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  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 10:25am

Nordic cool

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 October, 2010, 12:00am

The sky looks as though it has been scrubbed clean and the clouds fluffed up in a tumble dryer. The air is so fresh that breathing deeply can leave you feeling giddy. This is Scandinavia, a land of lakes and forests, mountains and glaciers.

Europe's biggest region, Scandinavia is famous for its outdoor sports, Viking history, grand castles and monuments, but also its villages and towns with quaint timber houses and cobbled streets. Nordic countries enjoy a robust economy, and nowhere is that more evident than in the bustling capital cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.

Copenhagen

The Danish capital is a stylish city, known for its high quality of life, cutting-edge design, striking architecture, gourmet restaurants and luxury shopping. In surveys it often ranks among the most livable cities in the world, and it's easy to understand why from the moment you step off the plane. The fresh air, absence of traffic jams and streets that are pristine and easy to find your way around, make it an irresistible destination.

Most residents live in small suburbs, and even in the city centre environmental issues are actively addressed by the government and people tend to walk or cycle rather than drive. Plus, limits on building height are strictly enforced.

That's not to say it's not a vibrant place. There are many historical and cultural attractions for visitors to enjoy, from the colourful 17th-century waterfront and canal district and an amusement park which provided the inspiration for Disneyland, to an impressive palace, antique treasures, modern art, and an Opera House - which cost US$500 million to build. Copenhagen offers an exceptional range of gourmet food, boasting 13 Michelin-starred restaurants. It's where you'll find the restaurant that many consider the best in the world. Noma uses locally sourced ingredients, which means you could find yourself feasting on produce such as pickled rose petals, bull rush hearts and green strawberries. For a taste of history, try Kong Hans Kaelder, the first classic French-style restaurant in the city. Asian food has its place here too, with Kiin Kiin, one of only two Michelin-starred Thai restaurants in the world.

Shopping should start with a stroll down the Stroget - the world's longest pedestrian street and Copenhagen's largest shopping area - to see some Danish designs. The real fun starts in Kronprinsensgade and Kobmagergade where you'll find cutting-edge fashion and designer labels. Gothersgade is an attractive alternative with its independent boutiques; and check out Copenhagen's department stores Magasin du Nord or Illum for just about everything.

Stockholm

Sweden's capital offers a striking contrast to the metropolis with its colourful timbered houses and cobbled streets. Called the 'Venice of the North', the city is built on 14 islands where Lake Malaren meets the Baltic Sea, connected by 57 bridges.

It's a green city (it was voted European Green Capital this year) and boasts the title of first National City Park in the world. Beautifully preserved castles, churches and museums abound and the medieval city centre is one of the largest and best preserved in Europe.

For shopping, forget Ikea and H&M. Ostermalm is deemed the most exclusive district in Stockholm, for its array of international brands and Scandinavian haute couture, while Stureplan Square and Biblioteksgatan should also be on your itinerary. Drottninggatan is where you'll find specialist shops and Nordic design stores. As for individual shops, few can resist the aptly named Life is Too Short Not to Wear Beautiful Things, a boutique referred to by locals as 'Life', while weary shoppers can round off a day's purchasing in Nordiska Kompaniet, a grand department store with a champagne bar upstairs. Having worked up an appetite, you'll be ready to appreciate what a gastronomic hub Stockholm is. Chief among the numerous culinary attractions is the city's Grand Hotel restaurant Mathias Dahlgren, which was awarded two Michelin stars this year and serves imaginative twists on classic Swedish cuisine. While Pontus! is a huge restaurant over three floors, including an oyster bar and a cocktail bar serving dim sum, sashimi and sushi. The renowned F12 restaurant, set within the high-ceilinged interior of the Royal Academy of Arts, is another of Stockholm's premier restaurants, attracting an international celebrity clientele.

Oslo

Smaller and lower key than its two Scandinavian sister cities, Norway's Oslo is an intriguing combination of city life and the great outdoors. It is surrounded by hills and forest, yet boasts gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers - sitting alongside Neoclassical architecture. Once home to distinguished playwright, Henrik Ibsen - often referred to as the father of modern drama - and host to the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the city's attractions include the Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Opera House.

Restaurant Oscarsgate is considered one of Norway's finest for its elegant and creative interpretations of contemporary and classic Scandinavian cuisine, while Ekebergrestauranten is an architectural monument with gourmet dining and Oslo's best views. The legendary Vienna-style Theatercafeen is an experience not to be missed and has been the city's favourite dining and meeting place for over 100 years.

Another historic venue is Glasmagasinet, one of Oslo's most famous department stores, built in the 18th century. Steen & Strom is the largest shopping centre in Norway, while Eger Karl Johan is a new high-end shopping centre which claims to be Oslo's most exclusive. Paleet, adjacent to the famous Grand Hotel offers designer labels in small boutiques. A shopping trip in Oslo wouldn't be complete though, without a visit to the main shopping district in Bogstadveien. There you'll find the ubiquitous department stores, but also small independent shops selling everything from exclusive underwear to kitchen utensils.

COPENHAGEN

BEST PLACES TO ...

DINE

Noma (1)

This year's winner of the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant award.

Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen

T (45) 3296 329

www.noma.dk

Kong Hans Kaelder (2)

French-Danish cuisine from the cellar of the city's oldest building.

Vingaardsstr?de 6, 1070 Copenhagen

T (45) 3311 6868

www.konghans.dk

Kiin Kiin

One of only two Michelin-starred Thai restaurants in the world.

Guldbergsgade 21, 2200 Copenhagen

T (45) 3535 7555

www.kiin.dk

SPEND

Magasin du Nord (3)

The country's oldest department store sits in a beautiful landmark building in the city centre.

Kongens Nytorv 13, 1095 Copenhagen

T (45) 3311 4433

www.shop.magasin.dk

Kobmagergade Street (4)

Find luxury brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Chanel and Marc Jacobs.

Georg Jensen (5)

Quality jewellery by the world-famous Danish silversmith.

Amagertorv 6, 1160 Copenhagen

T (45) 3311 4080

www.georgjensen.com

SNOOZE

Hotel D'Angleterre (6)

Romantics will love this 300-year-old hotel.

Kongens Nytorv 34, 1050 Copenhagen

T (45) 3312 0095

www.dangleterre.com

First Hotel Skt Petri

Indulge in a shopping package with private concierge while pooch gets a pet pampering.

Krystalgade 22, 1172 Copenhagen

T (45) 3345 9100

www.hotelsktpetri.com

Front Hotel (7)

Perfect base for exploring the Opera House, Amalienborg Palace and popular Nyhavn area.

21 Skt. Ann? Plads, 1250 Copenhagen

T (45) 3313 3400

www.scandichotels.com

STOCKHOLM

Best places to ...

DINE

Mathias Dahlgren (1)

Don't miss this double Michelin-starred restaurant at Scandinavia's Grand Hotel.

Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 10327 Stockholm

T (46) 8679 3500

www.grandhotel.se

Pontus!

Head to the oyster bar and then to the cocktail bar serving dim sum, sashimi and sushi.

Brunnsgatan 1, 11138 Stockholm

T (46) 5452 7300

www.pontusfrithiof.com

F12 (2)

Rock stars and entertainers flock to this restaurant inside the Royal Academy of Arts.

Fredsgatan 12, 11151 Stockholm

T (46) 0824 8052

www.f12.se

SPEND

Ostermalm (3)

One of the city's most exclusive districts, home to international labels.

Nordiska Kompaniet (4)

Department store boasts over a century of shopping, and a champagne bar upstairs.

Hamngatan 18-20 111 47 Stockholm

T (46) 8762 8000

www.nk.se

Stureplan Square (5)

An upscale area where business executives and beautiful people shop till they drop.

SNOOZE

The Grand Hotel Intercontinental (6)

A second home to royalty, heads of state, celebrities and Nobel laureates.

Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 10327 Stockholm

T (46) 8679 3500

www.ichotelsgroup.com

Hotel Diplomat (7)

A classic Art Nouveau building with spectacular views over the waterfront.

Strandvagen 7, 11456 Stockholm

T (46) 8459 6800

www.diplomathotel.com

Lydmar Hotel (8)

Art and music lovers can soak up the in-house exhibits and performances.

Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 2, 10324 Stockholm T (46) 0822 3160

www.lydmar.com

OSLO

Best places to ...

DINE

Ekebergrestauranten

An architechtural monument dishing up gourmet dining and great views. Kongsveien 15 0193 Oslo

T (47) 2324 2300

www.ekebergrestauranten.com

Restaurant Oscarsgate

Its modern food philosophy has earned it a Michelin-guide rating.

Inngang Pilestredet 63, 0350 Oslo

T (47) 4167 4543

www.restaurantoscarsgate.no

Theatercafeen (1)

The last of the grand Viennese cafes in the north of Europe, and a local favourite.

Stortingsgaten 24/26, 0161 Oslo

T (47) 2282 4000

www.hotel-continental.no

SPEND

Glasmagasinet (2)

An old and famous department store, housing Norway's largest kitchenware selection.

Stortorvet 9, 0155 Oslo

T (47) 2203 2080

www.glasmagasinet.no

Steen & Strom (3)

Top Scandinavian and international labels.

Nedre Slottsgate 8, 0153 Oslo

T (47) 2200 4000

www.steenogstrom.no

Eger Karl Johan (4)

Oslo's largest collection of exclusive brands.

Motehuset Eger Karl Johan, Karl Johans gate 23 B, 0150 Oslo

T (47) 4830 0600

www.egerkarljohan.no

SNOOZE

Hotel Continental (5)

Art lovers will enjoy the extensive collection of Edvard Munch prints.

Stortingsgaten 24/26, 0161 Oslo

T (47) 22 82 4000

www.hotel-continental.no

Grand Hotel Oslo (6)

A high-class hotel in the heart of town.

Karl Johans Gate 31, 0159 Oslo

T (47) 2321 2000

www.grand.no

Grims Grenka (7)

Scandinavian minimalism at its best. Kongens Gate 5, 0153 Oslo

T (47) 2310 7200

www.firsthotels.com

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