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What's the right mix for 17 days in Scandinavia

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What's the right mix for 17 days in Scandinavia

Old Jan 28th, 2020, 12:59 PM
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What's the right mix for 17 days in Scandinavia

Here's an obligatory "help me narrow down our itinerary" thread for our summer trip to Scandinavia. We're planning approximately two and a half weeks to see parts of Scandinavia. With lots of places to see within a (relatively) smaller area, it's extremely easy to over-plan such a trip. So I'd love suggestions to help us keep things realistic.

For example, I was originally (and naively) thinking that we could see Copenhagen, Norway (Oslo, NIN, Bergen), Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallin, but I know without asking any of you how overly ambitious that is. So your recommendations are welcome to help us narrow down. Here are the above locations listed in order of our interest:
  1. Stockholm
  2. Helsinki + Tallin (lumping these together, because we'd visit Tallin by ferry from Helsinki, likely for an overnight visit)
  3. Copenhagen (honestly, this interests us more than HEL, but we'll be visiting a Finn friend in HEL)
  4. Norway (putting this last because realistically, there's so much to see that it probably deserves its own trip)
Initial thoughts:
  • 4 nights in Stockholm
  • 4 nights in Helsinki, spending 1 of those nights in Tallin
  • 4 nights in Copenhagen
  • That would leave us 3-4 nights to either expand on the above or add in Norway, depending on what pace we want to set.
I expect no shortage of opinions, so I'll leave it pretty broadly there for now..... Hit me!
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Old Jan 28th, 2020, 02:25 PM
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What activities are you interested in? Museums? Historical sights? Architecture? Walking through forests? Day cruises (as on a Norwegian fjord or into Stockholm's archipelago)? Fine dining?

I'd cut a day from Helsinki and add this to the Norway portion of your trip. Though, if you are already spending one of your Helsinki days and nights in Tallinn, this will leave you even less time for Helsinki. Have you already made plans with friends in Helsinki? They might have some activities in mind. I've enjoyed Helsinki (as well as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bergen-NIN-Oslo), but, admittedly, it has relatively fewer attractions You could probably see its top attractions in a day or day and a half (Market Square/Kauppatori and Old Market Hall, Uspensky Cathedral, Senate Square with Helsinki Cathedral, Esplanadi Park, the historic UNESCO World Heritage fortress island of Suomenlinna, about a 15-minute ferry ride from Market Square).


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Old Jan 28th, 2020, 05:00 PM
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Well, I loved Stockholm, and it needs more time than you are giving it. I was underwhelmed by Tallinn (much preferred Riga) and somewhat by Helsinki. So if you are saving Norway for a separate trip (I recommend a Hurtigruten cruise), I suppose I would recommend Copenhagen over Helsinki. Unless you replaced Tallinn with St. Petersburg....
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Old Jan 28th, 2020, 05:43 PM
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It depends on what you want to see and do, but FWIW, I think 5 days in Stockholm about right as a starting estimate, particularly if you might have jet lag while there. 4 days strikes me as about right for Copenhagen, particularly if that includes a day trip to Roskilde. You can probably take a day off Helsinki -- 2 days is enough for Helsinki, IMO. I haven't been to Norway yet.

It's a lovely part of the world - enjoy!
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 02:16 AM
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I think you have the allocation of time for each city just about right except for Helsinki, as others have said, it doesn't have as much to see as the other cities. Can your Finnish friend meet you in Stockholm, off the ferry perhaps and skip Helsinki altogether?

Stockholm is very beautiful esp during the summer, so you might want to include a trip around the archipelago or the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, the days are very long at that time of the year too. Tallinn is a popular trip but only the Old Town is worth seeing, so quite a small area. Copenhagen is a "cooler" city, does not have the same beauty as Stockholm but the food scene is miles better. There are alot of places worth seeing outside of Copenhagen too.



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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 02:15 PM
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Also, when in summer will you be traveling? Midsummer is celebrated at the end of June.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 05:51 PM
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Thanks for the responses! Our research so far (guidebooks plus a few travel TV shows) has given us the same impression of Helsinki—seems like less of interest than the other cities mentioned—but my friend has been trying to get me to visit Finland for 15 years, so it's kind of a must-visit. But I'll take the advice to trim at least one night, and also will consider doing Tallin as a day trip (I looked at ferry schedules and it seems totally doable). So maybe it's possible to work in Norway after all....

More about us: I like history, museums and architecture; my wife enjoys scenery and food but not museums; and we have an 8-year-old traveler who prefers active pursuits (when her nose isn't stuck in a book, which is often). So in other words, the plan is to do a little bit of everything. The (not so) wee one has already proven her amazing travel skills in Iceland, Honduras, Scotland and Italy, so we have no doubt she'll do fine on this trip too.

Besides number of nights in each place, I'm also wondering what the most efficient route would be for visiting all of these places. I plan on an open jaw itinerary, and am going to aim for whatever results in the best fares, but is there a specific route that is most efficient?
  • Opinions seem mixed about train vs. plane from Copenhagen to Stockholm.
  • Ferry to/from Stockholm-Helsinki seems to be the best choice for scenery, etc. (daytime trip).
  • Oslo: Easier from Copenhagen or Stockholm? From either, any opinions on plane vs. train? Or same answer as the Copenhagen-Stockholm question?
  • Open jaw seems to make the most sense bookending Copenhagen and Helsinki, geographically speaking; is that a reasonable conclusion?
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 06:21 PM
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I have to admit that the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki would take too long for my interests. I'd fly, but as suggested above, I'd be sure to take a half-day ferry around Stockholm's archipelago.

Sorry I can't help with your other routing questions.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 06:39 PM
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I took the train from Copenhagen to Gothenburg and then on to Stockholm. I can't think of any reason not to take the train to Stockholm. For details see: https://www.seat61.com/international...agen-Stockholm

I did fly from Stockholm to Bergen, not Oslo, reading that the scenery was not very interesting. My understanding is that the night ferry is the best route from Copenhagen to Oslo.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 07:53 PM
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The ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki (Turku) has a 'reputation' - I think because alcohol is able to be served without the tax on it there is (used to be?) some wild behaviour particularly on the night trip. I did not know about this reputation until I had a Finnish student some years later, but my mother and I did a night trip from Turku to Stockholm in 1985 and did not reserve a room, my mother thinking that it would be OK in the group seating area. It was not, and I will spare you the details except to say that if you are travelling at night, make sure you reserve a room!!!

Lavandula
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 01:33 AM
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Yes I was told about the reputation back in the 90s as well, also by a Finn, when I used to spend some weekends in Helsinki whilst I was working in Moscow. the ferry had a nickname which I won't mention here. The ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki HAD a reputation as alcohol was less expensive onboard, I have been on that ferry in the last 3 years and the one to Riga but those wild alcohol fuelled parties did not happen on those particular trips.
Does any of this itinerary include midsummer? That could make a difference.

One of the ferries leaves at 1700 and arrives next day about 0930. If you take a half day trip around the archipelago, you still need to spend time on the trip. But if the OP wants to get off on an island and spend time there, the ferry is not the thing to take and best to take the trip once in Stockholm.
  • Opinions seem mixed about train vs. plane from Copenhagen to Stockholm. Most people I know doing this route fly. But it is expensive to get from Arlanda to Stockholm city centre on the Arlanda Express although you can take the normal suburban train. No reason not to take the train.
  • Ferry to/from Stockholm-Helsinki seems to be the best choice for scenery, etc. (daytime trip). Definitely but in summer the sun does not set until about 2.50am and rises again at 3.40am (depending when in summer you are going) Could the overnight work for you?
  • Oslo: Easier from Copenhagen or Stockholm? From either, any opinions on plane vs. train? Or same answer as the Copenhagen-Stockholm question? There is a ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo, have not been on it myself, but understand it is a nice way to arrive in Oslo. Maybe take this ferry instead of Helsink/Stockholm if you already have alot of ferries

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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 02:12 PM
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Thanks for the great tips, especially the bit from Odin about the Copenhagen to Oslo ferry—did not know about that, and it sounds perfect (and inexpensive).

Taking into account all of the above, I think we may try to work in a bit of Norway after all. What are your thoughts about this first-draft itinerary?

Day 1
Arrive Copenhagen late afternoon

Day 2-4 (3 nights)
Copenhagen

Day 4
Overnight ferry to Oslo

Day 5-6 (2 nights)
Oslo

Day 7-8 (2 nights)
Bergen (NIN from Oslo to Bergen on Day 7)

Day 9-13 (4 nights)
Fly to Stockholm

Day 13
Overnight ferry to Helsinki

Day 14-17
Helsinki (day trip to Tallin on Day 16, fly home afternoon of Day 17)
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 03:57 PM
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I'd want another day in Stockholm, but maybe that just me. Otherwise, looks like a fantastic trip!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 05:39 PM
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Your last post is exactly the trip we took with our (then) 12 year old. It was perfect. And we LOVED the overnight ferry on the Silja line between Stockholm and Helsinki. The scenery was beautiful, the drink area was a BLAST (even for kids!) and the smorgesbord (sp?) was delicious. And we took the overnight Ferry from Oslo back to Copenhagen. That ferry wasn't as much fun as the Silja line . . . I'm guessing because we'd never been on a "cruise" of any kind before that trip to Helsinki, and it kind of raised the bar on anything we did after.

NIN is great fun for everyone, especially kids. And the train from Oslo to the fjord portion was one of the best trains we've been on (and we've been on many, many trains). NOT the train from Voss to Bergen, which is utilitarian.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 07:05 PM
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Any other thoughts on this proposed itinerary? I'm getting close to pulling the trigger, so thought I'd ask for any final thoughts. My only hesitation is perhaps Helsinki—3 nights there, but that equates to two full days, and the plan has us on a day trip to Tallin for one of those. Wondering if we should perhaps add a day in Helsinki (adding a day to the overall trip) to not be too rushed there.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 07:14 PM
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Just an opinion, which I think repeats the gist of my previous observations:
I was glad to have 2 full days in Helsinki, so I can understand that you might want to add a day there, BUT your time in Stockholm still seems very short to me. Stockholm is probably easier to reach than Helsinki, so if you have to shortchange one, it might make sense to shortchange Stockholm. But FWIW, I'd rather have 1 day in Helsinki and at least 4 FULL days in Stockholm than 2 days in Helsinki and only 3 days in Stockholm.

Ultimately, though, you need to decide what YOU want to see and experience, check opening hours and estimate the time it will take YOU to do what you want to do, and then decide what to give up. (Because there's always more to see / do than possible, right? At least if you think through your priorities, you'll have a strategy in mind for doing so.

Whatever you choose, I'm sure it will be a delightful trip!
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:50 AM
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It seems fine to me, the amount of time in Stockholm depends on your interests, it would be enough time for me to see what I wanted to see. When in summer are you planning to travel? Midsummers Day is a big deal in Scandinavia, last time I spent that in Helsinki, the city was pretty much deserted.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 03:49 AM
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I would allow two full days for Helsinki, especially as your friend in Helsinki has been waiting 15 years for your visit. As you are interested in history, you're likely to enjoy Suomenlinna Island.
https://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/
As your wife enjoys scenery, perhaps you might all enjoy walking around Vallisaari Island, which is next to Suomenlinna Island and 20 minutes from by ferry from Market Square, It was nice to go for a walk through the woods so close to the city.
https://www.nationalparks.fi/en/vallisaari/nature
In addition to the Helsinki attractions I mentioned in my previous posting, you'd probably enjoy seeing Temppeliaukio Church, or what I think of as the "rock church", as you are interested in architecture.
https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/see-and...io-rock-church
Helsinki also has some interesting buildings in the National Romantic and Art Nouveau styles dating from the early 20th century, such as its Central Railway Station.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helsinki_Central_Station

I also visited the Atheneum Art Museum and the National Museum of Finland, which has attractive Art Nouveau-style frescoes on the ceiling of its entrance hall depicting scenes from the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala and painted by Finnish painter Akseli Gallén-Kallela. But as your wife doesn't like museums, this would probably be too much.

One half-day trip that I had meant to do from Helsinki was a visit to Porvoo, which is known for its picturesque and historic Old Town:
https://www.visitporvoo.fi/old-porvoo.
Nuuksio National Park is also close to Hlesinki (20 km).
https://www.nationalparks.fi/en/nuuksionp/trails

Helsinki's city center is walkable, and its trams are handy for attractions farther out. You can buy a one-zone all-day or multi-day public transportation pass covering trams, metro, buses, commuter trains within Helsinki and the Suomenlinna ferry (which departs from Market Square).
https://www.hsl.fi/en/dayticket
You can buy the passes at R-kiosks, large department stores, ticket machines and HSL service points, and they can be shared.

I'm sure your friend will have many ideas for restaurants, but I very much enjoyed Kuu Ravintola (ravintola means "restaurant").
https://ravintolakuu.fi/en/home/

I caught the 2.5 hour ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn and back. The short voyage through the Helsinki archipelago was enjoyable (though I didn't find it nearly as scenic as the Stockholm archipelago), but after leaving the Helsinki archipelago, there wasn't much to look at (or if there was I missed it) until Estonia finally came into view. The 2.5 hours seemed long, even though there are restaurants and shops on the ship. It also took a while to board and disembark from the ferry.

In Oslo, I'd set aside a day for visiting the museums of Bygdoy island, the Viking Ship Museum, Kontiki Museum, Fram/Polar Museum, and Norsk Folkmuseum, which has a beautiful stave church. These were all wonderful.
https://www.visitoslo.com/bygdoy
In the Oslo city center, you might want to view the Oslo City Hall, Vigeland Park, the Munch Museum and the Oslo Opera House. My husband and I also visited the National Gallery, which is closed as a new replacement is to open soon; the Museum of Cultural History, to see the runestones and Arctic Populations gallery; and the Astrup Fearnley Museum, whose collection of contemporary art might not be to everyone's taste, but its location is lovely, at the end of a pier, which I believe is called Aker Brygge.
We found it advantageous to buy an Oslo Pass.

In Bergen, you'll want to walk around Bryggen:
https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/59/
And take the funicular up Mt. Floyen
https://en.visitbergen.com/things-to...icular-p822813
My husband and I also enjoyed the Munch paintings at the Kode 3 Museum.
..Edvard Munch | KODE...
I wish we'd had time to take the cable car up to Mt. Ulriken
https://en.visitbergen.com/things-to...le-car-p824813



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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
FWIW, I'd rather have 1 day in Helsinki and at least 4 FULL days in Stockholm than 2 days in Helsinki and only 3 days in Stockholm.
If we were to add a day to Helsinki, it would be adding a day to the overall trip, not taking one away from Stockholm. My wife and I both agree that Stockholm seems most exciting of all the destinations on this trip. We have close to five days there: three full days, plus the day on which we depart on the overnight ferry to Helsinki, plus the arrival day (flight from Bergen, flight not yet booked, so timing unknown; but we'll try for an earlier flight).

Originally Posted by Odin View Post
When in summer are you planning to travel? Midsummers Day is a big deal in Scandinavia, last time I spent that in Helsinki, the city was pretty much deserted.
I don't remember if I answered this question when it came up before, but the plan is to go the first half of July. Midsummer is June 21; I assume festivities will be over by July?

Originally Posted by Diamantina View Post
I would allow two full days for Helsinki, especially as your friend in Helsinki has been waiting 15 years for your visit.
Ha ha, to be fair, she has lived in California for nearly 20 years (which is where I met her), and I see her regularly; I just haven't yet visited Finland on her urging. Though part of the reason for this overall trip is to finally take her up on the offer to show us around while she is there on her annual visit. We may just keep the days as planned above; though I know it's not a lot, we'll still have nearly two full days (the day of arrival via overnight ferry, plus a full day, plus the morning we depart; flight is not until after 6 PM).

Thanks again everyone, we really appreciate all the feedback and recommendations.

Last edited by RaymondLuxuryYacht; Feb 5th, 2020 at 06:23 AM.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 11:55 AM
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I'd like to think it's special when a local can show you around..
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