Lerwick, the Shetland Islands' capital, is undeniably multifaceted. Superficially, Lerwick's architecture reflects that of its past -- deeply rooted in Dutch traditions with stone-facade buildings, known as lodberries, lining the busy port. Lerwick, like the rest of the Shetland Islands, is more than just superficial beauty though -- and just a few hours in town will uncover a rather fascinating history.
A gift to Scotland from a Danish princess in the late 1400s, the town wasn't actually founded as a port until the late 17th century. The geographic location close to Norway is reflected in all facets of Lerwick -- from many of the store's decor to the people. The locals' warm and embracing personalities are a near-perfect blend of Norwegian and Scottish. The Scottish reminders come when you're strolling through the UNESCO town and see rolling green hills behind tall castle-like administrative buildings and sheep traffic jams in the center of town.
For visitors, there's plenty to do here -- whether you're docking for just a few hours or overnight. With vibrant green-hued hills flanking the beautiful Bressay Sound, be sure to book an excursion that gets you outside to explore the wildlife (like the Shetland ponies) and the stunning scenery. If you're visiting in July, the Shetland Nature Festival brings thousands to Lerwick to celebrate the islands (which are comprised of more than 1,500 small archipelagos) diverse wildlife and outdoor activities. For those visiting on rainy days, the town has museums, restaurants, theaters and more to keep you immersed in the local culture. As a bonus, there are public buses and ferries that can cart you to neighboring islands and other landmarks, like the historical site of Jarlshof.