Visiting Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: a day at Neuschwanstein

Visiting the inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle was a highlight of my trip to Germany. Here I share photos and tips on how to get the most out of a day trip to Neuschwanstein from Munich.

One of the highlights from my recent trip to Germany was visiting the place that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle- Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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Two things struck me when I visited the area. Firstly, it’s crazy busy with tourists, so much so that it almost detracts from the charm of the castle. Secondly, the natural beauty of the region is so incredibly stunning that I’d list it in the top 5 most scenic places I’ve visited in the world. The mountains are rugged, thick with snow and pine trees and the rivers and lakes are the most intense green-blue colour I’ve ever seen.

Visiting the area is possible as a full day trip from Munich, but as there’a a lot to see in the surrounds I’d recommend staying a few days and exploring at a relaxed pace. Things to see include: two other castles- Hohenschwangau and Hohes, museums and galleries, beautiful hiking tracks, a ski resort at nearby Tegelberg and the charming town of Füssen.

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Below are some photos from my visit, info on the key sites and tips on how to make the most of your trip to the area.

 

 

Neuschwanstein Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1869, after King Ludwig II of Bavaria enlisted a stage designer instead of an architect to draw up the plans. The castle was to be his fairytale palace and was built in honor of Richard Wagner, whom Ludwig had been patron to since 1864. Sadly, the castle was still not complete in 1886 when Ludwig died.

Neuschwantein would go on to become Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s castles and the company’s logo. The castle now attracts over 6 million visitors a year, ironic as Ludwig intended that none of his castes ought to be visited by a stranger.

 

 

Hohenschwangau Castle

Located just across the valley from Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau is the castle that Ludwig and his family actually lived in. The 19th century Gothic castle was built upon 12th century ruins and has an authentic, well lived in feel, due to the presence of all the original furniture. The paintings, decor and ornaments inside the castle provide an interesting insight into aristocratic Bavarian life during the 19th century.

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This 2000+ year old town was founded by the Romans and is the perfect place to stroll around, taking a walk along the river or through the old streets. Whichever way you turn a scenic view will greet you. My only regret during my Germany trip was that I didn’t stay a few nights in the town- it was my favorite place in the whole country.

There are also a few notable sites, including the Hohes Schloss (High Castle) which houses a gallery that’s part of the Bavarian State Collection of Paintings. Most of the artwork in the gallery is late Gothic and Renaissance works.

Then there’s St Mang’s Basilica which houses Germany’s oldest fresco (dating back to 980) in its crypt and plays a central role in St Mang’s Feast Day (September 6th) where a holy mass is followed by a torch-lit procession through the old town. For the week of the feast special ‘Magnus Wine’ is sold- with only 500 bottles produced.

 

Walking from Füssen to the Castles

The highlight of my day was waking from Füssen along the river to the castles, and then back by lakes and the forest. This beautiful walk is roughly 4km in each direction, and the best bit was that I saw less than a handful of people- welcome solitude compared to the hundreds of tourists milling around the castle area. Walking also means you can appreciate different views of the castle from afar.

If you prefer not to walk then you can take the local bus for a few euro. It leaves from the train station and arrives in the castle precinct, but is very busy during peak times, so be prepared to wait.

 

Practicalities

Getting to Füssen from Munich: A return train ticket cost me 50€ in peak season, for a 2hr (each way) trip. I booked my ticket from the Deutsche Bahn website.

Castle Tickets: The only way to go inside the castles is on a tour, which you can book online up to two days prior to your tour date. There are various combinations of tickets available. You need to fill in a form and enter credit card details, but pay when collecting the ticket on the day. A 35 minute tour is 13€ for one castle or 25€ for both.

If it’s a last minute decision, you can still get tickets at the site until they sell out for the day. To have the best chance of getting last minute tickets, arrive early (the ticket center opens at 7.30am from April-October, otherwise at 8.30am) and if there are long queues head straight to the museum rather than waiting at the ticket center. When I visited there were at least 100 people queuing at the ticket center. I walked past them all to the very end of the road near the lake, where there wasn’t a single person at the museum counter and I was able to purchase one of the last 4 tickets for a castle tour. I’m very grateful to the friendly local who advised me on this little trick!

Map of the Castle area:

Further Tips

  • The Marianne Bridge (where the iconic photos are taken) is often closed in the colder months as ice makes the path dangerous
  • No photos are allowed inside any of the castle buildings
  • It can be very busy during peak seasons (summer and around Christmas) so be prepared for long wait times and many other tourists trying to get photos with the castle in the background. I coped with this by walking to the castles from Fussen- the solitude allowed me to recharge my introverted batteries!

 

 

Have you visited Füssen or one of these castles?

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Ghent: my favourite city in Belgium

With a beautiful old town, meandering canals lined with cafes and bars, and a medieval castle, Ghent is enchanting. The main tourist area is located within a cluster of huge cathedrals, where two large canals intersect. It’s the perfect place to wander aimlessly, with endless cafes to rest at when you’ve worked up an appetite or thirst.

For more structured sight seeing you can’t go past Gravensteen, a medieval castle dating back to 1180. For 10€ you can do a self-guided tour through 13 points of interest within, outside and ontop of the castle. The views from the tower alone are worth the entrance fee.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat then try Gust, a trendy cafe with large front windows that open onto the street, allowing you to sit half in and half out of the cafe. Their breakfast set comes with delicious coffee, freshly squeezed juice, home-made granola, eggs, bacon and a bunch of different freshly baked breads with cured meat, cheese and home-made sweet spreads. Damn delicious!

 

 

 

Island hopping along Italy’s southern coast

With ridiculously tempting azure waters, rich Roman history and delicious Mediterranean food, it was not a difficult decision for me to book a somewhat last minute summer holiday to Italy’s southern coast last month. As August is peak season, I spent more time than usual planning an itinerary in order to avoid the worst of the crowds and deal withe the heat. The end result was an amazing island hopping adventure, from Naples, down the Amalfi coast to Sicily. Predominantly traveling by sea, we were able to avoid hot, crowded buses, trains and crazy Italian drivers whilst soaking up the Mediterranean sun with a refreshing sea breeze.

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If you’re thinking about traveling to Italy in summer, then I hope this post gives you some inspiration about places to visit and ideas on how to plan your trip to be as hassle-free as possible.

1 week Island Hopping Itinerary

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Start your trip with a few days in Naples to get acclimatized. Here you can visit the famous archaeological site of Pompeii and eat some of Naples’ most popular invention- pizza. Antigua pizzeria Michele is an institution and touted as the best pizza in Naples. Serving the delicious food since 1870, the pizzeria is famous for it’s traditional style of pizza, using only the best quality ingredients and keeping things simple in the way Italians do best. There are only two pizzas on the menu. Unfortunately we decided to visit late on a Saturday night- the busiest time all week, and there were crowds out on the street waiting for the famous pizza. Try to go at a less busy time.

From Naples head out to the island of Procida

By boat:  Naples –> Procida       €20pp for a 30min ferry  

While this island is relatively small compared to neighbouring Ischia, it was packed with history and beautiful places to explore. I loved climbing high above the town to old churches with stunning views and of course, enjoying Aperol Spritzers with a sea breeze and killer scenery. Its size also makes Procida much more accessible and peaceful that Ischia and I would definitely recommend staying several days and then day-tripping to Ischia and Capri.

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Day trip to Ischia

Boat:  Procida –> Ischia       €12pp for a 15min ferry 

By far my favourite thing to do in Ischia was exploring the medieval Aragonese Castle and swimming in the amazingly clear water beneath it. This impossibly picturesque castle is perched on a small rocky volcanic islet just off the coast of Ischia and is accessible by a stone causeway. The original castle dates back to 474 BC, yet it’s peak era was at the start of the 18th century, when the islet housed 2,000 families and included vineyards, farming areas, houses, churches amongst other buildings. While much of the castle was later destroyed by British shelling in the 19th century, it is still an immensely impressive structure with much to explore.

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There are two ways to get up to the main castle, firstly a meandering Game-of-Thrones-esque tunnel climbs up the inside of the castle, and as a second option, there’s a lift to the top, making the castle also accessible to less mobile visitors. Within the castle there are two cafes, both boasting stunning views and cold drinks to refresh you after wandering around the ruins. On the far side of the island you’ll find olive groves and a small chapel with views out to nearby Procida.

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Entry to the castle is 10€, with opening hours from 9am to sunset in summer, which was 8.30pm when we visited at the peak of summer. After exploring the castle, there’s no better way to end a perfect day than a swim in the crystal clear water at the base of the castle. Follow this up by an Aperol Spritzer and seafood dinner at one of the nearby restaurants and you’ll never want to leave.

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A day trip to Capri

Boat:  Ischia –> Capri   €26pp for a 1 hour ferry      

This island has long captivated my imagination, with an idyllic combination of history, culture and elegance emerging from impossibly blue water. Capri also has a reputation for being a little pretentious- it’s touted as the playground for the rich and famous, and comes with a price-tag worthy of this clientele. As such, rather than stay a few night, we opted to spend a day exploring the best parts of Capri.

As it was peak season I booked a boat tour in advance through AirBnB for 40€ pp for 3 hours- you can find it here. This tour was bloody fantastic and provided the perfect combination of swimming and snorkeling through several of the famous grottoes (sea caves) and relaxing on board the boat with cold drinks. Compared to some of the other packed tourist boats I saw jetting around, ours was super relaxing with only 7 of us on board.

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After boating around the island I’d recommend visiting the famous Giardini Di Augusto on the southern side of the island. It’s a brisk 15min walk from the port up a footpath that cuts through the hill to Piazza Umberto. Here you can catch stunning views of the bay amid some ever so trendy cafes and shops. From the piazza it’s less than 10 minutes to walk (slowly so you can take it all in) to the Giardini Di Augusto where the views are unparalleled. The tiny 1€ entrance fee gives you access to the beautiful, vibrant gardens with benches to relax on and terraces to take in the views below.

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The view from Piazza Umberto
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The view from Giardini Di Augusto
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Crazily tempting water

On the way back to the port be sure to stop at the best ice cream place on island- Buonocore Gelateria. My cousin had recommended this place and it definitely did not disappoint! They make the cones on the spot and are famous for their brioche (also freshly made) icecream sandwiches. One of the few places in the world where I liked a flavour more than plain chocolate- definitely try the Fantasia di Capri!

Continue on to the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast is famed for towns such as Positano, Ravello and the eponymous Amalfi town. We decided to skip the overly touristy Positano and Amalfi due to the summer crowds and price tags. It was a great decision because Ravello was my favourite part of the trip and much less hectic than neighbouring towns.

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Boat/bus: Capri –> Amalfi    €26pp for a 1 hour ferry  followed by a rather expensive half hour €50 taxi

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See my post on Ravello to find out what to do and see here and why it was my favourite town in Italy.

If time permits travel on to Sicily

We then continued our seaside adventure on the large southern island of Sicily, where my favourite aspect was a visit to the Aeolian Islands. We took a large ferry from Salerno to Messina in Sicily. Check out my next post for details of getting around Sicily and where to visit.

Practicalities

Getting There and Around: I flew from Helsinki to Naples for around €150 one way. There are many international airports in Italy, so depending where you’re coming from and what you want to see there are numerous options. Once in Italy, we traveled predominantly by boat and I booked all our ferries with direct ferries, with the total for the entire trip around €85 pp. Avoid buses if you can. They are overcrowded, hot and operate on an unpredictable schedule. On the other hand taxis are very expensive, so weigh up what most import for you – saving money or comfort. But ideally walking and boating are the way to go.

Best time to go: While we still had a great time in August, I would recommend going in shoulder season (June, early July, September) when it’s still warm and happening but not as hectic, expensive or hot as peak season (August).  If you do go in August then book well ahead- accommodation, transport, day tours. Things book out.

Length of stay: We spent a week hopping around the coast but you could easily spend two or three times this amount and not get bored!

Language Barrier: Italians are less willing to speak English than many other European countries (Especially Scandinavia where nearly everyone speaks perfect English), and in areas with more local tourism and less foreigners English is not overly fluent. Luckily Italian is a very easy language to learn some basic phrases and your efforts to speak the local tongue (especially with some overt hand-gestures) will be highly appreciated.

Take Cash! Many places (especially taxis) only accept cash (euro) and many ATMs were not working, so be prepared.

Food and Drink: is super cheap and delicious, especially if you can find more local, less touristy restaurants. Naples was the cheapest (Ravello the most expensive) where a (huge) glass of house red was 2€ and an amazing pizza 4€. Caprese Salad is amazing, eat this whenever you can. Same goes for drinking Aperol Spritzers. Limoncello ones are even better.

Plastic is prolific: This broke my heart. So much un-necessary waste. and not many recycle bin options (again, I’ve been spoilt in Finland). Take your own drink bottle to avoid single-use plastic bottle waste and have coffee in real cups- after all on holidays you have time to sit and drink 🙂  Oh and when asking for no straw point and the straws on the counter and make obvious ‘no thanks’ gestures- simply asking for no straw rarely worked for me.

I’d love to hear about your experiences traveling in Italy!

Finnish Island life: a few days spent on Vänö

In the Turku Archipelago, a group of over 20,000 islands scattered off the south-west corner of Finland, you’ll find Vänö, a tiny island where life slows down and nature is paramount. Reached by a one hour ferry from the harbour town of Kasnäs, the island is the perfect escape to the simple pleasures of life.

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The island’s regular population of 12 swells to several hundred visitors during the summer months when day visitors drop into the island for swimming and hiking and owners of summer cottages come to stay for weeks.

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Like many Finnish cottage experiences, the traditional cottage we stayed in was all about getting back to basics and appreciating nature. With no running water, only an outdoor long drop loo and a shower by the sea (with sauna of course), the best way to wash each day was by a swim in the Baltic sea. Sunning yourself on one of the many flats rocks afterwards is the preferred way of drying off.

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The island is small enough to explore on foot but bikes are a welcome way of getting to the only sandy beach in summer. There’s a nature reserve with a clearly marked path and signs along the way to point out areas of interest. There’s also a peaceful chapel, built by a Rotary volunteer project in the 1970s near 17th century ruins, although the original chapel may have been built on the island as early as the 12th century.

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During summer there’s also a small shop by the harbour, with essential food supplies, a little cafe and even one beer tap. There’s also a tiny thrift shop, complete with a rack of second hand clothes, and of course there’s a place for recycling, in true Finnish environmentally friendly style.

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Practicalities

Getting There: A bus from Helsinki or Turku to Kasnas takes around 2 or 3.5 hours, respectively and in peak summer the fare was €25 and €35 pp. From there, it’s a free 1 hour ferry trip to the island.

Getting Around: Walking or bike

Cost: For our basic AirBnB cottage with no running water, outdoor toilet and communal shower we paid €200 for 3 nights. While I think this is quite expensive for what was provided, the experience of staying on such a small island in a traditional setting was well worth the fee. Food on the island is relatively expensive but saves the hassle of bringing much of your own from Turku or Helsinki as the shop in Kasnas is also sparse. Sauna rental is €16 an hour and one free session is included in the AirBnB.

Best time to go: Summer is definitely the best time to visit as the shop is open and the sea is inviting

Length of stay: We stayed for 3 nights and this was the perfect amount of time. However if you stay longer, the free ferries will take you to other islands for day trips.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the little island of Vänö- I’d love to hear about your experiences traveling in Finland.

 

A weekend in Turku

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Founded in the 13th century, Turku is the oldest city in Finland and in 1640 was home to Finland’s first university, The Royal Academy of Turku (now the University of Helsinki). While the large student population lends a youthful vibe to the city, most students are on summer holidays in the warmer months when the city really comes alive. The best place to take in Turku’s relaxed atmosphere is along the banks of the Aura river, where trendy cafes and restaurants abound. If you do happen to get to Turku, here are some things I’d recommend doing over a weekend.

 

Friday Night: Dinner by the Aura river

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With the Turku Cathedral in the background and a refreshing evening breeze, dinner by the Aura river is the perfect way to spend your first night in Turku. Some popular options include Pinella– the oldest restaurant in Turku, Smor, and the extremely popular Kaskis (be sure to book a table). For more of a budget dinner, there are market stalls all along the main river area during summer weekends with a range of savoury and sweet options.

 

Saturday: explore the old buildings of Turku

Spend the morning wandering the streets of the old town and river area. Highlights include the central market with local produce and flowers, the temporary weekend food and handicraft market along the river and classy shops and outdoor clothes market in the Old Great Square. During the last weekend of June there is also a traditional medieval market in the Great Square.

 

 

Some of the more beautiful old buildings to explore include the Turku City Library by the river, the Turku Art Museum perched on a hill overlooking the city and of course the 700 year old Turku Cathedral, Turun Tuomiokirkko.

 

 

 

 

From the Cathedral it’s a 10 minute stroll to the 200 year old handicraft cottage museum of Luostarinmaki, which miraculously escaped the fire of 1827 that ravaged Turku. Here you can explore a collection of old small wooden houses, including 30 artisans workshops, such as a silversmith, painting and weaving studio, a printing press and post office. The houses are set amidst tiny lanes and grassy courtyards, full of flowers and garden beds. Entrance is €7 for adults and the museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm.

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Sunday: wander along the Aura & visit Turku’s castle

Turku’s most famous attraction is the castle, Turun Linna, which was founded in 1280 at the mouth of the Aura river. It’s a 45min walk each direction along the river from the Turku Cathedral, so if this is a little much in the summer sun, there are public bikes for rent for €5/day that make for a much faster trip. The fee is paid by credit card directly on the bike and there are numerous spots to pick up and drop off the bikes.

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Public bikes for hire in Turku

 

Entrance to the castle is €10 for adults, €5 for kids and is well worth the fee, as you are able to explore much of the castle and learn fascinating details of the history of the building and surrounding area from the museum and displays. The castle is open 10am- 6pm daily through the summer months of July and August and everyday excluding Monday from September to May.

 

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After working up an appetite exploring the castle, it’s the perfect time to indulge in the Finnish weekend tradition of brunssi brunch! We loved Tiirikkala, a contemporary Nordic-style cafe, located on the river bank near the library. There’s plenty of outdoor seating at the front of the cafe, beautiful decor inside and a wonderful rooftop-terrace. The cafe has various meat, fish and vegetarian brunch menus, all including tea/coffee and desert for €19 pp.

 

 

If you still have energy in the afternoon then wander along the river in the opposite direction of the castle to Padolla– a perfectly picturesque cafe with hammocks, chair swings and stand up paddle boards for hire. The cafe is 3km from the Cathedral and along the way you’ll pass the ruins of the bishop’s palace and Koroinen Cross which marks the site where the pope decreed the bishopric of Finland should move to in 1229.

 

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The Koroinen Cross

 

 

Practicalities

Getting There: Turku is easily accessible by bus or train from Helsinki. The journey takes around 2 hours and will cost roughly €10 for a bus ticket with Onni Bus. The bus station in Turku is a 15 minute walk from the main tourist area by the river.

Getting Around: Once you arrive in Turku it’s easy to get around by walking or renting one of the public bikes, which cost €5 a day (discounted for longer stays).

Cost: Our AirBnB was located near the bus station and a 25min walk from the river. At €130 for 3 nights, the place was cosy and clean. Food and drink is expensive in Finland but there are many cheaper options like the river’side markets.

Best time to go: Summer!

Length of stay: There’s plenty to keep you busy over a weekend and many sites further afield if you have more time to spend around the greater area.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about Finland’s oldest city, I’d love to hear about your experiences traveling in Finland.

Five Abandoned Places You Can Explore in Estonia

Five Forgotten Places in Estonia to explore

There’s something about forgotten, abandoned places that intrigues me. Whether it’s the exciting feeling of rebelliously being somewhere you maybe shouldn’t go, or the chance to explore unique forgotten places and discover lost secrets, I have a strong desire to seek out these places when I travel.

If you feel the same, then Estonia offers many interesting opportunities! Here are five abandoned places to explore in Estonia.

1. Linnahall

This large concrete sports and entertainment complex was completed in 1980 as a venue for the sailing events of the Moscow Olympics. The hall was closed in 2010 and despite plans for renovations the area remains derelict.

Abandoned Linnahall

Abandoned Linnahall

Abandoned Linnahall

2. Tartu Cathedral

When I was in Tartu for a work trip I stumbled on the beautiful ruins of the Tartu Cathedral during an early morning run. Perched atop Toomemägi (Cathedral Hill) amidst thick trees, I was stunned and awed to see the huge stone ruins emerging in a clearing.

While part of the cathedral is a museum run by the University of Tartu, most of it is open to the sun and trees. It really reminded me of the ruins in the film Ever After.

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3. Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Quarry is a submerged limestone quarry next to two now-closed prisons; Murru and Rummu. Formed in the late 1930s, prisoners from both sites were used in the excavation of limestone until the 1990s.

While groundwater was pumped out of the quarry during operation, after it’s closure the water built up to form a lake, submerging part of the utility buildings and machinery. Now closed to the public, you can still visit the prison on a tour like this. 

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4. Padise Abbey

This Cistercian Monastery was founded in the 14th century by monks who had been dispossessed from their Latvian Dünamünde Abbey.

Over the years it became a fortress and then a country house in the 18th century. Now all that remains are abandoned ruins. Like most places in Estonia, you have free reign to explore the site, including the dirt-floor cellars and high tower.

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5. Soviet Town of Paldiski

This Baltic sea port town does not so much have a specific abandoned building, rather a feeling abandonment emanates throughout the whole town.

Originally the Swedish settlement of Rågervik, it became a Russian naval base in the 1900s. Near the town you can also visit the limestone Pakri cliffs, complete with abandoned lighthouses.

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For more alternative sights to explore in Estonia, have a look at this post.

3 Beautiful Places to Visit in Denmark

You could definitely spend much longer than a week exploring Denmark, but if you’re limited for time then these three very different places will give you a snapshot of Danish life.

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1. Copenhagen

Denmark’s capital has to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Full of picturesque streets and historic buildings, the city also has an abundance of green spaces in the form of beautiful parks, gardens and cemeteries.

Highlights include the colourful Nyhavn waterfront, Freetown Christiania, and the engy neighbourhood of Nørrebro. For ideas on what to do for free in this nieghbourhood have a look at this post. If you’re interesting in other free activities in the city center thenc check out at this post.

2. Helsingør

This stunning town is only 40 minute train ride from Copenhagen and the perfect escape from the bustling capital.

The main sight is Kronberg Castle, touted as Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet. The innovative Culture Yard is also worth a visit- packed with interesting things to do, see and taste. For more ideas on what to do in Helsingor, have a look at this post.

3. Odense

This university town is pronounced ‘O-ence’. If you really want to sound Danish, then locals advised me to imagine having a hot potato in your mouth when saying anything!

Odense is only 1.5 hours by train from Copenhagen, making it a wonderful day trip destination. However, the city is so enchanting I’d recommend staying at least one night. There’s a meandering river, beautiful parks and a relaxed, picturesque old town. Odense is also the birth place of Hans Christian Anderson, with several museums and monuments dedicated to him throughout the city.

 

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Tip:  Scandinanvian countries have retained their own currencies over the Euro. While most places accept cards, places like markets and smaller cafes only accept cash, so it’s a good idea to get some out from the ATM upon arrival. 

Helsingør: a Perfect Day Trip from Copenhagen

Possibly my favourite experience in Denmark was a day trip to Helsingør. The picturesque coastal town is home to Kronberg castle- Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet, and a beautiful old town which feels remarkably peaceful after Copenhagen’s busy streets.

One my favourite experiences in Denmark was a day trip to Helsingør, or Elsinore in English. A train from Copenhagen to Helsingør takes around 40 minutes and will set you back 15€ (100 Danish Krone) each way.

This picturesque coastal town is home to Kronberg Castle– Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet. Helsingør also boasts a beautiful old town, which feels remarkably peaceful after Copenhagen’s busy streets. Large green-topped churches provide a pretty backdrop for the skyline.

A relatively new addition to the town is the Culture Yard which houses a superb library, cafes, communal spaces, a rooftop lookout and many events both. The center is located next to the restored harbour area. At the back of the Yard you’ll find an indoor/outdoor food market with a large range of delicious food and drink.

Here are some of my photos from this wonderful day trip

 

The Old Town

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The Harbour

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My kind of place
My kind of place

 

 

 

The Culture Yard

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Kronberg Castle

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If you’re looking for other day trips from Copenhagen, why not visit the beautiful town of Odense- famed as the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen. Find out more here.

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