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Norway or Denmark

Me and my wife are trying to figure out whether to go to Denmark or Norway. Our 13 month son will be with us, he is a good traveler. We will be going from July 4th-12 so a bit of a quick trip.

Denmark draws us because of its compactness, and seems more manageable with the time we have. My wifes great grandfather came from Denmark so there is a ancestral pull. Cultural spots, viking history, scenic views, churches all interest us. Denmark has been a top 10 destination for us for along time. Copenhagen has always struck us as a beautiful city.

Norway has for both of us probable always been one of our top 3 destinations. The Fjords the nature and scery, as well as viking history and other history the culture and lore is a big draw. Stave churches. Also the ability to see a real life troll in its native environment.

If time and money were no option we would probable say Norway. Our fear is that in 6 days we could not begin to see what we would want to of Norway.

Any advice or suggestions?

Posted by
12040 posts

I personally think Norway is one of the greatest places on earth... but outside of Oslo, travel times between destinations are VERY long. With a young 'un in tow, I would probably choose the shorter commutes of Denmark.

Posted by
2528 posts

So, if Norway is one of your top three travel destinations, is it accurate to assume that Denmark is not? Six days can offer a lovely taste of Norway, and of the two countries, it's the one I favor more for another return trip. With the time constraint, I'd suggest Oslo and if you want to squeeze in another venue, Lillehammer (by train a bit over two hours, no changes) . Read guidebooks, watch videos, and otherwise do the research. Have a great trip!

Posted by
3696 posts

I think Copenhagen would be a great city to visit with a child, but not sure I could fill all those days.

If Norway is a top destination then I say go for it... There is never enough time to do everything.
I try to go to the places I really want to see, not a runner up.
What will you regret most??? That is how I try to make my choices.

Posted by
16894 posts

I really loved both countries and yes, was impressed by how many sights of interest are packed into the compactness of Denmark (including LEGOLAND). Also nice hostels with family-sized rooms and (in my short experience) better grocery shopping selection than in Norway.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello prendari. I travelled in Norway, and I was at Copenhagen. If you will be at Europe a total of six whole days, I think being at Denmark would be more satisfying. I liked the city Copenhagen more than the city Oslo. And as you said, Denmark is more compact, it is more manageable in the time that you have. You could have your overnight accommodation at Copenhagen every night, be at Copenhagen two whole days, and go on day trips from Copenhagen (via trains). I liked the people at Copenhagen. Some of them are Scandinavian, and some are Germanic types. Danish people are known for being fun loving. Copenhagen is generally casual, I felt good when I was there. Be prepared for high prices for food, at Copenhagen or at Oslo.

Posted by
1 posts

By now, you've been already, so I'll write this for the next people who ask. :)

I spent a little over a week in Norway in 2013. We arrived in Bergen (from Iceland) explored that for a couple of days, took the "Norway in a nutshell" transport to Oslo, overnighting in Flåm, and spent the rest of the time in Oslo making excellent use of Oslo passes.

Note that I'm a New Zealander, so Norway's spectacular landscape was very familiar. The thing that got to me was that it'd had people living in it for millennia rather than centuries, and the way that marked the land. Also that Norway as a modern state is younger than NZ as a modern state, and that it handled its national self-creation story in some interesting ways.

I liked Bergen. It's a hilly university city that reminded me of Wellington, New Zealand, right down to the cable car. As a coastal city facing the prevailing wind it has a rep for being rainy. It also has a fairly well-developed central tourist precinct that seemed to cater particularly to US visitors of Norwegian ancestry. We enjoyed a leisurely wander through the two different parts of the University Museum of Bergen: the cultural history collection (which was really quite well done), and the natural history collection (which was special partly because it was a fossilised version of what old natural history museums were like, complete with somewhat sad stuffed animals and rows of specimens pickled in formaldehyde that would fascinate a certain sort of child on a rainy weekend: it's now closed for a major renovation).

"Norway in a nutshell" is an enjoyable cliche of Norwegian vistas. It moves you through the landscape, from city through farmland to fjords and mountains, and back down the other side. We did it in early May, when the melt was quickening the many waterfalls. The route connects the sides of the country and includes a lot of tunnels. It was a major public works scheme.

Oslo is a fairly standard Nordic harbour city. We spent a couple of days on what we dubbed "The Island of Museums" exploring the ships-in-buildings that are a feature there. Go to the Vikingskipshuset and admire the curves of the Gokstad ship (the Oseberg ship was sadly ruined, and the pieces steamed into the shape the reconstructors thought it ought to have). Visit the other ship museums for tales of dedicated polar exploration and ocean voyages in experimental craft. Then see a collection of buildings from around Norway, brought together in a park where you can wander from merchants' houses to stave churches to rural homesteads. If you're lucky, there'll be people baking in the bakehouse, making lefse flatbread, and selling it hot by the wedge.

One of the nice things about the Oslo pass is that you can drop into museums that you might not otherwise visit. The Nobel Museum (Nobels Fredssenter) was pleasantly surprising both for the nature of its exhibits (while we were there they had an exhibit explaining the reasoning behind forming the EC-which-became-the-EU, which I hadn't known) and for the curatorship and museum-craft displayed in how they present them. (And for having a gift shop selling a board game called War on Terror, complete with a balaklava for the person playing the terrorist.) There are Munch paintings, lots of Romantic landscape paintings that go with that myth of Norwegian national identity, and some decent coffee.

Unless you really want to go somewhere in particular that's off the nutshell route -- like a family connection or Preikestolen -- I'd suggest not driving yourself if you're doing a short stay in Norway. Sit back and enjoy the views.

I'm heading to Denmark later this year, so I hope to be able to compare it.

Posted by
4 posts

This is Joy, prendari's wife! I just wanted to thank you all for your replies and mention what we did in case anybody else was interested. We chose to go to Norway because even though we also really wanted to visit Denmark (and still hope to someday soon), Norway has been one of our must-visit countries for years. We decided to go with the Norway in a Nutshell and Hurtigruten package through Fjord Tours. They arranged all the transportation for us and offered hotel options, which we utilized most nights.

We flew into Oslo and only had 3 hours there before catching the 8 hour train to Trondheim. If traveling with a family, I definitely don't recommend an 8 hour train ride after 20+ hours flying. I wish we had an extra day to spend in Oslo to see the folk museum and viking ship museum. But we did have enough time to get some lunch (and quickly realized just how expensive Norway is!) and see the Oslo Cathedral. We appreciated the kids' cart on the train, especially the play area there.

We arrived in Trondheim by train our first night and spent the full next day there. We got a combined ticket and saw Nidaros Cathedral, Norwegian Crown Jewels, and Archbishop's Palace. Nidaros was so beautiful, especially on the inside! Then we spent a couple hours exploring the open-air folk museum, which was nice.

We left the following morning for a 28 hour ride on the Hurtigruten. That is such an impressive ship! We loved our time cruising through the fjords from Trondheim to Bergen, and really hope to visit Norway again in the future and take the full 11-day roundtrip journey. This taste was great! We did an optional excursion to see a stave church, have local cuisine for dinner, and drive along the Atlantic Road (those bridges are so cool). Our cabin was small but nice, the views from the ship were great, and the kids' play area was fun for our baby.

We landed in Bergen and had the late afternoon and evening there. We wish we had more time in Bergen, but were grateful that it was still light at 11 PM so we could explore as much as possible. We first had dinner in historic Bryggen, then explored all the old buildings on the wharf, which are now gift shops. We also checked out some seafood vendor shops nearby. Then we took the funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen. The views of the entire city of Bergen from the top of the mountain are incredible! We walked around one of the many hiking trails, took our pictures with a troll, and played on the playground. It was fun!

The next day we traveled to Flam by train, bus, and ferry. The scenery from the bus was absolutely beautiful. The scenery from the ferry was great too, but it was overcrowded. We rented an apartment in Flam, and it was so nice having the space to stretch out and our own deck overlooking the fjords. We explored the town a bit. It's definitely a touristy town, but the views of the fjord are amazing. That evening we took the Heritage Taste FjordSafari (inspired by Rick Steves!). That was SO much fun and a definite highlight for us. The views were incredible! We must've seen a hundred waterfalls that day. Plus our baby slept the whole boat ride.

The following day we relaxed at our apartment, then got our rental car. We loved having a car, even if it was just for 24 hours. We stopped by Undredal to see the stave church and goats. Then we saw Borgund Stave Church, which was a dream come true for me. The church was incredible and we hiked through the woods after (note - easy hikes to Norwegian are hard to Americans!).

The next morning we saw the views from the Stegastein Lookout, then went to Otternes farm village (once again, inspired by Rick). We enjoyed the English tour, the views of the fjord from the top, giving the lambs a bottle, and raspberry sorbet. We saw a couple more churches, then returned our car. We took the Flam Railway and enjoyed the beautiful views on our way to Myrdal, then took a 5 hour train to Oslo. We flew out the next morning, exhausted but happy.