13 Scandinavian TV Shows Worth Binge-watching (Video)
Gloomy mysteries, midnight-sun-lit thrillers, and more Nordic goodness available to stream.
When Travel +Leisure A-List travel advisor Melissa Lee realized her clients needed a pick-me-up, she started thinking outside the box. The Scandinavia expert knew that her clients were still eager to plan trips, but that those trips would be — for now — a distant light at the end of the tunnel. What could offer a dose of the Arctic landscapes and Nordic aesthetics in the short term?
Ever since "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" made it to bookshelves across the world, so-called Nordic noir has been this region's best-known genre. But while there are plenty of gloomy mysteries and eerie, midnight-sun-lit thrillers available to stream, that's not all the Scandinavian TV worth watching. Lee took the time to draw up a comprehensive list of her favorite series — complete with descriptions of where they were shot and what's worth visiting in the area — to tide over her travel-hungry friends, family, and clients.
Here are 13 of Lee's recommended television series from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, all available on major streaming services and extremely binge-worthy. English language titles are in parentheses.
Arvingerne (The Legacy)
Set on Funen, an island off Denmark, The Legacy tells the story of four siblings after their mother's unexpected death upends their lives. In addition to beautiful views of the island and its iconic Egeskov Castle, Lee notes that "this series is great for those wanting a sense of the Danish lifestyle and cultural norms." Only the first season is currently available to stream, but the second and third can be purchased on DVD.
Den Som Dræber (Those Who Kill)
This miniseries is a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. "A serial killer is on the loose in Denmark," Lee explains, "and a Copenhagen detective and forensic psychiatrist team up to stop them." An American spinoff of Those Who Kill ran on A&E in 2014, and in 2019, it was announced that the Danish original would be returning for a new second season, nearly a decade after it first aired.
Kaikki Synnit (All the Sins)
Lee recommends this award-winning crime drama, "a mystery set in northern Finland with a glimpse into small-town life." A detective returns from Helsinki to his remote hometown to investigate a murder case — and he uncovers secrets he wishes he hadn't. Shot on location in the region of North Ostrobothnia, the harbors and islands of Helsinki are left far behind. Instead, All the Sins shows "a flatter, more pastoral landscape dotted by small villages and church spires." A second season is currently in the works.
Ivalo (Arctic Circle)
"Finnish Lapland is an increasing popular travel destination," says Lee of the striking setting for this crime drama, where the events take place high above the Arctic Circle. An attempted murder occurs in a remote wilderness cabin — and the crime, in a particularly timely twist, is linked to a deadly new virus. While the days are short, the landscapes are starkly, icily beautiful. "Viewers get a sense of what a Lapland winter is like: travel by snowmobile, sub-zero temperatures, and limited sunlight."
It's a familiar tale: a hotshot detective, worn out by his work in national law enforcement, takes a small-town job to spend more time with his family in the countryside. But nothing is ever so simple. This crime drama is set in the small Finnish city of Lappeenranta, just 15 miles from the Russian border. "Almost three quarters of Finland is forested," says Lee, and the web of deceit that emerges is backdropped by the dense evergreens of the surrounding region.
Brot (The Valhalla Murders)
The first Icelandic series to appear on Netflix, The Valhalla Murders shows viewers all around this island nation — on the trail of a killer. After a series of seemingly unrelated murders around the country, a detective returns home from his post in Oslo to help investigate. What happens next takes him from Reykjavik to the harbor to the wilderness along the Ring Road, and is based (loosely) on real events that occurred in rural Iceland in the 1940s.
This smash-hit series is allegedly the highest-production-value television show in the history of Iceland. After a body is found in the remote fishing town of Seyðisfjörður, it becomes clear that this isn't an isolated incident. Then, a blizzard hits. "Iceland in winter can be brutal and unforgiving," says Lee, "but Icelanders are adept at continuing with business as usual, even when they're completely cut off from from one another." A third season is in development.
This crime drama is set in and around Halden, near Norway's border with Sweden. Like many series on this list, it focuses on a detective who returns to his small hometown from the big city — only to realize the crime he's investigating is distressingly intertwined with family history and village life. The landscapes are dominated by "expansive, dense, and beautiful forests," which Lee says "are common in this part of southeast Norway."
This part of the world is known for its murder mysteries and crime dramas, but Scandinavia has produced top-notch political thrillers, too. Lee recommends Nobel for a glimpse at "how the Norwegian political process and foreign relations are navigated." A Norwegian Special Forces officer returns from Afghanistan, where Norway has maintained troops since 2001, and finds a system in Oslo that's just as volatile and corrupt. "The main story here is modern-day politics and government," says Lee, but street life of Norway's capital is a guest star.
This dark medical thriller takes place in Oslo, where a desperate doctor — hoping to cure his dying wife — finds himself getting too close to the city's criminal underbelly. Viewers will recognize Oslo's famous modernist skyline and the islands dotting the Oslofjord, but Lee loves Valkyrie because "you'll also see Oslo beyond the margins — a gritty, dark visual of Norway’s capital and most populous city."
Bron/Broen (The Bridge)
Normally, says Lee, "the Øresund Bridge allows for easy travel by car or train between Copenhagen and Malmö." However, in this series, it becomes "a jurisdictional nightmare" when a body is found directly in the middle: half in Denmark, half in Sweden. While the unprecedented cooperation necessary to solve the crime is not easy, The Bridge "still highlights the community connection between the two cities." Just a heads up, season 4 is not yet available to stream in the U.S.
Midnattssol (Midnight Sun)
This show is set in Kiruna, in Sweden's Arctic Circle, a town that Lee says is mostly "famous worldwide for being home to the Ice Hotel." But things take a darker turn when officials begin tracking a series of cryptic, ritualistic killings. The titular midnight sun is usually a tourist draw, but here, it adds an unnerving element to the investigation. Still, says Lee, the series "showcases both the geography of the region and the indigenous Sami people" who live there.
Where to Watch: Hulu
Morden i Sandhamn (The Sandhamn Murders)
According to Lee, "the 30,000 islands of Stockholm’s famed archipelago come alive in this light mystery series," based on the novels of Viveca Sten. While the island of Sandhamn, "Sweden’s sailing capital," is plagued with crime in the show, in reality, it's a popular summer destination. Lee says that "Swedes and visitors alike spend their days cycling, sailing, swimming, and enjoying the relaxed vibes" throughout the archipelago, which is accessible from Stockholm via car, train, or ferry.