The Art of the Baltic: Cruising Northern Europe

There is nothing that I long for more than to look toward the horizon and see a legendary castle illuminated by a golden sun. From the Scandinavian architectural treasures of Denmark and Finland, to the awe-inspiring art of Russia and Germany, the glorious countries that encircle the Baltic Sea are the epicenter of beauty, elegance, and splendor…and just the journey we can all use.

Thinking about a voyage to Northern Europe in 2022? Here are a few of my favorite ports:

Chances are your itinerary will include a call on Copenhagen. If so, make the pilgrimage to Frederiksborg Slot. This castle is home to Denmark’s Museum of Natural History, but its claim to fame is being the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Described as the Nordic Versailles, you will love the incredible grandeur both inside and out. Hundreds of years of history are preserved in its interiors and the symmetrical castle garden was designed to give you an amazing perspective of the landscape.

If you are an art lover, look for voyages that offer an extended call on St. Petersburg, so you can spend the extra time wandering the Hermitage. One of the oldest and largest museums in the world, the Hermitage boasts a collection of more than three million works of art and artifacts, only part of which can be displayed in the complex of historic buildings that includes the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors. Some favorites include the 23 works by the Dutch master Rembrandt, Michelangelo’s sculpture Crouching Boy, and two of Leonardo da Vinci’s oil paintings.

Another favorite is Berlin, where you can walk through the living history of the restored Brandenburg Gate. You can do this on your own, of course, but it’s worth it to join a savvy tour guide who can take you to a section of the wall known as the East Side Gallery to see the works of artists and provide context to their pieces.

If you see little-known Tallinn, Estonia on your itinerary, don’t dismiss it. This might be your favorite port of all, especially if you’re into the spiritual or sacred. You can spend your day touring ancient convents, churches, and handsome guild houses preserved in the Old Town area, as well as a glimpse into a Dominican Monastery where you may listen to sacred chants by resident monks.

Then there’s Stockholm. To quote Saturday Night Live’s beloved character Stefon, This city has everything. For starters, the Moderna Museet houses one of the world’s best collections of contemporary art, including works by Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Then, there is Skansen, a 75-acre open-air museum that has 150 traditional buildings, some of which date from the 18th century. The hub of Old Town is dominated by the old Stock Exchange, which today houses the Nobel Museum. The Vasa Museum houses a 17th century warship by the same name that is the only one in the world almost fully preserved. If you prefer sculptures, visit Millesgården, a spectacular museum displaying Carl Milles’ most famous works.

From world-famous museums with fascinating new exhibits to hidden-gem galleries with exciting collections, you are certain to be enchanted by this region.  

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