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Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates Copenhagen, one of Northern Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals.
Copenhagen city centre is waiting to be enjoyed on an MSC Northern Europe cruise excursion. It’s a welcoming, compact city with a centre largely given over to pedestrians (and cyclists) and an emphasis by day on café culture and top-notch museums.The historic core of the city is Slotsholmen, originally the site of the twelfth-centurycastle and now home to the huge Christiansborg complex.
Just across the Slotsholmen Kanal to the north is the medieval maze of Indre By (“inner city”), while to the south the island of Christianshavn is adorned with cutting-edge architecture in addition to the alternative enclave of Christiania.
North-east of Indre By are the royal quarters of KongensHave and Frederiksstaden, while to the west the expansive Rådhuspladsen leads via Tivoli Gardens to Central Station and the hotspots of Vesterbro and Nørrebro. Just off hectic Vesterbrogade outside the station is Copenhagen’s most famous attraction, Tivoli, an entertaining mixture of landscaped gardens, outdoor concerts and fairground rides.
A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can be the opportunity to discover Helsingør’s Kronborg Castle too. The present castle dates from the sixteenth century when it jutted into the sound as a formidable warning to passing ships not to consider dodging the toll, and it remains a grand affair, enhanced immeasurably by its setting; the interior, particularly the royal chapel, is spectacularly ornate.
Beneath the castle are the casemates, gloomy cavernous rooms that served as soldiers’ quarters during times of war.
To reach Flåm, your MSC cruise ship will navigate into the Sognefjord, the longest of the hundreds of Norwegian fjords.
Extending over 204 kilometres and 1,308 metres deep, it is a record breaking fjord in which your ship will head southward, to reach the southern end of the Aurlandsfjord. At this point of your MSC cruise of Northern Europe you will see Flåm, amidst mountains of dense forest reaching up to the sky.
In this challenging and remote setting you can see how even a modern means of locomotion like the train can blend in with Norway’s pectacular natural landscape. Take a train ride from Flåm to Kjosfossen: 20 incredible kilometres inside the green coaches up to the station of Myrdal on the Bergen railway line.
The landscapes you will admire are truly unique and will make your journey unforgettable. Nature is revealed in its most beautiful and wild landscape, with rock shaped by rivers that form gorges and rifts and waterfalls that plunge down dizzy heights, and, here and there, mountain farms, perched like mountain climbers, where cattle are raised and excellentcheese is produced.
And to think that the current to power the train is actually a gift of nature. It is the imposing Kjosfossen waterfalls, that plunge vertically down almost as if to show off to the tourist’s camera, that move the turbines that produce the electric energy for the railway line. Don’t miss the excursion in rubber dinghies or kayaks in the waters surrounding the small port.
You will have the opportunity to see the variety of animals and plants that inhabit these shores. Visit the protected areas of the Aurlandfjord and the Nærøyfjord to admire the majestic beauty produced by the activity of the ice and the sea on this land, from a privileged point of view.
Visiting Ålesund on an MSC cruise of Northern Europe means plunging into a fairytale atmosphere. After a devastating fire, the town was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century in art Amazing venue on the sea nouveau style.
The streets of Ålesund are filled with turrets, spires and splendid decorations that make it truly unique; if you enjoy this style, you should visit the Jugendstilsenteret, the National Art Nouveau Centre. You can admire the centre of Ålesund from above by climbimg up the 418 steps that lead you to the panoramic heights of Mount Aksla with a view of the islands that surround the town and of the Sunnmøre Alps.
In alternative you can reach the Sukkertoppen, the “sugar peak”, by taking a walk that starts from Hessa, just above the port where your MSC cruise ship is anchored. To get a closer look at the traditional architecture you should instead go the island of Godøy, where you can visit Alnes, a picturesque fisherman’s village built very close to the beach where you find local crafts and food sold in the courtyards.
Book an excursion to the characteristic lighthouse from where you have a wonderful view of the ocean. You cannot claim to have visited Norway on an MSC cruise if you haven’t visited a fjord, so don’t miss an excursion to Geirangerfjord. Dropping from the tall mountains that surround it are wonderful waterfalls like the Brudesløret (the Bride’s Veil) and the De syv søstrene (Seven Sisters) or the Storseterfossen, behind which you can take a walk.
And if you like more challenging paths you could climb up the Ørnevegen (the Eagle’s Path), twisting up from sea level to 620 metres above in just 11 hairpin bends!
Landing with your MSC cruise of Northern Europe to Hellesylt, the cosy little town on the shores of the Geiranger fjord, will make it appear like a natural extension of the mountains behind.
There are plenty of opportunities to admire the fjord and the town from above during your vacation in Norway. Along the steep Eagle Route (Ørnevegen) you find two perfect observation posts – Dalsnibba, 1500 metres above, and Flydalsjuvet with terraces that open onto the ice valley – surrounded by impressive peaks. If you continue along the Ørnesvingen, as well as Geiranger and the fjord, you will come to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls (De syv søstrene) that offers a magnificent spectacle.
If you want to know more about what it means to live on the shores of a Norwegian fjord, visit the Geiranger centre, about a kilometre from the town centre. If you enjoy hikes on foot but you don’t want to exhaust yourself, take the fjord’s southern coast route to Homlong, where you will find a small bar selling excellent, freshly made snacks.
But to get a real taste of local cuisine during your MSC cruise of Northern Europe you should not miss a visit to one of the mountain farms where delicious local specialties are prepared. The Herald Summer Farm, for example, has been operating since the 18th century and still produces delicious foods and offers a pleasant experience also for the younger visitors.
You can also visit one of the strangest glaciers in Europe, the Briksdal glacier (Briksdalsbreen)Northern Europe introduction, which often baffles experts because of its unconventional “behaviour” in expansion and erosion, often contrary to that of other glaciers at these latitudes.
Part of the Jostedalsbreen glacier national park, the Briksdalsbreen ends with a delightful glacier lake, the Briksdalsbrevatnet, that appears and disappears according to the movement of the glacier front.
Haugesund, an ancient Viking settlement located on the atmospheric Karmsundet sound, is surrounded by pristine Norwegian forests. This MSC Northern Europe Cruises destination boasts striking architecture including the Neo-Classical Town Hall and the charming Our Saviour’s Church.
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.
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