Scandinavian design is about more than Iittala glassware and Acne jeans. Outstanding examples of architecture and design can be found throughout Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland. Here are some of our favourites.
What: The railway station
Where: Helsinki, Finland
Plenty of cities have impressive railway stations, but few are as instantly striking as Helsinki's. Designed 100 years ago by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, its high-impact entrance, flanked by two monumental figures, is said to have inspired the designs for Tim Burton's Batman films. Saarinen also entered the competition to design Canberra; his design came second, after Walter Burley Griffin's.
Kaivokatu 1, Helsinki
What: The treehouses
Where: Harads, Sweden
Moose aren't the only things lurking in the forests of Sweden. Up near the Arctic Circle you will find the Tree Hotel, a set of five individual treehouses that comprise the country's most memorable accommodation. The eye-catching creations include the Birds Nest (designed by Inredningsgruppen), which seems to be made of giant twigs, and the Mirrorcube (designed by Tham & Videgård), which virtually disappears into the trees.
Edeforsvägen 2A, Harads, Sweden (treehotel.se/en)
What: The swimming pool
Where: Hofsós, Iceland
When it comes to thermal pools, Iceland has plenty to choose from. For a striking design, however, you will have to head to the village of Hofsós, in the country's northwest. The pool is built into the hillside overlooking the ocean, so swimmers can watch the wild ocean waves as they swim in the warm thermal waters.
Hofsósbraut, Hofsós, Iceland (swimminginiceland.com)
What: The opera house
Where: Oslo, Norway
Viewed from the water, Oslo's gleaming white opera house resembles an iceberg. To contrast with the sharp white marble planes of the exterior, locals architects Snøhetta created an interior of warm wood inspired by the country's traditional boat builders. Our favourite touch: visitors are encouraged to walk on the building's roof.
Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1, Oslo (operaen.no/en)
What: The design museum
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
You can't leave Scandinavia without visiting at least one design museum, and Designmuseum Danmark is one of the best. Its rotating exhibitions complement an impressive permanent collection of Danish design classics. Its holdings also include a comprehensive collection of textiles and fabrics, and a world-class poster collection (viewing by appointment).
Bredgade 68, Copenhagen (designmuseum.dk/en)
What: The church
Where: Helsinki, Finland
Most churches soar into the heavens. To create Helsinki's Temppeliaukio Church – better known as the Rock Church – architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen quarried down deep into the granite bedrock, leaving just the building's roof is visible. Its rock walls and copper wire roof create a transcendent effect, which has made the church is a popular concert venue.
Lutherinkatu 3, Helsinki (helsinginkirkot.fi/en/churches/rock-church-temppeliaukio)
What: The town
Where: Ålesund, Norway
You would have to say that being burnt to the ground was the best thing that ever happened to the town of Ålesund. What rose from the ashes of the 1904 conflagration was a gorgeous collection of pastel-coloured art nouveau buildings, radiating out from the Canal Ålesundet and topped with turrets and ornamented with floral motifs and stone gargoyles.
What: The bridge
Most of Iceland's best architecture is designed to fit in with the landscape's wild beauty. Not the Elliðaár bridges in Reykjavik. Designed by local firm Teiknistofan Tröð, the hollow red pyramids that rise into the sky are more than just an eye-catching feature; they also support the pedestrian and cycle lanes that span the Elliðaár tidal estuary.
Elliðaár river, Reykjavik
What: The time capsule
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
When Danish design legend Arne Jacobsen created the SAS Royal Hotel – now the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel – he did more than design a building. He also looked after every detail of the interiors: carpets, curtains, cutlery, crockery, door handles. While most of the hotel has been refurbished, room 606 has been kept in its original glory, and is a favourite of design fans from around the world.
Hammerichsgade 1, 1611 København, Denmark (radissonblu.com/en)
What: The cemetery
Where: Stockholm, Sweden
It is not often that a cemetery gets a UNESCO World Heritage listing, but the beautiful Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery) is not your average cemetery. Architects Erik Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz set their functionalist buildings amid a tranquil pine woodland; no wonder one of Sweden's favourite screen stars, Greta Garbo, chose to be buried here.
Helsinki: The centrally located Klaus K is as stylish as its Design District location suggests. Rates start from 155 euros. Bulevardi 2, (klauskhotel.com)
Copenhagen: Scandic Hotel Front has a waterside location near the pretty Nyhavn district, and sleek Scandinavian design. Rates from around 1000DKK. Sankt Annae Plads 21, (scandichotels.com)
Reykjavik: In addition to its convenient location on Reykjavik's main shopping street, Alda Hotel gives each guest a smartphone for the duration of their stay. Rates from around 250 euros. Laugavegur 66-68, (aldahotel.is)
Stockholm: The atrium of the Nobis Hotel is knock-your-socks-off material, and the rest of the hotel doesn't disappoint. Rates from around 2000 SEK. Norrmalmstorg 2-4, (nobishotel.se/en)
Oslo: Located in the new Tjuvjolmen culture district, The Thief offers both style and comfort (love that bedding.) Rates from around 2490kr. Landgangen 1, (thethief.com/en)
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