Copenhagen, Denmark

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Copenhagen is the lively capital city of Denmark with storybook charm. Tourists will want to view the Little Mermaid statue, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale; visit Tivoli Gardens, the world-famous amusement park; and witness the changing of the guard at 18th-century Amalienborg Palace, home of the Danish royal family. Another palace of note is the grand Christiansborg Palace, located on the island of Slotsholmen atop ruins of a castle from 1167. Now a government building, the palace hosts the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court and the queen's throne room. Many excursions feature these major attractions as well as the Royal Danish Opera and Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Other outings explore Copenhagen's canals and bustling harbor by boat or kayak, or head to Dragor, a charming fishing village with winding cobblestone streets and seaside restaurants.

Language: Danish

Currency: Danish Krone (DKK)

Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland

Shop for crystal, silver, amber, embroidered linens and nice arts and crafts such as wood carvings and painted wood articles in the historic center of Gdansk. Visit one of Gdansk's museums to learn more about the history and culture of the area.

Language: Polish

Currency: Polish Zloty (PLN)

Klaipeda, Lithuania

The most northern ice-free Baltic seaport is also Lithuania's third-largest city. The city dates back to the construction of the castle of Memelburg at the mouth of the Dane River in 1252. Visit some of the local museums to learn about the fascinating history or go to one of the art exhibitions held throughout the year.

Language: Lithuanian

Currency: Lithuanian Litas (LTL)

Riga, Latvia

This port in the Baltic region has charming 17th-century streets and a medieval old town. City tours visit the historic sites of the old town, including 13th-century St. George's Church and Livonia Knights' Castle, now an art and history museum. Wandering the crooked streets on your own is one of the pleasures of this city.

Language: Latvian

Currency: Latvian lats (LVL)

St. Petersburg, Russia

Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg edges the Neva River and is considered one of the cultural capitals of the world. Ships often dock here overnight, allowing cruisers extra time to visit the city's attractions. St. Petersburg is home to more than 250 museums, including the world-famous Hermitage Museum, where more than 3 million artworks and artifacts are housed in six beautiful buildings like the baroque Winter Palace. At the Hermitage, visitors can admire the masterpieces of Rembrandt, van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo and more. For shopping and nightlife, take a stroll along the Nevsky Prospekt, the metropolis' main avenue. Other can't-miss sights include city's churches and their magnificent domes, from the colorful Russian-style onion tops of the iconic Church of Our Savior of the Spilled Blood, to the 300-foot gilded dome capping St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Trinity Cathedral's spangled blue cupolas.

Language: Russian

Currency: Russian Ruble (RUB), US dollar (US$)

Tallinn, Estonia

Past and present collide in Tallin, Estonia's capital city. Stops here start with explorations of the old town, which is divided into two sections. The upper portion features Toompea Castle, the seat of the country's power since the 13th century, along with a pair of churches: St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its onion-dome architecture, and the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, boasting an interior decorated with coats of arms. The Kohtuotsa observation platform offers views of the district's historic, red-roofed buildings contrasted against the city's modern skyline. In the lower section, cobblestone streets lead you to the main square, where you can visit Europe's oldest continuously operating pharmacy; stare up at the 400-plus-foot spire of St. Olav church, once the tallest building in the world; and ascend the 115 steps to the belfry balcony of the Town Hall Tower. Tasting tours allow you to sample delicacies such as smoked elk and a variety of locally sourced spirits.

Language: Estonian

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Stockholm, Sweden

Spanning numerous islands in the Baltic Sea, Stockholm boasts a bevy of attractions within its waterfront setting. Wander the Old Town district, known as Gamla Stan, to see Stockholm Cathedral, the changing of the guard ceremony at the Royal Palace and the Vasa Museum, home to the world's only preserved 17th-century warship. Tours of City Hall reveal where Nobel Prizes are awarded, and a nearby museum delves into the history of this accolade and the laureates who have claimed it. Escape into nature with a cruise down the Djurgarden canal, or spot sea eagles on a kayaking exploration. The region is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Birka, an archeological outpost once ruled by Vikings; the Woodland Cemetery, with its remarkable landscape architecture; and Drottningholm Palace, the private residence of the country's royal family.

Language: Swedish

Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)