Alright, I am just going to put it out there. Yes, I wanted to go to Scandinavia really badly after seeing Frozen. And yes, my fellow Disney-phile friend Rachel may have also had the Norway travel bug.
So, after careful consideration (seriously, it took us like several months and discussing like 50 options), we decided we were going to go on a Norwegian cruise to celebrate our 5-year friendaversary. So, I did what all good travel deal seekers do – I booked an amazing deal on a 7-night Norwegian cruise through Costco Travel…or at least I thought I did. After booking, we realized that it was mislabeled and was actually a 7-night Baltic Capital cruise. But, the deal was just too good to pass up and the itinerary sounded great so we decided to keep our trip and add on a few days on Norway so we could get our Frozen fix. Voila, our trip was born!
Our cruise embarked from Copenhagen, so we met there a day before the cruise so we could get some exploration time in. We found an awesome floating hotel to serve as our home base, which meant that we could also sightsee while we relaxed in bed after our long flights (multitasking at its finest).
Despite our jet lag, we powered through and sought out our first seafood meal after hearing incredible things about the options in Copenhagen. And, Fiskebar certainly did not disappoint. The food was truly spectacular and then they offered us a tour of their kitchen which was so, so much fun!
We didn’t have to be on the boat until 2pm so we set out early to explore the city. Armed with my trusty Lonely Planet book, we spent some time walking along the water on our way to the sights in the city center. First up, perhaps what Copenhagen is most known for – Nyhvn. The beautifully colored houses along the canal are truly striking and the old pirate-esque ships really complete the picture!
We bumped into a canal tour (cough Mickey Mouse cough) so of course had to do that as well. Copenhagen by water is really the most spectacular!
After our tour, we grabbed a quick bite (of course I had to get shakshuka in honor of our Israel trip) and then headed to grab our bags and to the boat!
Pro tip: Uber is an excellent way to get around when traveling abroad (provided you have cell service or wifi) and is how we got around everywhere in Copenhagen. I think it may have just become illegal in Denmark, but I love that you can get a fare estimate – and have the safety/security of route tracking when you may not know where you’re going.
Getting onto the boat was super easy and I had an amazing birthday surprise waiting for me on the ship! As if I wasn’t already sure this would be an amazing trip, I sure was convinced when I saw the stash of chocolate and wine!
This was a relaxing day at sea. I will spare you the stories of the Origami making, adult coloring, Disney movie music trivia (duh, we dominated), our formal night and skip ahead to our first port!
I have always been super curious about Estonia so I was very jazzed that it was on our route. The old city was about a 20-minute walk from the port and incredibly easy to get around. We spent all day roaming the cobblestone streets, admiring doors (seriously, they had some really cool doors) and taking in all that this medieval city had to offer (especially the views). It’s just gorgeous, so I am going to let all of the photos do the talking.
Thanks to Lonely Planet, we also stumbled upon one of the coolest spots, under a church, that served unbelievable elk soup (no spoons – eat like a knight!) and mushroom pies by candlelight. Seriously, I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings, except obviously that’s not even close to where we were.
Anyway, since most things for us center around food or drinks, we also bumped into a cute tea shop and then found a tucked away spot that was perfect for trying some local Estonian beer, bread and cheese.
Unfortunately, that was all we had time for before heading back to the ship, but it was such a special place and we’ll always remember The Times we had…
Soooo we were supposed to be in Stockholm this day, but the boat couldn’t dock (sensitive subject) so we headed to Russia a day early. BUT, we didn’t get Russian visas (because you don’t actually need one if you are doing an organized tour either through the cruise or a tour company in Russia) so we made it a spa day.
Feeling totally rejuvenated, we headed out for our 8-hour tour of. St. Petersburg. First up was Peterhof, a gorgeous and ornate royal summer palace. I have been to St. Petersburg before so I knew all about the lavish gold detail that they include in palaces, but this place was truly spectacular and rivaled Versailles with gorgeous fountains and grounds.
From there, we had a Russian lunch (YUM) and mayyy have over ordered.
We then went on a canal cruise, also crossing into the Neva River and giving great perspective of the city truly built around the water.
After seeing the Church of Spilled Blood (so pretty I saw it before but still wanted another look) and a stroll in the summer garden (and trying some local ice cream), we sadly had to head back to the ship.
Helsinki was next and one of my favorite places, even though I only spent a few hours there before. I absolutely love that it centers around the harbor and has so many markets (outdoor and indoor) where you can shop and eat local. The last time I was there, I bought an amazing ring, as well as a wool hat and scarf. This time, I focused on the food and had to indulge in a pastry, as well as my FAVORITE salmon soup (think salmon chowder and make sure to close your mouth so you don’t drool).
We then found a ferry to Suomenlinna, Helsinki’s island fortress built in 1747, which was just simply gorgeous. We were on a super tight schedule due to the ship, but could have packed a picnic and spent the entire day wandering around this place.
Immediately when we got back, I knew I had to drag poor Rachel to my favorite spot for my favorite cinnamon roll.
Thankfully, we were able to indulge and get back to the ship in time! Helsinki was a whirlwind, but just as wonderful as I remembered it.
I am pretty sure this day at sea was spent sleeping and reading, so I will spare you the details.
Back in Copenhagen! We thankfully built another day/night in this special city and spent this day getting 25,000 steps. We basically roamed around the entire city – enjoyed Danish, saw the changing of the guard at the royal palace, strolled along the water and even spent time at the gorgeous Tivoli Gardens – the most beautiful amusement park that you will ever see!
I know you’re thinking it sounds like the day couldn’t have gotten any better, but we managed to finish it off with dinner at Relae, #40 restaurant in the world. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here’s a look at our meal.
Sadly, our time in Copenhagen was coming to an end, but happily, Anna and Elsa were off to Bergen, Norway! We dropped our things off and quickly started exploring the (very small) city set on the harbor and in a valley surrounded by mountains.
We were on our way to a restaurant we read great things about, but the harbor-side fish market stopped us in our tracks. Just like 2 Jews who were deprived of their bagels with lox, we flocked and had a spectacular seafood lunch along the water.
From there, we just explored, shopped and explored some more! For dinner, we found an amazing traditional Norwegian restaurant where locals go for dishes their grandparents made. Of course, I also had to try a Norwegian beer.
We had done a lot of research on what to see/do in Norway, knowing that we really wanted to see the fjords. Norway, being incredibly smart, assembled all of their public transportation together into a website where you can book a “Norway in a Nutshell” tour. You can do all of this in a day – or you can extend it at stops along the way, also adding activities. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to do a fjord adventure because you basically take a series of trains, buses and fjord cruises into the most magical part of the world.
Pro tip: The views are spectacular along the way – and just make sure to do your homework on which side of the train to sit on for each leg to get the best views!
We decided to overnight in Flam, which means we were also able to do a 4-hour kayaking trip into the fjord. I am not quite sure what to say, other than thank goodness Rachel bought us waterproof cases for our phones because I did NOT stop taking photos, even though photos just can’t capture the beauty that is Norway.
We capped the night off with dinner at a local brewery and slept like logs.
We had plenty of time to roam around the town, buy some Norwegian goodies and eat all of the food in sight. There were so many more things I wish we had the time to do, but I suppose there’s always next time.
We boarded the Flamsbana train to start our journey back to Bergen, but the train in itself is spectacular. It’s one of the steepest trains on normal tracks in the world and passes through all of the gorgeous sort of landscape you would hope to see in the Norway fjords.
I truly felt disappointment and sadness when we arrived back in Bergen because of the unbelievably beautiful and magical place we just left. And even though I didn’t see Olaf or Sven, our time in Norway was just spectacular. I cannot wait to go back and explore so much more of that part of the world!