Scandinavia – the Venice of the North
Tourists tend to visit Scandinavia during the summertime or on a cruise to Russia; however, you may decide to go at any time of year. You will definitely avoid large crowds by traveling in the off-season. The terms “Nordic” and “the Nordics” refer to the countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (and the islands controlled by these countries, including Greenland), whereas “Scandinavia” traditionally describes the 3 Kingdoms (Constitutional monarchies) on the Scandinavian Peninsula: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Outside of Northern Europe, the word “Scandinavia” is used to convey the broader geographic region. See if you can correctly answer the following question.
What is the most visited museum in all of Scandinavia?
(a) Skansen Museum, Sweden
(b) Viking Ship Museum, Norway
(c) Design Museum Helsinki, Finland
(d) Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark
(e) Edvard Munch Museum, Norway
(f ) Vasa Museum, Sweden
The answer will SURPRISE you.
If you chose Helsinki’s Design Museum or the Munch Museum in Oslo as the most visited museum in Scandinavia, you are incorrect.
Did you pick “(b) Viking Ship Museum, Norway”? That is also incorrect, but closer to the truth.
“(f) Vasa Museum, Sweden” is the correct answer
The Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden (photos above and below) is the most popular museum in Scandinavia, receiving about 1.5 million visitors each year prior to the 2020 pandemic.
The Vasa was a warship built between 1626 and 1628 by order of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, for use in the war against the Commonwealth of Poland – Lithuania (a dual state with one common monarch). The Swedish Empire was at its most powerful throughout the 17th Century, exercising control over the Baltic region until its losses in 1721 at the hands of the alliance led by Peter the Great who ruled the Tsardom of Russia.
The Vasa sank in the middle of Stockholm harbor on its first voyage in 1628. Since the Vasa sailed no more than 1400 yards (1300 meters) and was never used in battle, it was largely intact when it was located in the 1950s. We traveled to the Vasa Museet (Museum) and were mesmerized from the first moment we saw the Vasa – the world’s only preserved ship from the 17th Century. The entrance fee for the museum includes an excellent 17-minute film covering the history of the vessel, the salvaging of the Vasa in 1961, and the construction of the museum building itself which opened in 1990. The multi-level museum is the major feat, allowing you to see the exterior of the Vasa up close and from every possible angle.
The Vasa museum is open every day of the week, with longer hours in June, July, and August. Closed on December 24th and 25th. The entrance is free of charge to those 18 years and younger.
While in Stockholm, we made two visits to the premier museum of art and design in Sweden: the Nationalmuseum. Founded in 1792, the Nationalmuseum is the national gallery of Sweden with impressive holdings from the late Middle Ages through the beginning of the 20th Century, specializing in Swedish masters (such as Hanna Pauli and Anders Zorn). Netherlandish painters (Rembrandt, Rubens) and artists from France (Degas, Gauguin, Renoir) are well represented in the permanent collection, which is free to the public.
The Nationalmuseum is open 11:00 to 5:00 (17:00) with extended hours on Thursdays and Fridays. Closed on Mondays. The building was opened in 1866 and closed in 2013 for 5 years of renovations. The Nationalmuseum looks spectacular following the $132 million investment to upgrade the structure, modernize climate control, and display more art from the collection.
The popularity of the historical television drama “Vikings” increased significantly the number of tourists visiting the Vikingskipshuset (Viking Ship Museum) in Oslo, Norway. Three Viking ships are on view here, and there is no museum like this one anywhere in the world. The Oseberg ship, made of oak in the year 820, could be sailed or rowed by 30 oarsmen and is richly carved with animal ornamentation. The Oseberg must have been an elegant vessel in its heyday. The Norwegian Government announced that the ships are endangered by a surge in tourism and pledged at least $200 million to restore and preserve the Viking ships in the future at a new location. Open daily, the museum is free for children under 18. Closed on January 1, February 6 and February 13.
Paintings by Edvard Munch on View in Oslo
On October 1, 2021, the traditional Munch Museum building in Toyen will close (58 years after it opened) in preparation for the inauguration of its new home on the Oslo waterfront. Please check the Museum’s website in the future to learn when Edvard Munch’s most iconic works — such as The Scream, The Kiss, Madonna, The Dance of Life and Starry Night — will be on view in its new home featuring 11 gallery spaces on 13 floors.
For more insight into the impact of Edvard Munch’s paintings outside of Norway, you may wish to read our article entitled “EXPRESSIONISM – The Best Art on View in Switzerland.”
Please check our other articles on Amsterdam and Paris museums!