Who: Susanna Sammons, 48, and her husband, Jim Lykins, 52, of Darnestown
Where: Nordic crime-novel locations
Why: To see where the girl got her dragon tattoo
When: Late spring for one to two weeks
“I read lots of Scandinavian mysteries and want to visit their settings: take the ‘Millennium’ tour in Sweden, see where ‘Wallander’ was filmed, travel to Finland where ‘Raid’ is set. How to do this all in one trip?”
Crime novels offer much more than insights into the minds of deranged psychopaths and world-weary detectives: They also make awesome guidebooks. Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series shows us an Edinburgh far removed from the tourist brochures; Tana French’s rough Dublin vignettes break your heart even as they crack you up; Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium series magnifies the cracks in modern Swedish society.
Not that you should skip the museums, cathedrals and palaces on your next trip to the Swedish capital. But you’ll probably get a more realistic glimpse of the city by visiting the 7-Eleven where Larsson’s heroine, the 90-pound, heavily tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, buys her frozen Billy’s Pan Pizzas and cartons of Marlboro Lights.
That’s just one of the delights in store when you take a Millennium tour of Stockholm. Susanna Sammons and Jim Lykins of Darnestown, both big fans of Nordic noir, asked for our help plotting such a trip. In addition to the Larsson saga, they also love the cult TV show “Raid,” about a Finnish hit man with morals, set in and around Helsinki; and Henning Mankell’s popular series about the depressive detective Kurt Wallander, based in Ystad in southern Sweden.
With such cynical protagonists, you might think that a tour based on their exploits would be pretty bleak. Not so. These characters may wallow in existential despair, but they hang out in places both gritty and pretty. Here’s a suggested itinerary for a 10-day crime-caper jaunt in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
Days 1-3: Fly to Copenhagen and take a day to get over your jet lag (and the sticker shock of Scandinavian food and lodging prices). Lodging option: the centrally located, eco-friendly Hotel Fox Copenhagen, about $215 a night double through Venere.com.
Days 3-5: Fly (about one hour, $130 per person one way) or take the train (51 / 2 hours, about $70 per person one way) to Stockholm, where a healthy “Millennium” industry has sprung up. The comprehensive guide at www.themillenniumtour.com will lead you to all the highlights, including Lisbeth Salander’s humble first apartment and her later, fancier digs overlooking the water; the luxury apartment home of her journalist buddy Mikael Blomkvist; assorted bars and restaurants frequented by Blomkvist and company; and that iconic 7-Eleven. Also check out the fishing village of Sandhamn, about 19 miles east of Stockholm, where Blomkvist goes when he wants to think, write and entertain his very interesting girlfriends.
Day 6-7: Take the overnight ferry to Helsinki (15 hours, from $85 per person double, one way) and save the cost of a night’s hotel. “Raid” was shot in and around the Finnish capital and in the medieval town of Kirkkonummi, about 12 miles west, where you can view the ancient architecture and also go hiking, rock-climbing or kayaking. Helena Niskanen of Visit Finland, the national tourism office, said that the drive west from Helsinki along the historic King’s Road is especially lovely. And as long as you’re in the area, she said, consider heading east, as well, to the Finnish lake district, where you can rent a cottage and go fishing and hiking.
For “Raid” fans, there’s only one lodging choice: the former Katajanokka prison, now the Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka, about 10 minutes from downtown Helsinki. The prison closed in 2002 and has been completely refurbished, but the open central corridor, red brick outer walls and the high wall around the property remain. Rates start at $210 a night double.
Days 8-9: Back to Sweden. Again, if you have the time, take the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm to save a night’s hotel charges, then take the train to the pretty 11th-century town of Ystad, in the southern province of Skane (Stockholm to Ystad, about $60 per person). Or fly from Helsinki to Malmo (about 45 minutes northwest of Ystad) for about $175 per person one way, and catch a local train to Ystad (about $21 per person).
Wallander nerds will feel right at home in this cobblestoned town where the detective lives and works. High points include his bachelor pad on Mariagatan; St.Maria Church, scene of his ill-fated wedding to Mona; and the police station, home of his surrogate family. Visit the series’ countryside settings, too, especially Ales stenar, the stone ship above the small fishing village of Kaseberga. It’s one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions — and a favorite spot for Wallander.
To find the sites, pick up the free “In the Footsteps of Wallander” brochure at the local tourism office, or download it as a PDF document or to your smartphone (www.wallander.ystad.se/en). There’s a variety of lodging in town; for a treat, stay in the venerable Hotel Continental, home to one of Wallander’s favorite restaurants. Rates start at about $240 a night double.
Day 10: Take the train to Copenhagen via Malmo (about 11 / 2 hours, $30 per person) and return home.
Getting around: Depending on the number of cities you visit by train, consider a Eurail Scandinavia Pass. Unlimited train travel for five days in a two-month period, for example, costs about $400 per person. Details: www.raileurope.com.
Cost for a 10-day trip: Round-trip air for two people from Washington to Copenhagen, about $1,200 if you catch a sale; lodging, about $1,500; internal transportation, $800 to $1,200. Total: $3,500 to $3,900, leaving plenty for food, admissions and incidentals.
Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to washingtonpost.com/