Hands up, who is not a loyal reader of the one or two Scandinavian design or architecture blogs?

Nordic cultures are well-known for their incredible output in design: our apartments are furnished with inventive Swedish furniture, almost daily we wear Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish fashion (H&M, anyone?), the little and practical pieces in our lives were designed up North: crockery, lamps, sound systems, vases, bed sheets etc. All are impregnated with the unique Scandinavian sense of usability and appearance.
We want to know where this sense for all things beautiful comes from. More and more travellers decide to explore the mysterious landscapes of Iceland and the hidden treasures in Norway’s fjords; bike trips through Denmark and Southern Sweden increase in popularity; testing the sauna-lifestyle in Lapland has its appeal, indeed.

During my trips through Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland I figured out that history and tradition play a very important role in the life of its people. Logically, linking back to one’s roots and reuse traditional elements of one’s culture is a common method in Scandinavian design.
On my Pinterest and blog strolls I come across various types of the same combination: romantic cottage style meets functional, modern minimalism – simple wooden structures and forms, matching colour ranges, lace and crochet works, colourful horse figures, modest flower arrangements on the window sills, a crackling fireplace and a neat stack of wood next to it.

Scandinavia is proud of its architecture, design and longstanding tradition. To learn more about its roots I can recommend two historic outdoor museums: Den Gamle By in Ã…rhus, Denmark and Skansen in Stockholm, Sweden. Both will give you an idea about where the progressive-traditional style combination of the Scandinavian designers comes from.

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Den Gamle By…

…means „the old town“ in Danish. This museum can be found in Ã…rhus, Denmark’s second biggest city after Copenhagen. It is situated close to the city center and shows 75 houses which were brought there from all over Denmark. The collection of buildings includes residential houses, workshops, a school, historical gardens and a canal.

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The current town visualises how a typical Danish town could have looked like in 19th century. To complete the image two new areas are built at the moment: towns from the 1920s and the 1970s. History becomes alive with the employees dressed in historical outfits populating the buildings and streets.

The museum is open year round, but the best time to visit is between Easter to December when the various attractions, museums and shops are open too.

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gamle by (7) gamle by (6) Skansen…

…is probably better known, as it lies in the heart of Swedish capital Stockholm. Just a stone throw from Vasamuseum and the amusement park Gröna Lund it is part of the itinerary of any city tripper. At least it should be.
When I visited the first time, it was snowy February, so I enjoyed coming back one late summer day in September two years later.


Just like Den Gamle By Skansen shows a collection of historical farm and town houses from all over Sweden. Every house was taken down and moved to the park brick by brick. Skansen is bigger than Den Gamle By and features a town quarter, big farm houses and historical gardens. The biggest difference is that Skansen is also home to typical Nordic  wildlife and domesticated animals. Stroll through the park and encounter reindeer, moose and brown bears, or cows, pigs and ducks.


Skansen’s employees look a lot like their Danish colleagues. Working in their historical shops they are happy to tell you the story of the house they welcome you in.

When you go to Denmark or Sweden the next time, take your time, visit one of these attractions and learn more about the roots of the famous Scandinavian design.


This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!