Pastries & Mermaids in Copenhagen 🇩🇰

Returning to Copenhagen on the train from our trip across the Øresund, we dropped our bags off at the Cabinn City Hotel and eagerly headed out to explore this historic capital city.

Only staying for a couple of nights, it would just be enough time to get a taster of the place, so we had to prioritise what we wanted to see and eat and with city map in hand, we set off.

To get our bearings, we made our way to the City Hall Square or Rådhuspladsen a huge public square that was full of people making the most of the sunny weather, little craft stalls and food huts created a welcoming atmosphere. We did a quick loop of the square, passing the city hall building, the dragon fountain, and the Hans Christian Andersen statue, planning (but failing) to return later that weekend.

High on my list of things to see was the Little Mermaid statue at Langelinie Pier. Erected in 1913 the statue commemorates the fact that the Hans Christian Andersen story was not only written but also published here in Copenhagen in 1837 and is now a top tourist attraction. Made even more special for me as I reading it and more of Andersens fairy tales during my stay, as I often like to read a famous book or two from places I am travelling in.

Disclaimer – I look back now and realise just how much we missed on our whistle stop tour, but it was more about 2 friends reconnecting and having a quick city break, than a full on sightseeing weekend, but reviewing the photos 5 years later, I know I need to return to see more.

At the time, I had a colleague who had family living in Copenhagen, so before the trip she had given me a list of places to eat and drink, so in need of a good pastry, we made our way to one of the branches of The Coffee Collective.

A danish pastry and cup of mocha, Copenhagen, Denmark
Mocha and a Danish, Coffee Collective, Copenhagen

With a chain of shops all over Copenhagen, including one housed in an old telephone booth, the collective have won numerous awards including gold in the world barista championships and with the coffee freshly roasted on site, you would expect it to deliver, and it did. If I had brought a bigger travel bag, I would have been tempted to taken a jar back home, but instead we ordered our pastries and sat back to soak up the culture.

It was only a short walk from the coffee shop to Assistens Cemetery but probably not far enough to burn off the pastries unfortunately. So we explored the tree lined paths across the park, making time to pet any local dog I could find, before locating the graveyard. Famous for being the final resting place of many notable Danes, including Hans Christian Andersen, disappointingly though his grave had been defaced with graffiti.

There are three rectangular lakes in the city, so with the sun still shining and our feet holding up, we followed the locals and went for a afternoon stroll around the waters edge, crossing bridges, admiring the incredible buildings along the shoreline and dodging cyclists of which there were plenty.

That evening we lost ourselves in the magical wonder of one of the most visited amusement parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens. Built in the 1800’s parts of the park, (deceptively right in the heart of the city centre), have a vintage feel, the fountains, the flowers, the food stalls, the gardens. But don’t be fooled, there are some serious rides here too, like the Demon and the Golden Tower that shoots you 63 meters high up into the sky, before dropping you back down again.

Visiting at night time, we got to experience the more sedate parts of the park, especially with the gardens all light up, it was serene and quiet, until the loud roar of a rollercoaster nearby rudely brought you back to reality. We then spent far too much time deciding which stall to eat dinner and which stall to eat dessert, it was a tough job but we finally went for the family run Vaffelbageriet for a late night treat of sugary pastries and hot chocolate. Then to work off the sugar high, we explored the shopping area, from the Lego store, to the souvenir shops and trying not to fall in love with absolutely everything on display in the Danish lifestyle stores, I absolutely love all things Scandi when it comes to homewares and design and it felt like we were at ground zero. I made a mental note to increase the shopping budget for my return trip.

We started our 2nd morning as we meant to go on with more pastries, how could we not, being in the land of the multilayered, sweet breads known at least to outsiders as ‘the Danish’. We headed to another recommended bakery for our breakfast, the delicious and organic Emmerys.

We then spent an hour indulging our Nordic Noir obsession at the time, by visiting some of the sites featured in both The Killing and The Bridge, including the Police Headquarters only a short walk from our hotel. Many tour guides now offer bespoke Nordic Noir walking tours if you really want to get deep into the genre, but again we were short on time and our budget was tight. We had achieved our goal of travelling across ‘the bridge’, so a few photos of recognisable buildings and streets would have to do for this trip.

One place I did want to make time for was the unique, alternative community known as Freetown Christiania. Originally a former military barracks, when they moved out in 1971 local homeless moved into the vacant buildings and the families from the nearby neighbourhood transformed some of the land into a children’s play area. Within a few weeks, the entire space had been proclaimed a free town, appealing to people across many communities, including ‘hippies’, anarchists, artists and all people looking for a more communal and collective way of living.

50 years on, this place has now become one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city. You can take guided tours, or a take a self guided walk, as we did, exploring the amazing and colourful self built dwellings, workspaces, craft shops, art galleries, concert halls, nightclubs and cafes. We cautiously walked along Pusher Street, the notorious area where cannabis is bought and sold, obeying the rules to not photograph a single thing, took a lovely sunlit nature walk around the lake, admired local art on display pretty much everywhere and finished up with lunch in a cafe.

It was late afternoon by the time we were leaving, passing by the spiral topped Church of Our Saviour, adding yet another thing I need to visit when I can make a return trip.

With a few gifts left to buy, we explored the fascinating and colourful area of Nørrebro which had piqued our interest the previous day when we visited the cemetery. As well as little independent stores and vintage shops, coffee houses and restaurants, there was some incredible street art too, there was a real vibrant feel to the place, too much to explore in the short time we had.

Our final stop had to be the world famous flagship Lego Store, not to buy anything particularly, but to marvel at the largest toy company in the world. Inside as well as boxes and boxes of every kind of lego block you could image, there were large scale replicas of pirates and cycling Danes, as well as reconstructions of local landmarks of the city all built from those little plastic infamous blocks, it felt like the perfect place to finish our sightseeing for the weekend.

Settling down for our final meal and a local beer, I tried to take in all that we had squeezed into our long weekend, covering two different cities, across two different countries. Short and sweet, increasing my fascination and appreciation for all things Scandi, while quietly hoping I would be lucky enough to return someday to explore some more.

COFFEE AND CAKE – the Coffee Collective we visited was the one on Jægersborggade, only a short walk from Assistens Cemetery. We loved Emmerys too, with a number of locations both in Copenhagen and Århus, they serve both breakfast and lunch, with an amazing selection of cakes and pastries.

EATS – If you are visiting Christiania, definitely plan to stay for lunch, there were some quirky indie places to eat and drink, we ate our lunch outside at Grønsagen and had their buffet lunch. We also combined our trip to Tivoli with our evening meal to save time, the Tivoli Food Hall is slightly separate to the actual gardens, so you can enter here for free to eat and drink, paying an entrance fee only if you then want to venture into the amusement park itself. Next time though I am saving up to try and get a spot at the world famous Noma.

TOP TIP – Plan for at least 3 nights, which we didn’t, ha! Writing up my travel journals on this blog is just a personal place for me to reflect on all my journeys to date, but this particular post has made me realise there was so much more I have to see, so hopefully there will be a Copenhagen part 2. Copenhagen is an expensive city though and although there are lots of cheap flight options, accommodation prices are often anything but. If you go when the weather is likely to be warm, there are loads of free things to do outside, all the parks, lakes, markets and if you are staying for a few days, and want to cram a lot in, its probably best to invest in a Copenhagen Card.

ALWAYS BE POLITE – Tak – ‘Thank you’, Hej – ‘Hello’, you can also use Hej Hej for ‘Goodbye’

Crossing The Bridge to Malmö 🇸🇪

It wasn’t my first trip to Sweden, I had actually been a couple of times previously, out in the countryside, close to the Norwegian border, when my parents used to visit a couple of times a year to hike and canoe. I was never as into outdoor pursuits as they were though, and I remember one cabin we stayed in, it was a 30 minute drive to the nearest town, my parents loved it, but for me it was too remote.

So I had always fancied returning and to somewhere a bit more lively and after a friend and I became obsessed with the Scandi-Noir TV show The Bridge, we booked a two centre long weekend, to visit Copenhagen and then travelling across ‘The Bridge’ to visit Malmö.

Although Malmö does have an airport, there are no flights from the UK, but luckily for us, there are many cheap flights from its neighbour over the water in Copenhagen. Once you land, you can catch the train from Terminal 3, and in 24 minutes costing only £11 you can arrive in Sweden’s 3rd largest city.

Of course there is the small matter of Øresund, the 73 mile body of water acting as the border between the two countries, but that’s no bother for the train, as it travels across on the the Øresund Bridge. As seen on the TV show and what prompted my interest in visiting this region, the bridge allows both car and train travel across the 7.5 miles from Copenhagen Airport to Malmö. But what I really loved and was excited about was that for the first 2.5 miles after leaving Copenhagen Airport, you travel underground through a tunnel. Once you pop up and into the daylight, you are on the manmade island of Lernacken in Sweden in the middle of the strait, with the final 5 miles spent travelling high up on the bridge itself, before returning to dry land in Malmö.

By the the time we arrived it was mid afternoon so we dropped our bags off at the hotel, and as it was warm and sunny we grabbed a local beer, people watched and took in our surroundings, happy to be back in Scandinavia.

We didn’t really have an agenda for our trip, if I had been travelling solo or with mum, we would have had a long list of everything we fancied seeing, all the local historic sites, traditional restaurants etc. But this was a semi-relaxing city break, with my friend who was coming out the other side from a painful divorce, having to renew her passport just to come along. So our plan was to chill, soak up the local culture, geek out on Scandi-Noir television and catch a few historic sights along the way.

We spent the remainder of our afternoon exploring Gamla Staden the ‘old town’ and wandering though the 3 main squares and along the canal. It was June, the weather was beautiful and everybody seemed keen to enjoy the outdoors and the warm temperature.

Along our travels we passed a proud statue of famed Swedish business man and founder of Malmö, Frans Suell. We spotted the The Knotted Gun a poignant non-violence statue which was erected after the murder of John Lennon and intrigued by the twisted skyscraper dominating the skyline, found ourselves curiously wandering around the base of the Turning Torso. All the while exploring local market stalls, gift shops and stopping for the obligatory coffee and cake along the way.

That evening, we found a lovely local restaurant with stodgy food and decent beer and got stuck in, finishing the night off with a walk through Lilla Torg, the historic small square for a nightcap.

The next day we started slowly by going for a swim and then sauna, although the home of sauna is of course its neighbour Finland, Sweden does still have a real appreciation for the practice. I had many happy memories of my previous trips to Sweden when we stayed in log cabins complete with saunas, it became a daily ritual, one that I still miss to this day.

Once cooled off and fully clothed again, we headed out and ended up window shopping in a large mall, the food court was pretty impressive and so we stopped for coffee and pastries, as hunger started to hit after our earlier swim.

By early afternoon the sun was out and it was glorious, we were to leave later that day, but still had time to take a walk along the waterfront and through some of the parks, including the Kungsparken and Slottstradgarden. All around the area was full of dog walkers, cyclists, families picnicking and children running around, it had a real friendly, welcoming feel. We passed beautiful fountains, a windmill, and saw Malmö Castle, which we didn’t have time to explore, but I know Sweden is a place I have to see more of, so I made a mental note to return in the future.

Taking one last look across the Strait, the Øresund Bridge glistening in the sunshine, I could see the cars and the train making their journeys between the two countries, that I had seen so many times on TV. Then it was our turn, we took a quick detour to collect our bags, then returned to Malmö Station ourselves, to board the train and cross the bridge back over to Denmark.

TOP TIP – If I’d had a bit more time I definitely would had visited Malmö Castle which is now a cultural heritage museum. I also would have popped into Absmaland for some sustainable home furnishings (I will have to bring a bigger bag next time) finishing off with a vegan lunch in the cafe.

EATS – We ate at Bullen which had a great specials board, including meatballs with lingonberries and an impressive beer list. Next time though, I’m heading to The Veganbar for a burger!

COFFEE AND CAKE – We enjoyed coffee and cake in the food hall at Triangeln shopping mall, although Café Holmgången is on my list if I return, its vegan and dog friendly, always a double win in my book.


ALWAYS BE POLITE – ‘Tack’- Thank You, Hallå – Hello.

Budget Oslo 🇳🇴

I have travelled through Norway before, but i’ve never actually spent a night in this Nordic land of the midnight sun. I once flew in but then immediately borded a train and then ferry onward to Sweden, I’ve hiked over from a national park that straddles both countries, as well as driving in from Sweden to a border town for coffee and cake. So when Ryanair cancelled one of my flights last year, they sent me an £80 voucher that I had to use before the end of March, and as I like a challenge,  I searched until I found a return flight for under £80 that was close to a weekend, so I would only need 1 day off work. So ‘Oslo’ Torp it was . . .

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I say ‘Oslo’ as Torp airport is actually about 75 miles from the capital, but many budget airlines fly into this small airport instead of the main Oslo one. I would say the majority of the people on my flight and probably the majority of Torp users head onward to Oslo, so the public transport too and from the city is frequent, not too expensive (it is Norway remember) and well-managed.  As long as you realise you will have another 90+ minutes of travel after you have landed, I wouldn’t be put off if you want a budget Scandinavian trip.

Arrivals – Scandinavian airlines do provide direct flights from Manchester, Edinburgh, and London to the main Oslo Airport known as Gardenmoen. But for those of us on a budget there are cheaper options from both Manchester and London, to the smaller Torp airport but not much else from the UK that goes direct.

Norway is bordered by Sweden, Finland and Russia, but Oslo is situated on the far south of the country, and therefore only close to Sweden. It’s just over an hours drive to the Scandinavian border and a 3 1/2 hour drive from Gothenburg the nearest Swedish city. You used to be able to get the ferry from the UK to Kristiansand a large port south of Oslo, but this route has now been stopped. Oslo itself has a ferry port, but again no direct sailings with the UK, you do have options of sailing in from other Scandinavian locations though. Trains and buses are plentiful into Oslo, and from many Scandinavian destinations such as Tromso, Lillehammer, Stockholm and beyond and something I would like to explore further at some point, I bet the overland scenery is breathtaking.

Getting from Oslo’s main airport into the city centre is easy as there are frequent buses and trains to the main stations in the city, and its the same from Torp, which organises buses too and from the capital according to the flight departures and arrivals, so don’t worry if your flight is delayed, more than likely the bus will delay its departure to suit. I bought a return Torp Ekspressen bus ticket online for £44 before I left the UK (you can also buy on the bus), otherwise you can take a shuttle bus to Torp train station and then board the hourly train to Oslo centre.

History Bit. People started to migrate to the coastline that is now Norway around 10,000 BC as it provided the perfect environment for shelter, fishing and hunting as well as being warmer along the coastline. In the 1300’s Norway, Sweden and Denmark were joined together under one union and ruling monarch, Sweden left this union in 1523, but Norway and Denmark remained together until 1814, Norway then ended up in another union with Sweden until 1905 when it finally gained its own independance. There have been settlements in Oslo since the middle ages, and it has been regarded as the capital since 1299 when King Haakon V set up residence here.

Sights. I wanted to do Oslo on a tight budget, it was easy to think I was having a cheap weekend because my flights were free, but then I didn’t want to break the bank exploring the city once I got there. The thing that surprised me about Oslo, because it’s not a place I readily think of for a weekend trip, nor do most of my friends, is that its packed with so much to see and do, boat trips, museums, parks, a castle, a cathedral, and great cafes and restaurants, I think the expense puts people off, which is understandable, but a shame.

As I wanted to keep the cost down, I decided to limit the fee paying things I did, but decided to choose just one of the many museums in the city, and boy are there loads. Some of the many on offer included Nobel Peace Centre (£9)  Munch Museum (£11) Ski Museum (£13) Viking Ship Museum (£9) Norsk Folk Museum (£12) Polar Ship Museum (£11) Jewish Museum (£4.60) Museum of Oslo (£8 but free on Saturdays!) and the Kon TIki Museum (£8). There is also a 241 offer for those wanting to visit both the History Museum and viking ship museum as long as you visit within 48 hours.  As you can see, for most of the museums you wont be getting much change from £10 (€11 $14) per person, so choose wisely.

I decided to visit the Nobel Peace Centre, this museum unsurprisingly tells the history of the famous award given out for peace and is the only Nobel medal given out in Norway.  All the others awards for economics, physics etc are given out in Nobel’s home country of Sweden. As well as a timeline of the awards given out for peace, there are other permanent and temporary exhibitions whilst I was there, a really thought-provoking exhibit was on the nuclear bomb and another one called Generation Wealth. Take a peak inside the museum shop, its full of eco-friendly, handcrafted, unique and rare products, I could have easily have bought 2 or 3 things, the whole centre is well worth a visit and I’m so glad I spent my minimal budget here.

For the remainder of my trip I stuck to the free things, and this easily kept me busy for the whole of the weekend, so what did I do . . .

A short walk to the north west of the city is Vigeland Park the worlds largest sculpture park, mainly featuring a variety of nude statues in all kinds of interesting poses, the most famous one being the angry boy. You enter the park by a large gate and I headed straight ahead towards the fountain, over a bridge and up to the large monolith. There are about 200 statues, along with footpaths, a cafe, shop and museum, it’s a popular jogging spot and dog walking route, so if you’re lucky like me, you’ll find lots of dogs to cuddle. Open 24 hours and free, it’s a must do on any Oslo itinerary.

From the park, I headed back towards the waterfront along Løkkeveien and Dronnings Mauds Gate, an upmarket area with nice cafes, coffee shops and really interesting architecture. At the end of the street you arrive at the Nobel Peace Centre, but beyond this, its worth exploring the waterfront, which is full of more cafes and restaurants and beautiful views out across the Fjord. One thing I wished I had budgeted for was a fjord cruise, £30 for 2 hours, there were a couple of companies offering daily trips, and if (when) I return, I am definitely going to book on one. That said, I still had a nice time wandering along the water’s edge and taking in the scenery.

Opposite the Nobel Peace centre across the water stands the Akershus Fortess looking out across the Oslo fjord. Its open from 6am-9pm and although guided tours are available, you can just wander and explore the impressive buildings yourself whilst enjoying the beautiful views across the waterside for free, perfect for my frugal weekend.

Next I walked my way back into the centre of the city towards the spire of the Oslo Domkirke or Cathedral. Its another free attraction you can visit in the city, open daily for the public to visit and there are also guided tours you can book on as well.

I then followed my way through the curious looking red bricked passageway which is the old bazaar. Once to be demolished but now a protected building, it houses shops, restaurants and cafe’s, realising I was now cold and in need of something to eat, I stopped for a soy cappuccino and some ‘Norway National cake’, how could I refuse!

The cake was £10 (€11) and one of the cheapest things on the menu,  so I slowly took my time sat outside under a blanket, watching the many locals and tourists windowshop. Once replenished I explored the immediate area of Karl Johans Gate and Dronningens gate, with Karl Johans being the main street of the city, its full of shops and cafes and leads to further attractions within the city. I didn’t stay too long exploring here, as I knew I would have time the following morning, so after picking up some cheap snacks & water from a food shop that would have to last me till dinner, I headed in a North East direction.

My plan was to break the budget and visit the Munch museum located just by the Botanical Gardens but I took too long just having a great time exploring the streets, little churches and craft shops. Realising that it closed at 4pm, I wouldn’t have made it in time, so I inadvertently stuck to my budget after all.

As it approached evening, the temperature dropped, so I headed back to the hotel, warmed up, rested, then grabbed dinner as a local recommended vegan place. Main meals costed between £16-20 which seemed the same as an average traditional place to eat as well, if it had been my first trip to Norway, I may have hunted out some more local dishes, but felt I had ticked that box with my £10 cake!

I then spent a pleasant evening just wandering the main streets around Karl Johans Gate, past the national theatre, parliament, Eidsvolls plass and stopped to watch families ice skating, dealing with the cold weather much better than I did! The streets were pretty quiet despite it being a Saturday evening, but it was in the heart of winter, and from what I could tell, most people seemed to be enjoying theatre, cinema and the warmth of indoor bars and restaurants.  Lots of places did have outdoor seating, so I can imagine its a whole different world once the temperature increases, another reason to return for sure.

The next morning with a few hours to kill before my bus back to the airport, I was up early for my breakfast (banana and cereal bar brought from Manchester) and a discounted coffee via a voucher from my hotel. Feeling brave I sat outside the cafe with my soy cap in the minus 5 weather, under a patio heater and wrapped in a blanket, having the most glorious time watching dogs play in the snow and joggers carefully negotiating the icy paths, feeling a little blue that my time in the Norwegian capital was almost over.

I still had about 2 hours to spare, so headed across the street from the coffee shop through a park which turned out to be the palace park and by sheer coincidence I arrived as they were changing the guard, so stopped to watch for a while. The park itself was really nice, full of dogs in jumpers going for morning walks, and the little colourful sculptures dotted around the snowy park really added to the atmosphere.

I then took the main route back into the city centre down Karl Johan’s Gate getting to explore more of the most famous street in the city, past some of the buildings I had walked past in the dark the previous night, such as the Stortinget (parliament).  I then made a slight detour South past the impressive City Hall building to take in the views of the Oslo Fjord for one last time.

It would have been great to have had at least another full day in the capital to see another museum or two and take a cruise out across the fjord, but as time was limited due to the availability of flights and my budget, it wasnt feasible this time, but its one of my most recent visited capital cities that I want to return too, I’ll just have to get saving!

Coffee and Cake I had my National Cake probably in one of the more expensive cafes around, right inside the bazaar at the Cafe Cathedral but the service, food and views were worth it.  My morning coffees were at Espresso House the one by my hotel offered guests a discount, plus it had great views across the palace park opposite, as well as offering heated outdoor seating, as well as a cosy indoor space too.

Eats I ate both nights at Nordvegan a delicious plant based restaurant, serving warm dishes as well as home made desserts. Offering both seated and take out options, the chef has worked in Michelin starred restaurants and the food doesnt disappoint, hence returning on my second night too.

Extras Ski Museum and Tower with the stimulated ski jump ride, take the bus from Oslo to Norways largest amusement park Tusendfryd and take the ferry by City Hall to the Norway Folk Museum

Always be polite – Thanks ‘Takk”   Hello ‘Hallo”   Good Bye “Ha Det”