The shores of the Baltic Sea are home to some of the world’s greatest capital cities, where history and culture combine to tell fascinating stories
Don’t dismiss a Baltic cruise as not having the glamour of a trip around the Med – Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki are all waterfront capitals, and there’s the magnificent St Petersburg as well as the eastern-european capitals of Tallinn and Riga.
Highlights of the Swedish capital Stockholm include Gamla Stan – the historic core of narrow cobbled alleyways, 18th-century yellow ochre houses, medieval market squares
and shops – and the warship Vasa, which sank just 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 and has been raised from the seabed.
With water on three sides, Helsinki in Finland is almost an island. It’s the smallest Scandi capital, but punches well above its weight for things to do. You can walk everywhere – between museums (don’t miss Kiasma for contemporary art) and between churches such as Temppeliaukio, hewn out of rock, and the Kamppi Chapel of Silence. Other landmarks
include the waterside market and the monument to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
With its museums and galleries, cool bars and hot restaurants, not to mention the now fashionable concept of ‘hygge’ – enjoying life’s simple pleasures – the Danish capital of Copenhagen will appeal to a broad range of interests. Must-sees and dos include a boat trip from the historic Nyhavn quayside, browsing the stores along pedestrianised Strøget (such as Illums Bolighus for housewares and Georg Jensen for jewellery), and visiting Tivoli Gardens – part funfair, part garden and part fairy tale. Denmark is, of
course, synonymous with design, best seen in the Danish Museum of Art & Design. And, for modern art, if there’s time in port, hop on the local train to Louisiana, which is spectacularly located overlooking the sea with Sweden on the horizon.
St Petersburg, Russia’s ‘Window on the West’, is a beautiful city on the River Neva. Essential visits include the Hermitage, where, housed in the Romanovs’ old Winter Palace, is one of the world’s finest collections of art. And it is vast – spend just seven minutes in front of each painting and you’ll emerge 49 years later, and will certainly have missed your boat!
Experience all Stockholm has to offer
Marvel at beautiful St Petersburg