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Top 6 Scandinavian cruise destinations

Despite inhabiting the same continent, the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are a world apart from places such as Barcelona, Lisbon, and Gibraltar. Scandinavia is a true blend of bustling cities, serene fjords, and fascinating Nordic history unique to Northern Europe, and cruises along the Baltic Sea are some of the most popular in the world. The Scandinavian cruise season tends to run from around May to October and many travellers argue over the best time to visit the region. In truth, both early season and late season journeys have their advantages, so you may want to book two trips! Travel at the start of the season and the ice on the mountains is just starting to melt, which means the waterfalls in the scenic areas will be breath-taking. However, travel later in the year and you’ll be in Scandinavia to experience the famous ‘midnight sun’, which really is something you need to see to believe. Here are some of the best ports in Scandinavia that you definitely do not want to miss:

Copenhagen, Denmark

If you’re travelling with children, Copenhagen is a fantastic destination to visit. One of the major attractions in the city is the Tivoli Gardens, which can often be booked as a shore excursion from your on board excursions desk. The gardens are a mix of stunning scenery and exciting adventure, which make it the perfect place for families. For those that prefer a more gentle shore experience, check out the impressive water fountain located right at the entrance to the gardens, or the beautiful Japanese garden overlooking Tivoli Lake. If, however, you’re a true adrenaline seeker, take a ride on ‘The Demon’ – a floorless rollercoaster with not one but three loops! If you’re feeling peckish, there’s no need to head back to the ship, pop into the Andersen Bakery for some authentic Danish pastries – a must have when you visit Copenhagen.


Aarhus, Denmark

Aarhus isn’t one of the most commonly-visited cruise ports on Scandinavian itineraries, which means it’s typically quiet, and certainly a lot less touristy than Copenhagen. The beauty of Aarhus is that it’s a rather traditional little town that is so small and compact that practically every point of interest is located within easy walking distance of the port. If you’re interested in Nordic history and architecture, head to the old town, known as Den Gamle By. Although there are operational restaurants and shops here, the entire district is like an open-air museum, with classic buildings from as early as the 16th century that have been reconstructed from nearby towns and cities and rebuilt in Den Gamle By. A part of the old town runs along the river that connects Brabrand Lake and Aarhus Bay, making it very picturesque.


Stockholm, Sweden

When you visit Stockholm, there are two things absolutely every traveller should do – and both couldn’t be more different to one another! In terms of culture, the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet in Swedish) is wonderful to see, and it’s completely free! The ceremony takes 40 minutes, during which time the guards, wearing their vivid blue uniforms, march in front of the spectacular palatial structure. Here’s a handy hint – although the ceremony starts at 12.15 daily, aim to get there about 20 minutes beforehand to ensure you get a great spot! The second activity you must do in Stockholm is much less sophisticated, and far more cheesy, but you simply can’t visit Stockholm without taking in the ABBA museum. View scrapbooks from the band’s heyday, gaze at the fabulous costumes worn on stage, and prove that you can dance, you can jive on the dance floor!


Visby, Sweden

Visby is located on the west coast of Gotland Island, rather than on the mainland, and while it’s certainly not the most energetic of places, it’s usually very busy as many Swedes travel across to the island to unwind, relax and just get away from it all. Visby is very much rooted in its medieval and Viking history, so simply walking around this small town is enjoyable, but there are plenty of activities here too, such as visiting the pretty botanical gardens or browsing the shops along Adelsgatan. Many of the shops here are small and independent, perfect for picking up trinkets and souvenirs for friends and family back home. If you’ve got a full day to spend in Visby, consider taking a shuttle up to Faro where there are some fantastic little beaches that really are Gotland’s hidden gems.


Stavanger, Norway

Stavanger is the gateway to Lysefjord, known for its stunning cliff faces and gushing waterfalls, so it’s a popular destination for those cruising the Norwegian Fjords. For those that like hiking, revel in danger and love amazing photo opportunities, one of the most popular shore excursions that can often be booked through cruise lines is a trip to Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen. It is considered to be one of Europe’s most dangerous tourist attractions, with no barriers providing protection from falling 1900 feet into Lysefjord. Despite this, there has yet to be an accident, which is good news for hikers! The entire trip will take roughly 8 hours, so only plan this if you’re docked in Stavanger for a full day. If you’re only in Stavanger for a half day, you can still see the rock from a different viewpoint – from underneath – by taking a local ferry trip from the town.


Geiranger, Norway

Although all of the Norwegian Fjords are beautiful, it is widely accepted that Geirangerfjord is by far the most stunning. It is truly something from the front of a postcard, and really sums up what cruising the Fjords is all about. The beauty of Geiranger, the tiny town located on the shores of the fjord, is that it limits the number of cruise passengers it accepts each day, so you can be sure the town won’t be too busy and you’ll still get that local, middle-of-nowhere town feel. If your ship entered Geirangerfjord during the night, you may not have had the best views, so rent a kayak in the town and take some time to absorb the beauty of the fjord on your own schedule. Alternatively, if you’re quite keen to spend some time on dry land, head to Herdalssetra, just a 30 minute drive from the town. Here you can visit the mountain farm, complete with plenty of farm animals that children will love. There’s a cafe here, so stop for a bite to eat before heading back to the ship.


If you’re looking for a cruise that visits some of the most interesting, and most beautiful places in the world then a Scandinavian cruise is ideal. Itineraries take in large cities such as Stockholm, beach destinations such as Gotland Island and even peaceful and serene fjords that are absolutely breath taking. Scandinavia doesn’t get the coverage it truly deserves in the cruise industry, and it’s time to change that!

Michael Wilson is the Managing Director at Bolsover Cruise Club.

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