The Nordic capitals are amongst the prettiest places to visit in Europe. In the northernmost cities – like Oslo and Reykjavik- you can catch sightings of the spectacular aurora borealis. Further south, in the towns like Helsinki, fantastic mountain trails and fresh Nordic forests is just a stone’s throw away from the town’s centre.

But aside from the stunning natural settings, the capital cities of Northern Europe are filled with amazing attractions and stunning architecture. Exploring the differences in the varying Nordic cultures will keep you very occupied on your holidays – each capital is unique and exciting.

Read on to find out more on these fascinating capital cities and get some top tips on things to do and see while you’re there…

Stockholm – Sweden

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Sweden’s capital is situated on the picturesque waters of Lake Mälaren, which spans 14 islands.

All parts of the city are accessible from the centralised metro system, as well as a network of bridges that connect the different boroughs of the city.

Filled with baroque and contemporary minimalist architecture, the skyline of Stockholm is the perfect mix of old and new. Sweden’s National Museum, for example, was designed in 1792 and created to emulate the ornate structures of 16th century Italy. You can absorb the history of Sweden from the 1600s onwards in their range of informative and entertaining exhibits. Like other Nordic countries, all of Sweden’s national museums do a great job in preserving and sharing their country’s history. (Special shout-out the fantastic Abba Museum, which is also great fun for 70s pop fans.)

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For more great architecture and the chance to take some stunning street photography, head to the city’s old town district (Gamla Stan).

In the surrounding parts of the city, you can also find a fantastic array of independent clothing and furniture stores.Take some time to shop for some elegant and well-made clothes and interiors, that are designed to last for years and never go out of style. Be sure to check out Acne Studios for classic androgynous Scandi style and Grandpa Södermannagatan for modernist-inspired gifts and homewares.

Grandpa.

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Copenhagen,  Denmark

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Known by many as ‘the hub of Scandinavian arts and culture,’ Copenhagen is a must-visit stop on your travels. This is where the cultural concept of ‘Hygge’ was coined, and the riverside location and brightly coloured buildings certainly help to create that cosy and friendly ‘hygge’ atmosphere for all.

Quick Tip: Check out some of the town’s Hygge cultural tours for more info on how this concept fits into everyday life in Denmark.

As one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, take the time to grab a hire bike and get in the cycle lane for some of the best views of the city. Don’t miss the famous Mermaid statue at the Langelinie promenade.

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The vibrant city, as well as teaming with great Scandi-style restaurants, is packed with beautiful historic architecture, like the Royal Reception Rooms. Take your time when checking out this incredible royal palace and accompanying rose garden.

You would also be wise to check out the nearby Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park. This 200-year-old attraction has roller coasters, swing boats and everything a modern-day tourist could need for a fab family day out.

Another standout location is the National Library, which is a stunning brutalist-style structure located in the harbour. In the summer months, you can grab a drink from the library bar (that’s right, this library has a bar). Then pull up an outdoor deckchair and enjoy a flick through the latest Scandi bestselling crime thriller – ideal.

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For some retail therapy and great places to eat, head to the  Langelinie promenade and check out the deli of Løgismose and Restaurant Barr for some high-end Nordic cuisine.

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Oslo – Norway

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For history buffs looking to find out more about the Vikings, Oslo is home to the fantastic Viking Boat Museum. Here, you can see three Viking longboats and marvel at how these structures transported soldiers across the turbulent seas of Europe. If this hasn’t sated your appetite for all things Viking, you can also head to the nearby Folk Museum (Norsk Folkemuseum) and see structures and reenactments of life in Norway hundreds of years ago.

To see Norway’s Master painter Edvard Munch’s prolific works, head to the Capital’s Munch Museum. Here you can see the famous ‘The Scream’ painting and find out more about this famed artist’s career.

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Another must-see attraction in Oslo is the Fram Museum, where you can discover what the early explorers took with them to study both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

In terms of contemporary structures, Oslo’s Opera House is a stunning addition to the city’s scenery. Shaped to look like a glacier with layers of glass, visitors can admire the surrealist architecture from the roof and drink in the views of this picturesque city.

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Oslo also has easy access to the surrounding countryside – if you get a chance, make sure you head out of the city and take a walk in the beautiful nature nearby. In winter time, with a 20-minute ride on public transport, you can ‘hit the slopes’ and enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the city’s surrounding mountainous regions. Oslo really does have it all!

Helsinki- Finland

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Home to one in five Finns, Helsinki is still a small and compact city. However, Finland’s capital is brimming with stylish shops, bars, and restaurants and is situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Much of the architecture of the city is a mishmash of Swedish and Russian design, as Finland only became an independent nation around 100 years ago. The Floating Fortress of Suomenlinna, accessible by boat, is the perfect representation of the architectural mix, as many battles over the years saw this territory change hands.

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Nestled within the 1930’s architecture in Helsinki, you can also find lots of ultra-modern, brutalist inspired buildings such as the Chapel of Silence, which is definitely worth a look.

Helsinki is another hub of Scandi design and style – take a look around the Tori Quarter to find the best independent stores filled with stylish and simplistic, scandi-looking design. Lokal in particular is a concept store that epitomises modernist Finnish aesthetic. Shop the handpicked collection of arts and design gifts and furniture, for quirky one-of-a-kind pieces.

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For those with smaller shopping budgets but an affinity for Finnish children’s literature, don’t forget to check out Helsinki’s Moomins Shop! Finland is very proud to be home to the Moomins, so don’t forget to pick out some story books and cutesy Moomin merch like this chic little Moomins Ancestors pitcher!

Make sure to grab a bite to eat at Helsinki’s famous Shelter eatery – situated in a warehouse building in Kanavaranta, Shelter is the home to fine locally-sourced comfort foods like grilled entrecote and fresh pike.

If you’re already knackered by all this talk of shops and restaurants, don’t forget that you can unwind by taking a stroll on one of the city’s beaches in the summertime. You can even hire stand up paddle boards and get out in the beautiful Baltic Sea.

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Reykjavik – Iceland

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The Icelandic capital is an unforgettable destination for a long-weekend trip; there are plenty of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be had here, such as witnessing the spectacular Northern Lights.

While you’re there, make sure you take a quick detour to swim in the famous Blue Lagoon natural springs, situated just outside the city. The water in this lake is geothermically heated and contains, algae, minerals, and silica – believed to condition and rejuvenate the skin.

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To marvel at more volcanic rock formations, be sure to check out the Hallgrimskirkja church tower. Made from gigantic volcanic basalt columns, you can climb to the top of the tower and get the best views of the city.

The nightlife on Laugavegur High Street in Reykjavik usually gets going around 2am. So, depending on the time of year, you may want to alter your sleeping times accordingly! Reykjavik is praised by clubbers around the world for its casual and friendly attitude – as the population is so small, there are no queues or strict dress codes to adhere to. Many touring bands and DJ’s also make a point of traveling to the arctic circle for once-in-a-lifetime gigs at quirky venues like Húrra and Mengi.

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Taking a tour of the Nordic capitals is a worthwhile excursion for all travel enthusiasts.

The cities are so distinct from each other, and each and every one of them is filled to the brim with exciting sights and areas of environmental and cultural interest. So what are you waiting for? Get out there!