Where to Stay: Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi
What to Eat: A cinnamon roll at Cafe Fanny in Porvoo
What to Do: You can either see Finland by stopping off a Baltic Sea Cruise or putting wheels down in the Nordic country. While the capital, Helsinki, is worth checking out (go see the Helsinki Cathedral), the real star is the Finnish countryside. If you are traveling with kids, consider stopping in Moominworld. The Moomins — Finnish literature characters created by Tove Jansson — are integral to the Finnish identity, and Moominworld is a theme park where the whole family can partake in the fun. If you are in search of history, Porvoo is a medieval town, and the second oldest in Finland — sign up for a walking tour of the Old Town when there. As you continue on, head to Lapland, the Northernmost region of the country. Whether making the trek to Lapland during summer or winter for a chance to see the Northern Lights, the remote country is sure to please — you can even go dogsledding as you hunt for the lights.
Where to Stay: Hotel D’Anglettere
What to Eat: An open-faced sandwich in Nyhavn
What to Do: Copenhagen, Denmark is a stand-out city. Take a walk along the row of Nyhavn to see the iconic colored houses, go shopping on Strøget (one of the longest pedestrian streets in the world), and venture into the city to learn about its history at the Rosenborg Castle. After seeing the Danish Crown Jewels, hop on a gondola tour through the canal and make a stop at The Little Mermaid. While Copenhagen might be small, you will never run out of things to see or do — especially if you choose to see the city by bike. If you are looking for something out of the box, join a treasure hunt to find six open air sculptures. Deemed The Six Forgotten Giants, artist Thomas Dambo created massive works of art out of recycled wood and littered them through the western municipalities of Copenhagen. Learn to experience art outside of a museum, and marvel in the display of these giants reminiscent of “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Where to Stay: THE THIEF
What to Eat: Experience different types of fish, like pickled herring and grab a cup of Norwegian coffee
What to Do: Oslo, the capital, was named the 2019 European Green Capital. So, happiness aside, Norway is working on becoming a sustainable destination for all from conserving the nature surrounding the capital to reducing pollution — they removed over 700 parking spots this year, in hopes to make the city more bike and public transportation friendly. After getting your fill of the culture (stop by the Oslo Opera House), make your way out of the capital. In Stavanger, you will find the wooden house settlement, which has over 170 white wooden houses, as well as Preikestolen, aka the Pulpit Rock, a top tourist attraction with breathtaking views. But one of the most notable sites? The fjords. If you only choose to do one thing when visiting the country, make your way to The Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For nature lovers, this is a must-do: spectacular waterfalls hugging dramatic cliffs are in your future. You can also experience the longest Midnight sun in Svalbard, where the sun doesn’t set from April 20 to August 22.
Where to Stay: Hotel Ranga
What to Eat: For a traditional experience, go for the fermented shark
What to Do: A favorite layover destination, Iceland is quickly becoming the place to vacation. In fact, the country is experiencing a steady number of visitors with more than two million visiting in 2017 — for reference, the population is a little over 340,000. But why are people making the trek (besides the fact that its residents experience more happiness than Americans)? The beauty. Just as beautiful in the summer as the winter, you can tailor the vacation to your needs. If you have time for a day trip outside of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is must. The route connects three stunning natural wonders — Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Field and Thingvellir National Park — giving you just a glimpse into the nature the country has to offer. Another good choice is the black sand beaches, the most famous being Reynisfjara and its basalt columns. Thanks to the 130 volcanos in the country, the sand is formed from volcanic ash. Just here for a layover? Visit the Blue Lagoon, it is close to the airport!
Where to Stay: De L’Europe, Amsterdam
What to Eat: Traditional Dutch Stroopwafels and cheese at one of the local cheese shops
What to Do: The Dutch country is perhaps best known for its tulips and coffeeshops — but there is so much more to experience. Amsterdam is only nine kilometers from the airport, making it the perfect destination for a European layover or weekend visit. Rich in history, the Van Gogh Museum — which re-opened in 2013 after a redesign — is just one of the many scattered throughout the country. Another stand out? The Anne Frank House, but you should beat the crowds by arriving first thing in the morning. Incredibly scenic, hop on a bicycle — the Netherlands is the number one bicycling nation — and make your way through the 35,000 kilometers of cycle paths. But if flowers are on your must-see, make a trip to Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower shop and pick up your favorite bouquet of fresh tulips and more.
Where to Stay: The W Verbier
What to Eat: Swiss chocolate, fondue and raclette (a personal favorite)
What to Do: Après ski, anyone? Enter full ski bunny mode and party like Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas at Verbier, one of the top ski villages in the country. Another great choice is Zermatt, an iconic ski village that is car-free, creating fresh air and a relaxing post-slopes environment. If skiing isn’t your activity of choice, make your way to Lake Geneva and the Patek Philippe Museum to immerse yourself in the country’s long watch-making history. In Montreux, Freddie Mercury fans can visit the studio where he recorded his last song. Looking to go during one of the warmer months? Hop on Switzerland’s most well-known adventure: a panoramic train trip. Just pick the itinerary that fits best with your schedule and viewing desires and prepare for the best photo ops of your life.
Where to Stay: Nobis Hotel Stockholm (you will enjoy complimentary Byredo bath products and the option of a traditional sauna)
What to Eat: Swedish meatballs at Bistro Bestick and the best espresso in the city at Espresso Sosta Bar
What to Do: The home of ABBA (yes, there is an ABBA Museum for those inclined), Sweden often finds itself as one of the happier places to live. In Stockholm, the capital, make your way to the Drottningholm Palace and Stockholm City Hall for a look into how the government works — and keeps their residents so happy. You will also find great shopping here: pick up a pair of Swedish Hasbeens clogs in the Old Town, head to Sadelmakarmästarna for custom-made leather, try on ready-to-wear at Our Legacy, and visit Byredo for one of the Swedish perfume house’s iconic scents. Beyond Stockholm, explore Uppsala, a college town that has become a study abroad favorite. Looking for a bit more of the Nordic scenery? Venture to Sarek National Park, one of the oldest in Europe.