When I wanted to explore the thrills and chills of the Nordic Countries, I turned to Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, President of Fischer Travel, for insight. Known as the world’s leading luxury travel and lifestyle agency, Fischer makes the impossible possible. As the leader of their team, Stacy is the consummate expert. In fact, it was she who led the campaign to bring NOMA, the world’s best restaurant and original purveyor of Nordic cuisine, to Tokyo for a pop-up residency in 2015.
It’s no surprise that there has been an increase in winter travel to the Nordic regions. They have such an inventive food scene, the most original designs for home and fashion, outstanding activities, and easy flights to Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki. Each country offers compact walking cities, outdoor adventure, and many opportunities to see the Northern Lights from September through March.
In Copenhagen, rush hour brings bicycles instead of cars. Step out of the stream and dash into the deluxe classic Hotel d’Angleterre or the stylish boutique Nimb. Dine quayside at NOMA for the ultimate in foraged gourmet food. Hot on its heels is the 3 Michelin Star winner Geranium, which offers stellar city views. To make your mark in a Danish kitchen, take a class with Instagram star Timm Vladimir and fashion open-faced sandwiches.
Shoppers seize the stock at design essential Stilleben, and browse the ceramics, glass, textiles, and striking stationary. If you dare to be different, dig the exhibit spaces inside the Designer Zoo for the most artistic furniture and jewels, then watch the artists actualize ideas in their workshops.
Kids and adults can step back in time at the The Children’s Worker Museum to learn and experience a 1930s childhood in Europe. Complete your stay by watching one of Denmark’s enduring rituals, the changing of the guard at Amalienborg palace. You won’t forget the soldiers’ precision, pomp, and procession through the streets of Copenhagen en route to salute their Queen. A short drive across the Øresund strait brings you into the next Nordic country, Sweden.
Stockholm contends for most cosmopolitan of the Nordic capitals. The Swedish capital boasts the best hotel in the region, Ett Hem, Swedish for “at home,” in addition to the elegant waterside Grand Hotel and its trendy next-door neighbor, the Lydmar. Explore the city’s fourteen islands by foot and direct your stroll through the archipelago into a spontaneous food tour, stopping for serious dining at upscale Bobergs and daring darling of the moment Agrikultur. Then, perhaps the most pleasurable of all, voyage over to the Stockholms Matmarknad, where premium produce, free-range meat and poultry, just-out-of-the-ocean fish and cold pressed juices are waiting to meet you.
Come mid-day, find a café and take a fika, the Swedish coffee break that’s all about relaxing. Once satisfied, indulge in the shopper’s paradise of Scandinavia, making a treasure hunt out of Svenskt Tenn, the Valhalla of interior design. Uncover idiosyncratic prints by Josef Frank, the grandfather of Swedish textiles, before you reach Odd Molly, the sustainable cool-girl clothing brand.
When traveling with family, make time to wander through the Gamla Stan (Old Town) and find the famous handmade candy at Polkagris Kokeri.
Once in Helsinki, unpack your bags at Hotel F6 and unwind in the sauna, perhaps Finland’s greatest invention and indisputably the best way to endure an Arctic winter. Hit up Agata Bakery for a gluten-free fika, then join famished Fins at hyped Finnjavel for state-of-the-art creativity. Epicurean sophisticates may prefer Restaurant Ask’s organic fare inspired by the countryside.
High street shopping leads to Alvar Aalto, the gold standard for Finnish design, seen everywhere in the world, yet uniquely Finnish. Try on mother-daughter outfits and couture bunny shoes (not kidding) at Minna Parikka before indulging in artful conceptions of patterns and feminine shapes at Ivana Helsinki, the city’s vanguard of fashion, art and cinema. Don’t leave without popping into Iittala for glassware, dishes, and precious gifts, or Marimekko for quality, timeless, and cheerful fabrics.
Adopt an open outlook in Oslo on your way to the venerable luxury of the centrally located Hotel Continental. Once you’re settled, saunter through the streets of Northern Europe’s coolest address, The Thief Hotel and Spa, before ascending to its rooftop bar and restaurant. In a grittier time, the surrounding docks were home to Oslo’s criminals; however, like many modern waterfronts, it’s been revitalized by an unstoppable food and art scene.
Once hungry, don’t hesitate to dine with locals at Smalhans, a true insider favorite for a top-notch atmosphere and food served family-style. Au courant Maaemo is the Three Michelin Star jewel of Norway, serving the very finest meats, seafood, poultry, vegetables, berries, and herbs.
Finally, fill your suitcase with threads from Steen og Strom, Oslo’s top shop for cutting edge clothing. Before you go, board the breathtaking train or a quick flight to Bergen to admire the fjords, mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and spectacular architecture of the country. At night, behold the Northern Lights, which you can track like a pro using the Norway Lights app. Further north, you’ll find snow in abundance and a plenty enjoyable activities for adults and children alike.