Over the summer (in Australia) holidays we were lucky to spend sometime exploring Northern Europe. As a result I am sharing some of my recommendations of places to go, things to do and of course some piccies from our trip.
The city has such a great atmosphere at Christmas is like all you have ever imagined from the movies. From the winter jumpers and boots, to the twinkling lights, Christmas markets, drinking gløgg (spiced mulled wine) and singing Christmas carols around the Christmas tree. There is also many things that I would want to return to in the warmer months.
We stayed here > was a super convenient location walking distance to all the places we wanted to go.
- Join a free walking tour. We recommend: Freetours - our greatest discovery on our trip. “How can the tours be free?”, you may ask. There is no set price for taking a tour, no prescribed fee to pay regardless of the tour experience itself. Instead, you are free to 'tip' your guide as you see fit after your tour. I knew absolutely nothing about Danish history so it was a great way to get to know the city and its people better.
- Explore Nyhavn and the Christmas markets: You cannot visit Copenhagen without doing a walk along the most famous place in Copenhagen, Nyhavn, where you can take the postcard shot of the Copenhagen colorful houses by the harbor.
- Take a stroll through Freetown Christiania - a neighborhood populated by hippie community with its own set of rules. Grøntsagen is a buffet restaurant pay per weight (like Yogurtland), lots of flavourful vegetarian and vegan dishes. Was amazing to eat like after the big walk out here. Unfortunately photos are not allowed in the community but here is one I took on the way there.
- Walk around the parks and old military fortress- Kastellet
- Check out the MindBody App for any classes in the area you are staying in. Often there will be a trial class or festive class around the holiday period. We tried out a class at Power Yoga Copenhagen which was 108 Sun Salutations for Winter Solstice celebration.
OTHER ACTIVITY IDEAS
- Copenhagen floating/boat hottubs - https://copenhot.com/services
- Castles - Frederiksborg and Kronberg
- Tivoli Gardens and amusement park
- Stroll down Kronprinsendsgade
- Christmas Markets and food markets
- Visit Kongens Nytorv, also known as “The King’s Square”
- Free museums
- Forest tower
The third-largest city in Denmark, birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson and where we spent Christmas! Interesting fact: in one of our Christmas celebration meals, we had three different kinds of potatoes! Caramel potatoes, crisps and baked potatoes!
One of my favourite traditions we got to partake in was singing Danish Christmas carols while dancing around the Christmas tree - which was real and had tall candles balanced on the ends of the branches!! Glædelig jul!
- Cycling from Sanderum out to Stige Ø (Ladder Island)
- Visiting Fyrkat Viking Castle
- Harbour town Kerteminde - on the coast of a fjord, gorgeous cafes and boutique shops! I brought a paper star lantern here for my family. This is a common decoration I saw in many windows throughout Denmark and Norway!
- Many walking/biking trails around Odense - cycling is the most common form of transport in many of the European cities, particularly Scandinavia, and they are blessed with many beautiful trails.
- Visiting an allotment (An allotment is a plot of land that you rent from your local council or a private landowner on which you can grow your own food.) We visited a friend's space, with a little summer cottage where she occasionally would stay in the warmer months. But we had a delightful fire and wine evening!
- The Australian Bar in Odense was also a hit, seeing the hyperbole of Australian culture.
Nestled between the Oslofjord and forested hills, is Oslo the capital of Norway. We came is as a stop on the way to Tromso, but it ended up being one of our favourite places.
- Hire a car! Makes it easy to get around this area.
- Drive out to Oslo VinterPark - the alpine area in the middle of Oslo, containing Norway's most used ski resort. We hiked around the area and found many frozen lakes.
- Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower - One of the world's oldest ski museum and ski jump that gives you amazing views over the city and fjord.
- Drive around Tyrifjorden (Lake Tyri) the fifth-largest lake in Norway with an area of 139 km2, many spots to spot and have a walk around and take photos.
- Walk around Oslo - visit Royal Palace, Vigeland Sculpture Park in Frogner Park, Akershus Fortress, Oslo Cathedral, City Hall - interior is amazing, Oslo Opera House.
- Take an Ice bath on Oslo Fjord - undeniably refreshing combination of sauna and icey dips. 10/10 recommend. You will regret it if you don't try it.
OTHER ACTIVITY IDEAS
- European Old Town
- “she lies” floating shipwreck sculpture
- Viking museum
Cultural centre of the arctic circle and home to some of the world’s best displays of the Northern Lights. Tromso experiences something called the Polar Night where the sun doesn't rise for the whole of winter. Note: always put the crampons on your shoes so you don't slide all over the ice walking down the road!!
- Walk across the bridge and check out the Artic Catherdral, ride the Fjellheisen (mountain cable car) up the mountain and look out over the city below. (We walked up the snow covered mountain at the top to get even higher.)
- Take a Fjord boat tour - even though the sun doesn't rise, it does get a bit more light for a short period during the day. We were able to go out in the fjord and see much of the landscape, including frozen section of the fjord and wildlife. Had a little dance on the boat deck on the way back.
- Aurora tour - we did two nights with Marianne (from Mariannes Heaven on Earth Aurora Tours) this was great as they picked us up and drove around Northern Norway and even in to Finland on the second night chasing the lights.
OTHER ACTIVITY IDEAS
- Dog sledding
- Meet a reindeer Cultural tour
- Whale watching tour
Largest city and capital of Germany. Berlin is a contrast of glamour and grit, it has a vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, and tangible history.
- We recommend a mix of walking around on your own seeing what you can discover and again join a free walking tour. We recommend: Freetours. This enabled us to learn a lot about the different areas in Berlin, and the history behind it.
- Hire a bike and visit - German Historical Museum, Berlin Wall, Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, East Side Gallery, Jewish Museum Berlin,
- Markets and Festivals! - I really enjoyed exploring the Berlin Art Markets and picking up a couple of art pieces to bring home with me. You can check out what is on here.
- Dinner at Hofbrau Wirtshaus (Bavarian culture - classic typical German dishes and the original Hofbräu Beer from Munich & traditional Bavarian live music)
Capital of the Netherlands’, known for its artistic heritage, museum district, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades. Cycling is key to the city character and culture, so grab a bike and let's go exploring around the city. (Beware of peak hour cycling traffic... it's insane)
- Surprise, surprise we did another free walking tour - Freetours. Can't stress enough about how valuable these are to learn and understand the place you are visiting, also to find some insider knowledge on places to go.
- Anne Frank House - book tickets online, I have now been here twice, (both times I have been in Amsterdam) and I would highly recommend. In the actual house where she lived in hiding with her family for more than two years during World War II. Very sobering experience about the persecution of the Jews during the war. *Bring tissues.
- Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum - both great galleries, Rijksmuseum showcases Dutch masters and Van Gogh Museum works through his life/works in a timeline - really loved this gallery.
- Tiny Hidden Houses on Westerstraat - We were able to swing past the Tiny Houses on our way back from end of walking tour.
- Cycled out to Zaanse Schans (partial trip on ferry) – think of the countryside/windmills postcards/photos you see - this is the place, so beautiful and unique. Do a tour of the timber mill, so interesting to see how timber was processed, and there might even be a cat to pat.
- Ice skating - there are usually a couple of options in Winter, ICE (near musueums) and sometimes the canals are even opened for skating when it freezes over.
- Have a drink (or two) at the Icebar and walk around Amsterdam at night - the streets and canals are full of life at night.
Food + Hotel Recommendations:
- Cafe Mojo Amsterdam - we went here two nights as it was right by our hotel and had the best food.
- Q-factory Hotel - inside a music school/venue, cool arty rooms, cafe with breaky and late night dinners, cosy open fireplace.
These are my top recommendations from our experience, let me know if you visit any of these places on your travels!