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Sublime Scandinavia And The Baltics, Part Two

 

It’s one of the hottest places to cruise, for the coolest of reasons, with Europe’s northernmost countries ideal to explore by cruise ship. You’ll enjoy an impressive lineup of Scandinavian and Baltic capitals, cities, and medieval towns, along with dramatic fjords, rugged coastlines, along with diverse experiences from cuisine to culture. Here’s part two of our lowdown on what you’ll see, and do. 

Helsinki 

The “Daughter of the Baltic” and Finnish capital has many personalities, including a strong Russian influence thanks to the close proximity of St. Petersburg. It was founded in 1550 by Swedish King Gustav Vasa, and boasts many monuments including the Lutheran Cathedral, the domed Uspenski Cathedral, and impressive neoclassical buildings. The city is also bounded on three sides by the Baltic Sea; during summer, its waterfront is a vibrant hub, whether you’re having lunch at café in the sun, or taking a boat tour of the waterways.  

Pick of the Excursions: Suomenlinna Fortress is a Baltic UNESCO World Heritage Site to explore on foot, and then relax in a beer garden.

Klaipeda  

This is another hot new port of call, a quaint Lithuanian harbour town known as Memel for much of its history. Klaipeda was part of Prussia and Germany until 1923, when it was taken over by neighbouring Lithuania and renamed, and over the centuries, it enjoyed long periods of economic prosperity fuelled by grain and timber production. In 1945 it was captured by the Soviet Red Army, but today it’s back in Lithuanian hands and one of the Baltic's finest ports, with highlights including lovely timber-frame buildings dating back to the 18th century. 

Pick of the Excursions: Zemaitija National Park is a spectacular nature reserve covered in lush green forests and brilliant blue lakes.

Oslo 

Norway’s capital is located on the Aker River at the head of the Oslo Fjord, with a provincial feel and fewer tourists, and is a city blessed with modern architecture, lakes and parks, world-class museums, and public statues at every turn. The city’s residents are proud of their pristine forests and fjord, and for visitors by ship, the sail in and sail out through the Oslo Fjord offers spectacular views of the the dramatic local landscape. 

Pick of the Excursions: A cruise on the Oslofjord on a restored Norwegian ship passing picturesque inlets, bays and islands dotted with summer homes and villages.

Riga 

Riga was founded in the 13th century, and is the geographical center of the Baltic States as well as one of Northern Europe's best kept secrets. The capital of Latvia sits on the Daugava River, and is a happening place boasting big-city attractions, along with the opera, music and ballet, and museums with displays of everything from art to the history of medicine. Old Riga, the historic center of the city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Art Nouveau architecture among the finest in Europe.

Pick of the Excursions: The Latvian resort town of Jurmala has over 30 kilometres of white-sand beaches flanked by historic wooden homes.

St. Petersburg 

St. Petersburg is a fascinating city, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as capital of Imperial Russia from 1712 to 1914, and today it’s Russia's cultural capital, with lavish architecture including Czarist-era palaces and domed churches. Many ships spend at least one night in port here, affording guests the opportunity to explore the city sights one day, and opulent countryside palaces the next, with a night out in between. Art is also a key attraction, the city akin to a living museum. 

Pick of the Excursions: The world famous Hermitage, which is home to Matisse, Picasso and Rembrandt collections, and if you stay overnight, see the Russian ballet.

Stockholm

Stockholm is one of the world’s top cruising ports, and not just for the sail in and sail out past 24,000 islands stretching for around 80 kilometres east of the city. It’s a modern and beautiful capital city which has successfully hung on to both its history and its scenic landscape, which includes 14 islands separated by water, and joined by 57 bridges. The Old Town dates back to the 13th century, and is criss-crossed by narrow streets and packed with medieval buildings. As cruise ports of call go, it has something for everyone. 

Pick of the Excursions: The world's first permanent ice bar is kept at a crisp -5 C year round, with an interior and glasses made of pure, clear ice from northern Sweden.

 

You can read part one of the story here.

 

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