Northern Europe, Scandinavia & Russia
Radiating out from the Dam Square, the historic centre of the city is ringed by quaint canals and cobbled streets, thronged with bicycles, tourists, house-boats, students, and street performers.
Berlin boasts a fantastic nightlife, and while tastes have changed since the height of the cabaret halls of the 1920s and 30s, there is a vast array of venues catering to all tastes.
Vibrant and energetic, Brussels is a city of museums and architecture among Europe’s finest, a shopper’s fantasy and a diner’s capital.
The waterside city of Copenhagen is packed with old-world fairytale charm alongside some of the world’s most avante garde architecture.
Gdañsk is an important port, situated at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea, and throughout its history has been a major trading centre.
Helsinki, spread across a cluster of promontories and peninsulas, is 450 years old, its clean, wide avenues lined with buildings echoing centuries of architectural excellence.
Legends of heroes, trolls and princesses roaming the countryside outside this charming city attracting many travelers looking for a Scandinavian holiday.
As the cultural and economic centre of the country, Riga is home to plenty of top-class museums, galleries and performing arts centres, as well as a range of sophisticated bars, clubs and restaurants
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is a city of arched bridges, winding canals, wide boulevards, elegant palaces, impressive squares and ornate churches, and as such is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’.
Estonia’s ancient seacoast capital exudes a sense of romantic history, being one of the most completely preserved medieval cities in Europe.
Stockholm, the historic metropolis with a small town heart boasts a multitude of museums, an abundance of restaurants, a plethora of parks, fun fairs, a never-ending nightlife and a rich cultural life.
Best Time to Go
Late May, June, July, August.
Passports but not visas are required of Canadian and U.S. citizens. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, the E.U. and the U.S. need passports (but not visas) for stays of less than 90 days.
Citizens of Canada and the U.S. need passports but not visas. Proof of onward passage and sufficient funds are needed for all, but rarely asked for.
Citizens of Canada and the U.S. need passports but not visas. Proof of onward passage and sufficient funds needed for all.
The official currency of Belgium is the euro
The Danish currency is the krone (DKK). The Danes rejected adoption of the euro in a nationwide referendum in 2000, and the krone is not likely to be replaced by the euro for some time. Many stores also accept other currencies (especially the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Swedish krone) but always at a poor exchange rate.
Finland uses the euro. Currency can be exchanged at most banks and travel agencies.
The Norwegian kroner (NKr) is a stable currency. Norway has voted twice against joining the European Union and has no plans to adopt the euro. Do not expect stores to accept euros.
Do’s & Don’ts
Do order the sauce “apart” when ordering French fries at a friture (or frituur). True conoisseurs don’t splatter it over the fries. Also, ask whether the seller has cut the fries himself from fresh potatoes.
Do touch the relief of Brussels’ dying hero Everaerd t’Serclaes in the Rue de Charles Buls; it is supposed to bring you luck.
Don’t assume you have the right of way when driving on a main street in Brussels. Belgian drivers tend to shoot out of small side lanes, often perfectly legally following the priorite a droite (“priority of the right”) rule, blatantly ignoring oncoming traffic.
Do start any conversation or transaction with bonjour (even in supermarkets). Often bonjour monsieur/madame/mademoiselle will be even more appropriate. When leaving, au revoir and bon journee (have a nice day) are the bare minimum. True Belgians delight in wishing each other bon Dimanche (have a good Sunday), bon fin d’apres midi (good end of the afternoon), and similar precise goodbyes.
Do watch out for bicycles. On most main thoroughfares, bike lanes are clearly marked and bicyclists expect you to stay out of their way.
Do take the kids. Copenhagen is a family-friendly city and you’ll encounter children everywhere.
Don’t litter. Denmark was “green” long before it was fashionable. Recycling, organic farming, energy conservation and alternative energy—especially wind power—have long been integral parts of daily life in Denmark.
Do see the Christmas show (juletid) at Tivoli if your trip is in the winter—it’s a riot of lights with lots of stalls selling Christmas decorations and special glogg.
Don’t be afraid to try speaking a few words of Finnish. Though most Finns in Helsinki speak excellent English, saying a few words will probably get you more than just a smile back.
Do remember that Finland was dominated for several hundred years by both Russia and Sweden and lost much land after World War II. Even though Finland is fairly well-off today, many Finns are still very sore about this fact. Do not speak flippantly about military history or make open comparisons between Finland and its neighbors.
Don’t use the name “Lapp” or “Laplander” for the Sami people—they find it derogatory.
Don’t be surprised if someone whizzes past you on a bicycle on the sidewalk, as the law allows this.
Don’t be tempted to jump the often long taxi line late at night—this will most definitely fire up a normally easygoing Norwegian.
Do take your kids to Norway. The country prides itself on being child-friendly. Most Oslo restaurants have special menus for children that include fruity milk shakes, and even walking tracks in the forests are suited for strollers.
Don’t order a bottle of mineral water in a Norwegian restaurant. It’s expensive, and tap water is served free—without any raised eyebrows—and is usually of better quality.
Don’t litter. Norwegians are especially conscientious when it comes to keeping their land clean.