The ruins of Visborgs Slott
The bizarre Gamla Apoteket
The Maiden’s Tower

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Among Roses and Ruins

When you are on a cruise to Sweden you just have to take time out to enjoy Visby, a city made for wandering and lingering over coffees and slices of cake.

Whether climbing the ramparts of the surrounding walls, or meandering up and down the warren of cobbled, sloping streets, there’s plenty to tease the eye. An MSC shore excursion can be the opportunity to visit its old town. Here, pretty Packhusplan, the oldest square in the city, is bisected by curving Strandgatan, which runs southwards to the fragmentary ruins of Visborgs Slott, overlooking the harbour. Built in the fifteenth century by Erik of Pomerania, the castle was blown up by the Danes in the seventeenth century. In the opposite direction, Strandgatan runs north-west towards the sea and the Jungfrutornet (Maiden’s Tower), where a local goldsmith’s daughter was walled up alive – reputedly for betraying the city to the Danes. Strolling around the twisting streets and atmospheric walls is not something that palls quickly, but if you need a focus, aim for Norra Murgatan, above the cathedral, once one of Visby’s poorest areas.

The end of the street nearest Norderport enjoys the best view of the walls and city rooftops. Strandgatan is the best place to view the impressive merchants’ houses looming over the narrow streets, with storerooms above the living quarters and cellars below; most notable among these is the clearly signposted Burmeisterska huset in Donnerplats, which is attractive and in good condition. One of the most picturesque buildings on the street is the old pharmacy, Gamla Apoteket, a lofty old place with gloriously higgledy-piggledy windows; it’s at the corner of Strandgatan and Lybska gränd.

If you feel like something more educational during your MSC Northern Europe cruise, head for the fine Fornsal museum, which covers pretty well all there is to know about Gotland, and Visby in particular – and there’s a rather good art gallery close by too.

Must see places in Visby

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Luxuriant woods and boundless spaces
Luxuriant woods and boundless spaces

A holiday to Sweden will show you principally a land of forests and lakes. Its towns and cities are small by European standards and are mostly located in the southern third of the country, where the majority of Swedes live.

Of its cities, serenely beautiful Stockholm is supreme. Sitting elegantly on fourteen different islands, where the waters of Lake Mälaren meet the Baltic Sea, the city boasts some fantastic architecture, fine museums and by far the best culture and nightlife in the country.

The 24,000 islands which comprise the Stockholm archipelago are a perfect antidote to the urban bustle, offering endless opportunities to explore unspoilt island villages and to go swimming.
On the west coast, Gothenburg, the country’s second city, is another of Sweden’s most appealing destinations. Gothenburgers have a reputation for being among the friendliest people in Sweden, and the city’s network of canals and spacious avenues is reminiscent of Amsterdam, whose architects designed it.

During an MSC Northern Europe cruise to Sweden you will discover that the south is the most cosmopolitan part of the country, owing to the proximity of Denmark and the rest of the European continent, and home to the glorious ancient university seat of Lund, while nearby Malmö, Sweden’s third city, heaves with youthful nightlife around its medieval core.