Northern Europe from Le Havre
Day 1 - Le Havre As you sail on your MSC cruise to France, you’ll come to Le Havre, the country’s second-largest port, which takes up half the Seine estuary. However, the town itself, home to almost 200,000 people, is a place of pilgrimage for fans of contemporary architecture. Le Havre – “The Harbour” – is the principal trading post of northern France and a port of call of our MSC Northern Europe cruises. Following its near-destruction during World War II, Le Havre was rebuilt by a single architect, Auguste Perret, between 1946 and 1964. The sheer sense of space can be exhilarating: the showpiece monuments have a winning self-confidence, and the few surviving relics of the old city have been sensitively integrated into the whole. While the endless mundane residential blocks can be dispiriting, even those visitors who fail to agree with Perret’s famous dictum that “concrete is beautiful” may enjoy a stroll around his city. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can also be the opportunity to discover Rouen, the capital of Upper Normandy, one of France’s most ancient cities. Standing on the site of Rotomagus, built by the Romans at the lowest point where they could bridge the Seine, it was laid out by Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, in 911. Captured by the English in 1419, it became the stage in 1431 for the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, before returning to French control in 1449. Rouen today can be very seductive, its lively and bustling centre well equipped with impressive churches and museums. North of the Seine at any rate, it’s a real pleasure to explore. As well as some great sights – Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, all the delightful twisting streets of timbered houses – there’s history aplenty too, most notably the links with Joan of Arc.
Day 2 - At Sea
Day 3 - Goteborg Of all the cities of southern Sweden, the largest is the western port of Gothenburg, which you can see from the ship during your MSC cruise of Northern Europe. Built by the Dutch in 1621, Gothenburg has splendid neo-classic architecture, a number of parks peppered with sculptures and a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. The urban landscape comprising wide avenues, elegant squares, trams and canals, is not only one of the most attractivein Sweden, but is also the backdrop of the biggest Scandinavian airport, making Gothenburg a cosmopolitan destination. The best way to start an excursion is to cruise along the city’s canals to then reach the old quarter. Enclosed by the Göta river to the north and the meandering Rosenlundkanalen to the south, the streets of the historic centre are flanked by majestic facades, interesting markets and a couple of museums worth visiting, like the exceptional Stadsmuseum and the Maritiman, next to the port, which displays a host of nautical exhibits. When you cross the canal that runs along the border of the historic centre, you come to Trädgårdsföreningen park which fills with multi-coloured flowers in the summer, making it a favourite location for a picnic. As you continue southwards, towards the modern centre, you will come to Avenyn, the avenue with the flashy bars and restaurants. At one end of the Avenyn, is the modern Götaplatsen, the city’s main square in the centre of which rises Carl Milles’ Poseidon: a huge, bronze bodybuilder with an incredibly fierce expression.
Day 4 - Copenhagen Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates Copenhagen, one of Northern Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals. Copenhagen city centre is waiting to be enjoyed on an MSC Northern Europe cruise excursion. It’s a welcoming, compact city with a centre largely given over to pedestrians (and cyclists) and an emphasis by day on café culture and top-notch museums.The historic core of the city is Slotsholmen, originally the site of the twelfth-centurycastle and now home to the huge Christiansborg complex. Just across the Slotsholmen Kanal to the north is the medieval maze of Indre By (“inner city”), while to the south the island of Christianshavn is adorned with cutting-edge architecture in addition to the alternative enclave of Christiania. North-east of Indre By are the royal quarters of KongensHave and Frederiksstaden, while to the west the expansive Rådhuspladsen leads via Tivoli Gardens to Central Station and the hotspots of Vesterbro and Nørrebro. Just off hectic Vesterbrogade outside the station is Copenhagen’s most famous attraction, Tivoli, an entertaining mixture of landscaped gardens, outdoor concerts and fairground rides. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can be the opportunity to discover Helsingør’s Kronborg Castle too. The present castle dates from the sixteenth century when it jutted into the sound as a formidable warning to passing ships not to consider dodging the toll, and it remains a grand affair, enhanced immeasurably by its setting; the interior, particularly the royal chapel, is spectacularly ornate. Beneath the castle are the casemates, gloomy cavernous rooms that served as soldiers’ quarters during times of war.
Day 5 - Warnemunde The Warnemünde quarter in Rostock is a famous German seaside resort that you can visit when you reach the German coasts on your MSC cruise of northern Europe. At the mouth of the river Warnow, in the Baltic Sea, Warnemünde will surprise you with its villas, hotels and the large white and silver beach. Its heart is Am Strom, next to the port, where the homes of old captains and fishermen have been turned into coffee shops and boutiques. With an excursion during the cruise, you can continue towards Schwerin. Surrounded by lakes and with a fairytale Schloss that tickles the imagination, the town represents a pleasant surprise, given by the architecture and spirit of a historic capital. Continuing the excursion you can admire Lubeck, one of the few cities along Europe's northern coasts that preserves the glory of medieval times. For more than two centuries the standard bearer of the Hanseatic League, this was one of the wealthiest and most powerful of European cities, the Venice of the Baltic. The commercial opulence is best expressed in its architecture: from the oldest Rathaus in Germany to the churches with the tallest bell-towers to the merchants’ mansions. Lubecca is the first city in Northern Europe to be included in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 1987. Finally, you should not leave out a visit to the cosmopolitan Berlin, the largest and liveliest city in Germany. Amongst the monuments to visit are the Brandebourgh Gate. Situated close to the Reichstag, the seat of the German parliament, the monument, designed on the model of Athens’ Acropolis, was built as the city’s arch of triumph in 1791 and soon became the symbol of unified Germany. The Brandenburg Gate looms over the ornamental gardens in Pariser Platz which extends eastwards towards the wide, tree-lined Unter den Linden avenue, that means “Beneath the linden trees”, flanked by shops and cafés.
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