Minimalist design, cozy sweaters, cured meats and hygge: The Nordic lifestyle is on trend like never before. For one of the top places to immerse yourself in Scandinavian culture, food and people in America, look no further than Minnesota. Home to the largest population of Norwegians and Swedes outside of Scandinavia (not to mention an NFL team named the Vikings), the state’s strong Nordic roots are evident and celebrated year-round.
Taste of the North
A recent surge of “New Nordic” cuisine has swept Minnesota's restaurant scene. The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis whips up traditional popovers, meatballs and pork sausage using skills like curing, smoking and pickling. In Duluth, Vikre Distillery makes and serves two styles of the original Scandinavian spirit, aquavit: a traditional version infused with caraway and cardamom; and a modern take with malted barley that they call "whiskey for Vikings."
For those looking for traditional tastes of Scandinavia, Minnesota also provides a veritable smorgasbord of lutefisk (whitefish, typically cod) and Swedish meatball dinners throughout the state, typically served up in small-town church basements during the fall and holiday season.
Scandinavian heritage, culture and design
A number of museums across Minnesota celebrate Scandinavian roots and culture. Visit the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in Minneapolis where you can tour the historic Turnblad Mansion, which features sculpted ceilings, intricately carved wood, beautiful Swedish wool rugs, and exquisite porcelain kakelugnar. ASI's contemporary Nelson Cultural Center showcases modern Scandinavian design, and the center's award-winning Fika cafe celebrates the tradition of coffee, pastries and conversation.
The Gammelgården Museum in Scandia is an 11-acre site with historic buildings built by Swedish immigrants in the 1850s. See Minnesota’s oldest Lutheran church, a log home, barn, parsonage and cottage. The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead brings Scandinavian heritage to life with its Viking ship, stave church, special exhibits and large seasonal festivals. Every May, you can find festivals that celebrate Syttende Mai (Norway's Constitution Day) in cities with strong Norwegian heritage, including Thief River Falls, Milan and Alexandria.
At the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, along the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior, visitors can take courses year-round in traditional Scandinavian crafts such as timber framing, basketry, boat building, and whipping up delicious food like rosettes, krumkake, pickled beets, rusks, hard tack, speculos, glogg and kringle.
Shop like a minimalist
Discover fine Scandinavian gifts, food, needlework and clothing at Ingebretsen’s, a South Minneapolis market that opened in 1921. Register in advance to take classes in traditional needlework and knitting, or make lefse, kransekake (a spectacular cake) or troll masks. Venture south to Rochester, where The Nordic Shop features the largest selection of Dale of Norway and Oleana of Norway sweaters in the United States and is the premier source for Scandinavian dinnerware, collectibles and other clothing brands.
On Main Street in Stillwater, shoppers will find modern Swedish gifts and home decor at Designs of Sweden, and Swedish outdoor retailer Fjallraven has stores in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Mall of America. Finally, in the historic Mississippi River town of Red Wing, the Uffda Shop carries unique Scandinavian gifts for all occasions, including fine porcelain, books, kitchenware, jewelry, clothing and more.
Skijoring is a unique and growing winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and dog sledding. Strap on cross-country skis, and a team of one to three dogs pulls you through the snow using harnesses and a rope. Derived from the Norwegian terms for “ski driving,” skijoring is offered at a handful of resorts and trails throughout Minnesota, with many resorts offering lessons.
Another mash-up of sports, bandy has elements of soccer, American football, hockey and field hockey. While it’s popular overseas, there’s only one bandy rink in the United States. And it’s in Minnesota! The John Guidant Rose MN Oval in Roseville is open to the public for visitors to try the sport. Minnesota is also home to both the men's and women’s national bandy teams.
Find more Scandinavian-inspired sites, tastes and shops with this Swedish heritage itinerary.