We take you on a tour of recognisable Nordic locations usually seen decorated with “Police: do not cross” tape, flashing red and blue lights and the fleeting shadows of nefarious characters fleeing the scene of their crime. Add to this the breath-taking backdrops for tempestuous crimes of a deceptive nature in the spellbinding Nordic dramas that shock us just the same.
Despite how uninhabitable the Scandinavian climate is often represented and the ghastly goings on that take place around the Nordic capital cities, our fascination with visiting the realm of Nordic Noir remains unaffected. Niche Nordic “walking tours” and specialised excursions showcase each country’s unique selling points from classic mythology to modern cityscapes. Why not break the fourth wall and take a walk on the Noir side? We’ll lead the way…
The Øresund Bridge – The Bridge (2011- )
The overwhelming structure that became a character in its own right is a 16 km long road, rail link and artificial island called Peberholm that connects Denmark to Sweden. Constructed by lead architect Georg K.S. Rotne and officially opened in 2000, the Øresund Bridge stretches across the Øresund strait (or the Sound) and is the focal point of the investigations headed by detectives Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) and Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia). As well as being the spot where a body was found at the centre of the bridge in the first season, this is the birthplace of the quirky partnership between Norén from Malmö (on the Swedish side) and Rohde from Copenhagen (from the Danish side of the Øresund).
Vesterbro and Pinseskoven – The Killing I (2007)
The tragic hometown of Nanna Birk Larsen (Julie R. Ølgaard) from The Killing I is actually filmed in an area of Copenhagen called Vesterbro. The grand-scale murder investigation that sparked the critically acclaimed television series centred round the missing schoolgirl and how the Larsen family, including grieving mother Pernille (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen) and father Theis (Bjarne Henriksen) dealt with their loss. The eerie Pinseskoven (otherwise known as the Pentecost Woods) is where Nanna met her demise. The forest is situated in Amagerfælled/Frieslandsvej at Amager; approximately 9km from Copenhagen. Would you dare to venture here alone at night?
Ystad, Skåne – Wallander (2005-2013)
The sprawling Southern Swedish countryside of the county of Skåne is the territory of Kurt Wallander. Often depicted as a quiet, rural part of Sweden, this artisan town is brimming with museums and art galleries but is never too far from the beaches and countryside that provides a contemplative epilogue to Wallander’s cases. Far from the muted concrete metropolis and gritty alleyways of Stockholm, the picturesque town is as inviting as it is dangerous. Don’t be fooled by the genuine cobbled streets. If you see something suspicious, simply hop on over to the red brick building next to the lighthouse where receptionist Ebba (Marianne Mörck) will be happy to greet you. That is the Ystad police station.
Gnesta, Södermanlands län and Södermalm, Bellmansgatan 1 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
The fictional town of Hedestad that lures Millennium magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to re-open the cold case of missing girl Harriet Vanger forty years earlier is, in reality, the county of Södermanlands. Considered to be the wealthiest in Sweden, Gnesta is a suitable place for the volatile Vanger family to reside with its opulent reputation. Fans can book tickets for ‘The Millennium Tour’ as part of VisitSweden to walk in the footsteps of their beloved protagonists around Södermalm, Bellmansgatan 1. This includes a glimpse at the cafes frequented by Blomkvist and Salander, as well as their apartments.
Tromsø, Norway - Insomnia (1997)
Before booking a holiday or attempting to track down a killer in Tromsø, we have it on good authority from detective Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård) that the Midnight Sun may be too much to handle. Tromsø, which is mainly part of Tromsøya Island, is connected to the mainland of Northern Norway by the Tromsø Bridge and the Tromsøysund Tunnel. These handy transportation links may prove useful when the natural phenomenon of the Midnight Sun shines relentlessly from 18th May up until 26th July.
Lillehammer, Norway – Lilyhammer (2012- )
Relocated to Norway from the gangster neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York, Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt,) goes into hiding in the nether regions of Lillehammer. Frank struggles to blend in and adjust to his new identity as Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen, courtesy of the Witness Protection Program. As opposed to drive-by shootings and organised hits, Lillehammer is aimed at tourists with a taste for the outdoors: cycling and hiking, as well as choosing from five ski resorts in the surrounding area. We recommend dressing warmly if you have not been there before. You don’t want to get caught out like Frank did.
Fortitude – Fortitude (2015- )
The town of Fortitude exhibits a harsh beauty with its snow-covered mountains and valleys within the Arctic Circle. It is idealised as the perfect place to live; free of crime and catered to lovers in general. Filmed in both the UK and Reyðafjörður, Iceland, the production value and set design is as impressive as it is promoted in the show by power-driven governor Hildur Odegard (Sofie Gråbøl). Reyðafjörður matches its history with its fictional setting as it is a relatively new settlement itself. According to Lonely Planet, Reyðafjörður “only came into existence – as a trading port – in the 20th century”. With this in mind, it is probably best to avoid the glacier and stay at a safe distance from the polar bears that roam the locale with an appetite.
Bergslagen – Crimes of Passion (2014)
In a change from the frosty milieu of Scandi crime, the sun-kissed mining district of Bergslagen in northern Svealand is Sweden’s version of Agatha Christie mysteries meets the style of TV shows such as Mad Men (2007-2015). The snow and ice are replaced by a perpetual 1950s summer that heats up with murder and lust. Wilder than the homicidal acts committed here from the novels of Maria Lang (aka Dagmar Lange), the forests of Bergslagen are home to moose, beavers and even wolves. Safari packages are on offer unless it is a wine-fuelled getaway during Midsummer you are planning to enjoy. Just be sure to pick your holiday chums wisely. Or just pick them off.
Folketinget - Borgen (2010-2013)
The frequent back-stabbing and underhanded tactics that are synonymous with politics are secures their own criminal context. At the Danish parliament, otherwise known as Folketinget or ‘Borgen’ (which translates as ‘the castle’) is located in the beautifully ornate Christiansborg Palace on Slotsholmen – an island in Copenhagen. At the Palace, exquisite events to celebrate Denmark’s monarchy are held here. Visitors can take in the sights of the spectacular interiors, tapestries and discover the subterranean ruins.
Funen – The Legacy (2013- )
Funen (also referred to as ‘Fyn’) is Denmark’s second largest island and can be found in between the islands of Zealand and Denmark’s mainland – Jutland. The Grønnegaard estate juxtaposes the serenity of Funen which brings together the feuding family whose secrets threaten to maintain their estranged and highly dysfunctional relationship. Susanne Bier’s drama thriller A Second Chance (2014) starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has also been filmed on the island.