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Jump in and Discover Scandinavia: A Guide for First-Time Travelers

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Slette Beach in North Jutland © Niclas Jessen


Slette Beach in North Jutland © Niclas Jessen

So you’ve decided to visit Scandinavia? Congratulations! Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful and varied regions in the world. From the snow-capped peaks of the Norwegian mountains to the hidden beaches of Denmark, there’s something for everyone here.

But with so many unique places to see, it can take time to figure out where to start planning your adventure. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide for first-time travelers to the region. 

As US-based Scandinavia experts, we have crafted a range of luxury Scandinavia tour packages covering all the incredible Nordic countries. This means we’re perfectly placed to share the vital information you need when planning your trip.

If you have any questions for the Discover Scandinavia Tours team, please get in touch for the information you need. For now, though, let’s jump in and discover Scandinavia!

Must-See Sights and Must-Do Activities On a Scandinavia Tour

This breathtaking region is a popular tourist destination for a reason – you won’t want to miss its stunning architecture, awe-inspiring landscapes, and natural wonders.


Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Of course, every visitor arrives with their own bucket list, so we’d be here for a long time if we covered as many must-sees and must-dos as we’d like to! Instead, let’s look at some of the highlights in each destination we visit.

If it’s your first time in Scandinavia, you won’t want to miss:

  • Denmark: Copenhagen’s colorful buildings and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense.
  • Sweden: The historical city of Stockholm, Viking settlements, and Malmö’s blend of old and new.
  • Norway: Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle, the jaw-dropping fjords, and the charming city of Trondheim.
  • Finland: The vibrant capital of Helsinki, the wonderful Porvoo, and Finnish Lapland’s winter wonderland.
  • Iceland: The mesmerizing black sand beaches, the natural wonders of the Golden Circle, and the Blue Lagoon.
  • Estonia: The charming old town of Tallinn, which is a bonus stop on our Nordics Gold & Diamond tours.

Of course, the above barely scratches the surface of all the things you can see and do in Scandinavia. 

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Scandinavia?


Winter in the park at the Romsdal Museum. Credit: Tonje Saetre – Visitnorthwest.no

Ultimately, the best time of year to visit Scandinavia depends on what you want to see and do. Winter is perfect if you’re interested in seeing beautiful, snowy landscapes and enjoying the colder weather. 

This is also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights. As a natural phenomenon, no one can guarantee sightings, but they are common during the long, dark nights in the northern reaches. Read our Practical Guide for Wonderful Northern Lights Tours for more information.

However, summer is the best time to travel if you want to explore the cities and enjoy the warmer weather. Summers in Scandinavia are mild and comfortable. In July, the average temperature in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden ranges from 55 to 72°F.

Scandinavian summers are also famous for their long daylight hours. Around the summer solstice, you can even experience the Midnight Sun, when the night sky never arrives! If this sounds like your kind of adventure, find out more about planning a trip to Scandinavia during the Midnight Sun

We also recommend reading our blog Summer in Scandinavia. It’s filled with expert insights into visiting the Nordic region at this incredible time of year.

The best time of year to visit Scandinavia is a personal decision. But whenever you travel, make sure to pack clothing that will suit the weather.

Scandinavian Seasons and What to Pack

You can expect long days and warm weather if you’re visiting during the summer: pack light layers and breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Our packing list for a Norway summer vacation applies universally to all Scandinavian countries.

The temperatures gradually cool off in the fall months and the leaves start changing color, creating beautiful vistas. Bring jackets, sweaters, and boots to prepare for the colder weather. 

Winter is the most extreme season, with snow and below-freezing temperatures. Pack plenty of warm clothes (woolen sweaters, down jackets, thermal underwear) and waterproof boots. 

And finally, spring is mild, with temperatures slowly warming up. Bring a mix of light and heavy clothes to layer as needed.

We’re always happy to provide recommendations for people traveling to join one of our luxury Scandinavia tours, so please get in touch if you need more packing advice.

Local Nordic Cuisine and Where to Find the Best Restaurants

Seafood market in Gothenburg, Sweden. Credits: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se


Seafood market in Gothenburg, Sweden. Credits: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se

Food is a huge part of travel, and you can’t visit Scandinavia without trying the local cuisine. The region is known for its delicious seafood dishes, root vegetables such as potatoes and parsnips, and traditional dishes such as smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich.

To experience some of the best restaurants, search online for local eateries that offer quintessential Scandinavian fare. Local foodie bloggers are great sources to find hidden gems that the locals love. 

Don’t forget to look at the menu before you go, too —not only will you be able to make sure they serve dishes that appeal to you, but you’ll also get an idea of what sort of price range to expect.

Eating out in Scandinavia can be expensive compared to other European countries, but it is worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Don’t forget to bring your appetite —Scandinavian food won’t disappoint!

Looking for more Scandinavian food inspiration? Read our blog New Nordic Cuisine: A Feast for the Senses to find out more about the treats that await!

Quickfire Scandinavia Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors

  • Scandinavia has a reputation for its high cost of living, so be sure to budget accordingly. Nordic adventures don’t need to break the bank, but always remain aware of prices.
  • Stay on top of costs with solid knowledge of local currencies. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland use their own versions of the krona/krone, while Finland and Estonia use the euro.
  • Even before the pandemic, Scandinavian countries favored cards over cash, and this is even more the case now. It’s always wise to carry a little cash, but not everywhere will accept it. And if you have high-value notes, some places may struggle to give change. 
  • Be sure to research etiquette and humor in the countries you plan to visit. For example, punctuality is important and people rarely display emotions, especially negative ones.
  • Scandinavian countries regularly place highly in the World Happiness Report, so there is a generally warm atmosphere, but remember that Nordic cultures also value personal space.
  • On a similar note, Nordic countries also rank well on the Global Peace Index, so Scandinavian countries are broadly safe for visitors.
  • Most Scandinavians speak English at a very high if not fluent level, so communication will almost certainly not be an issue. Of course, learning some basic phrases is always welcome!
  • If you want to rent a bicycle or vehicle at any point, all Scandinavian countries drive on the right-hand side of the road.

Discover the Nordic Region with Our Scandinavia Luxury Tours

You don’t have to be a seasoned explorer to enjoy Scandinavia; it’s the perfect destination for a first-time traveler. There’s so much to see and do, and you can make the most of your trip with some planning.

Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark are all unique countries with their own cultures and history, so be sure to research before you go. And when you’re packing your bags, don’t forget the essentials like a good pair of walking shoes and a camera.

Discover Scandinavia Tours provides luxury Scandinavia tour packages in each of the Nordic countries. And if you want to cross borders and sample various cultures, look no further than our Scandinavian multi-country tours.

Are you ready to start planning your Scandinavian adventure? Simply get in touch with our expert team to take the first step.

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