Day 1: Join trip in Finland's capital, Helsinki
Our epic 22-day adventure around the Baltic Sea begins in Helsinki, Finland's capital city where we spend the next two nights. Known as the 'daughter of the Baltics' it was founded back in 1550, but was entirely rebuilt by the Russian Tsars to resemble a mini St. Petersburg in 1812. Much of Helsinki is centred around it harbour and it is alive with cutting edge designer shops, bustling cafes, outdoor bars and fine dining tasting restaurants. Helsinki has a very Scandinavian identity with many museums preserving its Finnish heritage, and also iconic old Art Nouveau architecture.
Finnish cuisine is focused around fresh and natural ingredients that change with the seasons and you'll find many traditional restaurants where little appears to have changed since the 1930s. Possible dining options for tonight include Cafe Bar No. 9, which is in the trendy designer district, normally busy with locals and is good for lighter meals in a relaxed setting. A common local tipple is called koskenkorva, a clear spirit made from barley that comes in a range of flavours including vanilla and salted liquorice, or there's lakka which is made by soaking cloudberries in alcohol for a few months so it infuses.
Day 2: Tour of Helsinki on foot and by tram; visit to Suomenlinna Fortress
This morning we will go on an orientation tour of Helsinki on foot and by local tram. Along the way we will hopefully see icebreaker ships moored near the Merikasarmi building, the glass wave like structure of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Uspenski Cathedral (the biggest Russian Orthodox Church in Northern Europe), Helsinki Cathedral, Senate Square, Hakaniemi Market Hall and the Tori Quarters in the heart of the old town.
This afternoon we will discover more of Helsinki's history in its key strategic position on a narrow section of the Baltic Sea, by taking the short water bus crossing (around 15 minutes each way) to the UNESCO listed Suomenlinna. Known as the Fortress of Finland this is a cluster of islands connected by bridges. It was built by the Swedes in the mid-18th century to defend the city and its valuable port location and was once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltics. Today the islands are like taking a step back in time, with only a few cars and less than 1,000 people living here. We can see old fortifications, cannons, catacombs and many old houses that are now restaurants, cafes, theatres and museums. Later this afternoon we return to Helsinki where we have the evening free.
Day 3: Ferry to Tallinn, Estonia; visit to the Maritime Museum and city tour
Today we will take the ferry to Estonia's capital city, Tallinn, which takes about two and a half hours. The city is less than 100 kilometres across the water from Helsinki and midway between St. Petersburg and Stockholm. Tallinn has come under several different cultural influences since the first stronghold was built here in the 10th century. Linguistically and economically, Estonia's closest ties are to Finland, despite the best efforts of other nations.
On arrival we visit the Estonian Maritime Museum at Seaplane Harbour. This is a relatively new museum that has opened in the former sea plane hangar. There are a range of interactive exhibits that take you through Estonia's sea faring past and a number of large boats on display including a real life submarine called Lembit, which you can step aboard.
This evening our Explore Leader will take us on an orientation tour of the city. It's nice to be able to explore at this time when there are less tourists around and when the towers, city walls and colourful old houses along crooked streets are lit up; it helps to capture our imagine as to what the city would have been like to live in in times gone by. Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, we'll explore the cobbled Old Town on foot. We walk through the quarter where merchants once traded and take in the historical and architectural highlights. Along the way we stop off at a few local bars where we get a feel for Tallinn's both bewitching and more bohemian past. A popular local drink is the liquor Vana Tallinn, which is a dark rum based drink flavoured with cinnamon.
Day 4: Visit the Bastion Tunnels; free afternoon in Tallinn
This morning we'll go into the Bastion Tunnels beneath the city. They were constructed in the 1670s and were used by the military as part of the defences under the city walls and buildings above. The tunnels lay unused for many years, but at the start of World War II they were renovated to be used as bomb shelters and then during Soviet rule they were installed with electricity, ventilation, water and telephones. During our excursion we'll get to see the tunnels in their medieval state through to those that have been modernised in the 20th century.
The rest of today has been left free for you to explore Tallinn at your own pace and perhaps to go back and visit inside the castle and cathedral that we saw last night or to enjoy a spot of shopping. Estonia is well known for its traditional handicrafts and keen shoppers can browse for knitted mittens, lacy woollen shawls and colourful hand embroidered linen products. Tallinn is a great city for strolling or relaxing in the many bars and restaurants.
In the district of Pirita, which is outside of the old city walls you can wander along the waterfront promenade or spend time on the sandy beach. In 1980 this spot was chosen to host the sailing event of the Moscow Olympic Games and remnants can still be seen like a large hotel that looks like a cruise ship, which was in the heart of the Olympic Village. In this area you'll find a number of restaurants and bars, the TV Tower, which is home to the highest viewpoint in Estonia and Tallinn's Botanical Gardens aren't far from here.
Day 5: Bog shoe walk in Lahemaa and meet Old Believers at Lake Peipsi
This morning we leave the city and head into the countryside to Estonia's largest national park, Lahemaa. Here we have the unusual experience of learning to bog walk using special bog shoes. Traditionally used by local villagers, these specially adapted clip-on shoes, which resemble snow shoes, allow us to hike through this fascinating ecosystem.
After time for a picnic lunch we continue our drive to Lake Peipsi, which is ginormous and straddles the border between Estonia and Russia. Near Mustvee we will visit the Old Believers community where we learn about their plight fleeing religious persecution in Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries. There will be the opportunity to try on traditional dress and taste herbal tea prepared in a samovar and also the sweet krendel bread.
From here we drive to Tartu where we spend the night. If you still have the energy this evening after a busy day exploring then we recommend taking a walk up to Tartu Cathedral, which is partially ruined and flood lit at night, so forms an eerie landmark above the city.
Day 6: Visit to a Secret Soviet Bunker and Turaida Castle
Today we will drive across the border to Riga in Latvia and experience a number of exciting places along the way. The first being the Secret Soviet War Bunker at Ligatne. Built during the Cold War, the bunkers existence was so guarded that even the patients and staff in the rehabilitation centre above it (which was built to disguise the locations true purpose), didn't even know what was beneath their feet. The bunker is wonderfully preserved with all the original furnishings still in place and the guides really bring the stories from the time and the bunker to life. We have the opportunity to try on gas masks, eat a traditional Soviet canteen lunch and wash it down with a toast of vodka.
Next we drive onto Sigulda where we visit the red bricked medieval Turaida Castle. From here we drive to Latvia's capital Riga where we spend the next two nights.
Riga is an old Hanseatic city on the banks of the Daugava River and is arguably the most beautiful in the Baltics. Its skyline is pierced with spires, towers and weather vanes, making the streets a joy to amble through. There are plenty of choices for dinner this evening and your Explore Leader can help to recommend somewhere serving local cuisine. Cheese and meat filled pastries served with wild berry preserves are popular, especially when washed down with a Latvian beer or perhaps a glass of Riga Black Balsam, a traditional herbal liqueur and an acquired taste!
Day 7: Walking tour of Riga including views from the Academy of Science
This morning we will go on an orientation tour of the city. Most of the important sights in Riga are concentrated in a small area, so walking is the most effective way to explore. We will take in the Freedom Monument, Gunpowder Tower, Saint Jacob's Church and the city's cathedral. Buildings have been painstakingly restored over the last twenty years and commanding Gothic structures sit adjacent to Baroque and lavish Art Nouveau architecture. As part of our tour we will travel up to the observation deck on top of the Academy of Science, which affords great views back down over the city below. The building itself was constructed during Soviet times and is the same design as the 'Seven Sisters' skyscrapers found in Moscow. They were built during Stalin's era to prove the might of Russia, but also that they were still capable of building elaborate architecture rather than plain Soviet blocks. Back down below we go into the Central Market, which is located in large old zeppelin hangers and sells a variety of traditional produce, such as smoked fish, sauerkraut, pickled garlic and crusty cheeses.
This afternoon is free for you to discover more of the city. You might like to join a guided tour of the KGB Museum or go shopping in the 130 year old Bergs Bazaar, which is home to around 140 small shops and restaurants. If you fancy some pampering then Riga also has a budding spa culture with a number of different places and styles of treatment on offer.
Day 8: Discover the Liepaja Forts and Cold War Museum
Today we leave Riga and start our journey towards Klaipeda in Lithuania. Our first stop along the way will be at Liepaja on Latvia's coast, which in the past has played an important part as an ice free port. It's a very windy spot and as such is known as the 'city where the wind is born', so we recommend taking a jumper with you even on a summer's day. In the 1800s Alexander 3rd deepened the harbour and built a naval port here. Since then it was home to the first Baltic fleet of Russian submarines and sustained heavy bombing in World War II. The Soviets occupied what was left and once again used it as a strategic naval base.
Today it is home to historic red bricked military buildings and a training centre for collecting sea mines off the ocean floor, as the sea around here is still littered with them. We will visit the old military town and also the abandoned seafront forts situated on some of Latvia's most beautiful sandy beaches. We also go into Karosta Prison, which is the only military prison in Europe that's open to the public. Originally built as a hospital in 1900, before construction was even finished, the decision had been made to change its purpose to be a prison and it operated as one right up until 1997. Imprisoned here were military personnel that had broken the rules or displeased the authorities in some way. We learn why people would have been imprisoned and how they would have been treated.
Following some free time to have lunch we will continue our drive across the border into Lithuania and to the Cold War Museum in Zemaitija National Park. This modern museum is housed underground within a former Soviet nuclear missile base surrounded by dense forests. The base was built in secret at around the time of the Cuban missile crisis and had the firepower to destroy most of Europe. The exhibits here tell the story of this tense period in history.
We drive on to our overnight stop at Klaipeda, which is the gateway to the Curonian Spit National Park. We are free this evening and you'll find most of the city's restaurants on the main street, Manto, and also into the Old Town on Tiltu Street. You might like to try the local beer from the Svyturys Lighthouse Brewery. Pork, potatoes, cheese and rye bread are the main staples of Lithuanian cuisine and they love soup. The most well-known dish is probably cepelinai, which are named after zeppelin air shapes as they're similar in shape. They are large stuffed potato dumpling, that are very filling, so be sure not to fill up on too much soup and bread beforehand if you're going to give these try. For after dinner viryta is a popular Lithuanian honey liqueur.
Day 9: See the Curonian Spit sand dunes; arrive in Kaliningrad, Russia
This morning we head into the UNESCO-Listed Curonian Spit National Park. This 98 kilometre long, curved spit separates the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea and is half Lithuanian and half Russian. The park is probably best known for its large and beautiful sand dunes, which are scarcely found in other parts of Europe. During our visit we will cross the border into the Russian side, explore the trails and footpaths amongst the dunes and discover more about the area at the Thomas Mann Museum. After time for a picnic lunch we drive on to visit Fort 5 on the outskirts of Kaliningrad and go into the tunnels beneath it (we would recommend bringing a torch with you as it can be dark in the tunnels).
We then drive the short distance into Kaliningrad where we spend the next two nights. Founded in 1255 by the Teutonic Knights, Kaliningrad (then Konigsberg) went through periods of Germanisation and colonisation until its, almost total, destruction by the British and Soviets in World War ll. Post war Konigsberg became part of the Soviet Union and was renamed Kaliningrad after Mikhail Kalinin, one of the original Bolsheviks. It was an area of great strategic importance during the Cold War, being the most western province of the USSR, and was closed to foreign visitors for several years. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Kaliningrad Oblast became a Russian exclave - still a part of Russia but separated geographically from the rest of the country.
Please note that the border crossing today can take quite a bit of time.
Day 10: Explore the exclave of Kaliningrad and visit the Museum of Oceans
This morning we will take an orientation walking tour of Kaliningrad's main attractions; the cathedral, Symbol of Kaliningrad and the Immanuel Kant Museum - one of the city's most famous former residents. In the Central Square we will be able to see the exterior of the 'Dom Sovietov', House of Soviets. Built on the site of a magnificent Germanic fortress, which unfortunately was badly damaged during the war, the Soviets in the 1960's decided to destroy what was left and build a giant H shaped block instead. It took 10 years to construct, yet was never used, as the ground below it is riddled with ancient flooded passageways. It certainly isn't the most beautiful of buildings. Throughout the city there's an interesting mix of historical and modern architecture from the restored pre-war Konigsberg Cathedral through to the much more recent Cathedral of Christ the Saviour situated in Victory Square.
Following our tour we will visit the Museum of the Oceans where you can see the only pre-atomic era B-413 submarine left in Russia. Located on the banks of the Pregolya River, as well as the submarine there are several other ships including the scientific expedition ship, Vityaz, and a range of naval machinery and exhibition halls.
This afternoon is free for you to discover more of this unique city. You might like to stroll back to near the cathedral on Kant Island and explore the park dotted with sculptures or relax in the green surroundings. Nearby is the 'Fish Village', which is a row of shops, hotels and restaurants that resemble what the area was like prior to World War II. You could climb up to the lighthouses viewing platform for great views over the city and coastline.
Day 11: Walking tour of Gdansk, Poland including the Free City of Danzig
Today we leave our Russian exclave and drive to Gdansk, Poland where we will spend the night. Our journey will take approximately three hours and crossing the border can take a bit of additional time. Gdansk is Poland's largest sea port as well as one of its oldest cities. It was at Gdansk Port that the Solidarity movement held strikes in the 1980s, which ultimately helped to bring an end to communist rule and in 1990 the leader of the Solidarity party, Lech Walesa, became Poland's first post-communist freely elected president.
On arrival we take a walking tour of the city to see the Green Gate, Long Market, the lovely Neptune Fountain and the adjacent City Hall, Saint Mary's Church, the historic old town and also the Free City of Danzig, which was once an independent state. The Green Gate isn't in fact green, but was once part of the Royal Route through the city and is a stunning building inspired by Flemish architecture. Saint Mary's Church is one of the most notable buildings in the city and is believed to be the largest brick-built church in the world and features a 15th century astronomical clock. The Free City of Danzig was its own state from 1920-1939 because after World War I the control of Gdansk became a major sticking point at the Treaty of Versailles negotiations, as both Poland and Germany wanted to keep the city and its valuable port location. Germany were in no position to rebuild the economy or infrastructure, but there was a large German speaking population, so to quell fears of an uprising, a deal was struck to create the Free City State of Danzig. It issued its own passports and had its own parliament, currency and stamps, and the economy grow well, up until the beginning of World War II when the peace it had known was shattered. When Hitler was elected in neighbouring Germany, anti-Polish sentiment spread quickly in Danzig and with most of the police force being German they started keeping close tabs on any Polish residents that they saw as a threat to their ideology. Tensions hit fever pitch when Nazi's dressed in Polish army uniforms staged a fake attack in nearby Gliwice, supposedly against Germany, and this then gave Hitler justification in the eyes of the German people to retaliate. The following day German attacked Poland on the Westerplatte and this was the trigger that started World War II. Whilst in Gdansk we will visit the World War II Museum to learn more about this.
After our tour, the evening is free for you to discover more of this extremely pretty city. The local liqueur is called goldwasser, which is a type of vodka with flecks of 23 karat gold floating in it. You could visit the city's first microbrewery, Brovarnia, where you can sample their lager, wheat and dark beers. Along Ul Dluga Street you'll find a wide variety of cafes and restaurants to choose from and being on the coast you'll find a variety of tantalizing fish dishes on the menu.
Day 12: Chance to enjoy a spa treatment in Kolobrzeg; arrive in Miedzyzdroje
This morning we drive further along the coast to Kolobrzeg where we have a few hours to relax in the city known for its spa culture. Whilst here you might like to try a spa treatment, as the city is blessed with salty springs that are said to contain minerals that are very good for your skin. If this isn't your type thing then you could go to see the large Gothic Church of Saint Mary, the fortress-like Town Hall which houses a modern art gallery or Kolobrzeg Pier, which affords views back over the waterside promenade and the nearby 17th century lighthouse, which was reconstructed after bombing during World War II. You'll also find beautiful sandy beaches that are a very popular swimming spot in summer.
We continue our drive to Miedzyzdroje where we spend the next two nights. The town isn't on the normal tourist trail, apart from Germans heading for the coast for their summer holidays. It's best known for its wide sandy beaches, rolling cliffs and surrounding wildlife rich forests.
Day 13: Boat trip in the Swinoujscie, the Land of 44 Islands
This morning we drive to nearby Swinoujscie, known as the 'Land of 44 Islands' where we take a relaxing boat excursion around the islands and stop-off at a bird watching tower to take in the views. This is one of the most attractive parts of the Polish coastline and out of the many islands and islets found here only three are inhabited. There are a lot of trees and shrubs that have been registered as natural monuments and an impressive array of more exotic plants here too. Along the Przytorski Peninsula you can find sand dunes and the Caspian willow, sea-buckthorn and Siberian peashrub amongst other flora. The Swina River Delta covers 30 square kilometres of marshy islands and fens that are inhabited by around 240 different bird species, many of which choose to nest here including a number of Poland's sea eagle population. Other birds you may spot include the Northern shoveler, ruff and black stork, so be sure to bring your camera and binoculars with you today.
This afternoon is free for you to further explore the islands on foot or perhaps by bicycle. Swinoujscie is a popular cycling spot with plenty of well-marked routes, which connect the city centre with the harbour, seaboard district and health resort area. Alternatively you may just like to sit back and relax on the beach or take a dip in the Baltic Sea. Later this afternoon we'll drive back to Miedzyzdroje.
Day 14: Discover Berlin, Germany including Check Point Charlie
Before leaving Poland this morning we make a brief stop in the lively student city of Szczecin. There's a mixture of architectural styles reflecting its varied history. Many of the older buildings have fallen on hard time and you'll be able to see crumbling Art Nouveau mansions and overgrown gardens not far from the centre of the city. Most buildings on the main roads have been renovated and gaps filled with modern glass fronted shops.
We cross the border into Germany and head to the capital Berlin. On arrival we will have an orientation walking tour of the city and use public transport to see the city's highlights, which include the Rotes Rathaus City Hall and the Nikolai Quarter, which is the oldest residential area in the city. We also see the TV Tower and Berlin's largest city square, Alexanderplatz. Around this square are buildings constructed by the German Democratic Republic in East Berlin as part of their vision of a 'new socialist utopia'. We will come across reminders of Germany's war history as we walk down the Grand Avenue, Unter den Linden, to see the Baroque buildings from the Prussian era and the famous Brandenburg Gate, the former SS Head Quarters and Checkpoint Charlie, which used to be the crossing point between East and West Berlin. We will stop at the moving Holocaust Memorial where we pick up audio guides that explain the history and thought behind this present day monument.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Auguststrasse was able to establish itself as a trendy gallery district and here you'll find a variety of restaurants in historic buildings that you might like to dine in this evening.
Day 15: Free day in Berlin with the chance to shop at Markethalle Neun
Today is free for you to discover more of this large and bustling city. It's easy to get around using the metro and public buses. Berlin is a great place for shopping, there are many cafes and bars to enjoy, and of course tons of history and cultural attractions.
You may like to visit the East Side Gallery, which is 1.3 kilometre long section of the Berlin Wall that has been kept as a monument to peace, or perhaps the Berlin Wall Memorial. Or you might prefer to sit back and watch the world go by in Germany's most beautiful square, the Gendarmenmarkt.
Charlottenburg Palace is one of the few places left in the city where you can witness the grandeur of the Hohenzollern family who ruled from 1415-1918. The palace was expanded over the years, but the oldest part is the Altes Schloss and the most flamboyant are the private chambers of Frederick the Great including the White Hall banquet room and gilded Golden Gallery. Also here are lovely manicured gardens and the Neo-Classical mausoleum that houses the sarcophagi of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Alternatively, if you'd like to discover something even older then the Pergamon Museum gives you an insight into the ancient world with Classical sculptures and other artefacts from Greece, Rome, Babylon and the Middle East. The bombed-out Neues Museum has been restored and is now home to an Ancient Egyptian Museum packed with mummies, sculptures and antiquities.
At the traditional Markethalle Neun dating from 1891 you can admire the iron beamed ceiling and Saturday is market day, so you can shop for a range of goodies and try delicious local foods and there's even a craft brewery, Heidenpeters, on site where you can try the Thirsty Lady Pale Ale.
Volkspark Friedrichshain is Berlin's oldest park and has provided a tranquil green space for city residents since 1840, but the two hills have only been there since the 1940s when the wartime debris was piled up to create them. There are also a number of memorial sites within the park including a tribute, which honours the joint efforts of the Polish army and German resistance fighters against the Nazis.
Germany is of course well known for beer, sausages including the spicy currywurst, schnitzel and pretzels and there are no shortage of these in the city's many restaurants, but you'll also find good steak, a range of Asian cuisine and the Big Stuff Smoked Barbeque Kitchen in the Markethalle Neun, which is a popular choice with the locals for pulled pork, pork belly and delicious beef brisket.
Day 16: Day travelling by road and ferry to Copenhagen, Denmark
This morning we bid farewell to Germany and head off on our journey back into Scandinavia. We drive to the port at Rostock to board the ferry for the two hour crossing to Gedser. From here we continue our drive to Copenhagen, where we spend the next two nights. We arrive later this afternoon and have the rest of the day free to settle in to our new surroundings.
Copenhagen is a compact city, which is easy to discover on foot and is said to be the happiest city on earth. Its cobbled streets are fronted by colourful townhouses, church spires, quirky boutiques, modern architecture and the beautiful facades and boats that line the harbour. The city was original a Viking settlement, but it truly started to grow in the 18th century when the Rococo area of Frederiksstaden was constructed with Amalienborg Palace and Frederik's Church at its heart. It's also during this period that the Royal Theatre and Royal Academy of Fine Arts first opened. It grow again during the Danish Golden Age when its Neo-Classical buildings sprung up.
In term of local cuisine smorrebrod open-faced sandwiches are a popular lighter option. They are usually on dark rye bread with heaped toppings such as boiled eggs, smoked salmon, cucumber, cheese, radishes, pickle and more. The most widespread local liqueur is akvavit, which has been distilled in Denmark for hundreds of years and is flavoured from a range of herbs and spices. Its name is derived from the Latin saying 'aqua vitae' meaning 'the water of life'. If you'd like to try a range of less costly foods then the indoor Copenhagen Street Food warehouse is full of mobile kitchens and could be the place for you. Here you can sample not just Danish but also Cuban, Mexican, Italian cuisine and more. In order to keep the prices reasonable each stall must offer at least one meal for between 50-75 Danish Kroner.
Day 17: Tour of Copenhagen including the hippy Christiania Freetown
This morning we will take a walking tour to see the city's main sights including Christiansborg Palace, the Nyhavn (new harbour) and old town, 17th century Round Tower, Rosenborg Castle, Amalienborg Palace, City Hall and the famed Little Mermaid statue. We stroll down Stroget, which is one of Europe's longest pedestrian shopping streets. Nyhavn is probably the city's most iconic spot and was the home of H.C. Andersen.
We also visit the alternative hippy community of Christiania Freetown, which is a green and car-free neighbourhood with around 850 residents. Founded in 1971 on the site of a former military barracks, we will find a range of colourful building and characters here. Fredens Ark is the largest building in Christiania and also the largest half-timbered house in Northern Europe. It's a protected structure that used to be the main section of the barracks and today 80 people live here. Christiania's houses are a wide assortment of weird and wonderful shapes, sizes and colours with many being self-built by the occupants. The neighbourhood has a thriving art and music scene and we can find a variety of unique handicrafts and pieces of art on sale as well as organic restaurants and quirky cafes.
This afternoon you have free time to enjoy the city's attractions or perhaps to visit the famed Tivoli Gardens amusement park and pleasure gardens, which opened its doors in 1843.
Day 18: Visit to Malmo, Sweden and beautiful Lund en route to Kalmar
Today we leave Denmark and head to the third largest city in Sweden, Malmo. Here we see Oresund Bridge that has been made famous by the TV show The Bridge and have time to grab a coffee in one of its many coffee bars, which the city is known for.
We then drive onto Lund and our Explore Leader will take us on a walk around Kulturen. It covers two blocks and contains over 30 historic and very pretty houses and gardens. We also go to see Lund Cathedral. After a couple of hours here we continue our drive to Kalmar where we stay overnight and where we have free time this evening.
Tonight you might like to try an authentic Swedish meatball or perhaps a bag of the chewy fish shaped sweets that the country is known for, but there's also a wide selection of other tasty food to choose from. Why not try pancakes with lingonberry jam, pickled herring, fresh crayfish, and the green princess cake called prinsesstarta or a cinnamon bun kanelnullen with a freshly brewed coffee. A popular local tipple is brannvin, which translates as 'burnt-wine' and is a type of vodka.
Day 19: Discover Kalmar's old town; ferry to Gotland Island
Kalmar is probably best known for its Renaissance-style castle complete with ornate turrets and a drawbridge. In the old town you can wander through the cobbled streets and admire the well-preserved 17th and 18th century buildings. This morning we will explore these best known areas, as well as seeing the cathedral and Oland Bridge. We'll have a little free time to have lunch and perhaps visit contemporary art exhibits in the Kalmar Art Museum.
We will then go across onto Oland Island and here we will see the Stone Ship burial ground. This is a great example of the early Viking burial custom of shaping the gravestones to resemble the bow of a ship. Along the coast of the island we may also be able to spot a number of different seabirds and seals.
This evening we drive to Oskarshamn where we board the ferry to Visby on Gotland Island. The crossing takes about three hours and we will arrive at around midnight and head straight to our hotel to check-in.
Day 20: See Visby's city walls and sea stack fields on Gotland Island
We spend today on Gotland Island, which was originally a Viking trading settlement. We start our discoveries in the main medieval walled town of Visby. It is UNESCO listed and its walls are the best preserved in Northern Europe and it's possible to walk along the two kilometre length of them. We wander down the towns cobbled streets to see old world shops, quaint little cottages and the tall spires of Saint Mary's Cathedral.
This afternoon is free for you to relax in the picturesque surroundings of Visby or on the 800-kilometre-long coastline that surrounds the island. Alternative you may prefer to join an excursion to see more of the nearby sights. You could visit the Blase Lime Works Museum where you can take a train ride to the old quarry. Alternatively, on the smaller Faro Island, just off the tip of northern Gotland, you can see giant natural limestone sea stacks, stroll along sandy beaches and visit Kutens Bensin with its rusty old classic cars and rock n' roll music history.
A Gotland's food speciality you might want to try whilst you're here is saffranspannkaka, a saffron flavoured pancake served with berries and cream.
Day 21: Ferry to Stockholm with a tour on arrival and a drink in the Ice Bar
This morning we board the ferry for the four-hour journey to Nynashamn and drive from here to Stockholm where we arrive this afternoon. Stockholm is spread over 14 islands and even more islets and each has its own character. In the centre of the city is the spot where Lake Malaren merges with the Baltic Sea. On arrival we will take an orientation tour to many of the main sights including Gamla Stan which is Stockholm's colourful old town area and where the Royal Palace is located. We will also see the waterfront City Hall. Along the way we stop at the Ice Bar for a drink served in ice glasses and at a temperature at -7°C. We travel up to the observation deck on top of the Kaknas TV Tower to admire the beautiful views.
Day 22: Trip ends in Stockholm, Sweden
Trip ends at our hotel in Stockholm after breakfast.
If you are on a flight later this afternoon or you have chosen to extend your stay to see more of Stockholm then we would recommend visiting the Vasa Museum, which is one of the city's best known attractions. The Vasa warship capsized and sank in 1628 and spent over 330 years on the seabed before it was finally salvaged. It is the only preserved 17th century ship in the world and at the museum you can see it and learn about the ships construction and life at the time, as we'll as the more recent preservation history. Alternatively you might like to take a wander through the Sodermalm District with its array of quirky boutiques, galleries and vintage shops.