The Destinations That Inspired Chilling Nordic Noir

14 March 2015

Characterised by its gritty urban landscapes, frosty rural backwaters, dysfunctional heroes and densely-woven plots (and jumpers), Nordic Noir has become a cult sensation, permeating Australians' bookshelves, Kindles and TV schedules.

Also known as Scandi Noir, or Scandi-crime, it's a genre that provides not just a smorgasbord of stomach-churning thrills and chills, but also illuminates the murkier side of the often seemingly idyllic Scandinavian social democracies - while simultaneously sparking a whole new strand of tourism.

Keen to delve beyond the Nordic cliches of ABBA, IKEA and meatballs, Noir-obsessives love discovering the real-life spots in which their favourite characters went about their business (dodging psychopathic hitmen, solving gruesome crimes and taking richly-deserved coffee breaks).

 Follow in the footsteps of your favourite Nordic Noir characters (Getty)

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Follow In The Footsteps Of Lisbeth Salander

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The pioneers of Scandi Noir were arguably husband-and-wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, who, in the 1960s and 70s, penned ten police procedural novels featuring their world-weary Stockholm-based protagonist Martin Beck.

The genre's modern poster-boy and girl, however, is the late Stieg Larsson and his star creation, vigilante-hacktivist Lisbeth Salander (aka The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

 The city of Mikael Blomkvist

You can follow in the footsteps of Salander and her cohort - investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist - on the Swedish capital's Millennium Tour, which spans the central island of Sodermalm, where the dynamic (fictional) duo live and work.

One notable pitstop is Mellqvists Kaffebar, where caffeine-addict Blomkvist - and Larsson himself - would enjoy fika (the Swedish coffee-and-pastry ritual). Prefer a DIY tour? You can buy a location-studded map from the Stockholm City Museum.

Larsson died in 2004, but a fourth installment in the so-called Millennium Series, approved by the Larsson estate, is out in August, authored by David Lagercrantz (the ghostwriter of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's biography I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic).


Stockholm also has its Abba side. Have The Time Of Your Life At The ABBA Museum

Copenhagen is among the world's most bike-friendly cities. The World’s Best Bicycle Cities


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Stockbroker Turned Rock Star Turned Writer

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Starring recovering alcoholic cop Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo's books are often plastered with the sticker 'The Next Stieg Larsson'.

But Nesbo, a Norwegian stockbroker-turned-rockstar and writer, was producing acclaimed crime fiction long before his Swedish counterpart.

 Part of Nesbo's Oslo beat

Nesbo's first Hole story, The Bat, is actually set in Sydney - he's sent Down Under to probe the death of a young Norwegian waitress - though most of his cases take place in his Oslo beat.

City guides Mari Atlanta Lunde and Anne Marie Voien Fleischer are renowned for their Nesbo-approved, anecdote-packed tours around Norway's capital, pointing out the iconic landmarks and less-tourist-trampled backstreets described in Hole's adventures.

Pitstops include the Var Frelsers Gravlund Cemetery - where many famous Norwegians are buried, including Edvard 'The Scream' Munch - and Schroder Restaurant, a favourite eatery of Hole's, just around the corner from his flat in Sofies Gate.

You'll also see the Opera House, one of the most eye-catching modern buildings in a part of the world noted for its design prowess.

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Check The Dark Side Of The Little Mermaid City

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Synonymous with the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen - a bronze Little Mermaid sculpture is one of the most-photographed sights in the Danish capital - Copenhagen has earned a somewhat darker reputation of late, thanks to The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen.

Founded by a young Dutchwoman, who wrote her university dissertation on film tourism in Denmark, Nordic Noir Tours guide fans around the myriad locations used in the filming of this critically-acclaimed trio.

 You can imagine the Larsen family here

Sights familiar to viewers include Copenhagen's austere grey police headquarters (where Sarah Lund, The Killing's nicotine-gum-chewing, Faroese-sweater-wearing detective, and The Bridge's scruffy cop Martin Rohde work), city hall (where much of The Killing's gut-wrenchingly tense first season was set) and Christiansborg (the Danish parliament, whose nickname, Borgen, inspired the title of the TV show).

Alternatively, grab a themed map from Copenhagen Tourist Office and cycle round this bike-friendly city, savouring its quaint streets - dotted with spired churches - frequenting the restaurant-packed quayside district of Nyhavn, and the hip Vesterbro neighbourhood, where the grief-stricken Larsen family from The Killing lives.

On Amager, an island situated off Copenhagen, you can trample the birch tree-peppered Pentecost Woods, where Nanna Birk Larsen was trailed by her killer (come here, and you'll soon have the show's masterful score, conducted by Frans Bak, running through your head).

A must-do is to drive - or take the train - over the awe-inspiring Oresund Bridge, which links Copenhagen and Malmo (the Swedish city where The Bridge's socially-awkward, Porsche-driving policewoman Saga Noren is based).

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Take Your Own Kurt Wallander-Inspired Tour

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Veteran Swedish actor Krister Henriksson and Brit thespian Kenneth Branagh are among those to have played on-screen versions of Kurt Wallander, Henning Mankell's brooding fictional inspector.

Mankell's absorbing yarns are largely set in and around Ystad, a busy port town in the Skane province, 60km south-east of Malmo.

Ystad's tourist information office has a series of Wallander-related offerings, including guided tours, which highlight key locations from the books and TV series and also allow you to solve some fun new Wallander-inspired mysteries.

 Take the role of Kurt Wallander down Ystad's streets (Getty)

It's possible to download smartphone apps and go on your own Wallander-themed journey through Ystad's cobblestone streets, which are lined with medieval, pastel-shaded half-timbered houses and picturesque squares.

Pause for refreshments in Fridolfs konditori, Wallander's favourite cafe, and watch birdlife flutter across the Baltic Sea from the nearby village of Loderup, where Wallander's father enjoyed painting the local landscapes.

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Delicious Flavours And Grisly Tales

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Nestled on Sweden's west coast, 130km north of Gothenburg, Fjallbacka was a beloved destination of Ingrid Bergman, who lived and holidayed on the nearby island of Dannholmen for 20 years.

In recent times, Fjallbacka has become inextricably linked with Sweden's 'queen of crime', Camilla Lackberg, a local girl whose grisly psychological tales - including The Ice Princess, The Lighthouse Keeper and Buried Angels - have earned over 10 million sales in 55 countries.

 Refreshment fit for The Queen of Crime

Starting beside a statue of Bergman in Fjallbacka's main square, the Fjallbacka Murder Mystery Tour follows the narrow and winding paved streets of this sleepy, close-knit fishing village, which is wedged between the sea and the craggy Vetteberget hill.

You'll see where Lackberg's heroes - journalist Erica Falck and detective Patrik Hedstrom - track down serial killers and learn more about the history and myths of Fjallbacka and its neighbouring archipelago (which you can take kayak trips around, before returning to dry land for a bowl of lobster soup or a seafood feast).

Lackberg has also penned the 'Flavours from Fjallbacka' cookbook with childhood friend Christian Hellberg, head chef at the Bryggan Fjällbacka harbourside hotel and restaurant, which serves a three-course dinner inspired by the pair's recipes.

Steve McKenna

A regular contributor to some of Australia's leading newspapers and travel magazines, Steve McKenna has visited, written about and photographed more than 80 countries on six different continents. He fears he has an incurable case of wanderlust and is particularly fond of Europe, Asia and South America.