the archipelago. We looked to rent a cottage instead of staying at a hotel or just taking a daytrip to an island and, surprising to us, there wasn’t a huge selection for our dates/size/amenities requirements. I suppose the Swedes are all enjoying their cottages on holiday. But we did find a classic red waterfront cottage on Airbnb for 2 nights. It was located on Älgö ö, the closest towns being Solsidan and Saltsjöbadens. While still relatively close to Stockholm, it felt like light-years away from the city. We could have taken a train/buses to get to the cottage but decided to rent a car to eliminate all the hassle. Though, if they were available, I believe the owners would have picked us up in their boat from near the train station in Saltsjöbadens . We rented from Avis behind Central Station and were upgraded to a VW Passat wagon. It was actually nice that we could get to the cottage via land versus taking a ferry ride out there. It allowed us to more easily buy and bring groceries and gave us some freedom.

It was about a 30 minute drive from the city. We stopped at a super ICA market on the way to purchase groceries for our stay. Why is it always so fun to visit a large supermarket in a foreign country? This place had everything and it was great to poke around. Luckily, it had free wifi so I could utilize the google translate app when needed.

You can only purchase beer with less than 3.5% ABV in stores other than the state run stores. We did stop by a state liquor store and found the prices to be fairly reasonable, which surprised us based on what we had heard. Wine wasn’t that much more than what we’d spend at home (for the same bottle). Buying a drink, beer or wine in a restaurant definitely matched what we had read. $10 and up for a beer while the grocery store were about $1-2 each.

The little red cottage was very sweet and sat up a little hill overlooking the water and island across the way. While small, it was perfect for us and equipped with everything you could possibly need. Since it was so hot, we opened all windows and doors to get some airflow. Thankfully, we did not have any issues with bugs. At home, the house would have been filled with flies, moths, mosquitoes, lightning bugs but we had none there. One of the beds was up in a loft. It was an oven up there so we pulled the mattress down and put it on the living room floor for a kid to sleep on. The owners, a middle-aged couple, lived in the main house next door. They were very nice but we did not have much interaction with them other than the initial greeting and then a very nice conversation, of course mainly about the weather, on the dock before they went for a swim. The full day we were there, they were gone most of the day. They did offer to take us via boat over to nearby towns if we needed. But we were happy to just enjoy the quiet day.

We relaxed, swam in the Baltic Sea, a balmy 73 degrees (23C), which the owners said is unheard of. It didn’t even take your breath away when you jumped in and was so refreshing. We used their double kayak to paddle around the area. (We own similar kayaks but they are singles, not doubles--something that we both agree is a good thing.) But mostly just relaxed on the dock watching the boat traffic and daily life on the islands. The only thing I wish was different would be to have this time later in the trip when we were even more rundown from city sightseeing. The kids especially loved being able to kick back with really good wifi.

They had a wood-burning sauna on the dock which we could have had access to but, due to the wildfires and drought, there was a ban on open fires. I can assure you, when it is 90 degrees and sunny, you do not have any desire to use a sauna.

Mid-morning we did take a little drive to see some of the island. We could just see The Grand hotel Saltsjobaden way across the water from our cottage so we drove there to check it out. It seemed like a nice hotel and would probably be a nice respite for someone looking to get out of Stockholm with easy access.

It was a nice break to cook up some food instead of looking for restaurants trying to find something suitable for our picky eater that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. After a hearty breakfast our second morning, we packed up the car and headed back to the city to catch the train to Copenhagen. If they had not been doing track work, it would have been easy to drop the car back at Avis and walk the block to Central Station. Instead, my husband dropped the kids and me off at Sodra with the luggage, returned the car and hopped the commuter train one stop to join us.

We grabbed some hotdogs at Mormors Lilla Kok next to the station, some snacks at the grocery store across the street and jumped on the 11:21am train to Malmo.

Next: Copenhagen, here we come!

Last edited by lolfn; Sep 3rd, 2018 at 12:46 PM. Reason: wrong link
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Old Sep 4th, 2018, 02:31 AM
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Thanks for another enjoyable installment.

You wrote, "Why is it always so fun to visit a large supermarket in a foreign country?" i so agree how fun it is to see what people eat in other countries and to try new store-bought foods.

My husband and I are wine drinkers, but we stuck with beer in Sweden (and in Norway, Finland and Denmark) not only because of sticker shock but because the wine was locally produced and the wine imported.
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Old Sep 4th, 2018, 03:08 AM
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Food retail in Sweden is really bad, a couple of visits as a tourist to ICA is one thing, but shopping there regularly is another. Denmark is marginally better, in fact we go to Denmark for shopping occasionally as there is more choice. It is fun to see different things certainly, but the supermarkets are lacking in comparison to France or the UK. Supermarkets in and around Stockholm will be better but that is not representative of the rest of the country.
As for the price of wine in Sweden and Denmark, there is not much difference in price and sometimes it is cheaper than the equivalent in the UK. Systembolaget is the state run store in Sweden, their choice is pretty good and the smaller ones with less choice will order in wines for you. Draft beer is about SEK70 in a pub, glass of wine about SEK100 but a bottle is better value, same prices as the UK for example. I might pay around SEK600 for a bottle of wine in a restaurant and that would be one of the better ones.

Sticker shock is something I get when I go to the US.

Hot weather with temps in the 90s is not unusual, it was the duration of the hot spell which made this particular summer exceptional.
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Old Sep 4th, 2018, 07:17 PM
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Thanks @Diamantina

@Odin - we went to two grocery stores near the Sodra train station and both were pretty dismal. I assumed it was just the area or being a city market, but that is too bad if that is more along the lines of what you normally have to deal with. I thought the super ICA had a good selection but of course, we weren't doing our normal grocery shopping there. We, unfortunately, didn't make it to a market outside of a Netto for snacks and drinks in Copenhagen so I couldn't compare. At home, I drive 30 minutes each way 1-2 times per week to go to a great grocery store instead of less than 10 to go to one I hate, so I get traveling for what you want.

And the heat was only bad because you couldn't really escape it. We are so accustomed to air conditioning at home that we really missed having the moments of relief when you got on a bus or walked into a shop or restaurant.
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Old Sep 5th, 2018, 11:29 AM
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I am very confused by Skansen also. We were there in June and there were some buildings open with guides inside but many other buildings were closed as were all the food vendors and crafts stalls. I thought it was because we were there before the summer season. But the more reviews I read, the more I seem to think that this is the norm rather than the unusual. It really made us feel that this park was not worth the entry price.
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