Porvoo Christmas markets: the perfect daytrip from Helsinki

Picturesque and steeped in history, Porvoo is the perfect day trip from Helsinki. During Christmas markets are held in the cobbled snow-dusted streets.

Porvoo is Finland’s second oldest city and one of six medieval towns in the country. It’s not only steeped in history and very picturesque but its also full of cosy cafes, cellar bars and enticing gift shops. My favourites are Petris Chocolate Room and Cellar Cafe and Wine Bar which serves 5 different types of glogi and two types of hot toddy- perfect to warm up on a winters day. Only an hour bus ride from Helsinki, visiting Porvoo is one of the most popular day trips from the capital.

Porvoo is especially enchanting during the festive season, when the town is light up with Christmas lights and markets, selling hand-crafted goods, warm glogi and delicious treats. Snow settles on the buildings and cobbled streets of the old town, and the red houses lining the river make for a peaceful place to wander. It’s not surprising that the street Välikatu, has been touted as one of the 20 most beautiful streets in the world.

Tip: A local bus will cost around 20€ for a return ticket, while booking ahead with Onnibus can be as little as 3€ return and they offer many trips on weekends. In the warmer months (May-Sep) you can also take a traditional cruise from Helsinki’s Market Place to Porvoo for 39€ return.

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.

Odense

 

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.

 

Odense ParkOdense

Odense Odense

 

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

Old town HelsingørHelsingørHelsingørHelsingør

 

 

 

The Harbour

Helsingør HabourHelsingør Habour

Helsingør Habour
My kind of place
My kind of place

 

 

 

The Culture Yard

Culture Yard HelsingorCulture Yard HelsingorCulture Yard Helsingor\Culture Yard Helsingor

 

 

 

Kronberg Castle

Kronberg CastleKronberg CastleKronberg Castle

 

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.

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