The Baltic Sea splashes against the coastlines of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Polar, Sweden and Russia, so – as you might imagine – a Baltic cruise opens up a whole lot of the world for discovery. It’s a chance to uncover some of the Northern Europe’s most beguiling locales, places rich in history with medieval cities layering gothic architecture with classic art museums, fascinating galleries, natural hot spring baths and some mouthwatering signature dishes.
A Baltic Cruise from Southampton is a chance to walk in the footsteps of Tsars in the most regal surrounds imaginable in St Petersburg and to chow down on food that sets the bar against which the culinary world comes to be judged in Copenhagen.
Despite being one of Europe’s most striking destinations, St Petersburg remains one of the most difficult to visit independently, thanks to stringent visa restrictions. Due to this, many cruise lines offer an overnight stay and a wide choice of shore excursions covered by the ships visa, enabling you to see Russia at its most dramatic, flamboyant and captivating. Imperial palaces and impressive neoclassical and baroque residences line the broad banks of the Neva River, creating the colourful skyline so many associate with this majestic city. While away the hours in the Hermitage Museum; a treasure trove of masterpieces created by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Gauguin and Matisse. Come evening, the city comes alive in a haze of lights, world-class ballet and opera recitals illuminating the stage of the stunningly opulent Mariinsky Theatre.
Copenhagen has become one of the Baltic’s most exciting destinations and there are few better places in which to indulge your inner foodie; an incredible 18 Michelin stars are
held by 15 restaurants across the city. Famous as the home of Noma, voted the best restaurant in the world four times in recent years, Copenhagen takes good food seriously. You’ll find plenty to do between meals too, including strolls along Stroget, Europe’s longest pedestrianised shopping street, history lessons at the National Museum and fun at the second oldest amusement park in the world at the enchanting Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen’s residents take cosying up almost as seriously as they do eating, thanks to Denmark’s unique ‘hygge’ approach to life. Translated into English as ‘cosiness’, hygge is best achieved by sinking into a cosy armchair in a Copenhagen café, cup of cocoa in hand and friends and family laughing around the table.
Stockholm is almost painfully cool, its streets lined with Scandic-Chic boutiques and impossibly good looking locals. First you’ll want to live here, then you’ll want to make the most of every minute you do have in Sweden’s green capital, over a third of which is covered in parkland best explored with a coffee in hand and your walking shoes on. Most visitors to the Gamla Stan neighbourhood could spend all day there, dipping in and out of its myriad boutiques, where midcentury furniture jostles with fashion brands as sustainable as they are stylish.
Stockholm’s appeal begins even before you leave the ship, with what is widely renowned as one of the best port approaches in cruise awaiting visitors. Your ship will navigates through Stockholm’s myriad of 14 islands scattered between Lake Malaren and the Baltic en route to the terminal.
The Baltic Sea cruise port and Finnish capital of Helsinki boasts its very own archipelago. A vibrant seaside city with a laidback lifestyle, Helsinki is packed full of exciting attractions, with 330 islands providing the perfect set up for beach days, walks and more. Once described as ‘a pocket-sized metropolis’, Helsinki is simple to navigate, with short walking distances between its city highlights and attractions. A strong Soviet architectural influence is still present in Helsinki, with the Uspenski Cathedral being a prime example; the unique onion-shaped structure was based on Odessa’s cathedral and it remains a must see. When visiting Helsinki, it is also definitely worth taking in the traditional Finnish structures including the superb North Harbour and Senate Square too, particularly if you’re something of an architecture and design buff.
Kiel is a star in its own right and a worthy stop on any Baltic cruise, but the German city is best known for its location right at the eastern end of a certain Kiel Canal. From here passengers can witness the sluice gates and incredible collection of ships make their transit through the world’s busiest artificial waterway, which links the Baltic Sea with the North Sea.
Kiel Week is arguably the biggest event of the year in Kiel and perhaps the most important sailing event in the world too, with three million visitors and thousands of sailors heading there. Many cruise lines offer itineraries to visit this destination during Kiel Week to offer a unique opportunity for passengers to be part of the occasion.
The modern day port of Tallinn presents an enthralling experience of Scandinavian sleek style combined with Soviet era architecture. The capital of Estonia is based on a combination of legacies, that form together to create the present day Tallinn, with such influences from the Polish, Russian and Teutonic rule over the years.
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