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7 Fascinating Nordic Settlements

From busy cities to tiny villages, the Nordic Countries have a plethora of beautiful and intriguing settlements to visit.

With only a handful of buildings, including a café, a gift shop, and a small guesthouse, Gásadalur is the ideal place to get away from the rush and worry of modern urban life.

Whether you want to learn about the rich history of the Vikings, explore the magic of the Arctic Circle, or experience unique contemporary art and culture, there is a vast number of places that the Nordic Countries have to offer.

iTHINK suggests seven of the most interesting settlements to visit on your next holiday.

Odense, Denmark

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Known for being the birthplace of fairy-tale author Hans Christian Anderson and the largest city on Funen Island, Odense is a culturally and architecturally vibrant place to explore.

For lovers of fairy-tales, the Hans Christian Andersen museum is a must-see site. Located in the building he was born in, the museum contains information about his childhood, personal items, and even some manuscripts and drawings of his.

For an immersive experience of the era during which he lived, there is also the Funen Village: an open-air museum that recreates village life in nineteenth century Denmark. Full of interactive re-enactors, this is a great place to learn about Danish history.

Egeskov Castle is another of Odense’s many attractions. It is a renaissance castle that stands in the middle of a small lake, and dates back to 1554. As well as demonstrating the architectural history of Denmark, the castle’s interior also features a collection of vintage cars and bikes.

Odense also offers music lovers the chance to explore the life of another Danish cultural icon at the Carl Nielsen Museum. Known as Denmark’s most prominent composer, Nielsen was born just south of Odense. This museum documents his childhood and later life, and features some of compositions and operas.

Borg, Norway

Though it is but a small hamlet in the Vestvågøy municipality of Norway, it is believed that over 1,000 years ago, Borg was the location of a Viking chieftain’s village.

This village has been recreated through the Lofotr Viking Museum, in which guests can experience life in the time of Vikings. With various seasonal attractions and even an annual Viking Festival, this museum offers the chance to taste Viking food, to learn Viking crafts, and even to fight in mock-Viking battles.

The museum also features historical artefacts from the Viking era, including amulets, drinking glasses, and swords, as well as information about the discovery of the ‘longhouse’ – the house where the Viking chieftain resided.

Nearer to the sea, Borg features a reconstructed longship boathouse, where you can board a Viking ship and even help sail and row it during the summer. There is also a smithy and a primitive ironworks where visitors can witness a blacksmith at work.

In the area between the museum and the boathouse, many animals including wild boar, wild sheep, horses, and cows can be seen grazing, as they did during the Viking era, allowing for a truly immersive trip back in time.

Gothenburg, Sweden

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Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and is bursting with exciting cultural and touristic opportunities.

First and foremost, there is Gothenburg’s art scene, which includes the Röda Sten Konsthall. This four-storey building was once a boiler house but has since been renovated into an art centre featuring works of contemporary art from both Swedish and international artists.

Röda Sten Konsthall exhibits a variety of different art mediums, including photography, paintings, performance art, and sound art, and runs a number of creative workshops to further explore the themes featured in their current artworks.

Just outside the museum, a 41-metre-long wall called Draken (the dragon) awaits all those interested in graffiti. One of the few legal graffiti walls in Gothenburg, visitors are encouraged to pain on Draken at any time (though it does run a ‘bring-your-own-paint’ policy).

Gothenburg is also home to Liseberg, the largest amusement park in Scandinavia. With tonnes of roller-coasters, twists, drop towers, and chair-swing rides, Liseberg is the perfect place for adrenaline junkies. There are also more child-friendly rides for a family visit.

For an exciting learning experience, visit Gothenburg’s Universeum: a museum that combines nature and science in unique and beautiful ways. Explore the Universeum’s rainforest, which is modelled after those in South America, or delve deep into the sea with its many aquariums.

Akureyri, Iceland

Despite being the second-largest city in Iceland, Akureyri has a population of about 20,000, making it a town in the eyes of most other countries in the world.

However, there’s plenty to do and plenty to see in Akureyri’s relatively small area. During the summer time, the city is a fantastic place to go on whale-watching tours. Tours will mostly take you into Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord, where you can see humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, and harbour porpoise.

Summertime is also a good time to visit Lystigarðurinn (the Botanical Gardens), which features over 430 species of native plants, and approximately 6,600 species of foreign plants. Despite the gardens’ proximity to the Arctic Circle, these plants are able to grow and thrive and are certainly worth a visit.

In winter, be sure to visit the Christmas House: a fairy-tale-esque building full of festivity. Though it is open all year round, the warmth of the fire and the winter-time decorations will fill you with the Christmas spirit.

For those who want to witness the beauty of the Northern Lights, Akureyri’s wintertime is a great opportunity to do so. Due to its northern location and sparse population, it is relatively easy to escape the light pollution and see this magical feat of nature from Akureyri.

Rovaniemi, Finland

The capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Claus. As such, Santa Claus Village is one of its most popular attractions and gives children the chance to meet Santa Claus all year round.

Featuring restaurants, shops, excursions, and safaris with Christmas and Arctic Circle themes, Santa Claus village is a fantastic place to experience snow-filled fun.

Husky and reindeer rides, snow-mobiles, snowmen, and visits to see the Northern Lights all make for a magical and unforgettable holiday experience.

Another magical experience in Rovaniemi is the Midnight Sun. During the summer solstice, the sun stays above the horizon for a full 24 hours on the arctic circle. However, in Rovaniemi, this phenomenon lasts for a whole month, from the 6th of June to the 7th of July.

This constant daylight allows for activities during both the day and night, including horseback-riding, jet-skiing and hiking. Sleeping will definitely not be high on your list of priorities.

Because of the majesty of the Northern Lights and intrigue of the Midnight Sun, Rovaniemi (and indeed the entirety of Lapland) is surrounded by legend in Finnish folklore. So be prepared for an utterly magical visit!

Bergen, Norway

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This often-rainy harbour-side city has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. A designated World Heritage City, Bergen contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the form of Bryggen.

Bryggen is an area of the city that features a Hanseatic wharf and buildings, which were reduced to ash by the fire of 1702, and many other fires throughout history. But it has been rebuilt using the same foundations, which have existed since the 12th century, allowing Bryggen to maintain its architectural style for hundreds of years.

For hiking-enthusiasts or those who enjoy magnificent views, take a trip up Mt. Fløyen and take in the city of Bergen at sunset. While hiking up the mountain is possible, there is also a funicular that operates every 15 minutes, making the mountain very accessible.

If you’re looking for an ice-cold drink, then visit the Magic Ice Bar: a functioning bar carved out of ice. A fascinating opportunity to drink while immersed in a winter wonderland, the Magic Ice Bar is a must-see site in Bergen.

And if you’re visiting Bergen during November or December, you can’t miss the largest gingerbread city in the world: Pepperkakebyen. Kindergartens and schools throughout the area contribute gingerbread structures every year to form a delicious, miniature version of Bergen.

Gásadalur, Vágar, The Faroe Islands

Gásadalur is a tiny settlement on the island of Vágar that was near complete depopulation in the early 2000s. As of 2012, its population was recorded as a mere 18 people.

The reason for this was because of the difficulty of reaching the village, as it was only accessible via a long hike through the mountains, a boat, or a helicopter. But now that there is a tunnel that allows cars to reach Gásadalur, it hopes to rise in popularity and population.

However, the beauty of the village and its surroundings is largely a result of its isolation. The untouched mountains that surround the village and the uninterrupted canvas of green grass make for a great hiking landscape, unimpeded by man-made structures.

One of the village’s main attractions is the gorgeous Múlafossur waterfall, which looks almost unearthly in its beauty as its water flows off the island cliff and into the sea.

With only a handful of buildings, including a café, a gift shop, and a small guesthouse, Gásadalur is the ideal place to get away from the rush and worry of modern urban life.

We hope you enjoyed our list of 7 Nordicsettlements to visit and have found some new ones to add to your list of travels and explorations.

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