How to Explore Copenhagen For Free

After a thrifty yet fun first day exploring Denmark in Nørrebro, I was determined to carry this mindset on for the rest of my trip, starting with the city center. Here’s 4 ways to explore the center of Copenhagen for a fraction of the price most people pay.

After a fun day exploring Copenhagen’s Nørrebro neighbourhood on a budget, I was determined to carry this mindset on for the rest of my trip. Starting with the center of Copenhagen.

Here are 5 ways to explore the city for a fraction of the price most people pay

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

Offered in most cities throughout Europe, free walking tours are a great way to get your bearings, learn some local history and get in a bit of exercise. The tours often run for several hours, so it’s customary to tip the guide for their time. This amount can be whatever you think the tour was ‘worth’. You can find information on the different free tours on offer in Copenhagen here.

The main sites of the city include the Royal Palace of Amalienborg (where the royal family live) and Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish parliament.

There are also several old buildings with interesting histories. These include the tiny attic apartment at Hôtel du Nord where Hans Christian Anderson lived as a youth and the home of J.C Jacobsen, where he isolated a new strain of yeast which was used to brew a consistently good quality, tasty beer- Carlsberg! The discovery of this yeast changed the concept of brewing forever and all yeasts used to make lager beer are still derived from this original yeast.

Højbro Plads in Copenhagen
Højbro Plads

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Royal Palace of Amalienborg
Royal Palace of Amalienborg

Copenhagen

2. Beers at Nyhavn Like a Local

With it’s colourful conjoined houses, the Nyhavn waterfront area is synonymous with Copenhagen.

From here you can take sightseeing tours by boat or dine at one of the many restaurants. However, these restaurants are touristic and expensive, so for a more local and budget friendly option, buy beer from a bottle shop and sit on the edge of the canal to enjoy the atmosphere. In Denmark it’s legal and common to drink in the streets.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

 

 

3. Relax in a Beautiful Park

There are many stunning parks and gardens in Copenhagen. My favourite was the Rosenborg Castle Gardens, the oldest and most frequently visited gardens in Copenhagen. As well as expansive green areas, you’ll find historical buildings and monuments. There are even concerts and art exhibitions in summer.

It’s the perfect spot for a picnic lunch, sunbaking or afternoon beers.

Rosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle Gardens

4. Explore Free Town Christiania

This self-proclaimed autonomous community within the city of Copenhagen is a free state operating semi-independently of the Danish government.

Famous for the open trade of marijuana, this has also brought great controversy to the area. Hard drugs were outlawed many years ago, yet there remains pressure from the Danish government to eradicate all drugs. There’s also controversy surrounding the ownership of the land, as the settlement was originally formed by squatting in government military property. Currently, the government strictly enforces a ban on the construction of new buildings in the district.

The main trading area of Christiania is known as ‘Pusher Street’ or the Green Light District and is very popular with tourists. It’s busy and noisy, with many different market stalls and places for live music. The leafy areas around the canal are more peaceful, with many locals unwinding on the banks.

Tip: take one of the higher quiet paths that lead between the houses and the canal- these beautiful, peaceful tracks away from the crowds are full of overhanging branches and pretty views.

 

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

5. Take in the view from The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

What better way to end the day than a sunset view of Copenhagen from above? Located in Christiansborg Slotsplads, The Tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest tower in Copenhagen and unlike many other aerial views in this city or elsewhere, it’s free!

It’s open everyday except Monday and there’s a lift going up, more info here. There’s also a restaurant in the tower- book ahead if this interests you.

Tip: be sure to leave enough time for waiting in the lift queue (around 30min).

The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

 

If you liked exploring the center of Copenhagen, then why not try another neighbourhood? For tips on what to do in the edgy district of Norrebro,, check out this post.

How to Explore Copenhagen’s Norrebro District on a Budget

As soon as my plane touched down in Denmark and the crew announced we’d arrived in Copenhagen I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. The sun was streaming in the plane windows and I could see glimpses of lush green parks and picturesque buildings. I already felt like I loved the place.

However, I was a little less in love with how much money I anticipated I might spend during a weekend in Denmark’s capital. Scandinavian countries are renowned for being expensive but with a bit of know-how you can opt for bargain alternatives.

Here are 9 ways to save money in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district

 

 

 

1. Take the Metro from the Airport to Nørrebro

By far the easiest and cheapest way to get to the city is by metro. Running every 6 minutes, it’s 5€ and takes under 15 minutes to get to Nørreport metro station. From here it’s a 10 minute walk to Nørrebro.

 

2. Explore the Side-streets of Nørrebro

Nørrebro is a multicultural district of Copenhagen which has experienced a huge resurgence in the last 5 years. Full of unique stores and interesting activities, the area is full of life and popular with students, creatives and travelers.

There’s a stack of cafes, bars and restaurants with a huge range of food from delicious (and cheap) kebabs to trendy coffee places and high-end restaurants. There are also some beautiful green areas to relax in, including the famous Assistens Cemetery.  This is the perfect district to stroll around aimlessly.

Nørrebro streetsNørrebro

Nørrebro

3. Relax in Hans Tavsens Park

After exploring the busy streets, the beautiful parks make for the perfect place to relax.

In warmer months there are often outdoor events at public parks, normally involving some form of free or cheap food. If not, then a picnic in the park is much cheaper and more relaxing than dining in a crowded restaurant.

Hans Tavsens ParkHans Tavsens Park

 

 

 

4. Wander Assistens Cemetery

This stunning cemetery is one the largest green area in Nørrebro.

The outer area provides plenty of leafy nooks for reading or sunbathing, while the inner burial section is reserved for funerals and families paying their respects to loved ones. In one corner of the cemetery you’ll also find the grave of Hans Christian Anderson.

Assistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens Cemetery

 

5. Enjoy a Delicious Lunch at a Local Cafe

To save a lot of money without compromising on flavour, have lunch on one of the less touristy cafes. The main street, Nørrebrogade has a range of multicultural food options.

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6. Stroll down Jægersborggade

Possibly the coolest street in Copenhagen, Jægersborggade has a bunch of perfect little shops with interesting, beautiful wares.

There are vintage clothing stores, plant shops like Plant Copenhagen, designer jewelry stores and an eco-friendly store. There’s also numerous cafes and icecream shops- including one that uses liquid nitrogen to make icecream while you wait. The food stores usually offer free tasters and there are regularly street parties with music and cheap food.

 

 

7. Relax with Free Coffee at this Perfectly Curated Bookstore

If you’re tired after all this wondering then head to Ark Books, a non-profit, volunteer run, international bookstore.

They have a carefully selected range of excellent books, each being someone’s favourite. The volunteers revel in the opportunity to discuss these titles. There’s also free tea and coffee and I picked up a free copy of the collective’s essays and thoughts on novels from the year gone.

Ark Books

Ark Books

 

8. Finish the Day with Refreshing & Great Value Cocktails

Just around the corner from Ark Books you’ll find a picturesque bar at number 24 Griffenfeldsgade.

While the plants out the front caught my eye, it was the sign advertising 2 cocktails for for 90 Danish Krones (12€) that drew me in. This is very good value for Scandinavia and the cheapest cocktails I found anywhere in Denmark.

Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar

 

 

9. Stay in Bargain Accommodation

Staying in Copenhagen is not cheap. Even for shared dormitory rooms I struggled to find anything under 50€ a night over weekend periods. In the end I found these two hostels in Nørrebro for 30€ and 40€ per night.

Sleep in Heaven hostel is right next to Assistens Cemetery and has great communal areas, pretty views from the breakfast room and good value all you can eat breakfast for about 8€.

Globalhagen Hostel is run by volunteers and has a wonderful cafe/bar (Café Mellemrummet) on the bottom level. The super cosy cafe hosts various events like debates, stand-up comedy, concerts and talks. It’s also stocked with board games and is a great place to meet people from all over the world.

 

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Want to explore further afield than Copenhagen? Why not take a day trip to the beautiful coastal town of Helsingor. You can find information and photos here.

Top 10 Things To Do In Helsinki’s Kallio District

On the northern side of Helsinki, Kallio is one of the edgier districts of Finland’s capital. Less than one kilometer from the city center, Kallio, which means ‘the rock’ in Finnish, was originally a working-class district and home to many factory workers.

It’s since undergone a degree of gentrification and the lively social scene and relatively cheap rent make the area an attractive home for students, new immigrants, artists and other creatives. There’s a definite bohemian feel to the district and no shortage of cosy cafes, trendy restaurants, lively bars, vintage shops and parks to enjoy.

Here are 10 of the best thing to do in Kallio

 

Kallio Pink Building frosted with snow
One of the beautiful buildings in Kallio on a winter’s day

 

 

 

1. Visit Kallio Church

By far the most iconic building in Kallio is the beautiful church perched atop Siltasaarenkatu. As this is one of the bigger hills of Helsinki the church is visible in all directions and always lets me know which way is home! Built between 1908-1912 by Lars Sonck the church is a sunning example of Art Noveau and National Romanticism. There’s also a nice cafe at the base of the church bearing Sonck’s name and frequently there are classical music concerts in the church.

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2. Enjoy Bear Park (Karhupuisto) and it’s Activities

A stone’s throw from the church, this park is at the heart of Kallio. In summer and spring it’s a perfect place to relax and soak up the sunshine. There are many events in the park, such as clothing markets, food festivals like restaurant day when anyone can sell food they cook and at Christmas time you can buy perfect little Christmas trees from the park.

 

3. Indulge in Brunch!

Brunch is an institution in Helsinki and there are are no shortage of cafes serving up delicious weekend brunches in Kallio. Check out this post for my favourite 10 brunch spots in Kallio. Just be aware that brunch is mainly a Saturday activity and many cafes don’t open on Sundays.

Brunch in Kallio
For 10 of the best brunch spots in Kallio see this post

4. Browse Vintage Stores

Kallio is full of second hand shops and vintage stores filled with hidden treasures. My favourite is Frida Marina on the corner of Castreninkatu and Kaarlenkatu. This store includes a selection of gorgeous vintage dresses, a more modern flea market section and a selection of unique gift-wares.

5. Fall in Love with the Library

I absolutely love books and old, beautiful buildings- so of course I’m very enchanted by the Kallio library – the perfect combination of the two. The library is open every day through spring (opening hours here). For a unique read by a Finnish author, I recommend The City of Woven Streets by Emmi Itäranta. She wrote the fantasy novel simultaneously in Finnish and English!

 

6. Stroll Down to Hakaniemi Market

A quick five minute walk down the hill from the Kallio Church is the famous Hakaniemi Market Hall. Built in 1914, the original market hall is currently closed as it’s undergoing renovations. While lacking the charm of the old hall, the new modern hall has a range of inviting cafes serving local dishes and a large selection of fresh organic produce, meat and fish. There’s also traditional Finnish gifts, homewares and flowers on offer.

The market hall is open every day except Sunday and during the warmer months there is also an outdoor market in the square next to the hall.

The outdoor Hakaniemi market in summer
The outdoor Hakaniemi market in summer

7. Go Ice skating

Brahe sports field (Brahenkenttä) is a soccer pitch in summer and an ice rink in winter! Compared to all other rinks I’ve tried in Helsinki, this rink is huge and costs only a few euro to use for the day. It’s also less crowded than other rinks and there are change rooms, skate rental and a kiosk.

 

8. Visit Linnanmäki

Whether you’re a big kid yourself or have kids to entertain, this amusement park will provide hours of fun.  It’s the oldest and most popular amusement park in Finland and has over 40 rides, including a wooden roller coaster built in 1951.

Owned by the Children’s Day Foundation, the amusement park raises funds for Finnish child welfare work, with the 2018 donation goal set at 4.5 million euros! The park is open daily in the warmer months and closes down for winter in October, which is marked by an amazing light show at the end of the season.

Linnanmäki covered in snow
Linnanmäki

9. Make Pottery with Finnish Wild Clay

Eva, the owner of Udumbara Helsinki runs regular workshops at her studio in the heart of Kallio on Kaarlenkatu. It’s an amazingly fun, hands on experience to use Finnish ‘wild clay’ to make your own pot plants or tea cups. Eva also makes beautiful bowls, wine coolers and tea pots which can be purchased at her studio and various boutiques around Helsinki.

Free form pots
Free form pots
Handmade Terracotta Pot
The end result

 

 

10. Have a Sauna

One of the most popular Finnish past-times is to relax in a steaming sauna. There are over three million saunas in Finland- pretty impressive for a country of only 5 million people! There are several public saunas in Kallio, including Kotiharjun Sauna and Sauna Arla.

Kallio Sauna
One of the famous Kallio saunas

 

Five Of The Best Things To Do In Riga

Riga is both effortlessly cool and elegantly rustic. I didn’t plan anything before I arrived, but here are 5 things I stumbled onto and am so glad I didn’t miss!

With a lively and effortlessly cool atmosphere, Latvia’s capital, Riga is the largest city in the Baltics.

Founded in 1201, the city has a rich history, with the old town listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Unlike Estonia’s medieval fairy-tale town of Tallinn, Riga is entwined with more modern architecture, and diverse local culture.

Here are 5 things you should do if you visit the Latvian capital

 

Riga

 

1. Stay in the Art Nouveau Area

Riga’s Art Nouveau district is full of beautiful, intricately detailed buildings and trendy restaurants, cafes and shops. Street names to look out for include Strelnieku iela, Dzirnavu iela and Alberta iela. 

The best eateries I found were Mr. Fox for breakfast,  PiraniJa for pizza and board games, and Burga for excellent value drinks, burgers and traditional dishes.

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Riga
“Labor omnia vincit” – work conquers all!

2. Explore the Old Town: Vecrīga

On the east side of the Daugava River, this UNESCO world heritage site is full of beautiful churches, colourful buildings and many pedestrian-only streets to wander down.

Some of the more famous buildings include  St Peter’s Church, the Cat House and the Building of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, And then there’s the statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and proclaimed to grant wishes if you touch the animals of the statue!

Riga old town

Riga town square

 

3. Walk Through the Beautiful Parks

There’s nothing quite like a morning walk or jog through a foreign land! Riga provides plenty of stunning parks, centered around a gentle winding river.

Riga ParkRiga ParkRiga Park

 

 

4. Enjoy Riga’s Markets

Just out of the city is the wonderful produce and handicraft market Kalnciema Street Market.

Full of a huge variety of delicious, cheap local food, this is a must for any foodie. The market is open 10am – 4pm on Saturdays and is a 40 minute walk across the river from Riga’s Old Town.

If you want a market a little closer to the Old Town then head to the Central Market. With over 3,000 stalls covering 72,000 square meters, this is Europe’s largest market! To top it off, the market is housed in old German Zeppelin hangers which are now World Heritage listed. The central market is open daily from 7am – 6pm.

Riga Market

Market food
Quail eggs so many different ways… fried on skewers, picked in soy sauce, used in liqueur, meringue and quail meat jerky!
Market food
Oven baked doughnuts with natural colouring like blackberry or spinach… yum!
Riga's Central Market
Riga’s Central Market

 

 

5. Take in the View of the City From Above

There are several locations throughout Riga where you marvel at the layers of history below, whilst also getting your bearings of the somewhat chaotic city.

St. Peter’s Church offers views from near the top of it’s 123 meter tower for 9€. A little expensive compared to other touristic attracions in Latvia.

Vertigo Bar, at the top of a cinema complex in Forum offers discount cards for 2 for 1 cocktails. A cheap and wonderful way to watch the sunset over the spires of Riga!

Skyline bar on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel also has reasonable drink prices and an unparalleled views.

The Academy of Sciences Building was by far my favourite place to view Riga from above. It has a decidedly Accidentally Wes Anderson look about it, and the building itself is as spectacular as the view from the top of it’s 17th story.

Riga Skyline

The Academy of Sciences Building
The Academy of Sciences Building

The city from above

Exploring Lapland: 5 Things To Do In Finland’s Snowy North

Renowned across the world for it’s beautiful snowy scenery, reindeer and Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), Lapland in the north of Finland is truly a magical place.

As there are four commercial airports in Lapland flying is the most fastest and often cheapest means of getting to and from the north. There is also a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Kolari, and Kemijärvi. Once you arrive in Lapland it’s often important to have access to a car to get around. You can either take your car on the train (wow!) or hire one once you arrive. What should you do once you get there? Here’s some inspiration.

5 of the best things to do in Lapland

 

Snowy road in Lapland

 

1. Skiing & Sightseeing in Ylläs

Ylläs not only boasts two of the best cross-country and downhill ski resorts in Lapland but is also a beautiful spot to visit for those who are less winter-sport inclined. There’s a cable car at the Sports Resort which can be ridden by sightseers for a 10€ fee. If the view from the ride itself weren’t enough incentive, there are also two cafes at the top with amazing views. You can even go snowmobiling from the summit.

 

Cable Car at Ylläs

Skiing at Ylläs

2. Aurora Hunting & Reindeer Riding in Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi, a city at the southern end of Lapland, is large and busy compared to other more sparsely populated regions. As such, the city feels a little less relaxing than the rest of Lapland.

Possibly most famous for the Santa Claus Village– an amusement park dedicated to all things Christmas, Rovaniemi also has many other interesting tours and activities, as well as many accommodation options.

During our visit we took a reindeer safari through the forest and spent an evening at Apukka Aurora Borealis Resort where we were able to try out some traditional Finnish winter activities. It was fun and challenging to try snow-shoeing, tobogganing and pushing a sled (at very high speeds!) around a circular track. There’s also a snow ‘train’ over a frozen lake.

While we waited for it to get dark enough to glimpse the elusive Aurora Borealis (northern lights), we kept warm by an open fire in a traditional Lappish tent. Roasting sausages and drinking hot blueberry juice kept us warm and cosy while we waited.

Reindeer in Lapland

Reindeer in Lapland

A traditional tent in Lapland
A traditional Lappish tent by the frozen lake

3. Experience Winter Trails in Saariselkä

Heading further north, Saariselkä again regains a feeling of being immersed in nature. There’s a small village with everything you’d need for a short stay, including cross-country ski rental. We stayed at Kuukkeli Porakka Lodge and it was exactly the type of charming log cabin, among the snow and pine trees that I’d hoped for. The place also had it’s own log sauna- best enjoyed with intermittent snow frolicking!

The main activities in Saariselkä revolve around the love of skiing. The downhill skiing resort is the northernmost in Europe and provides a stunning backdrop for snowboarding or skiing. As a snowboarder surrounded by extremely competent skiers, I now have a slight phobia of t-bar lifts. Somewhat reassuringly, I’m not alone in this- these videos made me laugh and feel less awkward! here and here.

Then there are the cross-country trails. Wow! An array of beautiful paths of varying distances, for beginners or experienced skiers. You can rent skis from the village for around 15€ for 24 hours. There are huts along the way (with open fires and wood supply) if you need to stop for a snack or to get warm and there are also cafes, restaurants and nearby towns to stop at.

Trying cross country skiing
Trying cross country skiing
Saariselka
The ski fields at Saariselka

4. Enjoy Some Solitude in a Lakeside Cabin in Inari

Want some time to relax and unwind after all the winter sport activity? Then a cabin in the Inari area is perfect. I stayed in a cottage for 3 days between Ivalo and Nellim and it was a magical spot to read, relax and let my soul breath!

Of course there’s always the opportunity for more skiing on nearby.

Lapland

Lapland at sunset

Cabins in the snow

 

5. Sleep in a Room Made of Ice

On the outskirts of Kittilä there is a hotel made entirely out of ice! It was by far the thing I was most looking forward to in Lapland and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Youc an find out more information here.

Budget

Lapland is expensive. To give you an idea of what to budget for, on this 10 day trip I spent around 1370€ all up (roughly $2200 AUD). That includes all transport (420€), accommodation (450€), tours & activities (300€), food, drinks & other spending money (200€).

Despite being on the higher end of what I normally budget for holidays, the experience was worth every cent!

An Alternative Day Trip From Tallinn: three interesting sights

While Tallinn’s old town provides an enchanting time-warp, if you’re visiting Estonia and want to get out of the city to see an alternative side of the area then here are a few lesser-known options. As each place is quite far from the next, you will either need to hire a car for the day or join an organised day tour. I decided to do a day trip with Traveller Tours and had a wonderful experience.

1. Keila-Joa Manor House and Waterfall

Built by a German aristocratic family on banks of the Keila river in 1833, the neo-gothic manor house and surrounding walking paths provide a beautiful place to relax on a sunny day.

Just up stream you’ll find a wide waterfall- touted as Estonia’s most romantic. In winter the waterfall often freezes over, creating a beautiful icy curtain.

 

Keila Waterfall
Keila Waterfall

2. Padise Abbey and Manor house

In the 14th century, monks who had been dispossessed from their Latvian Dünamünde Abbey founded this Cistercian Monastery. Over the years it became a fortress and then a country house in the 18th century. Now, abandoned ruins are all that remain.

Like most places in Estonia, you have free reign to explore the site, including the musty dirt-floor cellars and high tower, reached by old wooden and stone steps.

Padise Abbey

Padise Abbey

 

3. Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu quarry was formed in the late 1930s, with prisoners from nearby prisons used in the excavation of limestone until the 1990s. To stop flooding, groundwater was pumped out during the quarry’s operation. However, after it’s closure the water built up to form a lake, submerging part of the utility buildings and machinery.

The quarry is not accessible to the public as it is now private property. However, tour companies do offer diving and kayaking in the lake during summer, and day tour options in colder months. By far my favourite alternative site!

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Finnish Summer Cottages: The Perfect Escape From City Life

Everything about Finnish summer cottages screams relaxation and rediscovering what is important in life. Families often spend all summer at their cottage and then sporadic weekends during the year. Some even choose to live there permanently.

Often nestled in the woods beside a lake, the cabins usually have no running water or mod cons. However, in typical Finnish style, there’s nearly always a sauna. This combination of simple pleasures and lack of modern technology helps to truly relax and unwind.

Here’s a taste of what to expect from a weekend away at a traditional Finnish Summer Cottage

 

Summer Cottage by a Lake

Lake Views

Usually summer cottages are found by pristine lakes

Access to a sauna is critical, as is a jetty to jump into the lake between sauna sessions!

Lake side jetty with sauna in background
The sauna house in the background and a jetty for cooling off in the lake

 

Good food shared together is another key part of the cottage experience

 

Shared dinner at the summer cottage

Summer cottages are just one of the things to love about Finland. For more reasons to visit check out this post.

Relaxing by the lake at the summer cottage