If you’re looking for a fantastic destination that ticks all the boxes when it comes to family friendly, plan a trip to Scandinavia and the Baltics. The area is easy to travel via reasonably priced airplane tickets or ferries, and children are welcome everywhere. This two week Scandinavia itinerary covers Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Bergen, and Tallinn. We covered a lot of cities in Scandinavia with kids, and these are some of the best places to visit in Scandinavia and the Baltics.
How to Travel to Scandinavia with Kids – What to See and Do
This list is simply an overview, we have more detailed articles for these cities on our site.
Things to do in Helsinki with Kids
We flew on a direct flight from Chicago to Helsinki, if you’re planning a visit, you’ll want to start with our article: what to do in Helsinki with kids. We spent two nights in Helsinki.
Day trip to Suomnelinna from Helsinki
Our favorite place to visit in Helsinki, hands down, was Suomenlinna, a sea fortress spanning multiple islands at the entrance to Helsinki’s harbor. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built by the Swedes in the mid-1700s to protect their territory (which at the time included present day Finland) from Russia.
We enjoyed every minute (all 240 of them) of our visit. There is a ferry that runs regularly from Helsinki’s Market Square (Kauppatori) to Suomenlinna.
The journey is beautiful. Gliding through the tranquil water you have a chance to see hundreds of sailboats, cruising among numerous tiny islands.
Upon arrival, you are deposited just outside the information center where you can pick up maps (highly recommended), visit the main museum, or find a guided tour in Swedish, English, Finnish, or Russian (only English and Russian during the winter). We opted for the map and touring on our own.
There are six museums on the property: The Suomenlinna (history of the fortress), the Ehrensvärd (a residence of the commandant’s), a submarine museum (you can see what life was like inside a real submarine), a military museum (the history of the military at the fortress), a toy museum (contains early 20th century toys), and a customs museum (this one has a rotating theme).
Each museum charges a separate admission, or you can buy a combination ticket. We opted for the military museum, which for our children was the perfect choice.
There is a main path for exploring (the Blue Route), but half the fun was getting lost. Restaurants and cafés are scattered throughout the grounds, but hours of operation vary.
If you decide to visit, the best option might be to pack a picnic because there are beautiful surroundings everywhere you look. It is possible to find a sandwich at one of the many restaurants near the ferry terminal, or you can grab food at the Market Square before boarding the boat.
Plan to spend most of the day on the island. There is so much to explore, you won’t be disappointed.
Other things to do in Helsinki with kids
If you are looking for things to do in Helsinki with kids, ours enjoyed exploring the markets, playgrounds, and exploring Senate Square.
We also did a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour, but I would not recommend it. If you’re interested in visiting Finland in winter, you’ll want to read this awesome article about a things to do in Finland via a road trip. We also have a post about what to do in Rovaniemi, home to Santa Claus.
Where to Stay in Helsinki with kids
Radisson Blu Aleksanteri (spacious room for five with a sauna, good breakfast, and walking distance to downtown area) and Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments (close to train station, spacious, clean, fully outfitted apartments, highly recommend).
Things to Do in Stockholm with Kids
We flew from Helsinki to Stockholm, and used a taxi for transportation to our hotel. We spent two nights in Stockholm and it was not enough.
Stockholm was probably my favorite city to visit as it was simply stunning. The city is made up of fourteen islands and there is water everywhere you turn.
There is a beautiful medieval old town at its core and meticulous parks and gardens abound. I even made a point to wake up early one morning for some Stockholm sightseeing before the throngs of tourists arrived from the cruise ships and it was worth every lost minute of sleep.
There are many amazing things to do with in Stockholm with kids, but if we had to pick just one it would be the Vasa Museet (this is not a viking ship museum, you will find that in Roskilde, Denmark).
This Stockholm museum houses the only preserved seventeenth century ship in the world, the Vasa. The ship was salvaged from Stockholm’s harbor in 1961 after spending 333 years under the sea and is 98 percent original. It is truly magnificent.
The Vasa museum’s main focus is obviously the ship, but there are four different viewing levels and many different exhibits explaining the who, what, and why of the ship.
There is an amazing exhibit about the reconstruction of the faces of the passengers based on their skeletal remains. It’s unbelievable what they can tell from a person’s bones!
There were many hands on activities for the kids to explore, a movie screening, guided tours if you wanted them, or a MP-3 guide for your phone if you wanted it.
NOTE: There will be a ton of tour groups, especially if you arrive early on a Sunday morning like we did. Not our smartest travel moment. We ended up waiting about 50 minutes for admission. Try to arrive when it opens and beat the cruise ship groups, it’s worth it.
Where to stay in Stockholm with kids
Where we stayed: Hilton Stockholm Slussen (had to take a taxi from train station, but walking distance to Gamla Stan and ferry to Djurgården. We had adjoining rooms with beautiful views of the city.
Travel to Copenhagen with kids
We booked tickets to take a plane from Stockholm to Copenhagen, but you can also make the journey by ferry. From the airport in Copenhagen it is a 15 minute train ride to the Copenhagen city center. We spent three nights in Copenhagen.
There are so many things to do in Copenhagen you will want to invest in a Copenhagen Card the second you step off the train.
Available on-line and at every information desk, the card allows for free admission to 72 world-class museums in and around Copenhagen, free transportation by bus, train, metro, and canal boat (highly recommend), discounts on restaurants and other attractions, and free travel for two children 10 and under.
The cost of the Copenhagen Card varies depending on how long you plan to visit the city (24 hour, 48 hour, etc.), but it is worth every penny. If your not sure how to spend your time in Copenhagen, the card can certainly give you some direction.
We used the card to visit Frederiksborg Slot, a 40 minute train ride from Copenhagen in the town of Hillerød. The card covered transportation to the castle from the city as well as a ferry ride around the lake on the Frederiksborg property. It did not cover admission to the castle.
Often referred to as the “Danish Versailles”, Frederiksborg is the largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia. When you first see it, it takes your breath away.
The royal palace is enormous and the grounds are meticulously landscaped. A tour through the castle allows you to explore the history of Danish royalty through paintings, furniture, and period decor.
There are audio players available to rent for free (you have to leave your credit card with them) that provide you with a guided tour of the castle. The lavish beauty of the interior is equally matched by the stunning Baroque garden.
Our kids usually hate touring “palaces”, but they loved the entire Frederiksborg experience. It was one of our favorite things to do in Denmark.
There was a lot our kids loved about Copenhagen, so don’t miss our choices for the best things to do in Copenhagen, including Tivoli Gardens amusement park and a day to to Roskilde to see the viking ships at Vikingeskibsmuseet.
Where to stay in Copenhagen with kids
Visit Bergen – the Doorway to Norway’s fjord country
The highlight of our short time in Bergen was a ride up the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. Be sure to ride to the top when the weather is clear or you won’t have much to see. The panoramic view of Bergen from above is simply stunning.
There is a fantastic children’s playground, as well as a cafe, restaurant, and souvenir shop. You can choose to take a return trip on the funicular or a casual hike downhill to return to town.
We opted for the walk (approximately 45 minutes), which was along a paved trail, winding in and out of a beautiful forest. Try to go early because the funicular line was very long in the afternoon.
Where to stay in Bergen with kids
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Royal, but we weren’t impressed by their “family” rooms. They were quite crowded for the five of us. The location was decent, but I think we would look elsewhere next time. We only stayed here one night.
Norway Fjord Country
We briefly toyed with the idea of taking a guided tour from Bergen to Oslo via the “Norway in a Nutshell” route, but quickly realized it would cost us close to $1000 for our family of five. (If you want to read about someone who did this, check out the article from our contributor, Heidi, 7 Reasons to Visit Norway with Kids).
Instead, we rented a car in Bergen and drove to the Stalheim Hotel, where we stayed for one night. This was our base for exploring the Norwegian Fjords. (While the room was spacious, it was quite dated, and I would recommend looking elsewhere).
Taking a fjord cruise in Norway
The hotel is ten minutes driving from Gudvangen where you can hop on a fjord cruise that will take you through the Naerøyfjord (the world’s narrowest fjord) to the cute town of Flåm.
This Norwegian fjords cruise lasts approximately two and half hours and you can ride round trip or one way and then take a 15 minute taxi or bus ride back to your starting point.
We only rode the ferry in one direction, from Gudvangen to Flåm, but the entire voyage was spectacular. I think we took at least a hundred pictures of the awe-inspiring fjords.
Our kids said it was one of the highlights of the trip despite their original complaints about a “two hour boat ride”. Definitely one of our favorite things to do in Norway.
Things to Do in Oslo with Kids
After two nights in fjord country we drove to Oslo where we returned the car so we could explore the city on foot.
Our favorite place to visit and explore in Oslo was the Norsk Folkemuseum. This outdoor open-air museum is quite unique in that one can travel through time and visit various buildings from regions throughout Norway that were relocated to this site beginning in the late 1800s.
To reach the museum, you must catch the ferry to Bygdøy, which leaves approximately every 15 minutes from the waterfront.
The main attraction is the Stave Church, relocated from Gol, built in the year 1200. The museum grounds are massive, filled with all types of buildings, from farms to contemporary apartment buildings. People are dressed in traditional folk costumes and offer demonstrations of life throughout Norwegian history.
There was a man building a staircase with an ax (I kid you not) and he stopped to explain to us (in perfect English, no less) how it would have been built in the 1800s. He was laboring just as they would have then (no easy task).
There were women baking and knitting, even a farmer and some farm animals. It all seemed very authentic. We were able to enter some of the buildings, others you could only view from the outside, but that didn’t take away from the feeling you had stepped into a time warp.
There is also a museum on the property with various artifacts and exhibits. The kids loved running around and exploring and we found it fascinating that they had moved 160 structures and re-erected them on this one spot. Simply amazing.
We spent the rest of our time in Oslo with kids at the Opera House, Akershus Fortress, and exploring the Oslo city center.
Where to stay in Oslo with kids
Thon Hotel Panorama – this is a very basic hotel chain, but it is clean, has all the amenities you need, and a great breakfast. Our family room was quite spacious and the location was convenient to everything.
What to do on a Day trip to Tallinn
After two nights in Oslo, we flew to Helsinki for two additional nights. We used the second day of our itinerary for exploring Tallinn, Estonia.
Unfortunately, on our day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki it was pouring rain. While that took away from some of the city’s charm, it was easy to see that Tallinn would be beautiful on a sunny day.
We took a two and a half hour ferry ride from Helsinki (easy to do, you can make reservations at the main tourist office), and spent the day exploring.
We spent our limited time in Tallinn walking aimlessly. Our favorite place was the Tallinn Town Hall. It is a beautiful building overlooking the charming town square. The building was built in the early 15th century and its museum is ideal for getting an overview of Tallinn’s history.
The exhibits are simple, but well done and climbing to the top of the tower provides a beautiful view of the city below. It was one of the few buildings the kids enjoyed exploring and didn’t try to rush through. Hopefully we can return on a future trip and spend some time exploring in the sun.
These were the highlights of our trip to Scandinavia and the Baltics. We found Scandinavia travel to be easy and quite enjoyable. We hope we’ve inspired you to book your own trip!
Europe Travel Tips
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option.
If you would prefer to travel by train in Europe we recommend Eurail who offers discounted packages for rail travel.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.