We are 11-year-old twins and next year from the end of June to the beginning of July we will be exploring Scandinavia and the island of Svalbard with our parents and brother. First we will fly into Oslo from Newark and stay a night at the luxurious Continental Hotel. Then we will fly to Longyearbyen and tour the beautiful island of Svalbard for six days on the splendid National Geographic Explorer. After that we will travel to Norway and Sweden looking at the fjords and exploring Lapland. To finish our trip we will spend a few nights in Stockholm.
See + Do
Tel: 46 8 442 8000
For anyone with children, Skansen, the world's first open-air museum, is unmissable. Spread over several acres of Djurgården, it contains historic Swedish houses (dismantled and then reassembled here) peopled by museum employees in period dress. There's also a zoo with Scandinavian animals, as well as various cafés and restaurants. Yes, it sounds cheesy…which makes the actual experience all the more pleasant. The Swedes' enthusiasm for the place is infectious, the exhibits are genuinely interesting, and it's hard not to be won over by the wolves and elk in the zoo. You may notice that the trees near the petting zoo are festooned with pacifiersit's a Swedish tradition for parents who want to wean their children off their pacifiers to come here so the children can give them to the kittens.
Grand Hôtel Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: 46 8 679 3560
The Grand, in continuous service since 1874, has the best location of all, fronting the harbor, with views of the Old Town and the Royal Palace. There are plenty of frequent travelers—some of them extraordinarily famous—who wouldn't think of staying anywhere else. Then again, if you're not a fixture of celebrity weeklies and are landed with the short end of the room stock, you may not like it quite as much. The best rooms, needless to say, overlook the harbor—for which you pay a premium. In 2006, 76 of the 376 rooms were opened in a neighboring 19th-century building—including the two-bedroom Lilian Suite penthouse (one of the largest hotel suites in Europe at 3,552 square feet, with a private screening room, library, and fully equipped kitchen). Facilities include a fitness center with sauna and spa; the Veranda restaurant (with its megabreakfast buffet); Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren's eponymous restaurant; plus a bar that's one of the city's see-and-be-seen spots. All in all, you have the sense of being inside a great, big, slow Victorian machine, and it runs quite well, but you may need to squeak a bit to get attention.
See + Do
Viking Ship Museum, Norway
Oslo 0287, Norway
Tel: 47 22 13 52 80
The highlights of this streamlined museum include three Viking ships, at once graceful and fierce, that once stormed the seas but were later used as burial ships for chieftains and prominent women. Artifacts found in the burial plots—or at least those that weren't pilfered by grave robbers—are also on display. Nearby, there are a number of cafés, a cluster of beaches, and other museums, such as the the Norwegian Folk Museum (10 Museumsveien; 47-22-12-37-00; www.norskfolkemuseum.no), the Maritime Museum (37 Bygdøynesveien; 47-24-11-41-50; www.norsk-sjofartsmuseum.no), and the Fram Museum, with boats and artifacts from the polar explorers (36 Bygdøynesveien; 47-23-28-29-50; www.fram.museum.no/en).
Open daily 11 am to 4 pm October through April; 9 am to 6 pm May through September.
Hotel Continental, Norway
Oslo 0117, Norway
Tel: 47 22 82 40 00
Hotel Continental overlooks Palace Park and is located across the street from the National Theatre (1 Johanne Dybwads Plass; 47-22-00-14-00; www.nationaltheatret.no). Meticulously maintained Victorian decor with brocade walls and oil paintings outfits the public spaces; the 155 guest rooms are furnished with antiques (nearly half of them were revamped in 2006 and 2007). Sporty types can work up a sweat in the small fifth-floor fitness room, and art aficionados will appreciate the hotel's extensive collection of prints by Edvard Munch, which are on display in the relaxed lobby bar, Dagligstuen. The restaurant, Theatrecaféen, is a popular gathering spot for the local intelligentsia.
Closed December 21 through January 2.