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Effortlessly cool and down to earth, Copenhagen is a contemporary, clean and classy highlight of Scandinavia. A city built to be liveable, Copenhagen has refused to compromise, resulting in a forward-thinking metropolis that’s green and clean. Swim in the waters of Havnebadet Islands during summer, or shelter from winter’s bite by snuggling in beside a roaring open fire during winter. You can even hop on a train to Sweden, traversing the famous span of a Nordic Noir star – the Öresund Bridge.
It takes just a touch over half an hour to step off the train in Malmö. There’s only one way to truly explore Copenhagen and that’s on two wheels. Easy bike hire schemes will get you moving across this flat city, designed with bikes at the forefront of the mind. Choose a model with electronic assistance to take the strain out of any journey, giving you the freedom to whizz around and explore the modern angular architecture of the centre, and the pastoral colours of Nyhavn waterfront. Head out to the Little Mermaid statue, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale – the strikingly-restrained statue is the perfect landmark for Copenhagen; unshowy, self-assured and utterly irresistible. The Danish concept of hygge is very much alive here, and you’ll feel that warm cosy feeling as you visit cafes illuminated by the warm glow of hanging filament bulbs, and stuffed to the brim with thick, dusty books. Home to mega-brewer Carlsberg, Copenhagen is also a city for hop enthusiasts, and there is a thriving craft brewing scene to sample. Danish Smørrebrød sandwiches are a must try, or for something a little more substantial, settle in for a culinary voyage and try a taster menu – the city’s restaurants are littered with Michelin stars.
Rønne is the largest town on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. It has a population of 13,772. Once a municipality in its own right from 1970 until 2002, when Bornholm was a county with an area of 29.11 square kilometres, it is now the administrative centre of the Bornholm municipality.
With its origins going back to the 10th century, prewar Gdansk – or Danzig as it was known then – was forged by years of Prussian and Hanseatic domination. The battles to liberate the city in 1945 resulted in almost total destruction.
Gdansk’s historic center was rebuilt with great reverence; today it represents one of the richest and most lavish complexes of architectural relics in Poland. Entering the historic quarter is like walking straight into a Hansa merchants’ settlement. Huge stone gateways guard both entrances to the main thoroughfare. The well-proportioned tower of the town hall makes a powerful impact and the main square is surrounded by stately mansions. One of the most prominent buildings is Artus Court, formerly the residence of Gdansk’s rulers. Gigantic St. Mary’s Church reputedly is the largest brick church in the world, able to accommodate 25,000 people. Dominating the waterside is the seven-story Great Mill, once the largest mill in medieval Europe.
Klaipėda is a port city in Lithuania, where the Baltic Sea meets the Danė River. The old town features German-style, 18th-century wood-framed buildings.
Today Riga is a vibrant and cosmopolitan port city, as well as one of the finest old towns in northern Europe. Old Riga’s skyline is a rich collage of architectural styles, ranging from austere romanesque and pointed gothic to baroque facades and renaissance pediments. The spectacular 13th-century cathedral is an amalgam of all four.
Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, lies just 53 miles (85 km) from Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland, midway between St. Petersburg and Stockholm. The first recorded stronghold was built here by Estonians in the 10th-century, only to be taken over by the powerful seafaring Danes in 1219. In 1285, Tallinn was incorporated into the successful Hanseatic League, a German mercantile group operating in Northern Europe during medieval times. Because of its strategic location, Tallinn experienced many different occupations over the centuries, which resulted in a cultural mix that lends a unique ambiance to this maritime city.
The proud people of Estonia, along with their Latvian and Lithuanian neighbours, endured Soviet rule for over 50 years. Then in 1991, following the great upheaval in the Soviet Union, these three brave countries proudly joined the world of independent nations and finally enjoyed their freedom.
Estonia is surrounded by water. The country’s 17,000 square miles (27,200 sq. km) include a staggering 800 islands and more than 1,500 lakes. Water sports are quite popular during the summer months and fishing is a national pastime.
The Old Town, with its cobbled streets and 13th- and 14th-century buildings, attracts thousands of visitors each year. They come to admire the city’s heritage of medieval buildings, the imposing Town Hall that dates back to 1454, the Orthodox Cathedral, Toompea Castle and Oleviste Church – all prominent architectural landmarks. Sip coffee in a waterfront café and reflect on recent and current events.
“A thriving, flawlessly-designed seaside city, Helsinki is famously livable and inspiring. A regional powerhouse of outstanding design and creativity, Helsinki lies across a confetti scattering of 300 islands and skerries in the Gulf of Finland. Known for the light granite hue of its buildings – which lend the city a bright, whitewashed appearance – traditional buildings mingle seamlessly with bold new structures, showcasing Finland’s celebrated design outlook. Helsinki Cathedral is the crowning glory – rising high over the city’s waterfront with its pearly white domes gleaming. View less
A city that reveres knowledge and creativity above all else, artworks and statues litter the streets and parks, honouring creative minds of the past. Open parks offer space to lie back and soak up summer’s sun, while sculptures like the abstract organs of the Sibelius Monument celebrate national heroes like composer Jean Sibelius – whose music gave Finland national identity in the quest for independence. Feel the stunning acoustics of the incredible Rock Church deep in your gut, as you witness a performance in this collaboration between man and nature. Built into the rock underground, the amphitheatre’s soaring copper bowl roof is suspended dramatically on a bed of glass windows. One of Helsinki’s many incredible buildings, the Design Museum offers a comprehensive insight into the city’s balance of style, function and form. Helsinki’s easy-going, forward-thinking way of life was hard fought for, and the spectacular Suomenlinna fortress rears out of the waves as a reminder of the historical struggles that have played out in this stretch of sea. The chain of forts covers six islands and was built to defend the archipelago when it fell under Swedish rule. Sail out to the quaint little beaches, and waterfront pathways that now lend a calm, peaceful ambience to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Founded in the 13th century, Stockholm is Sweden’s strikingly elegant and beautiful capital, spread out over many islands at the meeting point of the Baltic with Lake Mälaren. Stockholm, noted for its outstanding architecture, is one of Scandinavia’s most attractive cities. In addition to its many man-made monuments, Stockholm boasts a world of natural beauty. One third of the city’s total land area is devoted to parks.
Guided by a strong belief in individual freedom, Sweden is governed by a constitution that is the oldest in use in Europe. The country’s neutrality has allowed it to avoid wars for more than 150 years. Its cities and industries remained intact during both World Wars. A distinct political philosophy has also added significantly to the nation’s success. Many of the country’s social achievements can be attributed to the development of the “welfare state” early in the 20th century. This provides its citizens with excellent medical care and substantial retirement benefits. Sweden is recognized as one of the world leaders in matters of health care and life expectancy. Education standards are high, accounting for the country’s 100% literacy rate.
The Swedes are proud of their country and take great care to preserve its great natural beauty. As the country’s major city, Stockholm offers a wealth of monuments and sites, fine museums and a rich culture. There are also hundreds of excellent restaurants as well as a great selection of trendy boutiques and exciting nightclubs.
Visitors should start their exploration of Stockholm at Gamla Stan, the Old Town located on an island in the center of the city. This is the city’s most attractive part, which has retained its medieval charm. The maze of narrow, cobbled streets is best explored on foot.
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