When it comes to planning your next vacation in Northern Europe, deciding where to go is always a difficult decision. You may have limited time or a specific budget for the year set aside for traveling. And with so many wonderful European countries to choose from, each unique in its own special way, how do you choose?
Of course, any vacation is great, but you must consider certain factors of the countries you want to check off your bucket list.
Ireland and Norway are two of the most popular countries in Northern Europe to visit. People from all over the world come here to experience what they have to offer. Each one has its positives, but you may have to ultimately decide between one or the other.
This article will break down each of these countries in Northern Europe into several categories, from food and nature to nightlife and living like the locals. There is no right or wrong answer, but having this information may help make your decision a little easier.
A country can really be defined by its traditional cuisine. How it is prepared, the ingredients, and the flavor shows a country’s culture and history in every bite. Do not simply stick to the usual entrees. This is your opportunity to try the unique dishes on your travels, which help tie your whole trip together.
Food in Ireland
In Ireland, most meals are simple yet hearty and filling. They present the homemade and neighborly warmth of locally sourced ingredients of vegetables to make well-known dishes like Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, and the infamous Dublin coddle. Sometimes chefs source ingredients from their own personal gardens. You cannot go wrong with tossing everything in a single pot for a week’s worth of food in Ireland.
Norway concentrates more on dishes involving fish. Mostly cod and salmon. Their seafaring culture is still very present today as their seafood is widely renowned and an important export. What is surprising is that Norway is one of only two countries that still serves whale meat as an entrée (the other being Japan). It is worth trying during your time here.
Aside from fish, their traditional dishes include a similar hearty stew with root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots and a variety of meats from sheep and reindeer to moose.
Now that we have eaten, it is time to explore after hours. Both countries tend to have a vibrant nighttime culture, but they are very different in key areas. Your preferences will decide which one may be better suited for you.
Ireland is famously known for its pubs, bars, and camaraderie. You will find many popular, fun pubs scattered throughout Ireland. Instead of DJs, find yourself singing along to live music with the rest of the crowd, meeting friendly locals, and joining them for a pint. Enjoy some classic home-brewed Irish whiskey together.
Yes, you may have a pub back home. But going to a pub in Ireland will allow you to feel authentically Irish.
Norway is more known in Northern Europe for its nightclub scene.
With electrifying dance music, hipster clientele, and a host of popular DJs, it is really the only way to stay warm in the colder months. Most popular locations are found in major cities like Oslo and Bergen, where tourists and locals alike will find their way to these places. Do not feel the need to dress up, though, as the consensus seems to be to keep it casual.
Now that you have spent time in the major cities in Northern Europe and explored what they have had to offer, it is time to make your way to the lesser-known paths and into the picturesque outskirts for some relaxation. It’s where you can see the local day-to-day life we have all dreamed about. This would have to be considered a tie, as both countries have amazing countryside.
Ireland has numerous little fairy tale villages that make everyone want to retire and move there indefinitely. These are the kind of places where you will find one main street throughout town that fits all your needs.
Countryside of Norway
Norway is the same with its coastal towns and inland areas, where a single church is often the epicenter of the area. Unique cottages and boutique houses are scattered along the open landscape.
If you are looking for places to decompress, search for countryside cottages in Norway. You can find them on Airbnb, or you might find a single hotel or hostel to accommodate your needs in a relaxing town such as in Eliassen Rorbuer in Hamnøy or Hamn i Senja. The whole point is to see that even nowadays, there is still a consideration for a slower-paced way of living.
Nature in Norway vs. Ireland
We all go on vacation to enjoy new scenery and landscapes. Seeing a little open country is a fortunate experience if you live in the city. What makes it worthwhile is how much care is taken to preserve nature in these countries. This is a good topic of conversation and a major reason why tourism is so high in either country.
You can take dozens of pictures for your scrapbook if you are an amateur or professional photographer in either location.
Nature in Norway
Norway is most famously known for its majestic fjords. The deep blue waters and rising cliffs are a sight to behold. We see many photos to inspire a trip to Norway.
Some of these Norwegian fjords are so popular and significant they have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can find plenty of short cruises and ferries that will take you up and down these fjords in Northern Norway with no hassle.
The added benefit is you can jump off the boat or ferry to spend a weekend in a quaint village built along the fjord and kick back. If you are up for it, you may want to attempt a “polar plunge” to really wake yourself up. The snow-covered mountains and lakes also showcase why this country’s nature is so fantastic.
On the other hand, Ireland makes up for its lack of fjords with breathtaking rolling green hills and amazing coastal mountains. The many waterways of lakes, rivers, and canals help interconnect the country.
Other naturally inspiring sites like the Giant’s Causeway are why you can find so many photographers having the time of their lives in the Irish landscape. And with all this comes the folklore of the culture, with faerie folk and giants to really help bring it all together.
Part of the fun in traveling abroad is enjoying the extracurricular activities specific to that country, either as part of the tour you are taking or just deciding to do it on your own. These fun activities can be a recent or even continuing enjoyment of the culture and history that allows anyone to participate or observe. Never pass on a good opportunity to try and experience something out of the everyday routine.
Popular Norwegian Activities
Norway focuses on the outdoors. People like planning road trips with a rental car and driving through the country as a great way to experience what Norway offers. Take time to stop and enjoy the scenic overlooks in Norwegian towns and all the colorful houses. Fjord tours and excursions are popular and easy to book.
During the winter, you can find plenty of mountain resorts that offer skiing and other winter activities. You can take the opportunity to go dog sledding as a bonus treat to yourself.
There is also an assortment of popular museums to visit, explaining the history and culture from the time of the Vikings to the present day. The Scandinavian culture was integral to shaping Western Europe, so you will learn plenty about Norway’s historical contributions.
Popular Irish Activities
Enjoy the many medieval vibes in Ireland, exploring popular castles still standing that are scattered throughout the country. You can even opt to have dinner with evening entertainment in some castles. Enjoy traditional music and songs within the castle walls.
Take the Wild Atlantic Way for road trips, explore Ireland’s coastal regions, and partake in local tours. Most foodie and walking tours concentrate on the major cities and are informative and enjoyable; you can probably find a local guide to show you around. There are many distilleries in Ireland producing fine whiskey, so take a few hours to learn the process and sample some high-end brands.
This is just a small tidbit of what you can find in the vastness of Northern Europe. Each country, whether Ireland or Norway, is a unique gem. Even if you are a frequent traveler, you will need to visit at least several times to become an expert on what each country offers. Every person might have their personal favorites and recommendations on places to go and things to try. But with this helpful article, you can narrow your vacation down to some key areas.
In the words of the Emerald Isle, Sláinte!
In the words of the Land of the Midnight Sun, Skål!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Nick is the founder of The World Overload, a personal travel blog. From here he shares his and others personal travel experiences, trip itineraries, popular cultural events, and suggested destinations for every world traveling enthusiast. Nick wants to experience the most of what this world has to offer and hopes to bring you into this as well.