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Although you can visit one of the world’s best ship museums in Bremerhaven at the Schiffahrtsmuseum and head into nearby Bremen for a picnic in lovely Bürgerpark, Hamburg is the main attraction. View famed works of art at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, have a cup of coffee on one of the terraces of the Alsterarkaden, stroll through the historic warehouse district or enjoy the view from the top of 400-year-old St. Michaelis Church.
Located in the southwest of Norway where the fjords flow out into the North Sea, Haugesund is surrounded by the blue ice Folgefonna glacier in the north and the impressive mountain formation of Preikestolen in the south. Learn why this charming town is known as the Homeland of the Viking Kings at Avaldsnes’ Viking settlement, where you can see a reconstructed Viking farm and learn how the Vikings lived. Discover majestic fjords, cascading waterfalls, stunning glaciers, imposing mountains, and idyllic islands and lighthouses. The best way to get an insider’s look at Haugesund is to follow the locals and go for an invigorating hike at Preikestolen, also known as the Pulpit Rock or Preacher’s Rock, one of the most popular hiking trips in the region.
In 1904 much of Ålesund was destroyed by fire, but the town was quickly rebuilt in the period’s popular Art Nouveau style. Soaring turrets, spires and beautiful ornamentation adorn the buildings throughout Ålesund, giving it a distinctive flair and earning the town a revered architectural reputation. An evening departure allows you plenty of time to explore its many attractions, such as the spectacular Art Nouveau Centre museum, scenic Town Park, and Atlantic Sea Park, one of Europe’s largest aquariums. For a look at modern Norwegian woodworking, visit the impressive Gallery Cylindra. Many of Ålesund’s squares feature sculptures commemorating significant events, including the town’s rich fishing history and Norway’s contribution to World War II.
Chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2008, oil-rich Stavanger lies in southwestern Norway’s stunning fjord region. Old Stavanger has been meticulously preserved with many of its wooden cottages converted into art galleries and boutiques. But it’s the museums that set this cosmopolitan city apart. The Stavanger Museum alone consists of eight buildings exhibiting collections that include maritime, medical and printing artifacts. Outdoor enthusiasts may enjoy walking the nature trails along the banks of nearby Lysefjorden, a classic fjord, or beholding the amazing view of the countryside from Pulpit Rock.
Founded in 1641 near the southern tip of Norway, Kristiansand once claimed the world’s largest fleet of sailing ships. Today the proud city exudes an energy that peaks in summer, when your ship calls. The Posebyen old quarter boasts a collection of historic wooden houses surrounded by shops and restaurants. Museums abound and include the Agder Museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden, which opened in 1828. Kristiansand Zoo, said to be Norway’s most visited attraction, covers 150 acres of Nordic terrain where animals like red pandas, moose and Bactrian camels roam in wide-open spaces.
A centuries-old fishing village, Skagen is perched along the windswept sand dunes at the northernmost point of Denmark, where the North Sea and the Baltic merge in a frenzy of crashing currents. The town has long been depicted by painters because of its spectacular scenery, charming communities and the remarkable quality of its light, inspiring a group of artists known as the Skagen Painters. See their work at the Skagen Museum, and then learn the science behind the region’s natural wonders at the nature center, housed in a striking building designed by architect Jørn Utzon of Sydney Opera House fame.
See another side of this lovely city with a cruise along its charming canals. Visit the quaint old harbor at Nyhavn and beautiful Rosenborg Castle and, of course, the famed statue of the Little Mermaid. Or venture into the countryside and enjoy its panoramic vistas, fairy tale castles and the village of Fredensborg.
One look at the abundance of canals and gabled houses in Gothenburg, and it’s clear that the Dutch founded this robust city on the Göta River. That was in 1621, close to the time that mighty Elfsborg Fortress was built at the harbor’s mouth. Touring the citadel is fascinating, as are the 17th-century Crown House, Maritiman ship museum, and Gothenburg Art Museum, with masterpieces from Edvard Munch to Picasso. Gothenburg is one of Sweden’s greenest cities, compliments of parks such as Slottsskogen. For a vibrant atmosphere, walk along Kungsportavenyn, Gothenburg’s main street, which is a hive of cafés, boutiques and plazas.
Overlooking a gorgeous fjord, Norway’s capital and largest city simply radiates with natural beauty and sophistication. Oslo’s rich seafaring history is on display at the Viking Ships Museum, rivaled only by the Kon-Tiki Museum, which holds the balsawood raft that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Polynesia. History aside, Oslo exudes a love of the outdoors in city parks like Vigeland, which is adorned with over 200 life-size sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland. Much of Oslo is heavily forested with pines, making it one of Europe’s greenest cities.
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