If you’re yearning for a unique getaway, you can plan a visit to a charming town that offers a little taste of Europe right here in the Northwest. Just wait until after the COVID-19 crisis is over to visit, of course.
Velkommen til Poulsbo! This town of 11,180, known as “Little Norway,” is located in northern Kitsap County, a ferry ride and drive from Seattle. Founded in the late 1800s, the town on Liberty Bay enticed Scandinavians to settle in the area because it was so similar to the fjords of Norway.
Driving into the downtown core you’ll find delightful rosemaled storefronts where you can meander through art galleries and shops including Nordiska, which offers Scandinavian housewares and gifts.
Marina Market carries a wide variety of Scandinavian foods, including all things lutefisk. You’ll also find dozens of types of black licorice, considered a favorite among Nordic folks. At Sluy’s Poulsbo Bakery, tease your taste buds with handcrafted cardamom braids, lefse, fattigmand, and of course Poulsbo Bread. While you’re there, pick up a souvenir wooden nickel.
On Wednesdays, the Poulsbo Sons of Norway hosts a Kaffe Stua lunch buffet with traditional open-face sandwiches, pickled herring, lefse and krumkake.
Viking Fest in May includes a parade, entertainment, food and craft vendors, a carnival and a lutefisk eating content.
The Ballard neighborhood of Seattle is recognized as Poulsbo’s sister city. Here you’ll find the Nordic Heritage Museum, the largest museum in the United States to honor immigrants from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
Scandinavian Specialties carries Norwegian clothing, housewares, gifts and food, and Larsen’s Danish Bakery cooks up traditional Danish pastries, Kringle and other delicacies.
In May, join thousands of people to celebrate Syttende Mai (Soot-n-duh My), the 17th of May Festival, Norway’s Constitution Day and Ballard’s celebration of its Scandinavian heritage. The grand parade features more than 100 groups including marching bands, Norwegian-American lodges, drill teams, and more.
Just a couple hours from Seattle via Highway 2 over Stevens Pass, this village nestled in the Cascades promises “Bavarian authenticity and Northwest hospitality.”
Believe it or not, the town does not have Bavarian heritage. It began as a bustling logging and sawmill town, but in the early 1960s, town leaders decided to change Leavenworth’s appearance in an effort to draw visitors. Since the town’s location resembled those in German Bavaria, the entire town center was updated with Bavarian-style architecture.
Visit the Nutcracker Museum, where you’ll find more than 7,000 beautifully crafted nutcrackers from more than 50 countries. For lunch, enjoy delicious German favorites at Ludwig’s, an authentic German biergarten.
In October you can enjoy beer, brats, live music and polka dancing at Oktoberfest. The event is held over several weekends, and on each Saturday, the town’s mayor honors the Bavarian Tradition of “tapping the keg.”
Join villagers to celebrate Bavarian Maifest, a German tradition dating back to the 10th century where villagers gathered to celebrate the arrival of spring. Enjoy Bavarian food and music, a parade and Maipole dancing.
In June, the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration brings accordion aficionados together for concerts, competitions and an accordion parade. In September, take in Leavenworth’s Autumn Leaf Festival, which celebrates the turning colors of the autumn leaves. In December the town comes alive with millions of twinkling lights for Christmas lighting weekends.
A 72-foot-ball windmill greets you as you cruise into downtown Lynden, a monument to the town’s Dutch heritage. Located 15 miles north of Bellingham, Lynden is known for its Dutch influence and architecture.
Explore Lynden’s history and the “simpler life” at Lynden Pioneer Museum and enjoy a traditional Dutch treats at Lynden Dutch Bakery. The Dutch-themed Dutch Mothers Family Restaurant offers European specialties, including Pannekoeken and Dutch Split Pea Soup.
Throughout the year the community celebrates their farming heritage with the Northwest Raspberry Festival and the Farmers Day Parade. The biggest celebration of the year is the Northwest Washington Fair each August.
For a taste of jolly old England, head up to Victoria, B.C. It’s easy to get there – you can walk on the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, take the ferry from Port Angeles, or take a scenic harbor-to-harbor float plane flight from Seattle.
Known as the City of Gardens, Victoria has conducted an annual flower count since the 1970s. Blooms counted in 2018 totaled more than 3.4 billion.
Victoria offers a plethora of opportunities for flower fans. First up is the gardens at Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor. The 36 acres include a traditional English garden, a sunken rose garden and a rhododendron garden .
Beacon Hill Park is a 200-acre public park that showcases Victoria’s long gardening tradition, with manicured flower beds and natural areas.
Victoria’s Butchart Gardens welcomes 1 million visitors each year. Transformed from a limestone quarry by Jennie Butchart beginning in 1906, Butchart Gardens covers 55 acres and features more than 900 bedding plant varieties in spectacular colors. In summer the garden is lit at night.
Victoria has embraced tea culture since the 1840s when the British introduced the practice, and tea lovers will find a variety of places to enjoy afternoon tea.
Since 1894, Murchie’s Tea & Coffee has been importing teas from some of the world’s premier gardens. Murchie’s features 130 varieties of tea and 25 coffee roasts.
Pendray Tea House invites you to sip a cup of tea from a delicate china cup and nibble on assorted sweets, breads, and small sandwiches as you watch the ships come and go from Victoria’s Inner Harbor.
The ultimate tea experience is at the Empress. Sip a cup in elegant surroundings while you nibble on a raisin scone served warm with house-made clotted cream & strawberry lavender preserve. Live classical piano accompaniment on the baby grand piano adds an extra bit of sophistication to the experience.