Within walking distance of Stockholm’s Vasa Museum is the world’s oldest open-air museum, Skansen, featuring a zoo with wild and domestic Nordic animals, and 150 cultural and historic buildings from throughout Sweden. Skansen, more than 100 years old, is a large living heritage exhibit well worth a visit.
Open-air museums are common throughout the Baltic Region: Oslo’s Norwegian Folk Museum features rural and urban houses from throughout Norway and a 13th century stave church; Tallinn’s Open-Air Museum (pictured) features village life from the 18th and 20th centuries in 72 furnished buildings located in a forest park; Seurasaari Open-Air Museum in Helsinki features traditional old buildings and farmsteads reflecting the history of Finnish architecture from the 18th century to the present; and Turku’s Luostarinmaki Handicrafts Museum is an open-air museum where craftsmen working in original workshops demonstrate pre-industrial skills and lifestyles.
Open-air museums provide an opportunity for visitors to see how life was lived during earlier times in the Baltic Sea region. Riga’s Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum features buildings from outlying Latvian regions, homesteads, several churches, windmills, smithies and brick-kilns. Also on show are Livonian peasants and Russian old-believers’ farmhouses, as well as the 18th century country school, an old road pub and a farm of the 1920-1930s.
Helsingborg’s Fredriksdal open-air museum features an old farming community, botanical garden, 450 species of roses, a romantic English park and a striking French park. Plays are presented during the summer. Visitors to Helsingborg will also want to see the Dunker Culture House, designed by Kim Utzon (son of the Sydney Opera House architect Jorn Utzon) and home to the city museum.
St. Petersburg is somewhat unique as a cruise port of call, because many ships tie up for at least two nights in the city that considers itself to be an “open-air” museum. From 1712 to 1918, St. Petersburg was the capital of Russian Empire. Having survived 11 emperors, revolutions, economic reform, floods, blockades during World War II and more, St. Petersburg astonishes even the most experienced traveler. St. Petersburg’s opening to the sea made it Russia’s cultural oasis. The city’s architecture evokes Russia’s former Imperial power, particularly around the Palace Square and the Summer Garden. St. Petersburg’s museums are among the world’s most famous: the State Hermitage (pictured), chief among them.
The Gotlands Fornsal Museum in Visby shows the fascinating history of the island with a new exhibition about the Viking era.
Just north of Copenhagen is Frilandsmuseet, where visitors can experience 50 farms, mills and houses dating back 300 years. Guided tours are available as are daily theater performances and more.