When it comes to luxury cruising, it’s very easy to imagine yourself sailing away to a sunny island escape, the Mediterranean coast or to an exotic destination on the other side of the world. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for overlooking some of the destinations which lie a little closer to home but the truth is, Northern Europe offers some truly amazing cities to explore, whether you’re on a European cruise, Baltics voyage or Fjordland adventure. Just to give you a little inspiration, here’s my five top northern European cities to see on a cruise.
Sweden’s stylish capital is a popular fixture on many Baltics cruise itineraries and it’s easy to see why. In most cities, you’ll find old quarters, new quarters, uptown downtown, but the difference with Stockholm is that it actually comprises 14 separate islands, each with its own attractions and character.
The Vasa Museum. Whether maritime history is your thing or not, you really shouldn’t miss the Vasa Ship Museum, home to one of the most wonderfully-preserved shipwrecks in the world. See it in all its glory and learn its fascinating story.
The Old Town. Stockholm’s number-one tourist hot-spot, it’s always busy but you should certainly set aside some time to stroll along its atmospheric and architecturally-rich streets and peruse the myriad shops and restaurants.
Stockholm City Hall. If you’re the type of cruiser with a checklist of key political buildings then Stockholm is certainly one of the top northern European cities to see on a cruise. The city hall is the home of the country’s government and the venue for the post Nobel Prize ceremony banquet.
Skansen Open-Air Museum. You may or may not have heard of open-air museums, but Skansen was in fact the first one ever in the world and was founded in 1891. Explore Sweden’s development with a fascinating stroll through its history.
You’ll have the opportunity to explore this fascinating city on a number of Norway and Iceland voyages. This really is northern Europe, as Reykjavik is none other than the northernmost capital in the world. It’s a literal city of contrasts, boasting both ice-bound adventures and red hot springs.
Gullfoss. Or translated, ‘Golden Waterfall’. This is one of Iceland’s most popular and spectacular natural attractions; a double waterfall which is beautiful any time of the year. It’s easy to book an excursion from Reykjavik to see it.
Harpa Conference & Concert Center. From ancient natural wonders to modern ones. Even if you’ve visited the city before, chances are you may not have seen this eye-catching building before, as it only opened in 2011. The architecture really is something special.
National Museum of Iceland. There’s a lot of history to explore in Iceland, but luckily, this excellent and informative museum is compact and easy to get around, meaning you won’t have to spend too long inside.
Solfar Sculpture. Reykjavik has quite the artistic pedigree and this is probably its most recognised sculptural landmark. Located along the shore not far from the aforementioned conference centre, it’s an other-worldly, boat-like structure with a beautiful natural backdrop.
One of the most-visited ports of call on Norwegian fjords itineraries, Bergen serves as the ideal gateway to the country’s amazing natural wonders but boasts a fair share of its own must-see sights, too.
Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a journey back in time to the city’s maritime past – a beautifully-preserved collection of wooden houses along the Harbourfront offering numerous narrow streets and tucked-away shops.
The Funicular. When it comes to top north European cities offering top views, Bergen certainly ranks high. This memorable rail journey up the city’s mount Floyen offers some amazing views of both the city and the mountain.
Hardangerfjord. Not always easy to reach from the cities, the fjords are why most people go to Norway, so it’s especially convenient that you can booking an excursion to see one of Norway’s most celebrated ones, Hardangerfjord, while in Bergen.
Troldhaugen Edvard Grieg Museum This tribute to the composer Grieg comprises a museum, his house, a concert hall and also his grave. Set in beautiful grounds, it’s the perfect place to visit if you’re a lover of his work.
One of Europe’s very oldest cities, Copenhagen offers visitors a wealth of contrasting wonders and is a near-constant on Baltic cruise itineraries. As well as offering visitors much by the way of history, it’s refreshingly progressive as well.
Church of Our Saviour. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, this eye-catching structure is famous for its exterior, gold-trimmed spire spiral staircase, which you can scale to enjoy the view. It’s pretty amazing on the inside, too.
Tivoli Gardens. One of the world’s oldest amusement parks, this enduring attraction has kept most of its yesteryear charm. Sure, the rides are there, but they’re set in stunning landscaped surroundings, which also host key musical performances.
National Museum. A beautiful 18th century mansion is the setting for the city’s most popular museum. As you may expect, there’s plenty of Viking history to discover but plenty more besides and the best way to explore is by taking a self-guided tour.
Rosenborg Castle. This Dutch Renaissance delight is a must-see if architecture’s your thing and the place to go if you want to learn all about the history of the country’s royalty.
Russia’s cultural capital if not its actual one, St Petersburg offers some truly spectacular architectural gems and historical attractions. One of the things which makes it so popular with cruise ship visitors is that on a cruise, you can visit without need of a costly visa.
Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood. Regarded as one of the world’s finest cathedrals, this onion-domed masterpiece is a gold-adorned delight for architecture lovers and photo opportunists alike.
It’s as beautiful inside, boasting some fantastic mosaics.
The Hermitage. One of the world’s largest and most famous museums, this beautiful set of buildings is home to more than 2.7 million exhibits. There’s so much to see here but your cruise excursion tour will likely encompass many key sites.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens. Built for Peter the Great himself, this spectacular house and gardens is a popular excursion from the city. You can still see many of the original marble statues, while the Summer Palace itself houses many of Peter the Great’s treasures.
Catherine Palace This baroque beauty is another of the city’s most popular architectural attractions and is home to, as you may have guessed from the name, a number of interior designs and artworks from the time of Catherine the Great. Surely one of the most opulent sights you can see on your visit to the city.
By Simon Brotherton