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Northern Europe offers memorable cruising grounds

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By Rebecca Whitlocke

In recent years, countries in Scandinavia, the Baltic and the fringe of the Arctic have become more popular with yacht owners, charter companies and crew. While these coastlines may be less famous than their Mediterranean or Caribbean counterparts, they are nonetheless enticing with some of the best cruising grounds in Europe. 

Here are a few highlights:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A formidable starting point for yachts, Amsterdam is easily accessible to major European cities and holds a firm reputation as a key destination for new build, maintenance and refit facilities. With berth options in the central city, Amsterdam showcases the best of Dutch heritage, art, design and gastronomy with attractions such as the National Maritime Museum, concert halls, trendy shopping and canal-side dining.

Hamburg, Germany
One of Germany’s dominant maritime cities, Hamburg has world-class infrastructure including a seaport on the river Elbe that is one of the largest in Europe. Time can be spent discovering Hanseatic history at the Elbe Philharmonic Hall or the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Speicherstadt with its unique warehouses and canal networks. The German capital Berlin is 1.5 hours away by train.

Copenhagen, Denmark
The Danish capital will satisfy any guest’s wanderlust with lots to explore ashore such as Nyhavn’s gingerbread-style buildings, art galleries and antique shops along Bredgade street, and an ultra-hip restaurant scene that will rival the best of menus on board superyachts. Don’t miss checking out world-class design and art stores while there.

Stockholm, Sweden
Fusing historic architecture, waterfront attractions and a buzzing food culture, Sweden’s capital city is worth visiting. Cruising through the archipelago approaching Stockholm is fascinating in itself. There are more than 20,000 islands to enjoy a front-row seat. The long summer days makes them particularly beautiful during twilight hours.

Stavanger, Norway
Rich in history, Stavanger is a good stopover to explore with pretty wooden houses in Gamle Stavanger and plenty of waterfront bars and restaurants. It’s well-known as a launching point for trips to the Lysefjord as many people want to see the famous Preikestolen cliff (Pulpit Rock) or hike to the Kjeragbolten boulder. Make room in the itinerary to roam the Flor & Fjære gardens, a must-see when in the area.

Bergen, Norway
If the French Riviera’s glitz and glamor is too much, consider the appeal of Norway’s second-largest city. Known as the gateway to the fjords, Bergen is the yacht charter antidote to what is found in more traditional Mediterranean ports.

Stroll around Bryggen with its colorful wooden buildings, take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for a panoramic view over all of Bergen, eye up the daily catch at the Fisketorgetor fish market or drop into one of the city museums.

“Bergen would have to be my pick for my favorite regional port as it covers the most bases: guest activities, history, museums, events, dining, a great market, bars, live music, provisioning and an airport,” Capt. Calin Bujgoi of the 120-foot Benetti M/Y Pure Bliss, stated to his agent, Remie Kalloe of Dockside.ai based in the Netherlands. “It’s a perfect location from which one can explore an amazing area with breathtaking views, high-end resorts, hiking and even World War II historic sights (Grimstadfjord).”

Norwegian Fjords
The Norwegian Fjords must be seen in person to understand their natural beauty. Deep in the heart of Mother Earth’s landscape, expect fairytale vistas of cascading waterfalls, charming coastal towns and glacial-carved mountains.

“Nærøyfjord is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen,” Capt. Bujgoi said. “A UNESCO World Heritage destination, it changes its light show every 10 minutes. We stopped there three times during our 2019 season and stayed overnight; both crew and guests were in awe every time. Great hiking ashore — rain or shine — and a wonderful place to go for an early-morning paddle and take in the scenery and peace (before the tourist boats appear).”

Other highlights include:

  • Sognefjord – the ‘King of Fjords’
  • Rosendal – a picturesque stop with a great local activities operator, historic castle tours and stunning backdrop
  • Laukelandsfossen waterfalls
  • Ona Island – one of several little coastal islands reminiscent of old fishing days
  • If there is time, jump on the Flåmsbana – a rail journey from Flåm offering valley and waterfall views as it climbs to a station on the Hardangervidda plateau.

“International enquiries from yachts keen to visit these regions are growing, which is exciting for us to be able to merge itinerary planning with full-service yacht support,” agent Kalloe said. “Northern Europe offers some incredible cruising grounds with adventure, scenic beauty and accessibility to top-notch shipyards and large hubs for marine trades.”

Underpinned by vessels seeking fresh inspiration for life at sea, the Northern European cruising regions celebrate destinations that dare to be different from the usual yachting hotspots.

Rebecca Whitlocke is a freelance writer based in France. Comments on this story are welcome below.

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