Admire these breathtaking locations on your Baltic cruise
Published on 18 Nov 2019
The waters of the Baltic Sea lap upon the shores of 9 different European countries. With beautiful beaches, charming towns and picturesque ports, there are plenty of reasons to book a Baltic cruise. Here, we chat with several bloggers about their top tips to get the most out of your Baltic Sea cruise.
The climate and scenery you experience on a Baltic cruise are unlike any other. Northern Europe is a smorgasbord of architectural phenomena which oozes character. From the 14th-century spires of buildings commonly found in Tallinn to the imperial grandeur of St Petersburg with its colourful and eclectic style, you’re bound to be impressed by the complex engineering in this part of the world.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. Visitors will be enchanted by the rich mixture of architecture and culture. The lower part of the Old Town is perfectly preserved and a stroll down the winding cobblestone streets will leave you in awe as you marvel at the beauty of the gothic spires, galleries and museums. Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Tallinn has preserved its Medieval and Hanseatic roots and was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.
Take a tour down the streets where you’ll see Medieval churches, merchant houses, barns and warehouses. A must-see during a port day is the square with its Town Hall and Tower. Traditionally it served as a market and meeting place and it remains a hot spot for a host of activities including open-air concerts, craft fayres and markets.
Jamie from Explore with Ed told us why he enjoyed Tallinn’s history: “Inside the vast fortress walls of Tallinn, you’ll find tonnes of medieval charm and character. You can walk along the fortress wall for fairy tale views of the city spires and visit Café Maiasmokk, the oldest operating cafe in Estonia for coffee and cake.”
After visiting Café Maiasmokk for a helping of their famous mango-lime creamed curd dessert, head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform which is located on the north side of Toompea Hill. You’ll be greeted with a picture-postcard vista of the red roofs and towering spires of the Old Town as well as the contrasting high-rise buildings which form the modern part of the city.
What to eat in Tallinn:
Fresh seafood is popular in Tallinn and visitors can expect to find an array of fish dishes on restaurant menus. Favourite fish include whitefish, flatfish, perch, sprat and Baltic herring - which is the national fish of Estonia. A popular and simple lunch of Kiluvõileib, otherwise known as a sprat sandwich, is a must-eat while in Tallinn. The dish consists of rye bread, sprat, boiled eggs and a sauce to complement the flavoursome fish. Another must-try is kissel which is a popular dessert soup typically made from berries such as red currents.
Be sure to stop off at a local supermarket to grab a bar of Kohuke. These chocolate-covered cheese curd bars are popular snacks and can be found in many grocery stores. These curd snacks come in a variety of flavours such as vanilla and caramel topped with fruit, seeds or chocolate nibs. Kohuke is hard to find outside the Baltic states, so be sure to taste one during a port day in Tallin.
Striking fjords and 7 snow-capped mountains await in the scenic port of Bergen. Embarking on a mountain expedition via a cable car during a port day will give you the chance to marvel at the outstanding views of the city below. You can also ascend the mountains by foot via the numerous hiking trails before visiting one of the lakes where various water sports including canoeing can be enjoyed.
Alison from Little Blog of Positivity told us about her experience of Bergen, “Bergen was very pretty and although it’s classed as a city it was compact and easy to explore on foot. It had a bustling atmosphere and we particularly enjoyed visiting the fish market and the iconic wooden houses and shops in the harbour. The funicular railway up the hillside from the city centre is also a must, the views are spectacular.
“Cruising to the area was a different type of journey for us having previously been on Mediterranean cruises. We enjoyed the change and would thoroughly recommend a cruise which includes Bergen as the scenery is so spectacular. The air also feels very pure which is brilliant for recharging your batteries.”
By far one of the most iconic sights to greet cruisers is Bergen’s colourful facade of Bryggen. The old Hanseatic wharf was first established in the 14th-century and provides perfect opportunities for an Instagram-worthy picture. The wooden structures were rebuilt in 1702 after being ravaged by fire and later became recognised as an integral part of the city’s heritage. It achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979 and continues to amaze tourists as they approach the port.
What to eat in Bergen:
In 2015, Bergen became a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in gastronomy for its focus on health nutrition, “Bergen thrives on organic food, the production of which is supported by more than 3,000 farmers and 200 artisan food entrepreneurs. In addition to this, another 6,500 people are employed by the aquaculture industry and fisheries,” says UNESCO.
This focus on organic food and sustainable seafood are at the core of the city’s identity, which means you are never far from experiencing culinary delight. Wandering around the beautiful city of Bergen will work up quite an appetite, so visiting cafes and restaurants to tuck into some tasty Norwegian cuisine is essential during port days. Traditional Norwegian cuisine is rich in sweet treats - think pastries and puddings flavoured with spices like cinnamon and cardamom. Popular pastries include lussekatt (saffron bun), wienerbrød (Danish pastry) and bløtecake (cream cake).
Bergen boasts some of the most beautiful restaurants serving delicious cuisine. You can expect to find means full of seafood items such as flavoursome ceviche and melt in the mouth pan-fried scallops. Norwegian reindeer hotdogs served with crispy onions and lingonberry sauce are also a popular choice for food on the go.
St Petersburg is Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow and has been dubbed the Venice of the North thanks to its beautiful rivers, canals and spectacular architecture. From world-renowned opera and ballet productions to quaint cafes, this city has all the ingredients for an unforgettable travel experience as Judi from Traveling Judi explains, “My favourite stop by far was St Petersburg.
“With only two days, it was very hard to choose which excursions to take. I took the Behind the Scenes at the Hermitage, which was an 8-hour tour with an outstanding guide, and on the other day, I rode the incredible Metro system and was wowed by the underground stations. I would love to go on another Baltic cruise to see more of Russia.”
The Metro is not just a means of transport, it is also known for its architectural ingenuity and visitors enjoy marvelling at the intricate detailing which is prevalent throughout the many stations. Avotovo, for example, boasts grand columns and marble interiors as well as sparkling glass decor while Pushkinskaya Station is home to a statue of the famous poet Alexander Pushkin.
Veruska from The Foodellers told us about her highlights of St Petersburg, “I went on a tour of the markets and the underground stations because I believe this is one of the most important ways to get in touch with a community. Once in St Petersburg, there are a few things you cannot miss such as the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood, the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress. A Baltic cruise is one of the most interesting cruises in Europe because it’s filled with history and allows you to visit places one rarely thinks about visiting.”
What to eat in St Petersburg:
As well as its fantastic transport links, St Petersburg is known for its hearty food and rich desserts. Beef stroganoff is a firm favourite for locals and tourists alike and is a must-have when exploring the area. You can expect to find sauteed beef, mushrooms and vegetables in a sour cream sauce served alongside various dishes such as rice. Those with a sweet tooth simply must try a portion of pyshki which are St Petersburg’s variation of doughnuts and are best served hot with a freshly brewed coffee. For a light bite, it’s worth trying some blinis which are thin, crepe-like pancakes usually served with a host of accompaniments such as jam, sour cream, smoked salmon and caviar.
The cosmopolitan city of Stockholm is perfectly intertwined with the characteristics of the old town giving visitors the best of both worlds. Whether you’re a fan of food, fashion or history, this city offers something for everyone and is full of art galleries, museums, vibrant bars and restaurants.
“Built on a cluster of islands, Gamla Stan is where you’ll find the grand Royal Palace and Old Town, a hub of colourful buildings containing charming cafes and restaurants where you can sit back and watch the world go by,” Jamie explained. Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest medieval city centres in Europe and is at the forefront of Stockholm’s highlights. The Old Town is a cornucopia of shops, cafes and bars as well as places to buy crafts and curiosities. There are many beautiful churches and museums in Gamla Stan, including Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum. Be sure to visit the magnificent Royal Palace to marvel at its 18th-century Baroque-style decor as well as the daily changing of the guard.
We chatted to Becky from The Lifestyle Blogger UK, she told us: “The port we docked at was a little further away from the centre, which was fine as there was a bus that went right into the city centre. Stockholm City Hall is a stunning building if you like taking photos, especially if you can get it on a day where the water is still as the reflection in the water is amazing. The attractions in Stockholm are quite spread out so make sure you plan ahead of time. The Royal Palace is stunning both inside and out, however, if this isn’t your kind of thing, there is also the open-air museum which has a zoo inside.”
What to eat in Stockholm:
There are plenty of gastronomic delights to be enjoyed in Stockholm, from kjøttboller (Swedish meatballs) and crayfish to cinnamon buns and glogg (similar to mulled wine).
For a taste of traditional Swedish food, husmanskost is a must while visiting Stockholm. “Translated into ‘house owner’s food,’ husmanskost was the middle-class working man's meal. A hearty blend of potatoes and root vegetables gathered from fields, meat from farm or wild animals, fish from the North and Baltic Seas and herbs pulled out of gardens. They were simple and inexpensive yet filling meals and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that husmanskost started making its way from grandma’s table to taverns and pubs,” says Slow Travel Stockholm.
For a hearty brunch, try raggmunk, pancakes made from grated potato usually served with thick rashers of bacon and a fruit preserve. Local game such as reindeer, moose and boar dishes are also available on restaurant menus throughout Sweden.