Friday, May 22, 2015

Copenhagen City Guide



Copenhagen had never really been on the top of my list of cities to see. I don't know if anyone else is like this, but for me sometimes I have a particular idea of what I think a place should look like even if my rational side knows it is not true. And because of that it makes me not want to visit for fear of crushing my little imaginary place. Nope, just me? 

For me, Copenhagen was one of those places. Ever since I was a kid, for some reason - I'm blaming Hans Christian Andersen - I always imagined it to be a fairy-tale town with cobbled streets, mint green houses and pale pink turrets. I didn't go so far as thinking princesses paraded up and down them, but yeah I had stuck in my mind what I thought Copenhagen should look like. So, not wanting to crush the little world of Copenhagen that my childhood imagination conjured up, I was never really that fussed about visiting.

That is until, one morning I was perusing random flights (as you do!) and came across £20 return flights to Copenhagen for dates that suited me. Never one for passing up flights cheaper than a dinner out in London, I booked right away. So last week I hopped on a plane ready for 5 days in Copenhagen!

I didn't manage to see absolutely everything in Copenhagen, but I explored enough to be satisfied that I saw most of it. It is not a massive city, so a couple of full days is enough to see the main sights. Here are the top things I recommend you do or see if visiting Copenhagen!

What to see

Christiansborg Palace




























I will write more about this in a post to follow, but Christiansborg Palace is now one of my favourite palaces! It's rooms were simply stunning and I could have stood in the Queen's Library all day. The view from the tower attached to the palace (free entry for the tower) is also pretty gorgeous and you can see in all directions.

Nyhavn


This is where all the little colorful houses you've no doubt seen pictures of reside. This is where my little childhood imaginary Copenhagen is as well! I was quite happy that Copenhagen (kind of) was like how I imagined it. This little strip of buildings along the canal is really picturesque, and if you visit when the sun is shining bright the colours are even more vibrant.

Canal boat tour



I love being around water, so I always love going on canal or river tours. Copenhagen was no exception. Despite the weather during my one hour tour literally being rain, hail and shine it was still very interesting and I didn't regret it. Every time the rain and hail stopped I would run out to the uncovered part of the boat, because after the heavy rain I could see hardly anything through the windows. 

Tivoli Gardens



Before you go telling me you hate theme parks, just hang on a second. When I visited Tivoli Gardens I had a headache and so the mere thought of a theme park left me feeling sick. I went anyway as my friends were keen to go on some rides, and I also didn't want to wander home without at least seeing Tivoli Gardens. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tivoli wasn't just a place with roller coasters and fairy floss. There was a beautiful lake with a pirate ship restaurant bobbing on it, a large fountain and lots of green areas. There may have even been a couple of peacocks!! So even if amusement parks aren't your thing, I highly recommend you visit to see the quieter parts of the park.

Food

Breakfast at Bodega in Nørrebro

I didn't really know what to expect from Danish food, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the food I had there was delicious and fresh. One thing I recommend trying is Smørrebrød which is basically an open sandwich on rye bread, and you can choose from lots of different toppings. There are many traditional places that serve Smørrebrød around central Copenhagen, so it shouldn't be too hard to find one.

From what people had told me about Copenhagen, I was expecting restaurant prices to be sky high, but I found that outside the Nyhavn area prices were quite reasonable. Compared to crazy London prices anyway!

Transport

I found the transport system extremely easy to navigate. I bought a 24 hour ticket for 80 DKK which covered 4 zones for buses, trains & metro. The metro was very simple to use and the buses are efficient. It is also quite easy to walk between the main tourist sites. 

If you get a chance, make sure to hire some bikes and go for a ride. It is one of the best cities in the world to ride bikes as there are designated bike paths nearly everywhere as well as the center not being too crowded with car traffic.

Where to stay

I always like to stay right in the center of a place. However, the more reasonably priced places in Copenhagen seemed to be around the central station. I have a general rule not to stay right near any large train station, as they tend to be a bit seedy. So instead I ended up staying in Nørrebro. It turned out to be a great location though and it was really easy to get in to see the main sights by metro, bus or bike. It was also quite a nice area, with trendy cafes with decent prices too.



Monday, May 4, 2015

A perfect spring day in London - bike riding along Regent's Canal


Besides today being a bank holiday (yay!) it also turned out to be a warm and sunny day! After deciding not to waste such a gorgeous day indoors, my brothers and I decided to head out to ride bikes along Regent's Canal.  
Regent's Canal is one of my favourite places in London. On a bank holiday I just completely avoid anything remotely touristy which is sure to be packed, and try to find something just a little bit quieter. I find that a lot of the people walking along the canal are locals with only a few scattered tourists. Many tourists will of course take pictures of the canal in Camden and maybe wander down for a few metres, but the majority will not walk down it for very long.

We headed down to Camden to hire some Santander Bikes/Boris Bike's/whatever you want to call them and lugged them down a few steps to the canal path. You can access the canal from many points, but we got there from Camden Lock. After deciding which way to head (one way goes towards King's Cross and the other towards Little Venice) we headed down past Camden Lock and on towards Regent's Park and Little Venice.


My favourite part of the canal is from Camden to Little Venice. There are trees covering either side for most of the way, and it really feels like you are in somewhere other than London. There is none of the usual noise and crowds found elsewhere in London. Even though it was a sunny bank holiday, I didn't find it too busy which made riding a bank along it much easier. Of all the places, you do not want to fall in to the canal. Who knows what is in there!! (Well I've heard stories...but I'd rather not know)

Riding along there are some amazing houses with perfect landscaping, which almost look like mini palaces. As well as that you actually go through London Zoo, with the boar and hunting dog enclosures on one side and the aviary on the other. You can't actually access the Zoo from the canal but admiring it from the canal path is enough! Finally after about 20 minutes riding, we ended up in Little Venice. The first time I visited here, Little Venice definitely did not meet my expectations. I think I must have been expecting shiny gondolas and singing Italian men or something, which London's Little Venice certainly is not. It's worth a look though, and it's quite interesting to see how people actually live on the house boats. Just don't go expecting anything amazing!

Wait...what happened to the sun?!



After turning around at Little Venice (you can't ride through there, just walk) we headed to back along the canal and dropped off the bikes in Primrose Hill. We then walked for about 15 minutes back to Camden where we grabbed some lunch. Happily stuffed with pizza, we headed back home satisfied that we hadn't missed out on the few hours of sunshine that today had in store. Perfect day achieved!