Northern Europe from Southampton
Day 1 - Southampton Despite its pummelling by the Luftwaffe and some disastrous postwar urban sprawl, the thousand-year-old city of Southampton has retained some of its medieval charm in parts and reinvented itself as a twenty-first century shopping centre in others, with the giant glass-and-steel West Quay as its focus. Core of the modern town is the Civic Centre, a short walk east of the train station and home to the excellent Southampton City Art Gallery that’s particularly strong on contemporary British artists. The Western Esplanade runs alongside the best remaining bits of the old city walls. Rebuilt after a French attack in 1338, they incorporate God’s House Tower, at the southern end of the old town in Winkle Street, which currently houses the Museum of Archaeology. Best preserved of the city’s seven gates is Bargate, at the opposite end of the old town, at the head of the High Street; it’s an elaborate structure, cluttered with lions, classical figures and defensive apertures. A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise from Southampton can be the opportunity to discover the capital of England, London. For the visitor, London is a thrilling place. Monuments from the capital’s glorious past are everywhere, from medieval banqueting halls and the great churches of Christopher Wren to the eclectic Victorian architecture of the triumphalist British Empire. You can relax in the city’s quiet Georgian squares, explore the narrow alleyways of the City of London, wander along the riverside walks, and uncover the quirks of what is still identifiably a collection of villages. The capital’s great historical landmarks – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and so on – draw in millions of tourists every year.
Day 2 - Zeebrugge Crowds tend to overwhelm Bruges nowadays – its reputation as a perfectly preserved medieval city has made it the most popular tourist destination in Belgium – but you’d be mad to come to Flanders. With an MSC Northern Europe cruise and miss it: Bruges’ museums hold some of the country’s finest collections of Flemish art, and its intimate, winding streets, woven around a skein of narrow canals and lined with gorgeous ancient buildings, live up to even the most inflated tourist hype. When you step ashore from your MSC cruise, the obvious start to an exploration of the city is the two principal squares: the Markt, overlooked by the mighty belfry, and the Burg, flanked by the city’s most impressive architectural ensemble. Almost within shouting distance are the three main museums, among which the Groeninge offers a wonderful sample of early Flemish art. Another short hop brings you to St-Janshospitaal and the important paintings of the fifteenth-century artist Hans Memling, as well as Bruges’ most impressive churches, the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk and St-Salvatorskathedraal. Further afield, the gentle canals and maze-like cobbled streets of eastern Bruges – stretching out from Jan van Eyckplein – are extraordinarily pretty. The most characteristic architectural feature is the crow-step gable, popular from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century and revived by the restorers of the 1880s, but there are also expansive Georgian-style mansions and humble, homely cottages. Time and again the eye is surprised by the sober and subtle variety of the cityscape, featuring everything from intimate arched doorways and bendy tiled roofs to wonky chimneys and a bevy of discreet shrines and miniature statues.
Day 3 - At Sea
Day 4 - At Sea
Day 5 - Kiel Arriving on your MSC Cruise of Northern Europe, you will have the chance to visit Kiel, an expanding urban centre on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Kiel became the Imperial military port of Germany in 1871 and, when its canal was opened to connect the Baltic and the North Seas in 1895, the town began to control the largest artificial waterway in the world. Kiel is the ideal location for a relaxing vacation in Germany with an MSC cruise: it is simple and quiet, even during the Kieler Woche international regatta, an event not to be missed by sailing enthusiasts. The few city museums can be visited in one morning, however, if you want to get acquainted with Kiel you cannot ignore its waterways, to which the town is indissolubly bound: they can be visited by taking the Kiellinie footpath or taking a cruise along the Kieler Förde and along the canal. A spacious promenade along the pier will give you the chance to admire a variety of vessels of all sorts, amongst which the dinghies of the sailing school and, from the wet dock in front, the best view one can get of Kiel. 6 km south-west of the centre, in Molfsee, where we find the Schleswig-Holsteinisches Freilichtmuseum. This open air museum shows about seventy traditional buildings taken from the Lande and assembled in miniature villages: the colonial houses still maintain the original furniture – outstanding beds sleeping the entire family in order to keep warm in the freezing winters. While on vacation in Kiel with your MSC Cruise, an excursion will take you to Lubecca, one of the few towns on the northern coasts of Europe that has kept its Medieval glory. For more than two centuries it has been one of the wealthiest and most powerful European cities. The wealth deriving from trade is best expressed through its architecture: from the oldest Rathaus in Germany to the churches with the tallest bell towers and the merchants’ mansions.
Day 6 - Copenhagen, Denmark 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.
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