The popularity of Scandinavian and Baltic cruises is growing in the UK market – with its sparkling cities, pristine fjords and unexplored archipelago of untouched islands, Sweden is a magical destination.
One of the most stunning capitals in the world, Stockholm is built on 14 bridge-linked islands right where Lake Malaren meets the Baltic Sea. Most of the main attractions can be reached on foot or by ferry, and the winding, cobbled streets or waterside parks are a pleasure to explore.
The must-see Gamla Stan (Old Town) is on a small island in the heart of Stockholm. Founded in 1252, it remains one of the best preserved medieval centres. The narrow streets and buildings, in probably more than 50 shades of gold, give the area its unique character.
Several Christmas markets take place in Stockholm, with festive delicacies including smoked sausage, reindeer meat (sorry Santa), glögg (mulled wine) and traditional sweets such as marzipan.
The city, especially when it’s dusted with snow, looks like a scene from a fairy tale.
The Baroque-style Royal Palace is a highlight, as are the interactive ABBA museum, the open-air Skansen museum and the mighty Vasa warship.
GOT TO GO TO GOTHENBURG
Gothenburg is the gateway to Sweden’s wild Bohuslän coast, where there are no fewer than 8,000 islands. Proud of its seafaring traditions, the Maritime Museum is a nod to the nautical: the contemporary opera house resembles a classic ocean liner, while a statue of the sea god Poseidon stands in Gotaplatsen, the central square.
West Sweden’s vibrant capital has a growing reputation for its culinary prowess, is renowned for its fresh seafood and boasts seven Michelin-starred restaurants. There is also a buzzing café scene, where visitors can join the locals indulging in ‘fika’.
This traditional pastime involves taking a break from the daily grind with coffee and often a cake, such as delicious cinnamon buns or gingerbread cookies. Haga old town, with its 19th century cobbled streets, is perfect for fika as well as vintage shopping.
Liseberg is an old amusement park with a Ferris wheel and roller coasters, which are popular with families. In wintertime, it transforms into Sweden’s largest Christmas market, found at the end of the two-mile-long ‘Lane of Lights’, which runs from the main street.
Marstrand Island is ﬁlled with colourful wooden houses, cobbled streets, quaint boutiques and atmospheric restaurants and bars. In summer there are easy hikes with rewarding views, as well as plenty of places to swim or to go kayaking or paddle boarding. Curious seals may pop their heads up close to your canoe, while arctic birds include razorbills, black guillemot and auks.
Looming over the town is Carlstens Fästning, a fortress dating to the 1660s. The round tower reveals breathtaking archipelago views. You can also explore the secret tunnel – and even learn the intriguing story of Lasse Maja, a cross-dressing thief!
The Grand Hotel is popular for lunch or dinner, or you can buy some freshly cooked seafood from the ﬁ sh truck and eat al fresco. A century-old local institution, Bergs bakery in the port is legendary for ﬁ ka, worth trying perhaps before browsing for souvenirs or going for a walk along the quayside.
Renowned for its cultural history, you shouldn’t miss Strandverket Art Museum with its eclectic collection of exhibits.
Helsingborg, with views of Hamlet’s majestic Kronborg Castle across the Öresund Strait, once belonged to Denmark for over 200 years. In fact, there is a regular ferry to Helsingör in Denmark which only takes a few minutes to reach. These are the world’s oldest twin cities, allowing you to visit two countries in just one day.
Helsingborg is a pretty seaside town, where long, sandy beaches can be found in the city centre and stretching along the coastline. If you’re not brave enough to take a dip in the sea, there are several public baths with children’s paddling ponds and wellness facilities. A few have open-air swimming pools (some are heated, thankfully), while saunas will warm you up!
The beautiful English gardens at Soﬁero Castle are a must-see and often host outdoor concerts during warm summer evenings.
One of the country’s largest open-air museums can also be found at Fredriksdal, where horses and carts transport visitors around the grounds and characters in costume will reveal the history behind their printing presses, schools and shops.
In the centre of Helsingborg stands the medieval Kärnan castle tower. Climb to the top for panoramic views over the harbour, city, Öresund and Helsingör.
FALL FOR FJÄLLBACKA
Fjällbacka is a small ﬁshing village in Tanum with brightly coloured wooden houses clustered around the harbour, which is ﬁlled with visiting yachts in summertime. From the top of the Vetteberget cliﬀ , which towers above the community, there are panoramic views out to the archipelago, where friendly-sounding Hällö and the Weather Islands can be found.
The ﬁlm star Ingrid Bergman had a holiday home on nearby Dannholmen Island, and she was such a frequent visitor to the village that a statue has been erected in her honour in the square named after her.
Hard to imagine on a sunny summer’s day, the idyllic resort is also the setting for crime writer Camilla Läckberg’s novels as this is where she grew up. Murder Mystery Walks are popular all year round with her fans.
There are also a number of excellent waterfront cafes and restaurants, while Stora Hotel was originally owned by
a sea captain who named his rooms after his favourite ports, explorers and girlfriends and decorated them with furniture and souvenirs from all over the world.
• Sweden is most popular during summer when it hardly gets dark, though winter can offer Christmas markets and, maybe, the aurora borealis.
• Seafood lovers can feast on hand-dived oysters, crabs, langoustines and lobsters, join seafood safaris or, in August and September, try crayfish parties.
• Sailing the fjords, archipelagos and lakes by ship is one of the best ways to explore Sweden. Many islands are nature reserves.
• Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy walking trails through stunning scenery, mountain biking and water sports.
• Try the spas and wellness centres: you could take a bracing swim in the sea.
Who sails there
Swedish, Scandinavian and Baltic cruises
Fred. Olsen Cruises Swedish Waterways departs Newcastle round trip on Balmoral May 30, 2017. 11 nights with calls at Lysekil, Helsingborg, Karskrona, Stockholm and Arendal for Gothenburg. fredolsencruises.com, 0845 287 5404
Crown Princess Baltic Heritage departs Southampton round trip on June 3 and July 8, 2017. 14 days, calling at Zeebrugge, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Gdansk. princess.com, 0843 374 4444
Queen Victoria Baltic Highlights cruise departs Southampton round trip on July 6, 2017. 14 nights with calls at Hamburg, Copenhagen, Visby, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Kiel and Gothenburg. cunard.co.uk, 0843 374 2224
Saga Sapphire Tall Ships in the Baltic: 16 nights from Dover on July 15, 2017 (includes Gothenburg and Stockholm). saga.co.uk/ocean-cruises, 0800 50 50 30
M/S Wilhelm Tham (1912), M/S Diana (1931) and M/S Juno (1874) each has around 25 cabins and sails from Grebbestad to Gothenburg or between Stockholm and Gothenburg. simplysweden.co.uk, 01427 700115
Celebrity Cruises offers a Ben Fogle Archipelago Adventure on a RIB boat around Stockholm’s beautiful island scenery as well as overnight stays in the capital during Scandinavia & Russia Cruises from Southampton in summer 2017. celebritycruises.co.uk, 0800 441 4054
Cruise & Maritime Voyages Baltic Cities & St Petersburg departs Dundee round trip on Magellan August 11, 2017. 14 nights, calling at Copenhagen, Warnemünde, Tallin, St Petersburg , Helsinki, Stockholm, Aalborg, Newcastle. cruiseandmaritime.com, 0844 998 3803
Saga Pearl II Scandinavian Festive Markets: Nine nights from Southampton on December 8, 2017 (includes Gothenburg). saga.co.uk/ocean-cruises, 0800 50 50 30