48 hours in Scandinavian London
Saturday 24 February 2001
Why go now?
Why go now?
To catch the annual Oranges and Lemons service at the central RAF church, St Clement Danes, on the Strand (020-7242 8282). As in the nursery rhyme, local schoolchildren are presented with oranges and lemons during this service, which takes place on 5 April this year. The name of the church refers to the fact that it was built by the city's Danish community in the 9th century, although it has been rebuilt several times since then including, in 1681, by Sir Christopher Wren.
The icing on the cake
Take a train from Victoria to Denmark Hill, stroll down elegant Camberwell Grove, then finish off by scoffing a Danish pastry on Camberwell Church Street. The hill takes its name from Prince George of Denmark, husband to Queen Anne, who was said to have had a house there. The pastries are a British version of the traditional Wiener Brod baked in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. And, for another fine example of multiculturalism, you'll find the best Danish pastries in the area - huge, cheap (£1.50) and apricot-stuffed - at the excellent Turkish cafÃ©, Tadim's (41 Camberwell Church Street, 020-7708 0838).
A walk in the park
If you can wait until 17 May, join in the Norwegian National Day festivities in Battersea Park. The day normally starts with a service at the Norwegian church in Rotherhithe, from where the congregation - many of whom are dressed in national costume - is bussed to Battersea for an afternoon of children's games, music, parades, speeches and plenty of Norwegian food and drink. For more details, contact the Norwegian Embassy (020-7591 5500; www.norway.org.uk) from mid-April onwards.
Sunday morning, go to church
There's a north-east split here. The Swedish (6 Harcourt Street, 020-7723 5681) and Danish (4, St Katharine's Precinct, 020-7935 7584) churches are in north London but the Norwegian Church (St Olav's Square, 020-7740 3900), Swedish Seamen's Church (120 Lower Road, 020-7237 1644), Danish Seamen's Church (322 Rope Street, 020-7232 2227) and, incidentally, Finnish Church (33 Albion Street, 020-7237 4668) are in or near Rotherhithe. As much social centres as places of worship, although anyone is welcome, services take place in the relevant language.
Lundums (119 Old Brompton Road, 020-7373 7774), a family-run Danish restaurant, manages to be both posh and cosy. As you tuck into the traditional Danish Sunday brunch buffet (think herrings, gravadlax, smoked ham, roast pork, potato salad, Danish cheeses, apple cakes and plenty of rye bread), reflect on the idea that the 19th-century soprano Jenny Lind, the "Swedish nightingale", lived on this very road. The buffet costs £15.50 per person.
Housed in an old ivory warehouse at St Katherine's Dock, the Aquarium restaurant is decorated with Swedish glass and cutlery and has views of the water (020-7480 7781, www.theaquarium.co.uk). It's run by two Swedes and specialises in fish but if you're herring'd out, the menu includes miso soup (£6.50), roast fillet of red mullet with risotto fritters (£14.50) and posh cauliflower cheese (£13.50). Get into the mood with a drink at the upstairs watering hole - despite being called the Bang Bar, is very laid-back.
Two out of three National Express (0990 808080; www.gobycoach.com) coaches are made by Volvo, so book yourself a ticket and make your way steadily and sturdily to Victoria Coach Station. Or, if you need more speed, use your Ericsson mobile to book a hire car (Saab or Volvo, of course). Still too slow? Book a flight with BMI British Midland (0870 607 0555; www.fly-bmi.com), part-owned by the Scandinavian airline SAS, and fly to Heathrow from Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds-Bradford or Manchester. Fares start at £78 return from Belfast.
Get your bearings
For new perspectives on London, the city's Nordic connections provide a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities. Forget Danish bacon, Swedish massages and, yes, even shopping at Ikea. Get yourself in the spirit with a pint of Carlsberg and then venture into a newer, cleaner, blonder capital. For general Scandinavian information, contact the relevant Tourist Information Office: Sweden (020-7870 5600, www.visit-sweden.com); Denmark (020-7259 5959, www.visitdenmark.com); Norway (020-7839 2650, www.visitnorway.com).
The comfortable, if a bit corporate, Radisson SAS Portman Hotel (22 Portman Square, 020-7208 6000, www.radissonsas.com), boasts a handy location just off Oxford Street, and Scandinavian-themed rooms. Doubles start at £169 per night but Abba fans might prefer the special deal of £189, which, per person, includes two nights' accommodation, breakfast, a three-course dinner with champagne, and tickets to the musical Mamma Mia!. For under 30s, the Norwegian YWCA (52 Holland Park, 020-7727 9897), offers dinner, bed and Norwegian-style breakfast from £20 per person per night. Mid-range (doubles from £105.75) and central is the Mermaid Suite Hotel at 3 Blenheim Street (020-7629 1875, www.mermaidsuite.com).
Take a hike
Jump off the East London Line at Surrey Quays, turn immediately right down Lower Road and then left along Plough Way, looking out for a turning on your left to Greenland Dock. The Scandinavians have a long association with this area and many street names reflect that; on the poorly kept but well-signed Heritage Trail, you pass the flash apartments of Sweden Gate, the abandoned supermarket trolleys of Finland Street, and the Ship and Whale pub near Bergen Square. When the Howland Wet Dock, as it was then called, was built in 1696, it was the world's largest inland dock. Its name changed when whaling ships began docking here. Ironically, one of the adjacent quays is named Rainbow Quay, after the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace's ship.
Take a ride
St Olave's Church, on Hart Street, takes its name from Norway's patron saint, Olaf Haraldsson, who fought alongside Ethelred the Unready against the Danes in the Battle of London Bridge in 1014. From nearby Tower Hill station, catch the Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich. Here, the grandiose church of St Alphege, which boasts Thomas Tallis as one-time organist, marks the spot where the Vikings martyred St Alphege in 1012. Stroll to the nearby National Maritime Museum (020-8858 4422, www.nmm.ac.uk), where children can try steering a Viking longship while adults track the early 20th-century British-Norwegian race for the South Pole at the "South" exhibition, until 30 September. Entrance is £7.50 for adults; kids free.
Lunch on the run
If you have time to sit down, try Garbo's (42 Crawford Street, 020-7262 6582). You can munch on assorted herrings (£5.25), meatballs in cream sauce (£5.75) or deep-fried camembert with hot cloudberry sauce (£4.65), surrounded by pictures of Greta Garbo and beneath a giant stuffed elk head. If you're in more of a hurry, nip a few doors down to the Swedish Affar (32 Crawford Street, 020-7224 9300) and pack a picnic with salty liquorice, sweet mustard, bread, lingonberries and pickled herrings.
Verner Amell (4 Ryder Street, 020-7925 2759) is an upmarket gallery that shows and sells Scandinavian art. If you're looking for a more inclusive experience - or just some Abbamania - make your way to the 3pm performance of Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre (Old Compton Street, 020-7447 54000). The show runs until 29 September and tickets cost from £15 per person. Not cultural enough? Then get yourself to a cinema. Faithless (directed by Liv Ullman, a Swede) is currently showing and next Friday sees the opening of Chocolat. The film version of Joanne Harris's novel was directed by another Swede, Lasse Hallstrom, and stars the Swedish actress Lena Olin.
Those stylish Scandinavians have truly conquered the British high street and whatever Nordic item you're in need of, you'll probably find it in London. Start with bargain clothes at H&M Hennes (nearest stockist 020-7323 2211) and move on to sleek stationery at Ordning & Reda (nearest stockist 020-7351 1003), neat toiletries at Ren (40 Liverpool Street, 020-7618 5353), trendy make-up at Face Stockholm (nearest stockist 020-7409 1812) and Pixi (22a Foubert's Place, 020-7287 7211), classy silver at Georg Jensen (15 New Bond Street, 020-7235 0331), designer homeware at Skandium (72 Wigmore Street, 020-7935 2088), fabrics and paints at Nordic Style (109 Lots Road, 020-7351 1755) and pretty painted furniture at The Blue Door (74 Church Road, Barnes, 020-8748 9785).
At Garlic and Shots (14 Frith Street, 020-7734 9505), the identical twin of its sister establishment in Stockholm, you can order just about anything so long as it includes garlic. Sip on a garlic martini (£2.50), knock back a garlic beer (£1.80) or, if that gets you hungry, move on to the garlic veggie burger (£4.25), garlic meatballs (£9.50) or even garlic honey ice cream (£4.25). Alternatively, if your thirst isn't too great, wait until Nordic opens at 25 Newman Street in April (enquiries 020-7631 3174) and indulge in some crayfish and schnapps. For a more traditional evening's drinking, try the Harcourt Arms (32 Harcourt Street, 020-7723 6634) an English pub opposite the Swedish Church that has a room draped with Swedish flags and pictures and, usually, lots of beer-drinking Swedes. SkÃ¥l! as they say in Sweden.
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