Looking for a memorable summer cruise? Consider the Viking Homelands Cruise! My husband and I did this Northern Europe ocean cruise in the early summer, and we both thought the itinerary was wonderful. You cover eleven ports in eight countries over the course of two weeks. Keep reading to discover why we think the Viking Homelands cruise itinerary is truly memorable!
Start with the Nordics, add in a pinch of the Baltics, and top with a dollop of Russia: can you imagine a more delightful concoction? That’s what you get with the Viking Homelands Ocean Cruise itinerary.
We did the cruise from Bergen to Stockholm, but you can opt to do it from Stockholm to Bergen as well. One of the big draws of this Viking ocean cruise for us was the fact that the itinerary is port-intensive: we only had one full day at sea. So if you are looking for a cruise where you will see and do a lot, you will love the Viking Homelands itinerary.
Viking Homelands Cruise Itinerary
From stunning natural scenery to gorgeous rooftop views, and from sleek Scandinavian facades to the glittering onion domes of Eastern Europe, the Viking Homelands ocean cruise itinerary really does have it all!
Make sure you pack your camera: each day brings dozens of magnificent photo ops. And don’t forget comfortable walking shoes: if you are active travelers, you’ll find that you rack up a lot of steps each day!
Here is a sneak preview of the treasures that await you on the Viking Homelands itinerary:
Bergen, Norway: A Beautiful Introduction to Norway!
Bergen is a stunning introduction to the natural beauty of Scandinavia. We did the panoramic bus tour (an included Viking cruise excursion), to get a quick glimpse of the city, but otherwise we found plenty to do on our own on our one day in Bergen.
The city of Bergen is nestled in the midst of seven towering mountains, and a visit to the top of a mountain should definitely be on your list of things to do. Take the cute Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen, or the cable car to the top of Mt. Ulriken. Either mountain top will give you beautiful panoramic views of the city and the mountains and water beyond.
Exploring the Bryggen Wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must. Visit the Hanseatic Museum to learn about life during the times of the powerful Hanseatic League.
Stroll the cobblestone alleys and side streets to take photos of charming wooden houses. Taste the wares at the Fisketorget, Bergen’s famous fish market, or just marvel at the range and freshness of the fish on display.
If you arrive early the day of embarkation, take the tram to the Fantoft Stave Church just a few minutes away. There are only about two dozen stave churches still standing in Norway, so grab the chance to tour one!
Or do the 3-hour fjord Osterfjord cruise to Mostraumen that leaves from the Fish Market. Or, if you enjoy museums, visit the KODE Museums to view works by Norwegian masters, including Edvard Munch.
Whatever you choose to do in Bergen, you’ll find it’s a sensational start to a great cruise!
Eidfjord: Gateway to Norway’s Spectacular Scenery
Eidfjord is a tiny gem situated on the Hardangerfjord. Wake up as early as you have to, in order to be on deck while the ship cruises towards its slot at the port: the approach is ridiculously scenic.
At this port, you can opt to have a quiet day just walking in Eidfjord, or you can pick from several excursions to explore nearby scenic wonders. We were off the ship early and managed to squeeze in a short walk through Eidfjord before our planned excursion.
We did the excursion to Flåm and Voss, which included not only a ride on the spectacular Flåmsbana Railway, but also a number of gorgeous waterfalls and a beautiful drive through some of Norway’s most magnificent scenery.
The journey between Flåm and Myrdal on the train is just under 13 miles long and about one hour in duration. The gravity-defying journey is every bit as enthralling as you’d expect it to be, and in the span of the one hour, you climb over 2,800 feet.
All along the way, expect to be treated to one magnificent vista after another. Tall snow-capped mountains, jewel-green hillsides, plunging waterfalls, meandering rivers, and pretty little houses all combine to make the ride overwhelmingly beautiful.
If you are on the right side of the train going up, you should be able to take a photo of tiny Flåm falling away behind you. But really, it’s a pretty shaky ride, so you are better off just being in the moment and enjoying the ride for the most part.
No matter which side you sit, you will be treated to some stunning scenery, and you can move around in the train.
Stavanger: Pretty white houses and Norway’s mighty Pulpit Rock
You’ll find lots of fun things to do in the pretty city of Stavanger, the final port of call in Norway. Sadly, it’s a short stop, so you’ll have to pick the activities that appeal to you the most, and plan on coming back to spend more time in southwestern Norway.
A tour of the white houses of Gamle Stavanger is a must! Just a short walk from the port, Gamle Stavanger contains the largest collection of white wooden houses in northern Europe. You will love the pretty streets, brightened up with flowers and plants.
If you’ve already cruised the Norwegian fjords elsewhere, then explore the offerings in town. Stavanger is home to a lot of quirky street art that you can view on a self-guided walking tour. The harbor is a lively place to hang out and people watch, and to photograph cool reflections if the water is still.
You can also visit one or both of two unique museums: the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, which is much more fun than it sounds, and the Norwegian Canning Museum, where, among other things, you can try your hand at packing fake sardines into a can.
But if you haven’t yet done a fjord cruise, Stavanger is the gateway to the enchanting Lysefjord and the iconic Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). While Pulpit Rock is undeniably more exciting if you hike up to the top for one of the most outstanding views on the planet, it doesn’t look too shabby from below either.
You’ll also see stunning mirror reflections in the inky waters of the fjord, the dramatic scenery on all sides, pretty little houses in red, and waterfalls.
The crew even hangs out a bucket into the waterfall so you can taste the ice-cold water. I loved this cruise, even though we didn’t have a perfect weather day!
Aalborg: History and architecture with a fun lively vibe
Aalborg is a large vibrant city with a university, a rejuvenated waterfront, and lots of art and architecture. It’s a destination where you could probably spend several days. The time we had here was just enough to whet our appetites.
We did the included 3-hour walking tour of the historic part of the city and thoroughly enjoyed it. On this tour, you will see the very contemporary and sleek Musikkens Hus by the Limfjord, and then walk through the university complex, before making your way to the historic center.
You will want to stop every few minutes for photos of the charming streets. The facades of the little houses are colorful, and a couple of them had plaques listing the names of every set of owners that ever lived in the house!
Next, you will walk to Østerågade in Nytorv square, where you can admire the famous Jens Bang’s Stenhus and other old buildings. You will finish your walk at some pretty fountains next to the water. The walking tour is about three hours long, but we learned a lot about Aalborg’s history, and enjoyed the sights we covered.
While in Aalborg, don’t forget to sample Aquavit, distilled from grain or potatoes and flavored with herbs or spices. Aalborg is home to the largest aquavit distillery in the world.
Copenhagen: Home to a pretty waterfront and a lonely mermaid
I was really looking forward to Copenhagen, and the city totally lived up to my expectations, from the statue of the Little Mermaid to the splendor of Amalienborg Palace and the charm of Nyhavn.
We did the walking tour, an included Viking excursion, that took us through the beautiful Kastallet and past the statue of the Little Mermaid to Amalienborg Palace and Frederiks Kirke.
After the tour we continued exploring the city on our own, finding our way to the Rundetaarn for views over the city. The tower has a ramp instead of stairs for the greater part of the climb, and a little set of stairs at the very top.
We walked through the green King’s Garden, flush with tulips, and admired Rosenborg Castle. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in Nyhavn, ending with a canal cruise.
For more fun on your one day in Copenhagen, you can stroll Strøget, with its multitude of stores, or take a tour of the magnificent interiors of the Christiansborg Palace. If you like amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens, considered the inspiration for Disneyland, is worth visiting, but to do it justice, you will need to devote quite a bit of your day to the park.
Warnamunde and Rostock: Beautiful beaches and historic city gates
At the port of Warnamunde in Germany, you have the option of doing a train/coach trip to Berlin. It is a long day, even if you are an active and enthusiastic traveler. We decided we’d leave Berlin for another trip to Germany, when we could give it the time it deserves: ideally three to four days. At a minimum, two days in Berlin are needed to do all the major sights justice.
Instead we chose to explore Warnamunde and the nearby town of Rostock on our own. We ended up very happy with our choice, but folks that did the Berlin trip were happy with their choice as well. If you plan to go into Berlin, pick one of the optional tours, or plan a self-guided or guided walking tour in advance, to make the best use of your time.
Rostock was an important member of the Hanseatic League, and became very prosperous from shipbuilding and shipping. So rich, in fact, that Rostock bought the neighboring seaside town of Warnamunde!
You’ll find lots of things to do in Rostock. The university here is one of the oldest in Europe. You can view the two major remaining city gates, Steintor and Kroplinger Tor. Walk around Neuer Markt and admire the pretty facades. The buildings here were almost totally destroyed in WWII, but have since been restored.
You can go up to the top of the tower at Petrikirche (there’s a lift, with a small fee to use it), and admire one of the world’s oldest astronomical clocks at Sankt Marien Kirche.
The town is small, so you can explore it at a leisurely pace in about four hours, after which you can catch the train back to Warnamunde.
Warnamunde is tiny, but pretty. It has a lively waterfront, a red brick church in the main square, and charming streets that you can walk. You can also walk along the beach and visit the Warnamunde Lighthouse.
Gdansk: Beautiful facades and the lure of amber
As you get off the ship to take the shuttle into Gdansk, you’ll see vendors with amber jewelry on sale. Wait until you get into the city though, you’ll see lots more amber as you walk around Gdansk. In fact, there’s an entire museum devoted to it! Called the “stone of the sun,” amber looks like solidified caramel or honey and is actually a tree resin.
The beautiful city of Gdansk was one of my most favorite ports of call on the Viking Homelands cruise. We did the included walking tour of the Old Town. There are beautiful facades everywhere you look in the Old Town, and it is difficult to believe that all you see was created anew just a few decades ago, after bombing during WWII decimated the city.
You will start at the beautiful waterfront, where gorgeous buildings line the banks of the Motlawa River. Don’t miss the huge crane, which was used to load and unload goods off ships in earlier times. The crane was operated by a human-powered treadwheel!
Mariacka Street looks many centuries old, and is simply stunning. Look for the gargoyles that decorate gutters, and admire the pretty wrought iron railings and pastel facades. You’ll find amber shops on both sides of this street. At the end of the street is the enormous St. Mary’s Church, with a tower you can climb if you have the energy for it.
The Royal Way, made up of the Ulica Dlugi and Dlugi Targ, is indeed a pathway made for royals! The treasures along the way are many, and you will be in state of constant amazement as you walk past them: the graceful Clock Tower of the Town Hall, Golden Gate, Neptune’s Fountain, Artus Court, and the Green Gate. All interspersed with the most beautiful facades.
After your walk, you can visit some of the museums in the vicinity, or explore the city beyond the Old Town. Just outside the city, Westerplatte is the place where the first shots of World War II were fired. Gdansk is also where Lech Walesa started the Solidarity Movement, and you can learn more at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdansk.
Gdansk is definitely a place I would love to visit for a longer time, along with some of the other Polish cities.
Tallinn: An Old Town from a fairy tale!
We did the moderate difficulty walking tour of Tallinn Old Town, an included excursion on the Viking Homelands cruise itinerary, and also explored the town on our own.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, one of the three Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania being the other two. Of course, Tallinn is much more than the Old Town, with beautiful beaches and lots to do in the modern parts of the city, but on a short visit, exploring the medieval Hanseatic town should top your list.
Cobblestone streets, tall spires, and gorgeous architecture are everywhere in Old Town Tallinn, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. You almost expect to bump into people from medieval times around the corner, so complete is the storybook charm of the town.
Bars, restaurants, shops, and galleries line the winding streets, making it a fun wander through the town. The town gates, beautifully preserved, enhance the feeling of being in a fairy tale, with their pointy tops. You can walk the walls of the town after your walking tour.
Admire the onion domes and beautiful architecture of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. We went inside as part of the tour, to see the lovely mosaics.
Gaze up at the tall spire of St. Olaf’s Church. If you visit in the summer, you can climb to the top of the tower. Enjoy people watching at the lively Raekoja Plats, the Town Hall Square. Take lots of photos of the rooftops and spires of the town from the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform.
Your tour will end at the Viru Gates, where you can browse the handicrafts and knitted garments market along the town wall, or buy some fresh flowers in the market just outside the gates.
St. Petersburg: Gold and glitter
Our two days in St. Petersburg were physically exhausting and a sensual overload, but I loved the city and want to visit again for a longer time. There is just so much to see!
You cannot enter St. Petersburg independently without a visa. If you visit as part of a Viking tour, you are covered by their bulk visa, and if you choose a local travel agent to escort you, they obtain a visa for you. We did the tour with TJ Travel, as did a few other passengers on the cruise. I thought the tour was excellent. We spoke with folks that did the Viking tour and they were very pleased as well.
The Hermitage Museum takes up a big chunk of the first morning in St. Petersburg, even though you just see the highlights. It is a grand building, with a sweeping staircase at the front and lots of gilt everywhere. Be prepared to be overawed by the sheer number of objects on display.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is beautiful outside, with the multicolored onion domes. It is equally stunning inside, with every inch of wall and ceiling covered with colorful frescoes. The ride on the St. Petersburg metro and the boat cruise were fun.
On the second day, you visit the beautiful Catherine Palace with its famous Amber Room. Sadly, the jewel-encrusted original panels were looted by the Nazis and went missing in the last few months of WWII. The current version of the room was completed just a few years ago. Photography is not permitted in the Amber Room.
You also take the hydrofoil to the Peterhof Palace, where you tour the gardens. So many lovely fountains! Climb the steps to the top of the terrace for marvelous views. We didn’t tour the inside of the palace.
Our tour ended with a visit to the Yusupov Palace, where Rasputin was allegedly murdered. We learned a lot of Russian history in the two days! Our guide was a veritable fountain of knowledge and spoke excellent English, which made for a wonderful experience.
Helsinki: A young capital city with a cool vibe
With lots of beautiful Neoclassical architecture and a flourishing design district, Helsinki is a lovely city to explore. If you only have one day in the city, you can still enjoy some of Helsinki’s interesting sights.
We did the panoramic tour, the including Viking coach excursion, which takes you past the most famous architectural sights, and orients you to the city. Then we explored on our own, on foot.
The Senate Square, which contains the pristine white Helsinki Cathedral with its unique green domes, is a great place to spend some time. The cathedral and most of the other buildings around the square were designed by Carl Engel. Step inside the cathedral to admire the bright interior decorated very simply and elegantly.
The highlight of our day was a visit to Suomenlinna, the 18th century fortress on an island just a short ferry ride away. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church on the island used to have five onion domes, but they were removed at some point. Guided tours are only offered in the summer, but I recommend doing one if offered when you visit.
On the ferry ride back, get out your camera and situate yourself so that you can get photos of the shoreline, with the SkyWheel Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral, and the Helsinki Cathedral.
Take a walk around the design district, using the Design District Helsinki map. The area is vibrant, with cafes, restaurants, boutique stores, and museums. The neighborhoods are pretty, and you’ll see brands such as Marimekko and Iittala. A fun way to spend a couple of hours!
Stockholm: A gracious city in a beautiful setting
The approach into Stockholm is spectacular, so wake up early to see the little islands in the archipelago as the ship glides by them on its way to the port.
With one day in Stockholm, focus on three or four things that you really want to do, and leave the rest for a longer visit. Start with the Vasa Museum, where you can view the salvaged ship that sank on its maiden voyage. If a tour in English is being offered, join! You can take a ferry from the cruise ship terminal to the Vasa Museum in Djurgarden.
Next, take a ferry to the Old Town, Gamla Stan, a well-preserved and beautiful medieval center. Walk the streets, admire the colorful facades, browse the many stores, and pose for a photo in Mårten Trotzigs alley, the narrowest street in Stockholm. Enjoy great people watching at Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm.
The Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum are in the area too, if you have the time. But stop by the Royal Palace, especially if you happen to be around for the daily changing of the guard. It starts a little past noon and lasts for about 45 minutes.
Also visit the City Hall, a 20-minute walk from Gamla Stan or a quick taxi cab ride. The inside can be viewed only by guided tour, but the view from the top of the tower is amazing. An elevator takes you part of the way up, but you still have to climb about 180 steps.
Wander the city center to admire the architecture and the green spaces, if you still have some time. You will find both traditional and contemporary architectural works to view. Or relax at a cafe for a well-deserved fika break…a baked treat with coffee or tea.
Stockholm is the final port of call on the Viking Homelands Ocean cruise from Bergen. You could plan on spending a few extra days here, but otherwise, it’s time to head home, or to your next travel destination!
When to go
Sailings are offered from mid-April to mid-September. If you choose the fringe sailings, you’ll be taking a chance with the weather, but the ports will be less crowded. In the middle of the season, you’ll have really long days to max out your enjoyment, and likely also have better weather. But you will definitely be dealing with crowds everywhere.
We went mid-May, and had gorgeous weather the entire two weeks. The Old Towns of Gdansk and Tallinn were crowded, likely because visitors from nearby countries were taking advantage of the glorious weather.
To sum up…
The Viking Homelands itinerary is a great introduction to Northern Europe. The port-intensive itinerary, the depth and breadth of the offerings at each port of call, and the included shore excursions all really elevated the experience for us.
Most of the included tours were excellent, with knowledgeable guides and good coverage. If a walking tour was offered, we picked it, if not, we went with the coach tour. Either way, you’ll have a decent introduction to the destination.
So there you have it: my recap and review of the Viking Homelands Ocean Cruise itinerary. It is such an awesome itinerary that no sooner had we completed our activities at the final port than I wanted to go back to the start and do it all over again!
Note: This post is not sponsored, and we paid the full quoted price for the cruise. I wanted to share our experience because we enjoyed it so much!
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