Aaaah Scandinavia. Best known for their fjords, long winter nights, Vikings, fairy tales and Ikea. But most of all, their expensive life style. According to the World Happiness Report all three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) are in the top 10 of happiest countries in the world. This is thanks to a low unemployment rate, just 6% compared to the 9,3% average in the rest of Europe. Oil in Norway and neutral during the 2th world war helped all countries save a lot of money. Combine this with the beautiful countryside and voila, recipe for happiness and wealth. Life in those countries is around 30% more expensive than in the rest of Europe. Do you want to get the full Scandinavian experience, here are some places that are worth staying at or visit.
Before leaving for our journey we decided to keep it budget. No fancy hotels, avoide restaurants and try not to do any expensive excursions. Well, this didn’t go as planned and in the end we spend a lot more than expected. We only booked our first 3 nights in a budget hotel in Copenhagen so the start was good. But that all changed rapidly.
We wanted to see the northern lights and get to play in the snow with dogs pulling our sledge, so we looked for a nice hotel in the northern part of Sweden. This was going to be our second destination and we found this:
(Ice Hotel – Sweden. source: www.icehotel.com)
The Ice Hotel. A hotel completely made of ice including the rooms, bar and even the glass you drink from. They also build a small bar in the center of Stockholm called the Ice Bar, which we also visited. The hotel features both cold and warm rooms. But if you are there you should try one of the ice rooms costing between 450 and 750 euros a night depending on season. If you stay more than one night, just book one night in one of the cold rooms and fill the rest up with a warm cozy one. It’s really freezing there!
We spend Christmas eve in Stockholm. Because we pre-booked our restaurant, this was still a budget one but we did go nuts on our hotel nights during Christmas. The best known and maybe one of the most luxurious hotels in town is The Grand Hotel. Although this is one beautiful hotel on the perfect spot we didn’t choose that one. We felt it was overrated and overpriced because there are other hotels offering the same type of room for a better price. And because we were spending most of our time outside of our hotel we didn’t care about all the extra’s The Grand has to offer. A standard room would cost us around 400 euros a night. For that money we were able to book a suite at Hotel Drottning Christina, which we did. For two nights.
After that we stayed at Elite Hotel Marina tower for another two nights. We were very sad that we already booked our flight to Oslo, because we would have been very happy to stay a bit longer to enjoy the view from our room. Although the hotel is out of the center it is located at the waterside looking out over the city. We wanted to stay in this hotel to have a panoramic view. Panoramic you say? Yes. One single suite is located on top of the tower. To get there you need to take the elevator to the 9th floor, switch elevators to get to the 10th and 11th floor, which you can only operate with your room key, so no noisy people on your floor. When you exit the elevator you will be in a small room of 2×2 with just one door. Your door. Enter the spacious suite and you will see a curling stair going up to a small glass room so you can enjoy a panoramic view, perfect for fireworks. Costs? Just 1400 euros per night. Sadly for us we weren’t there during New Year’s eve and besides, it was already booked for that night.
(TreeHotel Sweden. source: www.treehotel.se)
We still wanted to see the beauty of the countryside and enjoy nature. And what better way to do so in a tree house. Treehotel in Harads, Sweden has those. A couple of them actually. A UFO, a birds nest and a glass one. All worth trying and all cost around 500 euros a night. You will have complete privacy with nature surrounding you and if you’re lucky you will be able to see some wild life. Definitely worth it but something you should do in summer instead of winter. It is quite northerly, cold and the sun goes down at 3PM. So there is not much light to enjoy your surroundings.
Although both the Ice hotel and the Treehotel are located in the north, seeing the northern lights is still a bit tricky and you have to be lucky. Also at the time we were there the amount of snow was less than you would expect at that time of the year. So I if you want good snow, to ride your dog sled, there is only one place to go: Lyngen Lodge! Located way up north between mountains and fjords, not too far from Tromsø Norway, with a stunning view over the waterside. Everything you will need is there. Sauna, Jacuzzi, breakfast, 3 course dinner, guide who will help you take pictures of stars and the northern lights, you name it. They offer great package deals and activities starting at 1400 euros for 2 people/3 nights and yes this includes the meals.
(Lyngen Lodge Norway. source: www.lyngenlodge.com)
If you want to see the northern lights keep a couple of things in mind.
- Travel as far north as you can
- Travel to a place as far from lights (like cities) as possible. Find a dark spot to avoid light pollution. Even cities a couple of miles away will spoil your experience.
- Go in wintertime. October till February is good
- Plan your visit around the time it is new moon. This means there is no moon so you will have less light pollution.
- Do not expect to see the sun. From the end of November till half of January the sun doesn’t come up. So it is dark during your whole stay
- Stay for at least a week around the area. To be able to see the northern lights it has to be clear weather. So don’t try your luck by just visiting 3 days. Stay longer to increase your chances of having good weather.
- Last thing but not a must is, drive north by car. We rented a car from Oslo airport instead of flying to Tromsø. It is a long drive but worth every second. The scenery is mesmerizing. If you think it is too far just fly halfway, Bodø for example, and rent a car from there.
(Farris Bad Norway. source: www.farrisbad.no)
The only thing still on our list was to visit a sauna. Because, come on. If you are in Scandinavia you should visit a sauna. We asked for advice in our hotel. At that time we were stayed at Christiania Teater Hotel in Oslo. Although not the most luxurious it had something special. The staff is the best we encountered during our trip and they have their own private classic theater. The hotel is currently undergoing heavy maintenance so wait until those or done to get the full experience. The breakfast is by far the best we had. The location is perfect. Right in the center of the city and walking distance from all the major tourist attractions in Oslo. The guy who was so kind to help us advised us to go to Farris Bad Spa Hotel in Larvik. A double room starting at 300 euros a night. The spa is very good, you can walk right into the woods, most of the rooms have a beautiful view over the waterside and if you’re lucky you will be able to see the sunset right from your room.
Sadly we weren’t able to do and see all the things we wanted. Some things will have to wait. Otherwise our little trip to Scandinavia would have cost us 100.000 euros instead of 100.000 Norwegian Krones.