Millie Jensen has spent all her adult life holidaying in her husband’s native Denmark and exploring further reaches of Scandinavia. Here are her favourite places to go.
GO GREEN IN DENMARK’S CAPITAL
I love Copenhagen! It’s billed as one of the world’s greenest cities and I’d go all out and say that it is the definitive eco capital. Apparently it will also be first CO2 neutral capital with a lofty aim to reach this status by 2025. Everywhere you look there’s people on bikes, jaw-dropping sustainable architecture and plenty of delicious organic food. You’ll spot children in mad contraptions being pedaled along by their parents, vertical gardens and restaurants that grow all their own food on site. My children and I have swum in the harbour, cycled easily through the city centre (this feat alone is unheard of in many other European cities) and taken an educational approach at Assistens Kirkegård park in Nørrebro. This historic cemetery is the resting place for prominent Danes such as Hans Christian Andersen and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. For a green sightseeing tour you can ride the CityCirkel buses powered by recyclable batteries. Or try out a Segway, which also runs on rechargeable power and lets you glide around Copenhagen’s sights. Next year Experimentarium reopens in Hellerup, just north of Copenhagen; this is set to be the finest science museum with exhibitions on energy, climate and the future. We are massive Smorebrod fans and tend to eat these exclusively when in Denmark but there is no shortage of amazing eateries in the city centre. Try Soupanatural in Nørrebro which specialises in soups, smoothies and (for grown-ups!) organic cocktails to-go. Check out HarboBar café on Blågårdsgade too, which makes spectacularly good organic coffee and cupcakes to die for.
5 MUST TRY CITY EXPERIENCES
- Hop on board on one of the brand new, solarpowered motorboats in Ry, East Jutland
- Go on a green energy tour in Samsøe - an island of renewable energy experts
- Try Copenhagen’s new cycle bridge The Bicycle Snake – a dynamic 235m long experience!
- Visit North Sealand and feast on local organic produce and wine.
- Go for a swim in one of the clean harbour baths in Aalborg, Nibe or Copenhagen
EXPLORE NORWEGIAN NATIONAL PARKS
The Norwegians believe that conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Getting out into the wilderness is a way of life here and Norway’s wonderfully inclusive access rights mean that vast swaths of virtually untouched land is yours to explore. My family and I love Jotunheimen, a breathtaking mountainous area with majestic peaks and glaciers. There are paths crisscrossing the whole area and we have happily spent several weeks exploring, leaving feeling stronger of lung and of thigh! Feeling energetic? Discover the two highest peaks in Northern Europe in this National Park; Galdhøpiggen at 2469m and Glittertind, with its ice cap, at 2464m. There are also magnificent lakes, such as Gjende (the largest) and the mesmerizing Bessvatnet. Between these two lakes, there is a marked trail across the narrow Besseggen Ridge, which is an epic introduction to this spectacular landscape. jotunheimen.com
EXPERIENCE ISLAND LIFE IN DENMARK
I thoroughly recommend visiting Bornholm, Denmark’s sun-drenched, slow-paced Baltic island. The incredible light has always attracted artists to the island with its craggy, granite coastline and pure, white beaches, and these qualities make it a great spot for a family break too. There is a unique feel to the island with its round churches, historic smoke houses and quaint fishing villages. When we visited we stayed with friends who introduced us to regional delicacies (check out the organic ice-cream in Snogebæk and visit the wine gum factory in Svaneke where seaweed is deployed as binding agent), showed us ancient rock carvings and lent us their bikes to explore the many cycle paths. bornholm.info/en
BECOME A HOBBIT
My children and I became firmly entrenched in an epic Tolkien adventure when walking the trails in the Geirangerfjord in Norway. There might be elves hidden behind gossamer veils of mist, or perhaps an orc will appear from behind an ancient moss-covered rock at any moment. This is truly the land of fairytales. The huge waterfalls have to be seen to be believed as they thunder down from almost vertical rockfaces. Even the names of these famous falls are bewitching; De syv søstrene (the Seven Sisters), Friaren (the Suitor), Brudesløret (the Bridal Veil). Westerås Farm is the best place to stay in the area and lots of walks start right from the door. Oh, and there are llamas, goats and sheep to pet too! You can choose from cabins or apartments, and the restaurant has a splendid view of the fjord and mountains. One walk not to be missed is the trail up to Storseterfossen, a huge waterfall that arches out from the mountainside so magnificently that you can walk behind the curtain of cascading water. Although we’ve yet to try kayaking here we’ve met fellow vacationing families who’ve the toured the fjords with a guide and it’s definitely on my to-do list next time we visit. You can also hire bikes or try your hand at rafting! geiranger.no
BUILD A SHELTER
We didn’t expect to get so adept at this so quickly but under the expert tutelage of the instructors at Vildmark Adventures we literally built ourselves a home for a week. My husband and I took a break together while the children stayed with granny andwanted to do something different and outside our (well, let’s be honest, my) comfort zone. We were provided with logs and ropes and other basics and from this crafted a pretty impressive raft, which we then sailed down the Klaräven, Sweden’s mightiest river. We stayed in tent on the raft for two nights but for most of our holiday we pitched the tent on the riverbank. It felt safer somehow! Awakening to strong coffee brewed on the stove while the sun rose behind us was amazing. Lazy, hazy days floating down a gentle, meandering river, with not a care in the world made this holiday one of my favourites. We might take the children next time! vildmark.se/en
LIVE WITH THE SAMI IN SWEDEN
If anyone knows what it is to live in harmony with nature it is the indigenous Sámi people of Lapland. It is possible to stay with the tribe at Nutti Sami Siida and join a local guide on an eco-adventure. The centre is set in the taiga forest 3 km from Jukkasjärvi village and you can stay in a cabin with basic facilities, or a Sámi lavvu tent, possibly even more basic. We chose the tent of course, sleeping on beds of twigs and reindeer skins, which was surprisingly comfortable! The guided hike in the Abisko National Park wended through stunning scenery past glorious mountain peaks, canyons and waterfalls. We hoped to witness the Northern Lights and although we didn’t get to see them, the experience of meeting the Sámi and really living their culture made this a trip of a lifetime for us. nutti.se/eng
FORAGE FOR YOUR SUPPER
I love mushroom hunting and berry picking and my husband loves going off-grid so this break in Sweden made perfect sense. Northwest of Stockholm in Bergslagen, an area known for its dense taiga forests and lakes is Kolarbyn eco-lodge. We traveled by train and it took about two hours to get to this beautiful clearing with 12 forest huts which blend perfectly into the surrounding forest. The huts we stayed in were basic but warm and fairly comfortable with sheepskins and a fire (which required my husband to chop firewood for and tend – he was in his element). We brought food with us and cooked over an open fire. We supplemented store-brought provisions with mushrooms and berries foraged from the land around us. We could have joined guided walks, taken a course in bushcraft, gone looking for elk and beaver or even tried howling with the local wolf pack (yes, really) but we needed to completely rest so we chose to remain at the hut and lounge about instead. wildsweden.com/kolarbyn-ecolodge
HOW TO GET THERE:
It’s easy to travel from London to Scandinavia by train, a wonderful journey with a lot to see on the way, a civilised alternative to a soulless flight.
SWEDEN Leave London in the morning and arriving in Stockholm in the evening the following day, with an overnight stop in Hamburg. This is the fastest option, with daily departures.
DENMARK Take Eurostar from London to either Brussels, Cologne or Hamburg, stay overnight, then travel to Copenhagen next morning. Between Puttgarten and Rødby the HamburgCopenhagen trains go onto a train ferry, one of the few places in the world where this still happens, a fascinating experience in itself.
NORWAY Although the last ferry between the UK and Norway was withdrawn, there’s no need to fly to Norway. It’s easy to travel by train, taking Eurostar to Hamburg, staying there overnight, taking an onward train to Copenhagen next morning then the luxurious overnight cruise ferry to Oslo.
With thanks to Mark Smith of seat61.com.