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Adriatic Cruises 2017-18

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Yesterday was Croatia’s birthday, so in celebration, we’re taking a closer look into cruising the Adriatic Sea!

Choosing an Adriatic Cruise depends on a lot of factors: sailing date, ports of call, price, length and itinerary. We’ve written up a few cruise lines who sail along the Dalmatian Cruise. To learn more, give us a call — We can advise the best cruise to fit your travel style and budget, and even find special discounts exclusive to travel agencies. 

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Crystal Cruises

Crystal offers Adriatic cruises on its lovely yacht, the Crystal Esprit. The yacht is a “boutique hotel on water,” accommodating up to 62 adventurers in butler-serviced suites. You feel more like you’ve joined a private, exclusive voyage than an official cruise! Voyages sail from Croatia to Athens by way of Greece and Montenegro, or from Athens to Venice by way of the Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Choose from 7 days or 14 days. Prices start in the $6,000 per person range.

Royal Caribbean

All Aboard the 2076-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas, which offers roundtrip Venice cruises stopping in Dubrovnik, Kotor Montenegro, Santorini and Katakolon, Greece. Or head west from Venice down through the Adriatic to Capri, Rome, Florence and Barcelona. Itineraries of 7-8 nights start in the $900 per person range.

Windstar

Windstar’s small, intimate ships are perfect for those looking to sail the Croatian Riviera in privacy. Discover the timeless charms of Croatia on the 8-day Venice roundtrip Quintessential Croatia, which takes you through the Plitvice Lakes and Diocletian Palace. Or expand your itinerary to the 12-day Athens to Venice voyage. Itineraries start in the $3,400 per person range.

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Star Clippers

The iconic winged sails of Star Clippers will sail there way through the Adriatic Sea on the Star Flyer. Get to know the Eastern Mediterranean intimately in Corfu, Santorini, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Hvar and Korcula. Or hug the Dalmatian coast and keep to Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia on the Venice roundtrip. Prices for 7-11 itineraries start in the $2000 per person range.

Princess Cruises

Princess’ larger vessels promise luxury in magnitude. Explore the highlights of the Eastern Mediterranean on the 12-Day Adriatic & Aegean Connoisseur, or the 12-day Venetian Connoisseur. Prices start at 2400 per person.

Find out more by chatting with our agents today! Our staff has sailed with all of these cruise lines and would love to discuss the ideal Adriatic cruise for you and your family. Call now! 2017 and 2018 Seasons are open for booking. Ask us about special offers like reduced deposits, no single supplements, and last-minute discounts.

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Filed under Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Europe, Windstar Cruises

Travel Tips: Guide to Biking in European Cities

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European cities, with their small streets and twisting corners, seem to be made for bicycles. In the past decade, many cities have been taking initiatives to make their urban sprawl even more bike-friendly. Here are some of our tips to biking in European cities: 

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City Bikes

Many cities have established city bikes programs—in Vienna, Stockholm, Paris, etc.—where people can pay nothing or next-to-nothing to rent a city bike for an hour. You can usually swipe your credit card at the bike station, take your bike and head out! You just have to remember to find another bike station and return it within the hour. Some cities require that tourists buy the privilege to rent directly from an office or the nearest convenience store.

Rent a Bike

Considerably more expensive than the city bike option, renting a bike is nevertheless convenient in its own right. You can buy into packages for a few hours or even overnight, meaning there’s no stress about returning the bike right away. It’s a great option if you’re in a city without a city bikes program, or if you’re heading out into the country or the nearest beach.

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Best Europe Cities for Biking

Copenhagen. Beautiful Copenhagen is known for its daily Bicycle Rush Hour, when 35,000+ cyclists cross the Dronning Louises bridge.

Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ reputation as bike-friendly precedes it—thanks to the city’s legendary flatness and proximity to nature. Within 15-30 minutes you can bike from downtown to windmills.

Barcelona. The lovely Barcelona is equipped with bike lanes galore—just remember to stay away from the roads with heavy traffic. Wander through small squares and hip neighborhoods like El Raval and Eixample.

Paris. Parisian roads aren’t exactly conducive to biking, but the main cycle routes are well-maintained and picturesque enough to keep any cyclist happy. Cycle along the right bank of the Seine into the trendy Marais area and onto the Louvre.

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Gift It

For a unique gift, pick up the high-end collection City-Cycling: Europe, a series of field guides to bicycling in 8 of Europe’s cities. With 400 nostalgic illustrations and countless sights, itineraries and tips, this makes a lovely present for the cyclist friend or passionate cyclist within.

Planning a Trip to Europe? Call our agents in Portland to plan the perfect trip for you and your family! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Europe, Tips & Tricks, Travel Tips

Copenhagen on a Dime

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Planning a trip to Denmark’s capital that doesn’t break the bank? Read on for our 5 tips on budget travel to Copenhagen:

Today is Grundlovsdag, a.k.a. Denmark’s birthday!

June 5 marks the anniversary of the signing of the Danish Constitution—all the way back in 1849!

This effectively ended the absolute monarch that dated back to 1660, and established the constitutional monarchy that exists to this day.

Coincidentally, it’s also Danish Father’s Day.

Did you know? WIT Agent Nancy has Danish heritage!

To commemorate this special day, we offer to you: 

6 Ways to do Copenhagen on a Dime

Museums

Most museums in Denmark have free days for adults once a week—the Museum of Copenhagen for instance, is free for all on Fridays, and the Thorvaldsen Museum, on Wednesdays. Be sure to bring the kids—all national museums have free entry for children below the age of 18! Look for Copenhagen’s Open-Air Museum and the Danish Music Museum—free for all!

Free Tours

New Copenhagen Tours offer guided walks in the summer. All guides sign up on a volunteer basis, and it’s donate what-you-will. You can also join a free city walk sponsored by the Museum of Copenhagen—or simply download a free app for a self-guided tour around the city.

Check out a Music Festival

Summer in Copenhagen is a time for cheap festivals and free fun in the sun! There’s no charge for instance for entry to music festivals like the Copenhagen Jazz Festival! Pick up a ticket to the Tivoli Gardens (110 DKK / US $16), and open-air concerts and symphonies—from Saturday Swing to Friday Rock—are included!

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Attractions

It doesn’t cost a penny to admire most of the famous sights in Copenhagen: walk around the historic Nyhavn Harbor or climb the top of Christiansborg Palace. Don’t miss the lovely Little Mermaid—who despite being a victim of many vandals—has stood out as the local beauty for more than a hundred years. Hop on a bus to the Danish graveyard of Assistens—founded in 1760—to pay your respects at the graves of folklorist Hans Christian Andersen and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

Eat at Lunch

Copenhagen has a reputation for world-class cuisine—as well as pricey dinners! But eating out doesn’t have to be out of budget. During lunchtime, many establishments will run specially priced dishes. Drop by that Michelin-starred restaurant between noon and 2PM, and keep your dinners simple. Look out especially for places under Bib Gourmand, an international award of exceptional food at reasonable prices.

Escape into Nature

Nature’s never far from Copenhagen! Pack your tent and set up at one of the 500+ campsites just outside of the city. Choose your idyllic setting: beach, forest, lakeshore—and practice your skills at hygge, the Danish art of coziness from your snug tent.

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Filed under City Guides, Denmark, Europe

7 Reasons why Portugal is going to be the “Next Big Thing”

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The New York Post called Portugal “Europe’s Newest Darling,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Stunningly beautiful valleys and coastlines, a wealth of historic sights, wine cruises and cute trolleys—what’s not to love? Portugal has long been overlooked for its flashier neighbor Spain, and obvious attractions of France and Italy—our only question is: really, why did it take so long?

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1. Lisbon: The Tram and the Coffee.

Portugal’s adorable capital has all the charming trappings of any historic European city, but without the fanfare, the crowds or the crazy prices. Considering Paris or Rome this fall? Why not opt for Lisbon, where a night at a five-star hotel will set you back less than a measly 100 euros? Plus with postcard-perfect architecture, cute cobblestone streets and vibrant food culture, Portugal has a wealth to offer the “been-there-done-that” traveler to Europe. Did we mention the cutest tram that’s been operating for nearly a century? Oh yeah—and the pasteis de nada, custard tarts, that are said to be so mouth-watering its more like a religious experience.

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2. Porto: Wine and Bookshops.

Porto is famous for its eponymous wine, winner of numerous vinous awards, but did you know the town also plays a part in Harry Potter history? The cute bookstore Livraria Lello and its grand staircases were reportedly inspirations behind Rowling’s architecture in the HP series. Potter pilgrims have flocked to Lello for years, and the crowds are so thick that the store has begun to charge each person four euros for entry. The staircases were designed by one Xavier Esteves, an engineer with a passion for literature. Built in 1906 by the brothers Lello, the bookshop houses a sumptuous collection of bound books and a staircase so iconic, that it continues to inspire authors of all creeds and nationalities to this day.

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3. Sintra and its Coral Palace.

A mere 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, the hilltop town of Sintra is more fairytale dream than anything. Here the traveler will find spectacular castles and elegant palaces in the midst of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The Palácio da Pena was a modest chapel before it was transformed by King Fernando in the 19th century into a picturesque palace more akin to an underwater fortress. With its pink, yellow and gray facade, stone triton statue, Moorish tilework and stone columns resembling a coral reef, the palace is the pinnacle expression of aquatic grandeur if I ever saw one.

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4. The Endless Coastline.

The famous, West-facing coastline of Portugal means that there are idyllic sunsets nearly every evening. With over 800 km of coast, it’s no wonder that here you’ll find some of the best seafood dishes, world-class surfing hotspots and marine biomes in Europe! From volcanic sands of the Azores, to sandy beaches of Costa Vicentina, to the magnificent cliffs of the Algarve, Portugal’s beaches are no laughing matter. Seafood is always fresh, from the octopus salad to the Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams). Speaking of surfing, this is where some of the world’s best surfers come to practice—Nazaré is home to the largest surfed wave in recorded history—that’s a whopping 30m!

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5. The Beautiful, Timeless Azores.

Azores have been dubbed the “European Hawaii” and the “Next Iceland” and while we don’t know about that, it’s certainly a place for tropical adventure. Popular islands for free diving, waterfall rapelling, volcano hikes and whale-watching. Located 1500km off the coast, it’s a tropical island in Europe, with lakes, volcanoes and mountain.

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6. The Tour Guides are Amazing.

Okay, we’re biased with this one, but because Willamette Intl Travel has an awesome contact based in Portugal! Our local guide Anselmo Goncalves has been our go-to guide in Portugal and Spain for years! Our clients always rave about him. Join him for an unforgettable day tour through Lisbon and Sintra, or embark on a multi-day trip that celebrates wine in the Douro Valley.

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7. A Millennium of History.

Portugal has had the same borders since the 11th century—that means incredible historic preservation, and plentiful old castles and sites. Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. And who can forget the mighty ramparts of Moorish-inspired Sao Jorge Castle that overlooks Lisbon?

Plus:

  • Azulejos tile art.
  • Melancholic Fado music.
  • Madeira’s non-volcanic pools surrounded by lava rocks and aquamarine waters.
  • Sea Cave Tours in the Algarve.
  • Ride a gondola in Aveiro with picturesque waterways.

And the best part? It’s still relatively undiscovered by tourists! Which means the crowds aren’t there yet. Expect to find many authentic and tranquil places, a far cry from Venice and Barcelona.

Read more about Portugal on our blog:

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Travel News: Irish Beach reappears 33 years after vanishing into Atlantic Ocean

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Delta Passengers Can Now Check Their Bags By Scanning Their Face 

Mashable reports Delta passengers will soon be able to check their bags via a facial recognition scanner that uses biometric technology to match their passport photos to their face. The new technology is the first of its kind in the US and Delta hopes it will help both customers and airline agents save time during check-in. Launch details: Delta has invested $600,000 in 4 biometric self-service bag drop machines, which will be placed in Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport this summer, but only one will include the facial recognition software. Delta will then collect customer feedback to determine how and when it will expand it other airports. Privacy experts have urged government agencies and airlines to be cognizant of the risks involved when implementing this type of technology, “especially if it’s found that they are cross-checking facial images with law enforcement databases without permission.” Delta has insisted it will protect customer’s privacy, and will not save anyone’s information or images of their faces.

American Duchess To Launch Service In August From New Orleans

The American Queen Steamboat Company will launch service with its new American Duchess from New Orleans on Aug. 14, 2017. Inland riverboat cruising has boomed for the Port of New Orleans in recent years, growing 40 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, as the Port welcomed 21,391 passengers on three homeported paddle wheelers sailing on the Lower Mississippi River, according to a press release from the port. Other Louisiana stops on the American Duchess itinerary include the Nottoway Antebellum Mansion in White Castle, the historic district in downtown St. Francisville, and museums and attractions in Baton Rouge.

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Irish Beach reappears 33 years after vanishing into Atlantic Ocean

A beach that was swept away more than 30 years ago from a remote island off the west coast of Ireland has reappeared after thousands of tons of sand were deposited on top of the rocky coastline. Dooagh beach is now back after a storm returned sand to it, 30 years after another storm had stripped all the sand off the beach, on Achill island, County Mayo, Ireland, The 300 meter beach near the tiny village of Dooagh on Achill Island vanished in 1984 when storms stripped it of its sand, leaving nothing more than a series of rock pools. But after high spring tides last month, locals found that the Atlantic Ocean had returned the sand. The popular beach once sustained four hotels and a number of guesthouses on the west coast of the island of 2,600 people.

The island, the largest off the coast of Ireland, forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a tourist trail stretching from the south of the country to the north-west that has benefited from a tourist boom in the European Union’s fastest-growing economy.

Newest Celebrity Edge, will have Malala Yousafzai as godmother

Celebrity Cruises named human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai godmother to the line’s newest ship, Celebrity Edge, which launches in late 2018. She will christen the ship in Fort Lauderdale in December 2018. Celebrity is also partnering with Yousafzai’s nonprofit foundation, the Malala Fund, to help tell her story and raise money for the more than 130 million girls who do not have access to 12 years of schooling. “The godmother is a beacon for what we stand for and what we believe in,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity, adding that among the brand’s strongest commitments is a belief in gender parity, equality and diversity. As part of the partnership, Celebrity Cruises is making a “significant donation” to the Malala Fund. Additionally, the cruise line will begin showing the documentary “He Named Me Malala” on the in-cabin TVs (both passenger and crew cabins) on all of its ships. The line will also “in the very near future” start selling the book “I Am Malala,” along with Malala Fund t-shirts and a co-created Celebrity Cruises and Malala Fund piece of merchandise on all ships. All proceeds from these items will go directly to the Malala Fund. Celebrity will also provide a custom Malala Fund URL onboard its ships that cruisers and crew can use to donate to the fund.

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New Japanese luxury train even has a fireplace on board

From the BBC: The Train Suite Shiki-shima is designed to give you the ultimate luxury experience: tickets range from $2,860 to around $10,000 and you can choose between a two- or four-day trip. The Shiki-shima had its maiden journey on 1 May. The train was built to the plans of designer Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama and is being advertised as using only the best of materials, many linked to traditional Japanese craftsmanship. The train will take you from Tokyo to the northernmost island Hokkaido, and carries 34 passengers. There are trips with one or three nights on board to choose from. The plans for the train were announced by the East Japan Railway Company in 2014 and there has been crazy demand now the train is finally here. A lottery for seats on launch day was said to have been over-subscribed by a factor of 76. Tickets for the 10-car train are sold out until March 2018. The food will be prepared by Michelin star chefs and presented by uniformed butlers. Everything on board aims to rival the experience of a top-end luxury hotel. 

Disney Wonder is the first ship through the expanded Panama Canal locks

Although passenger ships first made their way down the Panama Canal back in 1914, and millions have done so in the last century, the world’s most famous man-made waterway saw the beginning of a new era this weekend when a cruise ship crossed the recently expanded locks for the first time. The Disney Wonder, a 2,713-passenger ship, passed through the canal’s new locks on April 29 as part of its 14-day trip from Florida to San Diego. As USA Today reports, the 83,308-ton ship had used the canal in the past, but it was too wide to travel the old route after the ship was expanded in 2016. On April 1, the Panama Canal began accepting booking requests for passenger vessels in the new locks. So far, 18 reservations have already been made for passenger vessels to transit the Expanded Canal for the 2017-2018 season, a number which is expected to increase in the coming months. To put things in perspective: The old locks measured 1,000 feet by 110 feet by 42 feet; the new locks are 1,400 feet by 180 feet by 60 feet. The ten-deck Wonder is 106 feet wide, leaving about 35 feet of water on either side of the boat in the new locks. It’s cozy, but it does the job. The canal upgrade began in 2007 but encountered a number of problems along the way; it finally opened in 2016, two years behind schedule and about $1 billion dollars over budget, for a total cost of $5 billion, according to NPR. But it came about to keep up with recently expanded Suez Canal, and to allow larger cargo ships to transit the isthmus, rather than having to circumnavigate the southern cone of South America, which adds 8,000 miles to a journey.

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Filed under Disney, Disney Cruises, Europe, Ireland, Japan, USA

6 Travel News Tidbits

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1. Viking Cruises partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises will sponsor National Geographic’s first fully scripted global anthology series, “Genius,” which will tell the story of Albert Einstein. During the global premiere of Genius — April 25 at 9PM ET/PT on National Geographic — Viking will showcase their brand campaign “Time.” The Founder of Viking, Torstein Hagen, is a lifelong admirer of Einstein and a physicist himself. Read more on their website.

2. Hilton rapidly expanding

In 2016, Hilton opened a whopping 354 properties — that’s nearly one per day! Hilton is especially progressing in China, with 328 properties open or to open. In total, Hilton has 4875 hotels open worldwide.  

3. More attention to flying needs for children with neurological issues

Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® are sponsoring airport “rehearsals” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The programs are designed to alleviate the stress that families who have a child with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities experience when flying. It provides families the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Learn more here at The Arc’s website

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4. What’s NEW for the 72-Hour Visa Free Transit in Beijing

Beijing has introduced new regulations concerning the 72-hour transit without visa. Travelers must now fill in an application and wait for clearance. An application form and background check are required for stays over 24 hours. So travelers need: 1) onward ticket, 2) application form, 3) background check. This system doesn’t necessarily exist in other Chinese cities as they can be different. In Shanghai, for instance, you can stay double the time (6 days / 144 hours) without a visa. Ask your WIT Travel Agent to Learn More.

5. Avalon Waterways Announces A New Ship

Avalon Waterways is expanding in 2018 with a new ship for the Mekong River, adding new active and themed cruises and cutting the single supplement for all European river cruises. The line’s next new ship will be based on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. The 36-passenger vessel will be called Avalon Saigon and will launch in September 2018. The cabins will be slightly bigger, at 245 square feet, with sliding French balcony doors that extend 9 feet. The 14-foot windows have screens to keep out insects. Ask your WIT Travel Agent about available cruises, itineraries, and pre- and post-cruise land tours. 

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6. Did You Know? Two-thirds Of Travel Websites In EU Mislead On Prices

According to a European Commission report, 2/3 of EU websites display misleading prices. Of the 352 price comparison and travel booking websites checked in October 2016, the Commission found 235 gave prices that were not reliable. The sweep of websites, conducted with consumer protection authorities, found that in 1/3 of cases, the final price was not the same as the first price shown. In 1/5 of cases, promotional prices were not available at all. Additionally, in 1/3 of cases, the final price or the way it was calculated was not clear. In a quarter of instances, websites did not make it clear that room availability applied just to that site, and rooms might be available through other channels. The Commission said the 235 websites will have to correct the irregularities and it will ensure sites comply with national enforcement procedures.

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Filed under Avalon Waterway, China, Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

Aarhus: 2017 European Capital of Culture

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Aarhus is the 2017 European Capital of Culture! Congrats Aarhus!

Why should you visit this “City of Smiles”? Loads of reasons!

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Aarhus tends to get overlooked by its sister city Copenhagen, but for Aarhus this bit of anonymity plays well for its personal style. Unlike many of the gentrified European capitals, Aarhus maintains its distinctive style and Danish flair The town loves its cobbled streets, old architecture, and lively museums.

The town, fairly quiet until recent years, is now abuzz with internationally acclaimed chefs and innovative breweries, and it’s home to three Michelin-star restaurants. Culture afficinados will love the town’s art exhibitions, that spill from captivating museums onto the streets in public installations.

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As the 2017 Capital of Culture, Aarhus is celebrating with year-long events and jubilees around the theme of “Let’s Rethink!” Aarhus was voted #2 as the best destination in Europe by Lonely Planet. The city is a popular port for cruise ships, such as the HAL Rotterdam and Princess’ Regal Princess. (Ask your travel agent for dates and deeds!)

Make Aarhus a stop on your way through Copenhagen and Germany, and we assure you, you won’t regret it.

Cultural Highlights

The Danish Royal Theatre will perform Røde Orm, a Viking saga on the rooftop of Moesgaard Museum, based on a novel by Swedish writer Frans G. Bengtsson. (May 24 to July 1.)

The Garden, an huge, interactive art project stretching more than 4km. It will explore nature’s role in art, intellectual history, and contemporary society. Presented in 3 iterations: The Past (April 8-Sep 10), The Present and The Future (June 3-July 30).

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Hone your cultural taste at ‘Tree of Codes,’ a modern ballet by Olafur Eliasson, or Janne Teller’s ‘Nothing’ at the Danish National Opera. The Jewellery Box houses a unique collection classic Danish jewelry from the 19th century.

Regular events include Aarhus Pride (June 3), the Moesgaard Viking Moot (last weekend of July), and the Aarhus festival (Aug 24-Sept 3). Join the lively 28th Aarhus Traders’ Market at Tangkrogen (May 11-14) or Explore the World festival, a 2-day celebration of tradition and culture (June 2-3).

For more inspiration, check out how to Enjoy a girls’ trip to Aarhus and Explore the city on foot.

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An example of what you might see at a Viking moot

Paphos, Cyprus, also bears the 2017 Capital of Culture alongside Aarhus. But that’s for another time.

Did you know? WIT Agent Nancy can trace her roots all the way back to settlers from Denmark!

Call WIT to discuss your summer vacation in Europe with one our qualified agents today. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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