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Stockholm to Gothenburg: 9 Days

Day 1 & 2 : Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is arguably Scandinavia's most regal, cutting-edge and intriguing city. Sitting astride 14 islands on the sparkling waters of Lake Mälaren, the Swedish capital is a cool Nordic beauty with a dramatic backyard. Sailing on a Baltic breeze to one of the archipelago's 24,000 isles, comparing functional design with the Old Town's cobbled heart, and toasting the bleak winters with grog and DJ beats, you'll discover that urban can be natural and historic can be hip. The port is located at its center and is the perfect place to embark on an exploration of the offshore islands off the west coast of Sweden from Marstrand or off the east coast from Stockholm. These archipelagos form a necklace of islands with sheltered natural harbors and traditional fishing villages.

Day 3 & 4 : Stockholm - Gotland

Leave Stockholm and cruise south to Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. "Gothland" -- the ancient home of the Goths - is the largest island in the Baltic. Swedes go to the coast of Gotland -- Sweden's most popular tourist island -- for sunny holidays by the sea, whereas North Americans tend to be more drawn to the old walled city of Visby. Both Visby and greater Gotland, with its cliffs, unusual rock formations, bathing beaches, and rolling countryside, are rich territory. Enjoy breathtaking scenery, picturesque streets with chic boutiques, water sports and fishing.

From the end of the 12th century and throughout the 13th, the walled city of Visby rose to the zenith of its power as the seat of the powerful Hanseatic merchants and the trade center of northern Europe. During its heyday, 17 churches were built, step-gabled stone houses were erected, and the townspeople lived in relative luxury. Visby eventually was ransacked by the Danes, however, and fell into decline. Sometime late in the 19th century, when Visby was recognized as a treasure house of medieval art, it became a major attraction.

Day 5 & 6 : Gotland - Malmo

Cruise south again to Malmo, at the tip of Sweden's coastline. Malmö is taking on an increased sophistication. Once the staid old capital of Skåne, Malmö is today a vibrant, modern city with a definite young vibe.

From its early days, Malmö (pronounced Mahl-mer) prospered because of its location on a sheltered bay. In the 16th century, when it was the second largest city in Denmark, it vied with Copenhagen for economic and cultural leadership. Reminders of that age are Malmöhus Castle the Town Hall, and the Stortorget, plus several homes of rich burghers. Malmö has been a Swedish city since the end of a bloody war in 1658, when the Treaty of Roskilde incorporated the province of Skåne into Sweden.

Day 7, 8 & 9 : Malmo - Gothenburg

Next, cruise up the west coast to Gothenburg, a convenient center for excursions to a spectacularly pristine archipelago that's the home of fishing villages, wildlife refuges, and several lovely vacation resorts. Gothenburg has one of Europe's largest student populations, and a general joie de vivre permeates the atmosphere and the informal, relaxed mood is immediately catching. Locals think Stockholmers are a bit snobbish to strangers, as aloof as the late Greta Garbo. But in Gothenburg (pronounced yo-te-bor-ee in Swedish), visitors are welcomed into local life and embraced with enthusiasm.

Canals, parks, and flower gardens enhance its appeal, as do a large number of museums (featuring everything from the world's only stuffed blue whale to modern art) and the largest amusement park in northern Europe. Today, Gothenburg is an attractive interface between high-tech savvy and old-world charm. It's not surprising that locals refer to it as "the biggest small town in Sweden."

When it comes time to disembark, we will say "ha det så bra" to Gothenburg, which translates to "see you" because you will already be planning your return trip!