Stockholm, Sweden, is a city of contrasts. Unspoiled architecture dating back centuries is complemented by the best in modern Scandinavian design. Stockholm's appreciation of its culture and heritage shows in its theaters, concert halls and galleries, which showcase a rich variety of artistic innovations. The seasons provide a sharp distinction, too. Stockholm in summer is green and blue, with its attention on the water. In winter, Stockholm is white and frozen, with a sense of stillness and calm, the afternoon darkness punctuated by candlelit cafes and bars.
The waterways surrounding Stockholm's islands clearly define the city's various quarters. From the bohemian cliff-top cafes of Sodermalm and the 17th-century cobbled streets of Gamla Stan to the luxury boutiques of Ostermalm and the parkland calm of Djurgarden, you're never more than a bridge away from a completely different city experience. There are also hundreds of excellent restaurants, as well as a great selection of trendy boutiques. The maze of narrow, cobbled streets, full of art studios, boutiques, antique shops, nightclubs and bars, is best explored on foot.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in northern Europe. Its charming Old Town survived the Soviets, as well as the country's earlier occupations by the Danish and Swedish empires (among others). Today, this city 115 mi northwest of Tartu is an important port on the Gulf of Finland and a popular stop for cruise ships.
Tallinn's many occupations over the centuries have resulted in a cultural mix and unique ambiance of this maritime city. Old Town's cobbled streets and 13th-14th century buildings attract thousands of visitors annually who admire the city’s heritage of medieval buildings, the imposing City Hall, the Orthodox Cathedral, Toompea Castle and Oleviste Church. See former guild houses, including the Great Guildhall of the medieval Hanseatic League. Other attractions include impressive Town Hall Square with 15th century Gothic Town Hall, and numerous Gothic churches including Toomekirik. Toompea Castle has fine views over Tallinn.
Helsinki, Finland's capital, is one of Europe's most interesting and enjoyable cities. Many first-time visitors associate Finland with extreme cold, but the summers—especially in the south—can be magically warm and flooded with light. Even in the depths of winter, daylight is short but present. Although sometimes the skies may be overcast, there are clear, sunny days when the city is illuminated by the sparkle of snow and the dazzling, frozen Baltic Sea.
Visitors can stroll through any local park or square and will probably stumble upon an impressive piece of contemporary sculpture. Helsinki's sparkling nightlife and lively cafe culture add much to its travel appeal. Its terrace cafes are often packed with Finns and visitors alike.
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg has had three names in less than 100 years, changes that mirror the shifting political winds of Mother Russia. The names of its places and people are a roll call of Russian history of the 19th and 20th centuries: the Winter Palace, the czars, Dostoyevsky, the Catherine Palace, Tchaikovsky, Lenin.
As the former official—some still say cultural—capital, St. Petersburg is the most westernized of Russia's cities. Its grand architecture echoes the great cities of Europe, and there are seemingly endless museums full of staggering quantities of treasure. St. Petersburg sprawls along the banks of the Neva River and was once known as the Venice of the North for the many canals there. For visitors who want to understand what came before, and what is happening now in Russia, St. Petersburg is essential.
In its early beginnings in the 10th century, Gdynia was a small fishing village. It became a major seaport in the early 20th century, fresh from World War I and the Polish-Soviet War, and today, business is booming, thanks to further port and city development and the economic and political liberalization of the 1980s and '90s. Explore Gdynia and see what this World Trade Center and Free Trade Zone is considered a gateway to Eastern Europe.
Copenhagen projects a cool, laid-back lifestyle that belies its 1,000-year history. A perfect blend of innovative architecture and design mixed in perfectly with royal castles and historic buildings. Witness the legacy at Rosenborg Castle, venture into the exuberant neighborhoods of Vesterbro, Nørrebro and the Meatpacking District, sightsee Copenhagen’s artful side on full display at numerous museums. A visit to Copenhagen would not be complete without a stop at famed Tivoli Gardens, where visitors may indulge in gourmet restaurants, concerts and rides all in one. And Strøget, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Northern Europe, offers up a rainbow of avant-garde and traditional boutiques alongside cafe life.
Copenhagen Copenhagen became capital of Denmark in 1167, when Bishop Absalon founded the city. Over the following years herring fishing brought great wealth to Copenhagen and, under the reign of King Christian IV in the 17th century, the city grew to become the important regional capital it remains today. Home to the world’s oldest monarchy, an extremely popular royal family, Copenhagen has a population of 1.9 million and is the largest city in Scandinavia.
For centuries, Dover has been a symbol of England's royal fortitude. The port's legendary White Cliffs have long been a welcomed landmark for seafaring travelers. The solid Dover Castle has faced invasions by Roman, French and even English troops. London's legendary sights including Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament Square, Whitehall and the fashionable West End, lie just 80 miles from historic Dover.