A Scandinavian Road Trip
Travelling through Scandinavia is all about enjoying wide expanses and spirited cities. This 465-mile trip starting by renting a car in Stockholm and finishing in Copenhagen takes in some of the best of both destinations. Tracing the shore of the Baltic Sea as it heads south towards Denmark, the route also calls in at a number of historic coastal towns. There’s a lot of driving involved, but in a region as rolling and hassle-free as this, that’s by no means a bad thing.
Ingmar Bergman described Stockholm as “a large village, set in the middle of some forest and some lakes”. It’s still an apt description of Sweden’s glorious capital. Walk the cobbled alleys of Gamla Stan, pick up coffee and pastries at nearby Wienercaféet or take a dinner cruise among the city’s many islands. If shopping’s a priority, Svenska Rum stocks beautiful 18th and 19th century antiques while clothing boutique Filippa K sells Swedish designs. Both sit in the classy Östermalm district. From Stockholm, the road leads down to Söderköping, two hours away.
A gateway to the wilds of the St Anna Archipelago, the small harbour town of Söderköping has been in situ for at least 800 years. Two medieval churches still stand here, and the town marks the easternmost point of the 19th-century Göta Canal, which stretches across the country from Gothenburg. Boat trips along the canal are still hugely popular. In Söderköping itself, call in at Smultronstället, a longstanding ice-cream parlour – the name translates as “wild strawberries”. Back on the road, Västervik sits an hour south.
Set well off the main highway, the pretty coastal city of Västervik forms part of the Småland district, renowned for its glasswork. Once you’ve admired the setting (some 5,000 islands fan out from the city shoreline) delve into history at the Västervik Museum. For a meal, Saltmagasinet combines broad views with fresh organic produce. And if you’re after something more adventurous? The region is also famed for its climbing and bouldering. Following the coastal road down for a further 140 miles, you’ll come to Karlskrona.
Founded as a naval base in 1680, the UNESCO-listed port of Karlskrona is often described as Sweden’s only true baroque town. It’s certainly a handsome sight. Make the uphill walk to the vast town square and, if you’re here in summer, take a boat out to the Kungsholms Fortress. Wind down in the evening by booking a table in the Old Town at Nivå Steakhouse, or try the signature fondues at Två Rum och Kök. From Karlskrona, the route leads south through the Skåne region towards Malmö, where a bridge connects it with Copenhagen.
Denmark’s capital has become one of the coolest cities in Scandinavia, if not Europe. Cosmopolitan and compact, it mixes cultural venues and old-world architecture with a world-class food scene. Noma grabs the headlines, but it’s just one of many great restaurants: try Kokkeriet, which puts a new twist on the classics. Feeling arty? Admire Danish paintings at the Hirschsprungske Samling, then take in the superb range of Islamic works at the David Collection. Elsewhere, shoppers can head to the flagship stores of Strøget or the boutiques of independent-minded Elmegarde. And be sure to spend some time on Nyhavn, the city’s colourful quayside area – it’s a suitably attractive spot to round off the trip.