European Destinations You Probably Didn't Know You Could Cruise To

The Baltic region is a wonderland that blends the Old World and the strikingly modern. Here, our recommendations for the top 10 shore excursions in the area.
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The Baltic is one of the most underappreciated destinations in cruising. - Photo by iStock / Thinkstock

The Baltic region is a wonderland that blends the Old World and the strikingly modern. Here, our recommendations for the top 10 shore excursions in the area:

1. Tivoli Gardens

Photo by SIME / eStockPhoto

Visit the Victorian amusement park that inspired Disneyland. The best time to go is in the evening (nighttime tours are available from many cruise lines), when the gardens glow with twinkling lights. If you're not into roller coasters and bumper cars, hang out in the beer garden or check out a concert in the bandstand.

Getting There: The park is a quick coach ride from the pier, and the evening tour may be combined with a scenic canal ride.

2. Berlin's Top 10

Photo by Huber / SIME

Catch an express train through the countryside to Germany's capital, where a guide will escort you to the city’s highlights, including a stretch of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag government building — more than you'd be able to see on your own.

Getting There: This is a long day: The 13- to 14-hour tour includes a train ride of more than 2 ½ hours in each direction.

3. Old Town

Photo by Huber / SIME

The city's medieval Old Town, with its watchtowers and winding cobblestone streets, is a must-see. An escorted history-focused walking tour takes you to the Gothic Town Hall, a 15th-century apothecary, and the Baroque Toompea Castle, now the seat of the Estonian parliament.

Getting There: The tour starts with a walk or a quick bus ride, depending on where your ship is docked.

4. Statues, Vikings, and a Ski Jump

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You can walk right off your ship into town to see such sights as the cutting-edge Nobel Peace Center. But this art, sport, and history itinerary brings you farther afield, starting with the Vigeland Park, the largest sculpture park created by one artist. Then travel through lush countryside to see the ski jump built for the 1952 Olympics, and to the Viking Ship Museum, which is home to real Viking ships.

Getting There: The 3 ½-hour tour is via motorcoach.

5.Peterhof Palace

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Trick fountains designed by Peter the Great are the big attraction at this complex of 18th-century palaces and gardens, once the summer residence of the czars. Your tour of the “Russian Versailles” will also include rooms inside the lavish Grand Palace.

Getting There: The ride from port to palace is about 22 miles.

6. The State Hermitage

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Art lovers may go on a Baltic cruise with the main goal of seeing the collection of more than 3 million exhibits that was first begun by Catherine the Great. A guided tour is a good place to start, focusing on highlights from Botticelli and da Vinci to Van Gogh and Matisse.

Getting There: It's about a 20-minute bus ride from the main port. Small ships may get you closer.

7. Rooftops and Gamla Stan

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This off-the-beaten-path historical tour in Stockholm has you in a harness and walking the rooftops — up to 140 feet above ground. The guided trek starts on top of the old parliament building and follows a narrow rooftop path for views. Back on terra firma, you'll visit the city's old town, Gamla Stan.

Getting There: The tour starts on the island of Riddarholmen, a short ride from the pier.

8. ABBA Museum and ’70s Sweden

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Fans of Sweden's most successful band will enjoy exhibits at ABBA The Museum, which opened in 2013 and traces the group's career from its start in 1972 to its breakthrough hit “Waterloo,” to its breakup in 1982. The tour also includes a look at the Royal Opera House and other city sights, from an ABBA perspective.

Getting There: The 3 ½-hour tour is via motorcoach.

9. Kayaking the Baltic

Photo by Oleksiy Mark / Shutterstock

With water on three sides and a range of old and new architectural styles on display, Helsinki is a stunning city, surrounded by natural beauty. On this tour, you see both: the city sights via motorcoach and Mother Nature as you paddle the Baltic Sea.

Getting There: The kayak center is in eastern Helsinki, about 20 minutes from the port.

10. Solidarity in Gdansk

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Explore the history of Poland's Solidarity movement and fight for democracy on this poignant tour that includes the former Lenin Shipyard, Roads to Freedom museum, and the Solidarity Monument that commemorates slain shipyard workers. You'll also visit Old Town Gdansk, once the richest port on the Baltic.

Getting There: The drive from port is about one hour each way by bus.

Fran Golden is a contributing writer for

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