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The Ultimate Scandinavia Cruise Guide

Destination Reviews

Our love affair with Scandinavia - home of the world's happiest nations, where hygge, lagom and enviable interiors are all part of daily life - is as strong as it's ever been, enticing us Brits with its laidback cities home to achingly cool residents juxtaposed with incredible and varied landscapes, from giant fjords to the Arctic tundra. And, with St Petersburg looking like it'll be off our travel lists for at least the next few years, now is an excellent time to delve into what Scandinavia and its Nordic and Baltic neighbours have to offer. This is your ultimate guide to cruising in Scandinavia.

Arguably the jewel in Scandinavia's crown, Norway offers a plethora of delights, though its UNESCO-listed fjords - easily reached from the UK - remain one of the region's most revered destinations.

Hopeful visitors may be dismayed to hear of the Norwegian government's announcement that only zero-emission vessels will be permitted to sail in parts of the west Norwegian fjords (those that are part of UNESCO) soon - but never fear, this won't be implemented until a few years, so you've time to plan your trip.

Highlights include the picturesque little village of Flåm, dramatically located at the head of the stunning Aurlandsfjord and surrounded by steep mountains, cascading waterfalls and bucolic farms, while pretty Stavanger's old white clapboard houses are the gateway to the spectacular Lysefjord.

Lovely Olden is another popular stop, with excursions to the nearby Briksdalsbreen, an arm of the vast Jostedalsbreen glacier, on offer, and Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord - Europe's second and third largest fjords - are also popular ports of call. Most incredible of all, though, is arguably the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord, a winding, ten-mile stretch of sheer mountain walls and tumbling waterfalls.

Many fjord cruises go no further north than Bergen - famous for its UNESCO-listed old Hanseatic wharf, Bryggen, that still houses the old harbour's colourful timber buildings.

It's also the embarkation point for many Arctic Circle cruises setting out for the northern reaches of the Lofoten Islands' dramatic peaks, sandy beaches and huge fjords.

Tromsø is a popular embark or debark port for Arctic cruises, with its location well within the Arctic Circle meaning the summer months are lit up by the Midnight Sun, though cruises between September and April offer spectacular displays of the aurora borealis. The neighbouring Northern Cape, the northernmost point of Europe before Svalbard, offers incredible views from its famous globe sculpture.

Head further north to Svalbard itself, a magical archipelago of snowy peaks, frozen tundra and glassy seas - where polar bears outnumber people - for activities such as polar bear and bird watching among vast, icy landscapes.

Across the border in Sweden, the buzzing capital city of Stockholm is what attracts most visitors, who are captivated by the beautiful, cobbled streets in the Old Town and the museums, palaces, gardens and galleries put side by side with trend-setting restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and a rich cultural heritage, with the outer archipelago of 30,000 islands offering a serene escape from the city bustle.

Many cruises will often call into Karlskrona, known as Sweden's only baroque city and host to Sweden's largest naval base. Visby is also well worth a stop; this charming UNESCO-listed town is the capital of Gotland, with photogenic cobbled streets and ruined Gothic churches that are a reminder of the island's fascinating history, invaded by both Germans and Danes.

Head south across the Öresund Bridge - which you may recognise from Nordic Noir thriller The Bridge - and you'll reach Copenhagen. With a history that dates back to 1043, this is a small but mighty city, full of historic landmarks, significant buildings and interesting sights and museums, sitting alongside the height of modern Danish design and great to explore on foot, by bicycle or by water, from the pretty harbour of Nyhavn and the Amalienborg Palace to the Tivoli Gardens.

Bornholm is another popular stop, a ruggedly handsome island that lies way out in the Baltic, closer to Sweden and Poland than the Danish mainland and known for its intriguing rundekirke (round churches), sleepy fishing villages, traditional smokehouses and fantastic foodie scene.

Cruises to Scandinavia also often include a stop in Helsinki; this vibrant city has had somewhat of a renaissance over the years, with a coastline home to 300 forest-topped islands contrasted with contemporary architecture and a focus on modern design that sits surprisingly well alongside its four-hundred-year history.

Nordic voyages will often venture to Iceland and its giant waterfalls, famous hot springs and volcanic landscapes, or further still to Greenland and its spectacular giant glaciers, remote fjords and Inuit culture via the Faroes and their grass-topped houses and Viking history. For a Baltic exploration proper, look to voyages that call in at Tallin, Riga, Gdansk and other lesser-explored gems.

Silversea, Seabourn and Regent all offer 7- and 14-night all-encompassing explorations of Norway and the Baltic cities, often beginning or ending in Copenhagen, Stockholm or Southampton, with some heading north to the Arctic, while Ponant have just released interesting and unusual Northern Lights Arctic itineraries for winter 2024/25.

Meet the author

Claire is Marketing Manager at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Seabourn and has also sailed with Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is Sweden however she's also enjoyed cruises in the the Galapagos, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe, Greek Isles and the Far East. When she’s not travelling she loves weekends away in the countryside.

More about Claire

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