Uncovering the Secret Charms of Sibenik, Croatia

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Sibenik, Croatia is one of central Dalmatia’s most picturesque towns. Nestled in the shadow of a rocky hill between the Krka River and Adriatic Sea, Sibenik’s natural beauty is undeniable. But it’s what lies beneath the surface that makes Sibenik truly special.

In contrast to neighboring cities which were established by the Roman Empire, Sibenik was founded by native Croats during the Middle Ages and quickly became a prosperous trading center thanks to its well-protected harbor. The ruins of St Michael’s Fortress still command the hill overlooking town, and the view from the ramparts is well worth the climb. On summer evenings, the fortress is converted into an open air stage.

Sibenik Croatia

Adriatic Sea

Sibenik Croatia Fortress

A jumble of red rooftops in Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik’s main claim to fame is the UNESCO-listed Cathedral of St. James. Built by three different architects during the 15th and 16th centuries, the cathedral is lauded for its fusion of Gothic and Renaissance styles. It is also notable for being made entirely of stone. Walking around the perimeter, you can’t help but notice the faces staring back at you; these 71 busts represent townspeople who had a hand in the cathedral’s construction. How would you like to be immortalized like that?

Sibenik Cathedral of St James

Sibenik Cathedral

The stone interior of the Cathedral of St James in Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik stone lion

A warren of cobbled lanes radiates from the cathedral, the labyrinthine layout seemingly unchanged over the centuries. Steep staircases twist and turn around ancient buildings, creating many levels to explore. I only encountered a handful of fellow tourists as I made my way up and down which enhanced the sense of adventure. Narrow flues open onto wide squares, many presided over by churches and chapels, and cats recline on the warm paving stones. Tinkling fountains hint at gardens tucked behind courtyard walls.

Sibenik Croatia

An alleyway in Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik Croatia

A courtyard in Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik Croatia

The Medieval Mediterranean Garden of St Lawrence Monastery is an oasis the likes of which are rarely seen. In fact, it’s the only garden of its kind in Croatia! Designed to be an accurate representation of a medieval garden, its flower beds are arranged around a cross-shaped path with a fountain at the center. The flora are both ornamental and functional, including many plants and herbs that would have been cultivated during the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes. A cafe on the terrace serves cold drinks and ice cream that are very welcome on a hot summer day.

The Medieval Monastery Garden of Sibenik, Croatia

Sibenik monastery garden

Sibenik medieval monastery garden

Sibenik was an easy one-hour drive from Zadar, making it a great option for a day trip – though the enchanting town will have you wanting to stay longer! If you only have time for lunch and and a quick wander, I recommend enjoying a pizza at one of the establishments by the water. Parking can be found on a pier just outside the historical center.

Sibenik Croatia

Croatia road trip

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Krka National Park: Croatia’s Summer Playground

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Have you ever dreamed about swimming in a crystal clear pool fed by a waterfall? One that you reach by hiking through the mountains to a secluded location? Then Krka National Park in Croatia is the destination for you!

The Krka River gently wends through Croatia’s Dinara mountains before reaching the turquoise depths of the Adriatic Sea. The mineral-rich river cascades over travertine waterfalls, with pools forming at their base. Skradinski Buk is the largest and most dramatic of the waterfalls and considered one of Croatia’s natural wonders.

Skradinski Buk Croatia

Skradinski Buk Waterfall Croatia

A well-kept boardwalk surrounds Skradinski Buk. It took me about two hours to complete the circuit, but this included frequent stops at the many viewpoints I found along the way. Swimming is allowed in the Skradinski pool, so wear your swimsuit to take a refreshing dip after finishing the walk. Some folks bring blankets and picnic baskets and while away an entire day in the shade of the trees next to the river. Those wishing to explore more of the park can continue on walking trails to a few other waterfalls.

Krka National Park Croatia

Swimming in Krka National Park Croatia

“Krka or Plitvice, which is better?” The short answer is that there is no wrong choice. Both parks feature extraordinary mountain landscapes dotted with lakes and waterfalls. Plitvice is probably better for more serious hikers as some of the trails are quite steep. Plitvice also warrants an overnight stay due to its more remote location. But swimming isn’t allowed in the Plitvice Lakes, so if that’s your dream, head to Krka. The following photos are from my walk in Krka National Park. To see shots from my visit to Plitvice, click here.

Krka National Park Croatia

Krka National Park Croatia

Krka National Park Croatia

Krka National Park Croatia

Walking in Krka National Park Croatia

Travertine waterfall in Croatia

I drove to Krka National Park on my two-week road trip up the coast of Croatia. It was an easy one hour drive from Zadar and I found free parking at the well-marked Lozovac entrance. If I had the trip to do over again, I would spend the night in the nearby town of Skradin and take a boat ride up the Krka River to see the island monastery. There’s just never enough time to do everything!

Krka River Croatia

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Parnu, Estonia: Baltic Sea Paradise

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Paradise / noun : a place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight

What comes to mind when you hear the word “paradise?” A sandy shoreline dotted with spa resorts, perhaps? Tourism industries in far flung locales like Bali, Thailand, and the Caribbean are thriving thanks to plenty of folks seeking exactly that.

But paradise can come in many different forms – and climates. If you happen to live in Northern Europe, there’s an option much closer to home!

Parnu, Estonia is located on the Baltic coast about halfway between Tallinn and Riga. Hugged by the shallow waters of the Gulf of Riga, the pristine white sands of Parnu Beach stretch as far as the eye can see. Development has been kept to a minimum, with bird-watching towers outnumbering high-rise hotels. In fact, you can’t see any hotels from the beach. These have been tucked discretely behind the dunes, inside Parnu Beach Park. The beach features a lovely promenade, playground equipment, and, curiously, a large elephant-shaped slide. Those wishing to indulge in some serious relaxing should head to the hotel spas for which the town has become famous.

A fifteen minute walk inland will lead you to the historic center of Parnu. Founded in 1251, this picturesque town nestled between the Baltic Sea and Parnu River quickly grew into an important port. Parnu was incorporated into the prosperous Hanseatic League, which thrived during the late Middle Ages. The old town was unfortunately ravaged by fire, and later, war, so that only the medieval street layout and one lone prison tower remain intact. You’ll likely pass through Tallinn Gate, a 17th century gate that once formed part of the city’s fortifications.

Tallinn Gate Parnu Estonia

A medieval fortification in Parnu Estonia

The current architecture is an eclectic mix of 17th, 18th, and 19th century styles. Baroque stucco, half-timber facades, and Art Nouveau flourishes stand shoulder to shoulder, accented with the most wonderfully painted doors! Lutheran and Orthodox church spires punctuate the sky, and bells peal come prayer time. The main street running through the center of old Parnu is closed to traffic, making it a perfect place to stroll.

Parnu Estonia

Parnu architecture

The colorful architecture of Old Parnu, Estonia.

Parnu doors

An Orthodox Church in Parnu, Estonia

Parnu Estonia

A beautiful door in Parnu, Estonia

Parnu Estonia

Parnu’s most notable attraction is the Mary-Magdalene Guild. A collection of artisan workshops and studios is housed within a restored wooden house in the center of town. Visitors can meander through the studios and chat with the artists while they work. I was particularly taken with the colorful rugs in the weaving studio run by artist Mare Pernik. (To visit her Etsy shop, click here.) A shop of the ground floor offers a wide array of Estonian handicrafts for sale. The Guild is only open until 3pm on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Mary Magdalene Guild Parnu Estonia

Mary Magdelene Guild

Charming cafes and restaurants abound. I recommend spending at least one night in Parnu to give yourself plenty of opportunities to enjoy them. Kohvik Supelsaksad is the best of the bunch. The menu features satisfying salads and pastas, and the whimsical decor is sure to delight. Wine Piccadilly is also a nice spot to rest cobblestone-weary feet. Their banana toffee pie is the most delicious thing I tasted the entire weekend!

Kohvik Supelsaksad is awash in pretty pastels and vintage style.

Kohvik Supelsaksad Parnu cafe

parnu wine bar

Enjoying a slice of banana toffee pie at Wine Piccadilly in Parnu, Estonia

For a more modern take on Estonian cuisine, check out the offerings at Hea Maa Restaurant. Each artistically presented plate consists of only the freshest seasonal, local ingredients; our waitress was able to tell us the specific farms from which the items were sourced!

Hea Maa restaurant can be accessed via the courtyard next to Parnu’s tourist information center.

I chose to stay at the more centrally located Parnu Hotel instead of one of the posh beach resorts. The Soviet-style hotel was built on the site of Endla Theater, which was destroyed during WWII; a memorial to the culturally significant theater stands in a park across the street. Rooms at the Parnu Hotel are sparse, but comfortable. Ask for one facing the the old town for the best view!

Parnu Hotel

Parnu Estonia

A more luxurious option is Ammende Villa. The mansion was built in 1905 by a family of wealthy German traders. Used as a casino and then a health center by the Soviets after WWII, Ammende Villa has been fully restored to its Art Nouveau glory and converted into a boutique hotel. But even if you don’t stay at the Villa, visitors are free to wander around the ground floor rooms and admire the atmosphere. The stately exterior opens onto a two-story lobby hung with a massive chandelier and a bevy of hunting trophies. The dark woods of the billiard room are offset by the light airiness of the elegant dining room and cozy mauve shades of the parlor. I can only imagine the beauty of the upstairs guest rooms!

Ammende Villa Parnu

Is Parnu, Estonia your idea of paradise?

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15 Fun Things to Do in Riga, Latvia this Spring

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Spring in Latvia can feel a bit like chasing a unicorn. You want so desperately to catch it, but can’t be sure it even exists. Winter starts in November and by the time March rolls around, it can be hard to remember that there are in fact other seasons throughout the year. But slowly, surely, the days grow steadily longer and the snow melts away. April is the great awakening, when people once again venture outside and buds appear on the trees. Then after a few days of brilliant sunshine, spring rumbles forth like a runaway train. May is the best time to visit Latvia, when the skies are blue and flowers are plentiful, while June tends to be cool and rainy. But no matter the weather, there’s always something fun to do. Here’s my list of the top ways to make the most of the spring season in Riga!

Shake Off Winter’s Chill at Egle 

Egle can be found under the white tents in the bottom center of this photo.

Egle Riga

Egle Beer Garden is hands-down my favorite spot in Old Riga. In all my travels across Europe, I’ve yet to come across another venue that provides such quality musical entertainment for the price of a €3 beer. Local acts perform under the tents each night of the week; you’ll hear everything from Latvian folk tunes to 90s rock covers and 50s swing. There’s a large selection of Latvian beers on tap, and the food is surprisingly good. (Go for the pork belly.) And don’t be put off by cold temperatures – blankets and heat lamps will keep you warm even on the chilliest spring night!

Wade through a Sea of Blue in the Great Cemetery

small blue early spring flowers

Great Cemetery Riga

Spring’s first flush spreads across Riga’s Great Cemetery, where thousands of tiny blue flowers carpet the ground between gravestones. Internet research tells me these early spring flowers are Siberian Squill, which thrive in places with a cold winter. Latvia certainly fits that bill! The cemetery itself is a vast park dotted with the crumbling remains of 18th and 19th century tombs which survived the bulldozers of the Soviet era. In the morning and afternoon hours, you’ll find lots of locals wandering through the park, pushing baby strollers and walking dogs. But the piles of empty vodka bottles inside some of the crypts tell me this spot is best avoided after nightfall. To reach the Great Cemetery, take tram 11 which runs along trendy Miera iela. (Don’t miss Rocket Bean Roastery while you’re in the neighborhood.)

Go Cherry Blossom Peeping in Uzvaras Park

Riga cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms in Riga's Uzvaras park

Riga cherry blossoms

Uzvaras parks riga

Riga Uzvaras Park

I was stunned when photos of pretty pink blossoms starting popping up in my Instagram feed. Could there be cherry trees in Riga? Sure enough, there’s a large cluster of them across the Daugava in Uzvaras Park. The beautiful trees were a gift from Japan in 2012 and have been delighting locals ever since. To get there, take tram 10 or any bus bound for Slokas iela.

Celebrate Freedom on Latvia’s Restoration of Independence Day

Latvian Independence Day

Latvia flower map

Celebrating Restoration of Independence Day in Riga, Latvia

On May 4, 1990, after five decades of occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Latvia declared that it was an independent nation once again. The holiday is celebrated in Riga with much pomp and circumstance on the grounds of the Freedom monument. Marching bands perform, speeches are given, and a good time is had by all. My favorite part of the day is the parade of people leaving flowers at the base of the Freedom Monument. It begins with the country’s top politicians and dignitaries, then finishes with locals and children. By the end, a map of Latvia has been created out of the blooms.

Tantalize your Taste buds during Riga Restaurant Week

Riga Restaurant Week Menu

Every spring (and autumn), Riga’s talented chefs work their magic with the seasonal bounty. Rhubarb, sorrel, and birch sap are a few of the ingredients you can expect to see on menus across town. Even better, the value pricing makes it possible to enjoy haute cuisine with a more limited budget. But don’t miss out – reservations are essential during Riga Restaurant Week.

Revel in Culture on Museum Night

Riga Art Nouveau Museum

Riga art nouveau museum

Costumed performers add to the museum’s fine ambiance.

Riga Pharmacy Museum

Don’t miss the sauna display in the back courtyard!

Riga medical museum

The Museum of Medical History occupies every floor of this grand old mansion.

Dioramas bring the museum to life.

For one night in May, many of Riga’s museums open their doors after hours for a night of culture. (You can find the schedule of events and locations for Riga Museum Night here.) The 2017 theme is “Wheel of Time” and sounds fascinating. My museums of choice are the Riga Art Nouveau Museum, the Pharmacy Museum, and the Paul Stradins Museum of the History of Medicine. Trust me, that last one is WAY more interesting than it sounds!

Find a New Favorite Ale at Latvia Beer Fest

Latvia Beer Fest

With more than 200 brews on tap, Latvia Beer Fest is the largest beer festival in the Baltics. The annual event takes place in Vermanes Park and lasts several days. All the major Latvian breweries are represented, including Valmiermuiza, Aldaris, Tervete, and Uzavas. You’ll also be able to sample some of Latvia’s finest craft beers, like those from Labietis. Classic Belgian and German brews are available, as is Guinness, though you’d do well to stick with the local varieties. Valmiermuiza is a top pick among foreign visitors.

Become a Beer Connoisseur at the Aldaris Brewery

Riga brewery tour

Riga beer tasting

Aldaris brewery Riga

If you’re not in town for the festival but still want to explore Latvia’s beer scene, head to the Aldaris Beer Museum in Riga’s Sarkandaugava neighborhood. The gleaming new museum was opened in 2015 inside one of the brewery’s historic buildings after a million euro renovation. Visitors can see original copper vats from the 1930s as well as other rare artifacts. Aldaris Brewery was founded in 1865, then known by its German name, Waldschlosschen. In Latvian, this word translates to Mezpils, or Forest Castle. Today, one of Aldaris’ most popular brands is Mezpils Alus, reportedly created to compete with the highly rated Valmiermuiza ales. To get the most out of the visit, sign up for the master class for beer connoisseurs. You’ll get to taste a variety of Aldaris brews along with expertly paired snacks. The class includes a guided tour of the museum and brewery.

Marvel at Mountainous Rhododendrons at the Botanical Garden

Riga rhododendron

Riga Botanical Garden

Thanks to my friend Jan for getting some shots of me in action!

riga rhododendron

Before coming face-to-face with a wall of blossoms at the Riga Botanical Garden, I had no idea rhododendrons could grow so big. The azaleas we have in North America are pretty but typically more petite. Apparently the cold, damp Latvian weather creates a hardier plant. The University of Latvia boasts the largest rhododendron collection in the Baltics, and maintains much of it at the Riga Botanical Garden. Several gigantic specimens welcome visitors near the main entrance, but the nursery area towards the back of the park is most impressive. Take tram 4 to reach the Botanical Garden, which is located across the Daugava.

Get Off the Beaten Path with a Walking Tour

This great mural maps out all the major sights in Riga’s Moscow neighborhood

Riga’s Old Jewish Cemetery

Riga Soviet architecture

The Latvian Academy of Sciences building, Riga’s most imposing Soviet structure

The Science building has a rooftop terrace with panoramic city views

While there are plenty of free walking tours of Riga’s Old Town, you’ll learn more about the city if you leave the medieval cobblestones behind. E.A.T. Riga Tours offers a variety of interesting options, such as the Soviet Riga Walking Tour and the Latvian Food Tasting Tour at Riga Central Market. Most tours last from 2 to 6 hours and all are led by a professional local guide. I took a tour of the Moscow District and former Riga Ghetto, and found the experience engaging and informative.

Indulge your Senses at the Opera Festival

Riga opera house

Latvian national opera

The stunning interior of the Latvian National Opera House in Riga.

Latvian opera performance Madama Butterfly

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I adore the Latvian National Opera and Ballet. The spring season culminates in June with the Riga Opera Festival, now in its 20th year. The highly-acclaimed festival showcases the best opera productions from the company’s repertoire, and often features award-winning singers from around the world. My favorite operas are La Traviata and Madama Butterfly, but all the performances are stellar.

Go Behind the Scenes with an Opera House Tour

Riga opera house tour

cafe opera riga

riga opera house

After Riga’s original opera house burned down in 1882, a new and improved version was erected on the banks of the canal just outside the Old Town. In order to prevent another fire, old-fashioned gas lighting was replaced with electricity that was generated by a ground-breaking power plant built directly beside the theater. Although that plant is no longer in use, its distinctive white tower remains. The Opera House’s lavish interior, with its red velvet curtains and abundance of gold paint, appears unchanged since the 19th century, but was fully refurbished in the early 1990s. For a peek behind the curtains, sign up for a Backstage Tour. Guides speak multiple languages and share a wealth of interesting information. My group was able to watch orchestra members and ballet dancers practice in their respective wings.

Enjoy the Cinema in Grand Style at Splendid Palace

splendid palace riga

splendid palace riga

Another Riga theater worth a look is the aptly-named Splendid Palace. The epitome of luxury, Splendid Palace was opened in 1923 when silent films were accompanied with a live orchestra sound track. Even after “talkies” eliminated the need for an orchestra, Splendid Palace remained the premier movie theater in the Baltics. When the Soviets took over, they didn’t wantonly destroy Riga’s beautiful structures, but did take pains to make them less ostentatious. Thus, in 1963, a large black rectangle of a building was put up directly in front Splendid Palace, renamed Cinema Riga. That Soviet contribution still obscures the theater’s entrance unfortunately, but it’s the interior you’re coming to see. (For current movie showtimes, click here.)

Stock up on Souvenirs at the Annual Latvian Craft Fair

Annual Latvian craft fair

Latvian arts and crafts fair

A Latvian woman in traditional national costume

Riga annual craft fair

One of the biggest events on Riga’s social calendar is the annual Latvian Arts and Crafts Fair. Now in its 47th year, the fair is typically held the first weekend of June on the grounds of the Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum. Artisans and crafts people from all over Latvia gather to show off their wares – everything from pottery and baskets to mittens and fresh cheese. It’s also a great place to watch traditional folk dances and sample local beer and snacks. Locals tend to spend the better part of a day browsing through all the treasures and soaking up the festive atmosphere. To reach the fair grounds from central Riga, take bus 1 to the Brivdabas muzejs stop. This is a popular event and buses fill up fast so go early! You can skip the line at the entrance by getting tickets in advance at the Opera House box office.

Greet the Midnight Sun during Ligo

Setting of the midnight sun in Riga, Latvia

Riga Summer Solstice Festival

By the time June 23 rolls around, the sun is barely setting in Latvia. Riga’s Midsummer Festival, which takes place on the eve of the Summer Solstice, is the party of the year. Traditionally, Latvians celebrate Ligo with friends out in the countryside, but more and more people are enjoying the festivities in Riga. Locals don their colorful ethnic costumes and perform folk dances on stages across town. In a nod to ancient pagan traditions, heads are crowned with garlands of wild flowers and oak leaves. A large farmer’s market takes over Riga’s Dome Square, while sprigs of birch branches decorate buildings and cars. Down on the November 11 Krastmala, stands sell beer, grilled meat, and special holiday cheese with caraway seeds. Though the event is often plagued by rain, a large bonfire helps chase away the chill. Expect the merrymaking to continue until the new day dawns – no one sleeps for Ligo!

How would YOU like to enjoy spring in Riga?

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Keukenhof Gardens: A Floral Fantasy Come to Life

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Tulips have long been my favorite flower. Among the first to grace shops and sidewalks, their brilliant hues brighten the gray days of winter like gemstones and foretell of warmer days to come. I relish the ritual of buying that first bunch every year! Although the tulip originally hails from central Asia, it is most associated with Holland. In the 17th century, the Dutch became enraptured with the exotic tulip and a buying frenzy of bulbs caused prices to skyrocket. Thus “tulipomania” was born, the flower forever embedded within the fabric of Dutch culture. There is no better place to experience tulip fever than Keukenhof Gardens.

keukenhof gardens netherlands

What began as a small kitchen garden of a 15th century countess has grown into an annual extravaganza featuring more than 7 million bulbs! 800 tulip varieties are on display, along with a multitude of spring perennials such as daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths. Flower beds flow through the park like the rivers of candy in Willy Wonka’s factory. Swans and ducks ply the actual waterways, while a traditional wooden windmill pirouettes through the sky. The whole place is pure magic.

keukenhof gardens

Pink tulips in bloom at Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands

keukenhof gardens

keukenhof holland

keukenhof gardens in april

Springtime in Holland

keukenhof gardens netherlands

holland flower fields

Large pavilions host an assortment of floral shows throughout the spring season. I was most impressed by the tulip exhibition inside the Willem-Alexander Pavilion. Delighted visitors were greeted with row upon row of vibrant blooms and I could easily have spent several hours admiring them all.

holland tulips

tulips holland

keukenhof holland

keukenhof gardens

Every year Keukenhof Gardens boast a new theme. When I visited in 2016, the theme was the “Dutch Golden Age,” a period of history in which Holland achieved great artistic success and economic prosperity. This was supposedly demonstrated by a mosaic made of flowers, but it wasn’t well marked on the map and I missed it completely. However, I did stumble upon a sweet little garden created using broken bits of Delft Blue pottery.

delft blue garden

So when is the best time to visit Keukenhof Gardens? Well, that depends. The park is open every year from late March until mid May, but the weather of the preceding months can greatly affect the blooming season. I went once during the first week of May and sadly most of the tulips had already been cut; a heatwave had caused all the bulbs to blossom much earlier than normal. I overcompensated on my next visit by going the first week of April; the weather was chilly and many of the buds had yet to open. When I eventually return, I’ll aim for the the middle of April – hopefully third time’s the charm! (For those planning a visit to Keukenhof, the blog Tulips in Holland provides a weekly bloom forecast.)

keukenhof gardens

All photos in this post were taken April 6, 2016

keukenhof gardens best time to visit

A flower carpet in Keukenhof Gardens

keukenhof best time to visit

The Keukenhof Express bus is a convenient way to travel to the gardens from Amsterdam. Buses depart from Schiphol airport, outside arrivals area 3-4. (Look for the inflatable tulips.) The ride to Keukenhof took about 30 minutes, and the combination ticket included entrance to the gardens at a discounted rate.

amsterdam to keukenhof bus

If you want to tiptoe (or bike) through the neighboring tulip fields of Lisse, give yourself plenty of time. I was exhausted after many hours wandering through Keukenhof and so had to content myself with blurred glimpses from the bus window on my way back to town. Had more fields been blooming, I would have made them a priority.

tulip fields in netherlands

Is a spring visit to Keukenhof Gardens on your travel wish list?

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16 Things to Do in Riga, Latvia this Autumn

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Autumn is a glorious time to visit Riga, Latvia. Golden leaves bedazzle the old city, which by this time has shed some of the flag-wielding tour groups and stag parties that clog the narrow alleys in summer. Early in the season, the weather is still fine enough to sip cider on sidewalk patios, albeit with a blanket wrapped around your shoulders. November turns dark and chilly in a hurry, although holiday celebrations still entice locals out of doors. Here are some of the fun ways I made the most of this annual crescendo.

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Scale the ramparts in Riga’s Bastejkalns park. Bastion Hill is a vast green space to the west of the Freedom Monument that was created in the 19th century after the old city fortifications were torn down. Traces of them remain, however. Follow the curving staircase up to the base of a tower, and you’ll find a vantage point ideal for surveying the realm.

Bastejkalns Riga

Riga Bastejkalns Park

Sit back and admire the leaves on a Riga Canal cruise. Wooden boats ply the Riga City Canal, the moat which once surrounded the medieval city and now runs through Bastejkalns park. The variety of trees lining the banks creates a kaleidoscopic effect for several weeks each fall. (Riga’s foliage generally peaks around the second week of October.) The cruise (€18 per person) lasts one hour and includes a scenic stretch along the Daugava River. If you’re lucky, you might even see one of the city’s elusive beavers!

Riga Canal Cruise

Riga Canal Cruise

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Head to the top of St Peter’s Church spire for a birds-eye view. I made frequent trips to the lofty observation platform and found that Riga’s Old Town looked positively ethereal in the soft autumn light. If you time your visit for the late afternoon sunset, you’ll be rewarded with a city bathed in rose gold. Tickets cost €9 and include entrance to the church (which doubles as an art gallery) in addition to a ride in the lift. Note that the ticket office closes at 5pm sharp during the fall and winter seasons. I once showed up at 5:04 and was turned away.

view of riga from st peters church

Beautiful Riga, Latvia

Return back down to Earth at Lielie Kapi, or the Great Cemetery. The final resting place of Latvia’s 18th and 19th century denizens, many of Baltic German extraction, was bulldozed by the Soviets in the 1960s and turned into a public park. But many tombstones and crumbling crypts still stand, some restored by local Latvians. I came across one small group tending the graves of Krisjanis Barons and Krisjanis Valdemars – two of Latvia’s most venerable national figures. They explained that they live near Lielie Kapi and view it as part of a cultural heritage worth preserving.

Riga Lielie Kapi

Riga Great Cemetery

Honor a hero at the Janis Lipke Memorial. This small but powerful museum is dedicated to someone who, with his family and a few close friends, saved over 50 Jews from the Riga Ghetto during World War II. Mr. Lipke was employed at the dock warehouses and responsible for transporting ghetto inmates to and from work each day. When the opportunity arose, either from lax security or by bribing the guards, he would help Jews escape. Some were hidden with trusted friends in Riga, while others were spirited away to farms in Dobele. The rest survived the war in a secret bunker Mr. Lipke created under the woodshed on his property on Kipsala, an island in the Daugava River. Amazingly, the Lipke family was never betrayed to the Nazis and continue to live on Kipsala to this day.

Janis Lipke Museum in Riga, Latvia.

The museum was built next to the Lipke home and designed by premier Latvian architect Zaiga Gaile. Ms. Gaile’s firm is responsible for rehabbing many of the island’s old wooden homes and revitalizing the area. It’s a lovely place to walk and reflect on a crisp fall afternoon.

riga-kipsala-architecture

View of Riga from Kipsala Island

Lift your spirits with the friendly barkeeps of Labietis, Riga’s hippest craft brewery. The original pub is tucked inside a courtyard on Aristida Briana iela and has twelve experimental brews on tap. The knowledgeable staff will gladly explain the different flavors, which they’ve divided into five color families. The “yellow” beers were popular with my crowd, though I also enjoyed the Dumenis (Smoky) “red” beer. Want to know even more? Ask for a tour of the Labietis brewery!

Riga Labietis Brewery

Celebrate the Autumn harvest at a Saturday market in Kalnciema Kvartals. Country farmers show off their bounty of fall produce, along with all the jams, honeys, and breads you can eat. This is also a great spot to pick up local handicrafts and knitwear, like hats and scarves, which you will soon need. (I’m fond of the “Mice” brand of accessories.) While you’re in the neighborhood, take some time to appreciate the historic wooden Art Nouveau architecture which is gradually being restored to its former glory.

riga-farmers-market

riga-kalnciema-architecture

Pay tribute to Latvia’s freedom fighters on Lacplesis Day. November 11 commemorates the day in 1919 when Latvia’s army defeated Russian forces and made Latvia a free and independent country. Locals lay flowers at the base of Riga’s Freedom Monument and light candles by the thousands to mark the special event. I was moved to witness parents and teachers explain the significance of the day to their children, ensuring the tradition continues for generations to come.

Riga November 11

Lighting Candles for Lacplesis Day in Riga, Latvia.

Lacplesis Day Riga

Get patriotic on November 18 for Latvian Independence Day. On this date in 1918, Latvia officially declared its independence from the Russian Empire, though it would take another year for this to be fully realized (see Lacplesis Day, above). This public holiday is one of the biggest events of the year, celebrated with a military parade and spectacular fireworks display. Locals participate by laying heaps of flowers at the Freedom Monument and making torchlight processions across the city. Many torches are left in Bastejkalns park, turning it into a fairy kingdom for the night.

Riga November 18 Torch Procession

Latvian Independence Day

Take a tour of Latvia’s parliament, or Saeima. The historic building was constructed in 1867 for the Livonian knights and transferred to the Latvian government in 1920. Guided tours can be prearranged for groups and take visitors through the beautifully restored entrance hall, library, meeting rooms, and voting chamber. If you want to experience the government in action, it’s possible to observe a plenary session, though the proceedings will be entirely in Latvian.

Latvian Parliament Building

Riga Saeima Building

Amuse the kids at two of Riga’s family-friendly museums. The Latvian Railway Museum has a large collection of historical photographs, maps, and train schedules, though it’s the “rolling stock” that’s of most interest. Vintage locomotives and train cars are parked on the tracks behind the museum, and some you can climb aboard! The Latvian Firefighting Museum is chockablock with antique vehicles and fire safety equipment, such as uniforms, pumps, and hoses. You can even test your fire-extinguishing capabilities in an interactive game!

Riga Railway Museum

Riga Firefighting Museum

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Say hello to the animals at the Riga Zoo. This sprawling park is home to dozens of animals, including lions, hippos, giraffes, bears, camels, and kangaroos. The zoo is well-tended and some of the enclosures have been newly renovated to give the large animals lots of space to roam. Picnic areas are available if you want to make a day of it – but heed the signs and don’t feed the animals! The Riga Zoo is open every day and adult tickets cost €6, though discounted family tickets are available.

Riga Zoo animals

Peruse the latest styles at Riga Fashion Week. Top designers from the Baltic countries show off their spring-summer collections in October, giving everyone something to look forward to at the end of those long winter months. Names to look out for include Dace Bahmann, Anna Led, and Narciss.

Riga Fashion Week

Light up the night with Staro Riga. For one weekend every November, Riga is transformed by art installations that illuminate the dark autumn sky. Creative and colorful displays timed to music dance across building facades and fountains around the city. Frigid temperatures can’t keep the crowds away from this much anticipated annual spectacle!

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Enjoy a performance of the Latvian National Opera and Ballet. I know I recommended this activity in my Winter edition, but the shows are so marvelous they deserve a another mention. My favorites include La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, and Giselle. I was continually impressed by the talent of the performers, the stunning set pieces and costumes, and the affordable ticket prices. Nights at the theater felt like such a treat, and now that I no longer live in Riga, it’s one of the things I miss most.

Riga Opera House

Latvian National Opera and Ballet

Give Autumn a proper sendoff with mulled wine at the Riga Christmas Market. The festivities open in Dome Square at the end of November, and last through the first week of January, giving you plenty of time to soak up the holiday atmosphere. At least a quarter of the stalls sell hot food and beverages, which you’ll definitely need to combat the chilly temps. (Latvian mittens also help.)

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What do YOU think are the best things to do in Riga in Autumn?

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48 Hours in Helsinki Finland

Falling in Love with Helsinki, Finland

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Have you ever visited a new destination and felt instantly at home, as if you could move there tomorrow and your life would fit in seamlessly? I’ve traveled through over 40 countries, but only felt that sort of serious connection to a handful of places, including RigaDublin, Budapest, Paris, and New York. Another city I’d be happy to move to is Helsinki, Finland. It’s quiet, unassuming, and a little quirky – like me! I only spent a weekend in Helsinki, but it left an imprint on my heart. Here’s how I made the most of my short time there, and why I’m so eager to return.

Helsinki Finland

Helsinki is a shopper’s paradise, with boutiques and designer stores at every turn. Famous names like marimekko and iittala might be the big draw, but Helsinki’s Design District boasts more than 200 venues where one can peruse the latest in fashion, jewelry, and home decor. I loved being surrounded by that level of creativity, even if I could only afford to window shop!

Helsinki iittala store

marimekko helsinki store

Vibrant marimekko fabric for sale at the brand’s flagship store in Helsinki.

Helsinki Design District

The distinctive Finnish aesthetic can be further appreciated at the Design Museum. The ground floor takes visitors on a walk down memory lane through showrooms filled with innovations by decade. Upstairs, it’s all about fashion. It’s really a shame some of the styles never caught on!

Helsinki Design Museum

During the warm summer months, artisans and farmers sell their wares in Market Square next to the harbor. This is a great place to pick up affordable souvenirs, seasonal produce, and fresh fish. Nearby in the Old Market Hall, you can find all manner of Finnish delicacies. My friends and I put together a picnic of cured reindeer meat, crusty rye bread, sea buckthorn jam, and cold pear cider.

Helsinki harbor market

Helsinki harbor market fresh fish

Old Market Hall Helsinki

We enjoyed our picnic on Suomenlinna, a UNESCO-listed island fortress not far from the city. Built by Sweden in the 1750s to protect against Russian expansion, the fortification changed hands several times over the centuries, as did Finland itself. No longer used for military purposes, Suomenlinna – which means “Castle of Finland” – is a grass-covered haven for tourists and locals alike. To get there, hop aboard the ferry which departs from Market Square harbor. Tickets cost €5 and are good for 12 hours.

Suomenlinna Island Fortress

Helsinki Suomenlinna Fortress

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Interestingly, around 800 people live on Suomenlinna year round.

Helsinki’s Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral is a striking visual reminder of the century Finland spent within the Russian Empire. The redbrick church topped with golden onion domes is perched on a hillside above the city where it captures the morning light.

Helsinki Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Helsinki Orthodox Church

It’s possible to visit Helsinki as a day-trip from Tallinn, Estonia, but I don’t recommend it. Helsinki deserves much more than a single day (as does Tallinn)! Plus, where else can you spend the night in jail and not have it show up as an offense on your permanent record? Hotel Katajanokka is located in a historic building that was used as a prison until 2002. Although tastefully updated into a modern boutique hotel, many of the prison’s interior features have been left intact. It was definitely one of my more memorable hotel stays!

Helsinki prison hotel

As ever, I ate well during my time in Helsinki. The Sea Horse restaurant has been serving up traditional Baltic fare since 1934. I feasted on pickled herring, Finnish meatballs, and pancakes sweetened with homemade strawberry jam in the homey bistro setting. At the other end of the dining spectrum, Restaurant Kuu puts a modern spin on those classic flavors. Reindeer steak is updated with barley risotto and a port wine reduction; the humble salmon is elevated with a delicately herbaceous broth. I regret not sampling one of Kuu’s innovative desserts, but I was saving room for salmiakki, or salty licorice, ice cream and all the Fazer chocolates.

Helsinki Sea Horse Restaurant

Helsinki Restaurant Kuu

Finnish Salmiakki Ice Cream

I think part of the reason I felt such a connection to Helsinki is that it reminded me of my beloved Riga, particularly the architecture. I had a constant crick in my neck from looking up at the unusually-shaped buildings decorated with unexpected details. Pear cider in a leafy park helped me recuperate.

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Helsinki train station

Helsinki architecture

Helsinki in summer

Like Riga, Helsinki comes alive during the summer months.

Tell me: how would YOU spend 48 hours in Helsinki?

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48 Hours in Helsinki, Finland

Island Hopping in Stockholm, Sweden

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Summers in Northern Europe are short but oh so sweet. Endless daylight hours and cool breezes create an ideal climate for sightseeing, while the tourist crowds tend to be fewer than in the sunny South. One of the loveliest Nordic destinations is Stockholm, whose many attractions are spread across 14 different islands in the Baltic Sea. The best way to explore them all is, of course, by boat. Let’s sail away to some of Stockholm’s top sights!

Swedish Flag

To get the lay of the land – er, sea – I started with an “Under the Bridges of Stockholm” boat tour. We cruised under 15 of Stockholm’s 57 bridges and through one of the locks that regulates the surrounding water level. The two hour-and-15-minute journey was accompanied with highly informative factoids delivered via personal headsets, and I thought it was €25 well spent. Sit on the right side of the boat for the best view, and be sure to bundle up as the air blowing through the windows can be quite chilly – even in July!

Stockholm Sweden

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Grona Lund, Stockholm’s thrilling amusement park.

stockholm boat tours

For an even longer ride past some of the city’s more idyllic islands, hop aboard the ferry to Drottningholm Palace, a UNESCO-listed residence of the Swedish royal family. Although built in the 1660s, the palace’s most notable feature is the stunning 18th century French-inspired interior. I spent half a day wandering through the ornately furnished rooms and marveling at the fine details! Drottningholm is located on Lovon island and the journey takes one hour each way. I recommend purchasing a combination ticket that includes the boat ride and entrance to the palace.

Stockholm Drottningholm boat

Stockholm Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm Palace tour

Drottningholm Palace garden

The Drottningholm Palace ferry departs from the pier next to Stockholm City Hall, which is worth visiting in its own right. The red brick building went up in 1923 and has hosted the Nobel Prize Banquet since 1930. After dining in the Blue Hall, guests ascend the stairs to dance the night away in the showstopping Golden Hall. Our tour guide demonstrated how the staircase was especially designed to accommodate women’s ball gowns and high heels. Talk about a grand entrance!

Stockholm City Hall

Stockholm City Hall Golden Room

The Golden Hall glitters with 18 million mosaic tiles.

Stockholm City Hall tour

Stockholm’s most famous island is home to the picturesque Gamla Stan, or Old Town. The colorful buildings have been wonderfully preserved, with many dating to the 13th century. The cobbled lanes, some so narrow that you can touch the houses on either side, are a photographer’s dream! Souvenir shops and restaurants line the main streets and squares, though quiet nooks can be found at every turn. You’ll definitely want to linger here!

Stockholm old town

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Stockholm old town

The Royal Palace of Stockholm is the official residence of the King of Sweden and a sumptuous setting for state functions. It is also a major tourist attraction, drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Tickets include entrance to the Royal Apartments and the Treasury, where the crown jewels are on (well-guarded) display. I watched the Changing of the Guards ceremony before heading inside the palace; to be honest, it was a little anticlimactic. I wish I’d spent those precious extra minutes in the gorgeously appointed rooms!

Stockholm Palace

Stockholm Palace throne room

The Swedish throne is made of solid silver!

Stockholm palace tour

Stockholm palace church

The breathtaking Royal Chapel is free to visit during the summer months.

Skansen, a vast open-air ethnographic museum and zoo, is my favorite Stockholm attraction. Founded in 1891, Skansen uses actual historical buildings and costumed performers to recreate centuries of rural Swedish life. I love these types of museums because they give you a real taste of a place’s culture and its development over time. Plus, this one has animals! The Skansen zoo showcases Scandinavian species such as moose, elk, bears, and wolverines, alongside more exotic breeds. Fun fact: the European bison was brought back from near-extinction thanks in part to a herd living in Skansen!

Stockholm Skansen open-air museum

Skansen Stockholm

Skansen animals

Swedes today may be known for their prowess on the water, but this wasn’t always the case. In 1625, the Swedish king and a Dutch master shipbuilder set out to forge Vasa, the most powerful warship in the Baltic. Three years later, and a mere 1,300 meters from shore, Vasa toppled over and sank to the bottom of the sea. There it remained until the 1950s when the colossal wreck was discovered and eventually raised. 98% of the original vessel, including masts and sails, remains frozen in time. Sweden’s greatest boondoggle has given the world its only preserved 17th century ship. It is on display at the Vasa Museum along with the the bones and personal effects of some of the men and women who perished in the disaster. The whole thing is tragically fascinating.

Stockholm vasa museum photos

The Vasa Museum and Skansen are both located on Djurgarden island. I rode the “Hop On Hop Off” boat over from the ferry terminal near the entrance to the Gamla Stan, but had to take the tram back as the boats stop running at 4:30pm. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, so I could have used mine to explore even more of Stockholm’s islands – if only I’d had the time!

top things to do in Stockholm Sweden

Tell me: What do YOU think are the TOP things to do in Stockholm?

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Dobele, Latvia and the Largest Lilac Garden in Europe

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“You’re going all the way to Dobele to see bloomin’ lilacs? I have those in my backyard.”

When I told my Riga taxi driver that Dobele, Latvia has the largest lilac garden in Europe, he didn’t believe me. But it’s true – the Peteris Upitis Garden in Dobele boasts more than 200 lilac trees! The first were planted in 1956 by Peteris Upitis, an avid horticulturist and head of the Latvian Fruit Research Laboratory. His job was to create hearty varieties of trees that would bear fruit in spite of Latvia’s harsh winter climate, but his real passion was lilacs. Now we get to enjoy the fruits of his labors in late spring when the lilacs are in bloom. The fragrance is intoxicating!

Dobele Lilacs

Dobele Lilac Garden

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Lilac Blossoms

If you’re able, try to coordinate your visit with the annual Dobele Lilac Festival, when a classical music concert and other events are held among the blossoms. I went a week earlier, when some of the nearly 5,000 apple and cherry trees were still flowering. Friendly vendors sold ice cream and souvenirs, while fruit and lilac products were available for purchase at the ticket booth. (There is also an apple festival in autumn.)

Dobele Fruit Trees

Pink Tree Blossoms

Dobele Apple Trees

But even if you aren’t able to see the lilacs at their peak, Dobele still makes a fun day trip from Riga! The Knights of the Livonian Order built Dobele Castle on a strategic hill in the 1330s which remained in active use until the Great Northern War nearly four centuries later. The heavily damaged castle was abandoned in 1736 and fell into ruin. An impressive amount of stonework remains intact, including much of the bailey’s perimeter wall.

Dobele, Latvia Castle Ruins

Dobele Castle Ruins

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Dobele Castle

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The old town center of Dobele dates to the late 1400s when the Livonians constructed a Lutheran Church a short distance from the castle grounds. The beautifully restored church features original stone floors, 17th and 18th century woodwork, and a gleaming new organ. As ever, the ladies inside were delighted to welcome tourists, though some knowledge of Latvian was necessary to understand them.

Dobele Lutheran Church

A marketplace grew around the church and attractive two-story brick buildings appeared much later. The vast square was given a makeover in 2011, with new paving stones and fountains adding charm. The centerpiece is a giant well-shaped fountain whose bucket tips over once full. The fountain was shut off for cleaning at the time of my visit, but a kindly worker turned it on so I could see. I was surprised by the crowd that quickly gathered to enjoy the show!

Dobele Latvia

Dobele Well Fountain

Note: The crowd was standing behind me. I didn’t make that bit up.

Just around the corner is the Dobele Craft House, which hosts rotating exhibits and workshops relating to Latvian arts and handicrafts. Knitters are encouraged to add a few rows to the lengthy scarf which has been an ongoing group effort since the House opened in 2010. Sadly, not much was available for sale.

Dobele Craft House

Dobele is home to several important memorials which document the region’s turbulent past. The Memorial to the Victims of Communist Genocide stands near the train station, where deportations to Siberia began in 1941. Little fanfare is given for the nearby Soviet Soldiers Cemetery, although the site is well maintained. Much more celebrated is the Dobele Liberation Monument which stands proudly near the castle ruins. The massive stone statue depicts two Latvian figures in traditional costumes ready to fight for their country. The original monument was erected in 1940 but blown up by the occupying Soviets 10 years later; the current version dates to 1996.

Dobele Communism Memorial

Memorial to the Victims of Communist Genocide

Dobele Bralu Kapi

Statue in the Soviet Soldiers Cemetery

Dobele Liberation Monument

Dobele Liberation Monument

For lunch, the ladies at the Tourism Information Center (opposite the well fountain) recommended the Gardi Gan Cafe en route to the castle ruins. If you want a classic Latvian dish with a twist, try the chicken cutlet “French style” – i.e. smothered with cheese and tomatoes. Order fries and a salad to round out the meal!

Where to Eat in Dobele Latvia

Latvian Cuisine

Vistas Karbonades Francu Gaume

Dobele is easily reached by bus from Riga, 1.5 hours each way. I recommend purchasing tickets in advance to secure a good seat as this is a popular route and some of the buses are small. (Sit on the right side of the bus for a view of Jelgava Palace.) Signage around town is sorely lacking so be sure to pick up English brochures from Dobele’s tourism office. Happy travels!

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Tell me: Have you ever traveled to see flowers in bloom?

Beautiful Bergen: Gateway to the Fjords

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Nestled in a mountain valley next to the sea, Bergen, Norway is an ideal jumping off point for those wishing to venture into the spectacular Norwegian fjords. But Bergen deserves a visit all its own! I spent four and a half days exploring the city’s charms and could easily have stayed a week. Museums, architecture, cafes, shopping, and killer views – Bergen has everything!

Your first stop in Bergen will undoubtedly want to be Bryygen, the city’s UNESCO-listed Old Town. In the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League set up shop along the wharf, turning it into a prosperous center of trade that lasted for centuries. Bryygen’s brightly painted wooden buildings still stand, although they lean so precariously against one another a mountain troll could probably tip them over like dominoes.

Bryygen in Bergen Norway

Bryygen UNESCO Site Norway

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Bryygen Norway

The nearby Fish Market is a lively spot for a stroll and a quick meal. Simply choose the crustacean you want and have it grilled on the spot! Yes, it’s pricey, but when else are you going to eat freshly caught seafood in Norway? The market is also a good place to shop for fun souvenirs like moose sausage and tinned fish. You’re welcome, family!

Bergen Fish Market

Fresh Seafood in Bergen Norway

Bergen Fish Market

Worth the splurge!

Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, making for some truly dramatic scenery. Mount Floyen is closest to the city center, and easily reached thanks to a funicular railway (Floibanen) that stops conveniently near Bryygen. We visited Bergen in June during a rare span of good weather (a local told us it rains 360 days a year), and fleeting rays of sunshine danced through cottony clouds over water as smooth as glass. I’d love to go back during a season when the sun actually sets to watch the sky turn a million shades of pink.

Bergen Mt Floyen Viewpoint

Mount Floyen Bergen

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Mount Ulriken, Bergen’s highest point, is a popular hiking destination for locals and tourists alike. A vintage cable car whisks you to the top in minutes, some 643 meters above sea level. You can return the same way or paraglide down, if you dare. I recommend giving yourself several hours to hike around the extraordinary mountain terrain dotted with lakes and secluded cottages. Just know that if you take the tourist bus from the fish market, the last return from Ulriken is 5:30pm. We only found this out at 6pm when we showed up at the bus stop and were told we’d have to find another way to get back to town (i.e. walk to the main road and catch a local bus).

Bergen Mt Ulriken View

Mt Ulriken Bergen NorwayMount Ulriken Bergen

Mt Ulriken Hiking

Art lovers should make a beeline for KODE, the Art Museums of Bergen. Comprised of four separate buildings in the heart of the city, the museum’s extensive collections could easily take a full day to admire. My favorite was the Rasmus Meyers Collection in KODE 3, the 18th century mansion of Dutch Consul Henrik Fasmer. Visitors can enjoy the historical details of the house before moving into brightly-lit rooms of contemporary Norwegian paintings. Edvard Munch is naturally the star.

KODE Art Museum in Bergen

Norwegian Paintings

Another point of interest in Bergen is Fantoft Stave Church. Although the original 12th century building burned down in 1991, an exact replica now stands in its place. You’ll need to take public transport to reach the church, but it’s worth the effort to see those fantastically carved eaves!

Fantoft Stave Church

Stave Church in Bergen, Norway

Of course, my favorite thing to do in Bergen was simply to wander its quaintly cobbled streets in search of pretty architecture and cozy cafes. I found both in spades, along with a surprising amount of street art. Bergen is a university town with a cool vibe in a historic setting. It’s the kind of place I could happily call home for a while.

Bergen Norway Alleyways

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I’ll be moving into this house. Hopefully the owners won’t mind!

Bergen Norway Architecture

Street in Bergen Norway

Bergen Street Art

All that sightseeing will work up quite an appetite (at least if you’re me). Thankfully, Bergen’s dining scene has you covered. Cafe Bastant is an excellent lunch spot near Bryygen, dishing up hearty bowls of soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. It’s the perfect way to chase away the chill!

Bergen Bastant Cafe

Pingvinen serves traditional Norwegian fare (lamb sausage, grilled fish, lots of pickled things) in a fun brew pub setting. Be sure to sample some of the tasty craft beers, which pair well with the savory food. Pingvinen is incredibly popular so you might have to wait for a table at the bar.

Bergen Pingvinen Restaurant

To experience Norwegian fine dining, head to Lysverket and prepare to delight your senses. We opted for the 7-course tasting menu, which involved a lot of interaction with the waitstaff. Each dish was beautifully presented and elegantly prepared, from the artisan bread and butter to the homemade donuts with rhubarb chutney. It’s a culinary adventure I won’t soon forget!

Lysverket Bergen

Lysverket Tasting Menu

How would YOU spend four days in Bergen, Norway? Tell me in the comments!

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