If you are planning a cruise to Scandinavia, you’re in for a treat. Sweden and Norway are two of the most beautiful countries in the world, with stunning landscapes, rich culture, and fascinating history.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there’s something for everyone within easy reach of the major ports in these two countries. From breathtaking fjords to charming towns, you’ll find plenty of options to explore during your time on land.
The great outdoors as you have never seen before
To help you make the most of your trip, we have compiled a list of the top 10 must-see sights on your shore excursion. These excursions have been carefully selected based on our experiences or from feedback from cruise travelers like you.
Ask yourself what kind of shore excursion suits you: - Do you want to follow a group and have the security of a shore excursion booked by with the cruise line? - Or do you want to collect some maps from the local tourist information office and do your own thing? - Perhaps you've researched the destination and know exactly what you want to do, and you choose to book an excursion, tour or transport with an external provider such as Viator. - You can even book a private excursion that is tailormade to suit you and your family or group.
However you choose to explore, we think some stops are extra special. We call them bucket list stops – ports that offer unforgettable experiences and mesmerizing landscapes in one of the cleanest and brightest regions of the world.
Learn more about our preferred partner for shore excursion in Sweden and Norway.
1. Cruise Port: Bergen, Norway
Located in the prettiest mountainous surroundings, Bergen is known as “The Heart of the Fjords.” It’s a large city with a small-town charm.
The historic pier welcomes you with colorfully painted warehouses, and the historic fish market offers the day’s catch. It’s just a short walk from the port into the town. Take the chance to snap a photo of the iconic Hanseatic Wharf.
Wander through the narrow, winding streets of the historic Bryggen district, lined with colorful wooden buildings and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shop the outdoor markets packed with handicrafts and Nordic souvenirs. And for more retail fun, start on the shopping street of Skostredet. Pick up authentic Norwegian knitwear and outdoor wear, some of the best quality in the world.
A 15-minute drive from the city center is the Ulriken Cable Car up to Mount Ulriken, the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. From the summit, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the city, the fjords, and the surrounding mountains. The viewing platform has a restaurant where you can relax in the clouds.
Visit Troldhaugen, once the home of the composer Greig and now a museum. Or the open-air Bergen Museum with reenactments from 18th-century Bergen. It is about 20 minutes by car from Ulriken Cable Car station.
Finally, end your day with a ride on the funicular railway (Fløibanen funicular). The 6-minute ride to the top offers stunning views of the city. You can also enjoy a drink at the summit restaurant before walking or taking the funicular back down to the city center.
If you have time, stop at Gamlehaugen, a residence of the Norwegian Royal Family, on the way to Troldhaugen. This is where the Norwegian Declaration of Independence was written in 1905.
If only the cruise ships stayed overnight in this place. It’s wonderful.
2. Cruise Port: Flåm, Norway
The port of Flåm is a well-visited stop on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. The village of Flåm sits at the very end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord.
The long, slow arrival at the port of Flåm is breathtaking. You will want to be up on the top deck of your cruise ship to experience this.
Take the excursion that enables you to ride the Flåm Railway. It’s a 20km long railway line that takes you to Myrdal, 864 meters above sea level. It is possibly one of the prettiest rail journeys you will ever do with valley and waterfall views.
The journey is a hair-raising 45 minutes of twists and turns around the mountain. Be sure to book Flåm train tickets before you leave home. It is such a famous train ride that buying tickets on the same day in the port is almost impossible.
This excursion is sometimes combined with a bus tour. Driving past Lake Oppheim, you will stop at Tvinde waterfall. Climb part of the way up to take postcard-worthy photos. Onwards to the viewing point from Stalheim, you will have a breathtaking view of the Nærøyvalley, the “Sugarlump” mountain.
To get back down again, be prepared for a breathtaking drive along the hairpin bends of Stalheimskleivane. This is the steepest road in Norway and one of the steepest in Europe.
Indeed a shore excursion is not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be so glad you did it.
3. Cruise Port: Geirangerfjord, Norway
You may recognize the port of Geirangerfjord even if you have never been there. It is one of the most photographed views by tourists and professionals alike. And is featured on many cruise websites and brochures. Sailing into Geirangerfjord is nothing short of dramatic.
As there is only one pier, your cruise ship will most likely tender you into the port, and from there, you can walk into the village. However, the selection of excursions is excellent. The firm favorite here is a scenic hike not for the faint-hearted. With your guide, a walk with outstanding views will take around 4 hours. If your kids are 12 or over, they can join you. Otherwise, when traveling with younger children, we recommend a bus excursion.
When looking at the shore excursion that offers hiking, ensure it includes visiting a traditional herbal goat farm; you will feel like you have returned to a simpler life.
For those who prefer transportation with stops for photos, choose the excursion which takes you past Eidsdal Lake and around Eagle’s Bend, viewing the Seven Sisters and Lake Djupvatn. In the distance, you will see the magnificent Dalsnibba mountain range.
Before returning to your cruise ship, drop in at the Hotel Union Øye. Dating back to 1891, this is an old fjord castle. Fully renovated but keeping its Norwegian old-world charm, this hotel is popular with tourists looking for the perfect spot to salmon fish in the summer months.
Top tip! What to take with you on a shore excursion in Norway and Sweden: Scandinavia has a changeable climate; most often during the summer cruise season you will experience long, warm sunny days. You will need layers. In the morning, a t-shirt in town may be enough, but by the time you reach the top of the moutain with a hike or cable car ride it may be cooler, so bring a light sweater. A fold-away waterproof jacket is also a smart choice. Pack these down in a small backpack with a refillable water bottle, and you're set for the day.
4. Cruise Port: Nordfjordeid, Norway
In port at Nordfjordeid, located at the end of Eidsfjorden, you will find Eid, a small town north of Nordfjord. Your bus tour will take you via Eid and the Olden Valley until you reach the Briksdal mountain and a little further on the Briksdal glacier.
The 40-minute hike to the glacier is relatively easy, with good paths in front of you. The Briksdal Glacier is one of the arms forming the Jostedal Glacier, the longest glacier in continental Europe.
After climbing the glacier, there will be time for a lunch stop at the peaceful Birksdal Mountain Lodge. From here, the fantastic emerald color of Lake Olden is unforgettable.
5. Cruise Port: Tromsø, Norway
Located in Europe’s most northern region, just north of the Polar Circle, is the port city of Tromsø. Best known for its display of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights as we know it, during winter, Tromsø offers the cruise visitor clean, crisp air and a journey up to the Mountain ledge called Storsteinen.
You reach this by cable car. It’s a perfect way to spend your morning on shore with breathtaking views on a clear day.
In the after, we recommend you experience a reindeer sledding tour. You may never get to do this again; it is just fantastic. Following this, participate in a meal at a Lavvu (a traditional Sámi dwelling) and meet and talk to the friendly indigenous people of Northern Norway. Take this opportunity for a unique insight into the culture and traditions of the people whose homeland you are visiting.
The Northern Lights are most visible during the winter months. This lively light show above the North Poles’ magnetic field is a once-in-a-lifetime experience on a clear night, often in January and February. So if you are cruising in the summer, you may have to return to the region between November and April to catch this miraculous site. A visit to the museum in Tromsø will help you understand how this phenomenon occurs.
6. Cruise Port: Olso, Norway
Oslo is a fantastic city, and this stop has always posed a dilemma for the cruise guest visiting for just one day as the surrounding areas are also beautiful.
But the most popular excursion while in port is to explore the city while visiting local favorites off the beaten tourist track. That means listening to the history, tasting traditional cuisine, and meeting the locals.
Step off the cruise ship, and you’re already in the city center, ready to start immediately. The port is correct by Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle and now a Royal residence. Your guide will take you through a historical tour of the city, including a visit to Vikingskipshuset. This museum houses three well-preserved Viking ships from the 8th century and many treasures of the Viking period.
You’ll visit fantastic eateries along the way. You will meet the local fishermen who will tell you more about life on the water.
In the afternoon, be sure your tour includes time for shopping. Well-made traditional Norwegian sweaters and winter clothes will not be found anywhere else.
7. Cruise Port: Visby, Sweden
Visby is the capital of Gotland, an idyllic island known for its peaceful and beautiful landscape. It is the largest of Sweden’s islands, around 125km long, and situated southeast of the capital of Stockholm.
Dating back to medieval times, the earliest Viking relics have been found here. The coastline is dotted with fishing villages. The town of Visy dates back to the 13th century and has one of the best-preserved city walls in all of Europe. If you are lucky enough to be visiting in August, join in the week-long festivities of the medieval fete.
Combine a city tour with a tour of the west coast to see the best of Visby with a tour guide who will bring the heritage of Viking times to life. You can’t get more authentic than that.
8. Cruise Port: Stockholm; Sweden
When you start your cruise or visit Stockholm as a port of call, you must explore this city on water and land. The best excursion is a combination of both.
The Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholms Slott, is the primary residence of the Swedish Royal Family. Constructed in the 1600s and on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, it is located on the island of Lovön, west of the city.
The best way to visit this fabulous castle is by ferry. That way, you can cruise through Lake Mälaren and see Stockholm from the water. The journey is about 1 hour, taking all the time in Stockholm’s beautiful archipelago – the Venice of the North.
Follow this up with a guided tour of the city’s historic center, Gamla Stan, which also includes a walk to the Vasa museum.
The Vasa warship, which sank in Stockholms Harbor in 1628, was triumphantly raised from the harbor bed in 1961 and carefully preserved. It’s a fantastic example of a warship and simply a must-see while you are in Stockholm. The story of the ship, its extraordinary relics, and the people’s history are expertly told and depicted in the surrounding displays.
9. Cruise Port: Molde, Norway
The most popular excursion in the port of Molde is a journey over the Atlantic Ocean Road Connecting the municipalities of Averøy and Eide; the road has eight bridges connecting each islet.
Visit the village of Eide, and from here, the bus follows the Kornstadfjord to the spectacular Atlantic Ocean Road.
You will eventually reach Bud, a charming fishing village facing nearby World War II fortifications, today a restored war-memorial museum. You will have a beautiful view over to the Bjørnsund Islands, where there are now private summer houses, and eventually, follow the Malmefjord over the hills back to the Port of Molde.
It’s a comfortable, breathtaking excursion suitable for all the family and guests of all ages.
10. Cruise Port: Trondheim, Norway
Trondheim is a beautiful port city with a rich history and culture. Opt for a city tour that includes a visit to the Nidaros Cathedral and the Old Town Bridge.
The Nidaros Cathedral is a stunning Gothic cathedral that dates back to the 12th century and is considered one of the most important pilgrimages sites in Scandinavia. The Old Town Bridge is a picturesque wooden bridge that offers excellent city views and is a popular spot for photos.
There are several shopping streets where you can find unique and locally-made goods like handcrafted leather goods and handmade jewelry, a beautiful souvenir of your visit. Head to Nordre Gate, Olav Tryggvasons Gate, the upscale shops and boutiques of the Solsiden district, and the charming historic neighborhood of Bakklandet for pottery, glassware, and textiles.
If you prefer to be out in nature, you can do a great coastal hike with a guide once you arrive in Trondheim Fjord. During the walk, you can spot seabirds, seals, and other wildlife, amid the stunning views of the fjords and surrounding mountain ranges. Check the hike’s difficulty before you book to ensure all family members can participate.
If you prefer to admire the scenery from the comfort of a tour bus, look out for the Oppdal Scenic Drive excursion, taking you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Norway. On the way, you’ll pass through charming villages and will be able to stop for plenty of photo opportunities.
Which cruise lines offer cruises to Scandinavia, and from which port?
In addition, the smaller cruise ships of the more luxury brands, such as Seabourn, offer spectacular journeys to Scandinavia and the Polar Circle, such as an expedition cruise.
Some of the most popular departure ports for cruises to Scandinavia include:
- Copenhagen, Denmark: A cruise from Copenhagen is one of the most popular departure ports for cruises to Scandinavia, with easy access to the Baltic Sea and the North Sea for journeys to Norway.
- Stockholm, Sweden: Starting a cruise from Stockholm offers an excellent opportunity to explore this beautiful capital city. With a stunning archipelago and a historic old town, Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
- Oslo, Norway: Norway’s capital city is a great starting point for exploring the country’s fjords and mountains and is also a popular departure port for cruises to other Scandinavian destinations.
- Amsterdam, Netherlands: While not in Scandinavia, a cruise from Amsterdam to Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden is a popular choice for travelers wanting to experience beautiful Amsterdam before starting a Northern Europe cruise.
- Southampton, U.K.: Located on the south coast of England, Southampton is the largest cruise port in the U.K. and a popular starting point for cruises to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.