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Despite its pummelling by the Luftwaffe and some disastrous postwar urban sprawl, the thousand-year-old city of Southampton has retained some of its medieval charm in parts and reinvented itself as a twenty-first century shopping centre in others, with the giant glass-and-steel West Quay as its focus.
Core of the modern town is the Civic Centre, a short walk east of the train station and home to the excellent Southampton City Art Gallery that’s particularly strong on contemporary British artists. The Western Esplanade runs alongside the best remaining bits of the old city walls.
Rebuilt after a French attack in 1338, they incorporate God’s House Tower, at the southern end of the old town in Winkle Street, which currently houses the Museum of Archaeology. Best preserved of the city’s seven gates is Bargate, at the opposite end of the old town, at the head of the High Street; it’s an elaborate structure, cluttered with lions, classical figures and defensive apertures. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise from Southampton can be the opportunity to discover the capital of England, London.
For the visitor, London is a thrilling place. Monuments from the capital’s glorious past are everywhere, from medieval banqueting halls and the great churches of Christopher Wren to the eclectic Victorian architecture of the triumphalist British Empire. You can relax in the city’s quiet Georgian squares, explore the narrow alleyways of the City of London, wander along the riverside walks, and uncover the quirks of what is still identifiably a collection of villages.
The capital’s great historical landmarks – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and so on – draw in millions of tourists every year.
Brest is a port town in the Brittany region on the west coast of France. Your MSC cruise will take you on the discovery of a place full of charm, history and culture, set in a natural inlet whose beauty will leave you breathless.
There are many things to be seen in Brest, including the Tanguy Tower which houses historical findings from the city dating from ancient times to the period of World Wars. Another institution worth visiting is the National Maritime Museum located inside Château de Brest containing a real submarine.
To start your tour of Brest, you can walk along Rue de Siam, a lively commercial district. The look of the road is severe, in full 1950s style. Both here and the entire district found between Pont deRecouvrance and the Town Hall is filled with large multi-story residential buildings, symmetrically arranged on a perfectly straight axis.
Pont de Recouvrance, which dominates the docks and military port, was built in 1954 with a vertical lifting device. For a long time, it was the largest lifting bridge in Europe and is undoubtedly a stop not to be missed
on your visit to Brest during an MSC cruise.
Another really interesting place found at the docks is Les Ateliers des Capucins, a series of buildings that face the sea, built during the 19th century. In 2009, they were converted into a cultural and commercial center. In the bay of Brest, you can also see the delightful Phare du Petit Minou, a lighthouse built in 1848 that stands in front of the fort with the same name and is connected to the mainland by a stone bridge in the commune of Plouzané. Aligned with the Portziclighthouse, the Petit Minou had guided ships for over one hundred and fifty years along the safest route to make their way through the natural channel that unites Brest to the Atlantic Ocean.
Cherbourg Originally a little fishing village. Cherbourg developed into the historic port designed by Vauban. This was also a strategic naval port during the Napoleonic wars, there is a marina with over 1000 moorings. Cap de la Hague is to the West and the Pointe de Barfleur to the East. It belongs to Normandy, a region that has provided inspiration for countless artists and writers, is the land of apple orchards and rolling farmland dotted with villages of half-timbered houses. Boasting a wealth of abbeys and chateaux, as well as a superb coastline, it offers something for everyone.
Located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Hamburg will fascinate you from the moment you first set eyes on its elegant and austere buildings looking onto the port, one of the largest in Europe.
When you reach this destination on an MSC Cruise of Northern Europe, you can get a taste of its glorious history. Hamburg is a cosmopolitan, wealthy and fashionable city, with an aggressive economy, that still prides itself of the title “free Hanseatic city”.
It has, in fact, never cut its umbilical cord with maritime trade that has its heart in the port where your cruise liner will be waiting for you. Many tourist come here to visit the Reeperbahn, the red light district, but if you want to take in the atmosphere of the city, you shouldn’t miss an excursion to Speicherstadt (Warehouse Town), where the cobbled streets, gables and turrets combine to make the area on the other side of Zollkanal (Tax Canal) a world apart from the city opposite.
Another city icon, St Michaelis, at the western edge of the city centre by Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse, is Hamburg’s iconic church and no wonder. More than any other building, the “Michael” mirrors the city’s irrepressible spirit. Burned down after a lightning strike in1750, it was rebuilt in Baroque style under Ernst Georg Sonnin but it again accidently caught fire in1906.
In 1945, the Allies obliterated the roof and decor of church number three. Reconstructed again to Sonnin’s plans, it is now the finest Baroque church in North Germany. Probably the most gratifying attraction during an excursion on an MSC Cruise is the scenery you can admire from one of the best views over Hamburg: the 360-degree panorama takes in Speicherstadt, the container port and shipping on the Elbe, the Alster lakes, and the five spires of the churches and Rathaus.