When it comes to travel, what matters most? Do you crave global cuisine with an eccentric flair or local pubs with a storied past? Do you seek out epic natural landscapes or historically significant castles and architecture?
Whatever you prefer, these 6 destinations will deliver with the glamour and antiquity you’d expect from Europe & Scandinavia. The best part is you can reach many of them in one cruise and with help of Holland America’s EXC you’ll find the perfect excursion to have the experience that matches your personality.
Iceland certainly became “the” place to visit. Without a doubt because you can’t round a corner without stumbling upon something majestic. The best way to see every piece of natural beauty the island has to offer is a drive along Route 1, the 800-mile highway that circles the entire country.
One place not to miss is the Snæfellsnes glacier in the Western portion of the country. This hike offers breathtaking views of the neighboring fjords from the top. For an unspoiled view of the Aurora Borealis, during your overnight port stay, visit Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although they’re known for some of the world’s best Nordic cuisine, the most popular restaurant is the hot dog stand in downtown Reykavik, home to the iconic lamb hot dog.
Architecture lovers are in for a treat with the combination of modern town homes to Gothic buildings and a domineering fortress are all just steps from the city center.
You’re first stop should be the Edinburgh Castle. Although the body of the castle is only 100 years old (rebuilt after sieges and takeovers), St. Margaret’s Chapel (on the grounds) dates back to the late 11th century. After the castle, enjoy the royal mile, which connects the castle to Palace of Holyroodhouse. This Old Town area is full of shops, pubs, restaurants and historical buildings.
For the best haggis in Edinburgh, dine at the Witchery by the Castle and if you’re a music junkie, step off the royal mile to Cockburn Street, which is filled with old-school record stores.
Bordeaux hasn’t always been the tourist beacon it is today. Thanks to the city’s famous mayor, Alain Juppè, who ordered a deep cleaning of the grime-laden 13 to 17th century buildings, the once-overlooked city has transformed into France’s second-most popular tourist destination.
In addition to restoring the architecture, the city also swapped the industrial shipping yards for breathtaking gardens along the river. Home to Michelin-rated restaurants (like Chateau Cordellan-Bages) and award-winning wine bars, it’s become a refuge for discerning foodies. If you have time, stop by L’ Ecole du vin and take a class on French wine while sipping some regional vino.
Neoclassical architecture and 17th century canals flank the tram-lined streets of Gothenburg, arguably one of Sweden’s hippest cities.
Begin your immersion with a stop at Nordiska Kompaniet, a four-story shopping center with over 45 local and regional boutiques. Shopping bags in tow, take the tram to the Gothenburg Museum of Art [Göteborgs Konstmuseum], located right at the end of the Avenyn, to see the works of regaled Swedish artists. Refuel afterwards at the Feskekörka fish market, or “the fish church,” and order a mouthwatering local specialty at the upstairs Restaurant Gabriel.
Then, spend your afternoon and early evening on the two-hour-long ferry ride to and from the island of Vrångö to soak up the tranquil beauty of the city’s neighboring islands during golden hour.
Surrounded by romantic canals and 14th century Gothic architecture, there’s truly no better way to see the city than via gondola. The famed gondoliers guide you through the city’s labyrinth of canals, giving you up close views of the acclaimed architecture.
Gaze at the city’s largest piazza (or square), San Marco, which is home to the iconic St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and the blue and gold gilded Torre dell’Orologio bell tower. Indulge in the food that made the city famous at the Rialto market, one of the largest and most popular fresh markets in all of Venice.
The capital of Estonia is a mix in contrasts with medieval buildings alongside modern living. Tallinn is actually one of the most digitally advanced cities in the world, both voting and managing citizen all online.
Begin your exploration on the cobbled streets of Old Town, built during the 15th to 17th century, it’s now listed as a UNESCO heritage site having survived not only time, but bombings of WWII. History buffs have bevy of options from touring Kadriog Palace, built by Peter the Great, to the Toompea Castle and even the world renowned Seaplane Harbour Museum for a fascinating look at submarines used during WWII.
While it would be hard to find a European city we don’t love, it’s no surprise these six have risen to the top recently.