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Over the past few years, we’ve gotten into the habit of taking a European weekend city break in early December to get ourselves into the festive spirit. It can be hard to find the time to relax in the run-up to Christmas and ever since we first experimented with this type of break in Bruges, the annual Christmas trip has become a firm favourite.
What are the must-have’s for the perfect festive winter weekend?
- Christmas markets
- Street Food
- Freezing temperatures and twinkling lights
On a more practical note…
- No more than a couple of hours on a flight from the UK
- Easily walkable or great public transport
Last year we decided on Denmark’s capital city, the very scenic Copenhagen. We managed to convince our dear travel friends who live in Austria to meet us for a couple of days to explore the city.
Most Scandinavian countries are known for not being very budget friendly and Denmark is no exception.
Everything – accommodation, food, activities – will present a challenge to fellow budget travellers. But we managed ok with our usual street food diet and walking and gawking as the main activity.
A weekend itinerary
Day 1 – Afternoon
We arrived at around 1pm and spent the afternoon wandering the city and catching up with our friends. Spots we’d recommend on our walking tour;
The palace is situated on the tiny island of Slotsholmen. It contains the main government offices, supreme court and parliament. It also has a tower that you can venture to the top of to see views of the city for free.
A relatively small, towering castle that looks like something out of a fairytale. It currently houses the Crown Jewels and various royal regalia. We visited because of the lovely park which it resides in, right in the middle of one of the oldest part of the city.
This was my favourite part of the city. Kastellet is one of the best-preserved forts in Europe and it’s designed in a beautiful (and highly defensible) star shape.
Within the grounds are a windmill, church and all of the old accommodations for soldiers. The most enjoyable part of our visit was walking the battlements which offer great elevated views of the surrounding area.
Copenhagen Street Food
If you eat in one place in Copenhagen, make it Copenhagen Street Food.
It’s located on Paper Island, so-called because it used to be where the local newspaper was printed. The giant warehouse of Paper Island is now home to around 40 different street food vendors.
This place is an absolute must for any foodies, you can sample dishes from anywhere in the world under this one amazing roof. It a city full of expensive food get yourself here for a bargain.
Photo Credit: Our lovely and talented friend Edgar Moskopp. I was too excited by the food to take photos but he bravely waited a few extra minutes 😉
Devine Danish pastries
One way to save money and sample some of the best culinary inventions in Denmark is to get your breakfast from one of the many bakeries dotted around Copenhagen.
Each morning we would get coffee and a selection of pastries to sample. You can choose from a huge number of options and they really are outstanding.
Nyhavn is probably the most famous area in Copenhagen and you can tell by the number of tourists milling around. It is justifiably popular though, very picturesque both during the day and all lit up at night.
The old port and canal dates from the 17th Century and is lined with brightly coloured, tall townhouses. No matter where we went in the city we always seemed to pass by Nyhavn.
The Carlsberg Museum is located in Vesterbro which is about 2.5km from the Copenhagen Central Station. You can get there by bus but we came back on the train and found it much easier and only about a 10 minute journey.
Carlsberg is now an international brand but it started as a family business and the museum has a great timeline of how the brand has expanded over the years.
Entrance is DKK 100 (£12, $16) and includes one free beer. We all got different beers so we could have a tasting session.
We are big fans of touring breweries and distilleries, but Carlsberg is the first one that we’ve been more intrigued by the architecture than anything else.
It’s worth a wander around the old factory buildings after your tour, you definitely won’t have seen such impressive buildings in a brewery before.
Tivoli at Night
Weekend entrance at Christmas is DKK 120 ( £14, $19) per person.
Tivoli is what most people think of when you mention Copenhagen at Christmas. It’s the 2nd oldest theme park in the world and what inspired Walt Disney to create his own.
It’s right in the centre of the city so quite small, but packed full of rides and attractions. If you are visiting in winter you absolutely must visit in the dark as the lights are magical.
We made the mistake of arriving at around 6pm on a Saturday night. It was unbelievably busy with families and tourists, it genuinely felt like the entire population of Copenhagen was within its walls.
If I was to go again I’d make sure it was later at night so you still get to experience the beautiful lights but most of the children will be tucked up at home.
There are a number of restaurants within the grounds but they are quite pricey, so we stuck to wandering around and oohing and ahhing at the twinkly lights.
There are a number of Christmas markets dotted around the city all selling the usual fare found in German Christmas markets – hot chocolate, hot dogs, pancakes etc. Along with carved wooden trinkets, blankets and glassware.
The most conveniently located market is at Kongens Nytorv a couple of 100 metres from Nyhavn harbour.
Don’t miss out on visiting a market, especially if it’s your first time – it really does get the festive spirit going.
Day 3 – Morning
Entrance is DKK 25 (£3, $4) per person.
Rundetaarn means round tower and that’s exactly what you get. The Rundetaarn is a 16th Century tower originally built as an observatory.
The unique aspect of this tower is that there are no stairs, you walk up a spiral ramp which was designed to allow people on horseback to move books to and from the library in the building.
Peter the Great once rode his horse up to the top and people have also driven cars up!
The views from the top are lovely and there is also a museum which houses temporary exhibits. While we were visiting we got to see the Museum of Broken Relationships.
I’m a big fan of seeing a city by boat, it gives an entirely new perspective and makes you stop and take a real look at what’s going on around you.
Most of the tours in Copenhagen start and finish on the Stromma Canal opposite the Christiansborg Palace.
We went with Netto Boat Tours which were DKK 40 (£5, $6) for an hour-long tour which took in the main sights around the canals.
Easyjet, Manchester to Copenhagen, £72 ($93) PP return
Cabinn Scandinavia, Frederiksberg £82 ($108) per night
Accommodation in Copenhagen is expensive, like seriously wallet busting. We stayed in the Cabinn Scandinavia because of the value it offered and it’s proximity to a major subway line, one block away.
What we liked – Great for the wallet, no frills and ability to either walk into the centre in 15 minutes or jump on the metro. Our metro line also took us straight to and from the airport in 30 minutes with no changes and no wandering around the city with suitcases.
What we didn’t like – Can be quite noisy on a weekend evening. The hotel is themed like cabins on a ship so the rooms are very small. We literally came back to our room to sleep for a few hours each night but if you’re used to something more luxurious you may want to look elsewhere.
24 hours = €11 (£10, $13) or 72 hours = €27 (£24, $32)
This is the main thing we messed up on. Normally we try to walk everywhere but by the second evening our feet weren’t loving us so much.
We bought a 24-hour pass for the last day and it was so worth it, just being able to nip back and forth across the city meant we saw so much more.
Also, if you are planning on travelling to and from the airport on the metro this will be included in your pass.
What do you think? Fancy a festive break in Copenhagen or have you been before and have some more tips?
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