When planning your next trip to Europe, don’t forget the Scandinavian region of the continent. The capitals of Norway and Denmark invite visitors to not only explore the long histories of both cities, but also to see how they have emerged as modern metropolitan destinations perfect for a long getaway.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway for Scandinavian getaway

Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main street/Photo by Karon Warren

Situated on the Oslo fjord, Oslo, Norway, is what I call the perfect little city. Because of its compact size, you can walk from the waterfront to the city center in just 20 minutes. With my hotel, the Radisson SAS Plaza Hotel, just a few blocks off the water, I found this to be the perfect starting point for my explorations. As I explored, I encountered several not-to-be-missed stops for every visitor to this Scandinavian capital.

During your stay, take time to explore the city and stroll Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main street. Along the way, I enjoyed the antics of street performers, took a respite in one of the area’s small parks and strolled through the grounds of the Royal Palace. You’ll also find shops, boutiques and cafes, all hawking quite a selection of wares. All in all, it’s a wonderful place to spend a few hours enjoying the great outdoors.

In addition, you must check out Oslo’s museums that chronicle much of the country’s history on and around the water. For example, at the Viking Ship Museum, you’ll see three of the best preserved Viking ships around, along with a wealth of unique and interesting finds that give a glimpse into the lives of the folks of this era. Also amazing is the Kon-Tiki Museum, where you’ll learn about Thor Heyerdahal’s famous expeditions on such boats as the Kon-Tiki (a balsa raft), Ra (a papyrus vessel) and Tigris (a reed boat). Reading the stories of this scientist and adventurer was not only interesting, but also mind-boggling.

Copenhagen, Denmark

When planning a trip to Europe, consider a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark. Water is a major player in Copenhagen, where you’ll find a wonderful blend of ancient city streets and lively canals, all intertwined to create this capital. And although 1.7 million live in the greater Copenhagen area, this city is actually quite an intimate locale, making it fun and easy to discover.

Tivoli for Scandinavian getaway

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen/Photo by Karon Warren

A great way to see this city is via a canal tour. Lasting about an hour, my tour with DFDS Canal Tours took me throughout the city, with the guide pointing out many of the city’s attractions and historical sites. One such site is The Little Mermaid. Touted as Denmark’s most popular tourist attraction, The Little Mermaid is the subject of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous fairy tales (long before Disney romanticized it for children). Presented to Copenhagen in 1913 by the Carlsberg Brewery, she sits forlornly, overlooking the water as she mourns her lost love.

For more entertainment, head to Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park opened in 1843 that contains 25 rides, several performance venues and a number of restaurants. One such ride, The Flying Trunk, examines Andersen’s fairy tales in an amusing way. Similar to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride, The Flying Trunk takes riders on a journey through 32 of Andersen’s fairy tales. The fun part was seeing which ones I recognized and trying to figure out those I did not.

A Scandinavian capital getaway is just the starting point for exploring these countries. If you have the time to explore further, I definitely recommend going beyond the city limits to see what adventures you will discover.