Where to find a taste of Scandinavian culture in London
From the coolest fashion brands with London outposts to the coffee shops serving superlative cinnamon buns: where to find a slice of Scandinavia in London
Coffee shops serving superlative baked goods
Pastries and coffees at Fabrique
'Fika' is a Swedish term which translates as ‘a coffee and cake break’. It’s something Scandinavians take seriously and know how to serve just right. But we all need a fika break from time to time. Thankfully, London is in no short supply of places to enjoy this tradition. A Google search for Scandinavian cafés will most probably lead you to the aptly named Nordic Bakery in Soho and the Scandinavian Kitchen in Fitzrovia. Both of which offer decent coffee and traditional, cinnamon-infused bakes.
But there are more gems sprinkled across the city. Our favourites take three forms, the first of which is Danish mini-chain Ole & Steen, famous for its cinnamon social slice, which is arguably unrivaled in deliciousness. Then there’s Swedish cafés Bageriet (in Covent Garden) and Fabrique (various locations), where ordering a 'kanelbullar' (cinnamon bun) should be mandatory.
Both cafés are ridiculously picturesque with their chocolate box window displays boasting stacks of fresh pastries. But if you prize your brew over your bake, Fabrique wins our vote. With fairtrade organic beans from the Johan & Nyström roastery in Stockholm – a brand set up by coffee-loving friends dedicated to brewing through the ‘slow roast’ method that allows flavours to develop to their fullest – this is a little bit of Swedish quality in our very own capital.
From Smørrebrøds to snaps: lunch and dinner Scandi style
Smørrebrøds at Snaps & Rye
While London is in no short supply of Scandinavian bakeries and coffee shops, Lunch and dinner offerings are a little more scarce. A favourite of ours, though, is Lisa’s on Portobello Road. While Lisa herself has left the café to pursue new projects, the buzzy spot remains a homage to her home-style Swedish dishes and aquavit-based cocktails. The Frasvåfflor (waffles) with raspberry jam and vanilla whipped cream are not to be missed if you come for breakfast, while lunch and dinner highlights include a traditional plate of Swedish meatballs and marinated herring.
Danish restaurant Snaps and Rye is also top notch. At this breakfast-through-lunch spot, you can tuck into the likes of spandauers (Danish pastries), salmon and eggs or Nordic kedgeree, but we recommend the Smørrebrøds: Scandinavia’s traditional, open-faced sandwiches. Those who come for lunch (when Salmon dishes and meatballs are also served) might want to pair their dish with a cocktail from the café’s extensive menu, courtesy of the Danish Snaps Company.
Scandi-chic design stores
While there’s no one way to make your home look Scandi-chic, the interiors aesthetic these nations are typically known for is united by several themes: minimalism, warmth, uncluttered spaces with functional furnishings and a love of proximity to nature (house plants are a must, as are natural-looking wooden fittings).
While a certain Swedish chain store remains an enjoyable place to wile away a rainy Sunday afternoon, far more stylish Swedish furniture can be found in London at Skandium, a chic emporium with a big online presence. Chase & Sorensen in Dalston and Aram in Covent Garden, meanwhile, are two more treasure troves for Nordic interiors inspo at which you can deck out your home Copenhagen style.
Looking for something a bit more traditional? A visit to mid-century Scandinavian furniture store Førest London in Clerkenwell should have you covered. Wherever you head, why not complete your newly Scandified home with a Skandinavisk candle (available at John Lewis), filling the space with a scent inspired by the region’s dense woodlands.
Scandinavian fashion brands with a London outpost
Much like Scandinavian design trends, fashion from these Nordic countries is known for championing minimalism over fussiness and quirks. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to get the look. It’s a well-known fact that high street chains H&M, Arket, Cos, & Other Stories, Weekday, Monki and Cheap Monday are all owned by the Swedish retail company the H&M Group. But high-end Scandinavian fashion brands and independent boutiques can be found in London, too.
Danish brands are leading the way. 2019 saw the opening of a bricks-and-mortar store for much-loved Danish brand Ganni on Soho’s Beak Street. Here, it’s joined by Samsøe & Samsøe's first UK flagship, which brings Copenhagen cool (think sleek design and quality basics made from luxe-fabrics) to London. Meanwhile at Harvey Nichols and Browns Fashion, you can shop luxury womenswear brand Brøgger, which dances between soft feminine shapes and masculine tailoring.
When it comes to footwear, though, all eyes are on the latest handcrafted sneakers from lauded Swedish label Axel Arigato. These all-white trainers with their contrasting side panels can be found on London’s most fashionable feet. Why not pair them with something from House of Dagmar, a brand launched by three sisters in Stockholm that fuses practical outdoorsy wear with sleek fashion.
Art inspired by Nordic vistas
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson doesn’t just want London to see his art, he wants us to smell it, touch it and even walk through it. The highly Instagrammable exhibition, currently on at Tate Modern (until 5 January 2020), features over 40 works inspired by Eliasson’s childhood spent in Iceland. Among the offering is a photo series of the country’s shrinking glaciers (Eliasson is also a climate advocate) and a wall of Scandinavian reindeer lichen.
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The Norwegian playwright whose work we love to revive
Jessica Chastain plays Nora in A Doll's House
Norwegian playwright Henrick Ibsen (1828 – 1906) is remembered as one of the founders of modernism and a father of realism, but many of his plays were also ahead of their time. Because of this, his works continue to be regularly adapted: this last year alone has seen West End revivals of Rosmersholm, The Wild Duck and Peer Gynt.
Next up is A Doll’s House, Ibsen’s 1879 play about a dissatisfied, secretive housewife who abandons her family for independence. The play, which was wildly controversial at the time, is being reworked into two very different productions in 2020. In Nora: A Doll’s House, which comes to the Young Vic in February following a run at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, playwright Stef Smith positions Nora in three different time periods, ultimately questioning how much has changed for women in the past century.
This is followed, in June, by Jamie Lloyd's starry production of A Doll’s House at the Playhouse Theatre, with Golden-Globe winner Jessica Chastain in the role of Nora. This time the text is in the capable hands of Irish playwright and esteemed adaptor Frank McGuinness. Take your pick – or book tickets to both – to see why Ibsen’s masterpiece continues to resonate today.