Take Five: Literary Scandinavia

Travel Lists

Hans Christian Andersen, Stieg Larsson and Henrik Ibsen have more in common than their writerly ways. They all happen to be incredibly creepy. But also, and most important, they are all from the Nordic countries of Northern Europe, otherwise known as Scandinavia.

1. Ibsen in Oslo

As the second most-performed playwright in the world after Shakespeare, Ibsen’s plays such as Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House are still popular today. John Lennon became a huge fan of Ibsen’s work—primarily for its criticism of social norms and strong, rebellious female leads—after having been introduced to it by Yoko Ono.

The Ibsen Museum in Oslo is actually in the apartment building where Ibsen, his wife, and his son spent the last years of his life. The aesthetic of the museum is modern, minimalist and edgy—just like his writing—and the institution houses an interesting collection of his memorabilia. On guided tours, you can also visit the restored apartment where the writer lived and see his original writing desk.

2. Holberg in Bergen

The second most-famous Norwegian author, the Baron of Holberg was a writer, essayist, philosopher, historian and playwright born in Bergen, Norway in 1684. While strolling around the wharf-side streets of this seaside town, admiring the colorful wooden buildings, check out Ludvig Holberg’s imposing statue built in 1884 (pictured at top). You can’t miss it, as it’s located prominently in the center of town right next to the Tourism Office.

There’s more on Holberg at the Bergen School Museum, as he is its most famous graduate. The school museum is part of the Bergen City Museum, and lets you explore the life of this fascinating comedy writer, historian and educator—as well as others.

3. Andersen and Blixen in Copenhagen

Blixen 1.jpg

Responsible for the union of Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in Out of Africa, Karen Blixen published many works under her penname Isak Dinesen. The Blixen museum is located in her childhood home (pictured above) just north of the city, which she returned to years later. You can see the museum’s collection as well as tour the private home, which is complimented by vast gardens in the back. Blixen’s grave is located in the gardens under a sweeping tree.

While you’re in Copenhagen, be sure to visit the Little Mermaid statue by Edvard Eriksen. It is located on the Langelinie promenade and, while small and sort of underwhelming, is a requirement for fans of Hans Christian Andersen’s charming fairytale—or the Disney movie.

4. Shakespeare in Helsingør

Kronborg 2.jpg

While Frederick II completed this turquoise and stone castle in 1585, it didn’t gain fame until William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, in which the castle was immortalized as Elsinore. Kronborg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe.

From the moment you first lay eyes on it as it looms eerily over the water, you can almost feel the ghosts of Hamlet, his father or Ophelia, clarifying why Shakespeare chose it as Elsinore. Although Kronborg is an important piece of Danish history, the public tours (guided or self) pay much homage to Hamlet. The photography exhibition rooms are dedicated to the dozens of actors who have played the iconic figure onstage and screen through the years—some of them even in performances at the castle itself.

And if you really want to get that creepy, dismal Danish prince feel, just take a stroll through the dungeons and catacombs located beneath the castle.

5. Larsson in Stockholm


Stieg Larsson is perhaps the most internationally famous contemporary Swedish writer; all the books from his Millennium series were runaway bestsellers, the first of which—_The Girl with the Dragon Tatto_o—was adapted into Swedish and English films.

One of the most popular things to do in Stockholm, at least for fans of Larsson’s books, is to follow the trail from the Millennium series. There is even a map with all of the pertinent locations on his official website that allows you to visit the fictional Millennium offices and the fictional homes of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Bellmansgatan 1, which serves as Blomkvist’s building (pictured above), overlooks the Saltsjon Bay and Stockholm’s medieval old town. While a family by the name of Blomkvist has actually lived in one of the apartments, they didn’t know Larsson.

Shelley Seale is a travel and lifestyle writer and author based in Austin, Texas.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin