Explore Scandinavia in the Twin Cities
The Norwegian American’s top 10 Nordic destinations
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
I travel to Minneapolis a lot, and why wouldn’t I? I feel right at home there among my friends at Norway House and with the Nordic ambiance that the area has to offer.
For this special issue with a focus on our new partnership with Norway House and its recent groundbreaking for an expanded campus, I thought it would be appropriate to explore our Nordic heritage in and about Minneapolis. I hope this mini-tour of the area will encourage you to add it to your travel bucket list and wish you a god tur as we explore Scandinavia in the Twin Cities together.
1. Norway House
The National Norwegian Center in America, Norway House is the epicenter of the Norwegian American community in the Twin Cities and all of North America. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee at the Kaffebar as you wander in before exploring the current exhibit or attending one of the many programs offered there. Norway House is also home to the Norway Art gallery, with some of the best authentic Scandinavian artwork available in North America. You will also find the Norwegian Honorary Consulate, The Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota<, the Minnesota Peace Initiative, the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, North Chapter, and the expansion will serve as a new national home for Fellesraad in the United States, an organization serving anyone with Norwegian ancestry. And don’t worry, if you just want to get cozy and hang out with friends or shop for that special gift at Ingebretsen’s Gavebutikk, everyone is welcome at Minneapolis’ Norwegian home—kom hjem—come home!
Founded in 1921, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, located adjacent to Norway House, has been a gathering place for Norwegians for almost a century. Mindekirken is still a living congregation that offers a rich cultural experience through language, music, arts, and food. Experience a Sunday service in Norwegian or simply stop in to stand in awe before the historic altar with light beaming in through the sanctuary’s majestic stained-glass windows—it’s a uniquely Norwegian-American experience.
3. Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace
Celebrating 100 years at the corner of Lake Street and 16th Avenue S., Ingebretsen’s is much more than a shop. Here you can buy your specialty foods at the charming market and deli, take classes to learn Scandinavian art and crafts, and peruse one of the best selections of traditional Nordic gifts in all of North America. There is so much to learn and take in that it’s almost like going to a Nordic museum where you can take the artifacts home with you.
4. American Swedish Institute
And then, for the more serious museum enthusiast, a stop at the American Swedish Institute is an absolute must. Start with a coffee or lunch at the critically acclaimed FIKA Cafe before you head into the galleries. Be amazed as you explore the historic Turnblad Mansion, lovingly dubbed the “Castle,” which will take you back into the splendor of yesteryear in all its glamour and glory.
5. Steller Handcrafted Goods
Searching for more souvenirs or looking to make a serious purchase for your Scandinavian wardrobe? In Northeast Minneapolis, Steller Handcrafted Goods offers something different, Nordic-style apparel created from old wool sweaters, blankets, and other upcycled materials. It’s Nordic sustainability at its very best. Find a new coat, a sweater vest, or some comfy Nordic mittens for a “stellar” shopping experience at the perfectly named Steller.
6. Danish American Center
In the Twin Cities, all the Nordics come together, and one of the gathering places is the Danish American Center on West River Parkway in Minneapolis. First established by a prominent Danish immigrant, the center still sponsors language and cultural programs, and with its gracious and spacious rooms, it is a popular rental venue for its members. You can join at extremely reasonable rates, which also allows you to overnight at the club. And, of course, there is a kaffestua to enjoy—Scandinavian hygge at its very best!
7. Hewing Hotel
If you are looking to stay a little more upscale, the Hewing Hotel offers all the amenities of a five-star hotel and then a bit more. Located in the North Loop neighborhood, its unique decor was inspired by the bounty of Minnesota’s lakes and woods and pays tribute to the state’s strong Scandinavian roots. You can enjoy a Nordic-inspired cocktail on the rooftop terrace. Its main restaurant, Tullibee, offers a menu influenced by the rural Nordic practices of foraging, butchery, and fermentation techniques—Minnesota fare that is simply scandilicious!
8. Vann Restaurant
Vann is pronounced “von” and Norwegian for water. In search of a truly authentic Norwegian gourmet experience? Then, Vann Restaurant, located on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Spring Park, is the place for you. Local chef Erik Skaar returned to the suburbs of Minneapolis after perfecting his cooking skills in some of the country’s best kitchens. The name “Vann” pays homage to Erik’s strong Norwegian roots and his love of seafood and globally inspired cuisine. In addition, boat parking is available on Vann’s dedicated dock. A true waterful experience!
9. Gammelgården Museum
Are you looking to step back into history into a more rural experience? Meaning “old farm,” Gammelgården is located in Scandia, about 42 minutes by car from our original starting point at Norway House. It is the only open-air museum devoted to preserving, presenting, and promoting Swedish immigrant heritage in the United States. Tour the historic buildings housing authentic artifacts, or attend special events and classes to learn about the daily lives of early immigrants in Minnesota through a Swedish lens. It’s well worth the trip.
10. State Capitol
Finally, any visit to the Twin Cities is not complete without a stop at the State Capitol in Saint Paul to pay homage to the world’s most famous Viking, Leif Erikson. The memorial, fashioned by Norwegian-American sculptor John Karl Daniels, was unveiled in 1949 by Scandinavian Americans to honor their heritage and credit their ancestors with the “discovery” of North America. It makes for the perfect photo op and finale to your own discovery of Scandinavia in the Twin Cities.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 8, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.