10 fun things we did on a Christmas weekend in Dublin

Dublin at Christmas is the place to party! The Guinness is flowing, the drinkers are spilling out of the Temple Bar pub and there’s music on every cobbled street-corner. But we weren’t in Dublin to party. Oh no! Ours was a terribly serious visit to check out Trinity College Dublin and see if it met the approval of our youngest son, a prospective student who’s university bound next year. Still, in between the talks about History, Philosophy and life at Trinity, we managed to have our little bit of fun. Here’s how our weekend in Dublin went;

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1. Check in at Generator hostel

Now normally, you’ll find me in my preferred habitat of a boutique hotel, but this was a flying visit, so in the interest of keeping costs under control and in making my 17 year old son feel at home, we checked into the next best thing – a boutique hostel.

Family bedroom at Generator Hostel, Dublin

Our bedroom at Generator Hostel, Dublin

Our family room on the third floor of Generator Hostel was everything we needed the stay in comfort en famille. A comfy double and single bed, a modern en suite and a few funky features like the street-scape mural, tree-trunk for a footstool and plentiful powerpoints.

Downstairs in the bar, dimly lit by a Jameson whisky bottle chandelier, the music was throbbing and we were well fed on fish and chips and meaty burgers. I did feel a bit of carb-overload and craving for a fresh salad, but the cheap cocktails and craft beer (Sunburned from 8 Degrees Brewing, since you ask) more than made up for it.

The bar at Generator Hotstel, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The bar at Generator Hotstel, Dublin

You’ll find Generator Hostel in the Smithfield area, which to use estate-agent-speak felt rather ‘up and coming’ and was just round the corner from the Old Jameson Whisky Distillery. A brisk 20 minute walk along the Liffey and you can be at Temple Bar, Trinity College or Grafton Street in the heart of the action. All in all a great choice for stylish and well-priced accommodation and I’d happily stay there again with my son.

If you go: Generator Hostel, Smithfield Square, Dublin 7. They also have hostels in seven other European destinations. Our family room cost £64 per room per night on a Friday/Saturday stay in December – prices vary depending on the season.

The Four Courts by the Liffey in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Four Courts by the Liffey in Dublin

2. Being student for a day at Trinity College Dublin

On Saturday morning, after our Irish cooked breakfast in the hostel, we were off for that brisk walk along the Liffey, which was looking particularly atmospheric in the chill winter air, with the sun lighting up the front of the Four Courts and creating reflections on the water.

The quad at Trinity College, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The quad at Trinity College, Dublin

Now to the main purpose of us being in Dublin, the Trinity College open day. Trinity is the Irish equivalent of Oxford or Cambridge, where you can tread in the footsteps of illustrious former students like Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Samual Beckett. We walked through the classical Georgian front as if we owned the place to check out what was on offer for our prospective student.

Sphere within a Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodor at Trinity College, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sphere within a Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodor at Trinity College, Dublin

The morning passed in a succession of talks in the different faculties; History, Philosophy, English. There were intense discussions with admissions staff (my husband) while remaining nonchalant and non-committal (my son). After sitting through four talks in succession I was wilting and had to leave them and hide away in the student cafe for a plate of sweet and sour chicken.

I would have loved to see the Old Library although unconvinced that the Book of Kells ( an ancient illustrated book of the gospels) was worth the hype. At that point we were feeling too tired and too tightwad to shell out the €10 for a quick peep, so left it for the next day.

The Campanile at Trinity College, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Campanile at Trinity College, Dublin

3. A pint or two of Guinness at the Stag’s Head

By 2pm we had done all the university stuff and met up with our Irish friend Tony, an old mate of my husband, known to us as “wee Tone”. Being an old boy at Trinity College, his first words of greeting as we met him under the campanile were “Lets go for a Guinness at the Stag’s Head”.

Down Dame Street, we squeezed into the pub where wee Tone had whiled away many a happy hour as a student, tucking into his bacon and cabbage in the back room. The main bar was long and narrow, all dark wood pannelling and nicotine stained paintwork, just as an Irish pub should be.

The Stag's Head in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Stag’s Head in Dublin

Above the bar, the Stag’s Head that gave the pub its name was wearing a jaunty Christmas hat, as were many of the drinkers.  We ordered a Guinness for wee Tone, O’Hara’s for Guy while the prospective student and I were on the coke and bitter lemon. As the boys settled down to discuss old times, I saw my chance for a swift look around the shops and crafty bit of Christmas shopping.

If you go: The Stag’s Head, 1 Dame Court, Dublin 2

Guinness or O'Hara's - at the Stag's Head in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Guinness or O’Hara’s – at the Stag’s Head in Dublin

4. Shopping on Grafton Street

First stop was the lovely Avoca (pronounced A-vo-ca) on Suffolk Street which I had fallen on love with on my previous visit when we stopped in their visitor centre on the Wild Wicklow Tour. Known for its pretty checked wool throws and scarves, the store was packed with all sorts of goodies for those who aspire to stylish country living.

Checked woollen throws at Avoca in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Checked woollen throws at Avoca in Dublin

Next on Grafton street I braved the crowds under the sparkly Christmas lights and dived into the swanky Brown Thomas to buy some cosmetics as Christmas presents for my nieces. The place I really wanted to see was the Powerscourt Centre, with independent designer shops within an elegant Georgian Townhouse and a cafe in the covered central courtyard.

Merry Christmas from Brown Thomas in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Merry Christmas from Brown Thomas in Dublin

Up on the top floor I got the best view of the twinkly Christmas light displays and then did the round of the designer shops with plenty of choice for that elegant evening gown or society wedding outfit that I so rarely seem to need these days, although I also discovered a vintage shop which was more my style.

If you go: Avoca, 11-13 Suffolk Street | Brown Thomas, 88 Grafton Street | Powerscourt Centre 59 South William Street

Christmas lights at the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Christmas lights at the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin

5. Dinner at Fallon and Byrne

I timed it just right to return to The Stag’s Head after an hour and a half of shopping, to find the boys had just drained their glasses. We turned out onto the street, looking for a place to eat and settled on the downstairs wine cellar of Fallon and Byrne.

The wine bar is in the basement below the gastronomic food hall with dim lights and old movie posters, an antique gramophone sitting on the bar. The back wall behind our table was floor-to-ceiling with wine bottles and there were several groups of girlies enjoying a post-christmas-shopping glass or two.

The Wine Bar at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Wine Bar at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin

Guy pounced on the Chateau Mussar – I met the winemakers when I was in Lebanon and always look out for it. I ordered an Alsace Gewurtztraminer, inspired by the wine tasting we did on our Rhine river cruise, but only realised they’d brought me the Sancerre by mistake after I’d drunk half the glass. Oops! call myself a foodie?

It was all French brasserie style with pine tables and bentwood chairs, all that was missing were the candles stuck into wine bottles dripping wax which were replaced by fairy lights in a bottle instead. Wee Tone and our prospective student ordered the confit of duck with cabbage, bacon and lentils which was the best choice of main I think, but my cod in a tomato cassoulet with chick peas and chorizo came a close second.

If you go: Fallon and Byrne, 11 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Cod, chickpea and chorizo cassoulet at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cod, chickpea and chorizo cassoulet at at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin

Wee Tone had a 2 hour drive to get home so we parted ways and walked back through the cobbled streets of Temple Bar area with every pub spilling drinkers out onto the pavement – feeling very festive.

6. Brunch at Bewley’s Oriental Cafe

A bit of a lie in on Sunday morning and then it was time to check out of Generator Hostel, leaving our bags in the secure lockers for the day. We followed a recommendation from wee Tone and walked back to Grafton Street to try the brunch at Bewley’s Oriental Cafe.

Molly Mallone Statue in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Molly Mallone Statue in Dublin

Our path took us past the well known and well endowed Molly-Malone statue outside the tourist information centre on Suffolk Street, a favourite Dublin photo opportunity and of course we took our photos there too.

Bewley’s was looking very festive with Christmas tree in the centre of the room and we requested one of the red velour benches which luckily was free and enclosed us in a kind of booth. This Dublin institution was full of local families treating their children to brunch and had an old fashioned air with with chinoisserie painted walls and stained glass, very much an art nouveau, Libertys-of-London feel about it.

Brunch at Bewley's Oriental Cafe in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Brunch at Bewley’s Oriental Cafe in Dublin

We ate our Irish breakfast among the poinsettias, sparkling chandeliers and full length oil paintings feeling rather pleased that we’d bagged our red velour and tapestry bench, an excellent spot for people-watching on all sides of the cafe. By the time we left a long queue was forming but we were heading down Grafton Street for our next apointment at 11 o’clock.

If you go: Bewley’s Oriental Cafe, 78 Grafton Street, Dublin 2

Brunch at Bewley's Oriental Cafe in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Brunch at Bewley’s Oriental Cafe in Dublin

7. The tour through the history of Dublin at the Little Museum of Dublin

Every hour, on the hour there’s a free guided tour of The Little Museum of Dublin which we found at the end of Grafton Street, facing St Stephen’s Park. Taking the tour was definitely worthwhile, since our guide, John the archaeologist, really brought to life the collection of pictures and memorabilia in this Georgian townhouse, packed with the history of Dublin.

The Little Museum of Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Little Museum of Dublin

Our tour focused on the two first floor rooms where each section was arranged to tell stories from a particular decade of the last century. The tales and annecdotes took us from the visit of Queen Victoria to Dublin (where her party were reported in a misprint to have pissed over Patrick’s bridge), through the Easter Rising of 1916 where the rebels had holed up in the Jacobs factory and lived off biscuits (plain and fancy). We heard how during the rebellion the shooting on St Stephen’s Green would stop each afternoon to allow the groundsman to feed his ducks and how one of the leaders, Éamon de Valera escaped execution because of his American birth.

The tour continued on through the First World War, which is euphamistically known in Ireland as The Emergency (don’t mention the war) and on to more recent times when local girl and silver screen actress Maureen O’Hara was every Dubliner’s sweetheart and John Lennon ate at the exclusive Jammet’s French Restaurant and wrote in the visitor’s book that the other three Beatles “were saving up to come here”.

The Little Museum of Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Little Museum of Dublin

I could go on to tell you how Nelson’s Pillar was blown up in 1966 by the IRA, the job being finished off by the Irish Army in a “controlled” explosion which took out every window in the street. It’s now replaced by a tall knitting needle named The Spire which we passed later on O’Connell Street.

8. The Dubliners at the James Joyce Centre

Our appetite for Dublin stories whetted, our prospective student was keen to discover more about James Joyce so we headed up O’Connell Street on the north side of the Liffey, past the knitting needle Spire to the James Joyce Centre in another Georgian townhouse on North Great George’s Street.

We started on the 2nd floor with a video about James Joyce and various writers and scholars discussing aspects of his life and work, including a lot about the library scene of Ulysses set in the Dublin Library. Throughout his married life Joyce moved around, living in different apartments and places in Europe which perhaps explains the lack of memorabilia that you might have expected in a museum about his life, although there was a small bedroom area set up to show his domestic life and the kind of busy family rooms where he wrote his books.

Murals at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Murals at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin

On the first floor were two large rooms with an exhibition of black and white photos of post-war Dublin by Lee Miller, a photojournalist better known for her war photography, which were commissioned by Vogue magazine in 1946. On the ground floor was a timeline of Joyce’s life and another room with a video playing the film of Ulysses. In the yard at the back we enjoyed the murals showing stories from Joyce’s books which reminded me of the Dylan Thomas murals I’d seen in Swansea.

I had not read any James Joyce before I visited Dublin and left the centre feeling I didn’t really know much more about the man himself. We’d have liked to try the James Joyce Dubliners walking tour, which starts at the museum every Saturday at 11am and more frequently in summer. Perhaps I’ll be asking Father Christmas for a copy of the Dubliners to fill in the gaps.

If you go: The James Joyce Centre, 35 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1

The James Joyce Centre in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The James Joyce Centre in Dublin

9. Lunch at The Winding Stair

By 2 o’clock I felt we’d probably done enough culture for one morning and we walked back down O’Connell Street and along the river for lunch at The Winding Stair, a restaurant that I had seen recommended as serving excellent Irish food. On the ground floor was a book shop of the same name but we climbed the winding stair after which the restaurant is named to the first floor and settled into a table in the small upstairs room.

I had the sole, nicely browned in butter with tiny pink Dublin bay prawns, balanced on a pile of mashed potatoes with cabbage and doussed in a lovely caper and butter sauce. Despite the casual wooden table and bentwood chairs, this felt like a proper restaurant with stiff white napkins and an excellent choice of wine by the glass, written on the board on the wall.

Lunch at The Winding Stair in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch at The Winding Stair in Dublin

The boys had the fish chowder, a soup that was heavy with mussels and fish and for desert we shared a large slice of spicy pear tart with brown bread ice cream. After lunch we had a browse around the bookshop downstairs, which had once taken up four floors, but in these days of online media had shrunk to only the ground floor.

It still managed to pack in plenty of interesting books, a couple of tables in the window and a red leather wing chair at the back where you could sit and read from the shelves of second hand books. They even served herbal teas and wine with some slices of flapjack. For those that don’t want the proper lunch, next door was the eating house called The Woollen Mills that served cakes, coffee and light snacks and also looked lovely, run by the same people as the Winding Stair.

If you go: The Winding Stair, 40 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1 and next door The Woollen Mills. Our seafood chowder was €9.95, Sole with shrimps, capers and butter sauce was €23.95 and pear and ginger tart with ice cream €6.95.

Lunch at The Winding Stair in Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch at The Winding Stair in Dublin

10. Our weekend ends at Trinity College for the Book of Kells and the Old Library

Fortified by our lunch we decided to make a final pass by Trinity College at around 4pm to visit The Old Library and the Book of Kells, feeling that we wouldn’t have quite seen Dublin properly without paying a visit. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the exhibition area of the Book of Kells but there were plenty of colourful displays about this medieval decorated manuscript of the four Gospels. As it was close to closing time we had to hurry through and the two books on display in a glass cabinet that were the Book of Kells were something of an anticlimax.

The Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin

I did enjoy walking through the Old Library, a long, tall room with two tiers of antiquated oak bookcases and a lofty barrelled ceiling. The library at Trinity College Dublin is a copyright library, entitled to a copy of every book in print, although the books in the Old Library were all leatherbound tomes. Along the sides of the library were 18th century marble busts of of writers and literary figures, adding to the feeling of ancient learning in this venerable centre of education.

But we couldn’t linger too long as it was closing, so we were hurried out through the gift shop and back into the quad of Trinity College Dublin where we had started the weekend. It remains to be seen whether our prospective student will apply to Trinity but even if he doesn’t we got a fantastic flavour of the history and literature of Dublin. For my next trip I’m looking forward more of that great Irish food, fashion and design – I feel a girl’s shopping trip coming on!

If you go: The Book of Kells and The Old Library of Trinity College Dublin, Adults €10, Family ticket €20

The Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin

For more information about visiting Dublin check out the Visit Dublin Tourism website

More things to see in Ireland

Irish tales and 50 shades of green on the Wild Wicklow Tour
The best of TBEX The best of Dublin
See the Sights of Northern Ireland by car

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Verona – a weekend in the city of lovers

In this article our guest writer, Francesco Visconti, takes us to Verona for the weekend to find the true Italian heart of the city beyond the story of Rome and Juliet.

Everybody in the world knows Verona as the set for Shakespeare’s romance Romeo & Juliet and lovers go there as pilgrims just to see the famous Juliet’s balcony. But for an Italian who loves to travel and tries to discover the real soul of place, like me, it’s easy to perceive that this city is much more and that its romantic atmosphere came before Juliet’s balcony. A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Verona, with my girlfriend, of course. I had already been here when I was 12 with my family, but only this time I could understand the specialty of Verona, if compared to many other Italian destinations, that foreigners visiting the town for just one day may not see.

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

We arrived at the train station on Friday afternoon just after lunch. The beginning of the autumn is the perfect time to visit Verona, with less tourists but still good weather and gorgeous colours all around. At this time of the day, when nobody’s in the streets, you can really enjoy the peaceful atmosphere on Corso Porta Nuova, the big boulevard that goes from the monumental door of the 16th century Porta Nuova to the centre. At the end of the boulevard we passed under the two arches that give access to Piazza Brà and it was like a jump in history. We left at our back the modern town to get in the old Roman town of Verona, whose symbol is the Arena, the second most known amphitheatre of the Roman age after the Coliseum. The Arena is less tall but larger than its brother in Rome, perfectly preserved and with an incredible acoustic that makes it perfect for concerts and music festivals!

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

Until 10 years ago the Arena was home of the most popular music festival in Italy, the Festivalbar and the first time I visited Verona it was just during the days of the event. So I couldn’t visit it and now I was just too excited to see it from the inside, to walk on the sand and climb the steps until the top to have a look at the rooftops of the surrounding square. In the Coliseum you can hardly touch anything, while in the Arena you are free to go all around the amphitheatre and, instead of thousands tourists struggling for taking a good picture, here we were almost alone and could make fly our imagination to the era of gladiators.

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

As you can suppose, we spent a good part of the afternoon in Piazza Brà and when we came out of the Arena it was already “Spritz time”. The Spritz is a typical drink from Verona and the Veneto region in general that people drink more or less at the same time when English drink tea.

In search of a nice bar, we passed from the Roman to the medieval era, walking through the pedestrian streets inside the walls of the old town. What really hit me is that almost all the area is pedestrian, something that I haven’t seen in any other Italian city and that really made me enjoy the walk. We finally found streets full of people going for shopping, for an ice-cream or chilling at the bars with their Spritz.

Juliet's balcony in Verona Photo: Jeroen Van Luin on Flickr

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

After our random tour of Friday night, we planned our Saturday to visit the rest of the city. Our first stop was Juliet’s house and balcony. We tried to go relatively early in the morning, but no matter what’s the time, half of the tourists in town are always pointing to that hypnotic balcony or to the statue of naked Juliet below it. We contributed to the ceremony for a while and then followed the tour into the more enjoyable Piazza delle Erbe. This place has always been the heart of Verona: it is the oldest square of the town and lies upon the ruins of the Forum of the Roman town, it’s been setting for the market and today is the heart of nightlife, full of bars and restaurants.

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

And it’s also an incredible collection of monuments and buildings of different eras: the house of the municipality, the Lamberti tower, the painted Mazzanti houses, the fountain with the statue of the holy Mary, the “Tribuna” and the column with the Lyon of St. Mark, symbol of the power of the old Republic of Venice, which ruled upon Verona in the 15th century. All these attractions are amazingly put together, without clashing each other, like in a colourful painting and at first sight, attracted by its elegance, you don’t even realize its wealth in culture and history.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

We took a while to breathe and continued the tour. We just had to make 20 meters at the back of the House of Municipality to get to another amazing square: Piazza dei Signori, with at its centre the statue of Dante Alighieri. The imposing statue made the Veronese people give the square the name of Piazza Dante. It’s another square built in medieval times and surrounded by monumental buildings. The very curious thing is that each of them is linked to the next through arches. In a corner of the square there’s maybe the most particular monument of Verona: the “Arche Scaligere”, monumental tombs in the open air topped by arches in gothic style. They were considered the most honourable burial for the illustrious lords of the Scaligeri family, who ruled the city in the 14th century.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

After a quick glance at the cathedral and the basilica of St Zeno, in the late afternoon, a bit outside the centre, we visited Castelvecchio, literally the old castle. We went there at this time to enjoy then a walk at sunset through the charming Scaligeri bridge, that crosses the river from the castle and then continuing along the river Adige until the Pietra bridge, the only bridge built in Roman times remaining nowadays. If you want to do something romantic in Verona, visit this side of the town under the night-lights!

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

We dedicated the Sunday to shopping and to try typical food from Veneto region. A foreigner wouldn’t appreciate the difference and everything that sounds like Italian food would taste delicious. But for an Italian that eats pasta everyday it was necessary to find a “trattoria” with typical Veronese cuisine!

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Many thanks for this article to Francesco Visconti, a 26 years old Italian travel blogger and startupper, author of GaddersBlog and creator of the travel platform Gadders that helps foreign travellers discover the best places in Italy. He’s a full-time traveller, having been living abroad in different countries for 4 years, now living in Spain. He loves to know in depth a place and a country and, when home begins getting boring, starts looking for new destinations that stimulate his senses. Follow his Twitter feed and Pinterest or visit him on Google+.

Photo Credits: Photos by Francesco Visconti except Juliet’s Balcony by Jeroen Van Luin

For more Italian adventures

Cycling with Wine and apples – on the Wine Road in South Tyrol
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Three nights to fall in love with the city of Verona

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

10 summertime cool things we did in Copenhagen (and you could too)

Summer in Copenhagen is a time for the locals to come out and enjoy the short but sweet Scandinavian summer beside the water, whether it’s the harbour, the beach or the Copenhagen lakes. Although I’ve been to Copenhagen a number of times with Guy, this time I wanted to show one of my favourite cities off to my kids, so I was on the look-out for those Scandi-cool things that would impress a hard to please teenager. Here is my guide to the cool things we enjoyed on our 4 day summer break in Copenhagen;

Summer on the lake at Tivoli Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Summer on the lake at Tivoli

1. Rent an apartment and live like a local

Yes I know that ‘live like a local’ tag is overused by every apartment rental company, but hiring an apartment in the centre of Copenhagen through Airbnb really did give us a different perspective on the Danish way of life. Filled with books, quirky art and kids’ toys our apartment felt like the owners had just popped out for the day – which in fact they more or less had. The family who lived here had temporarily re-located to their summer house further up the coast to make the most of the sunny summer days and being laid back Danes had left most of their belongings behind, trusting us to take good care of their home. Hiring an apartment meant that we could shop at the local supermarkets dotted around town and nod a Danish “Hej” to our neighbours as we parked our bikes in the internal courtyard and lugged our shopping up to the 2nd floor. The kids thought the apartment was super-cool, especially the table football which led to many fiercely contested world cup replays. This is the apartment we booked in case you’re interested.

Our cool apartment in Copenhagen rented through AirBnB Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Our cool apartment in Copenhagen rented through AirBnB

2. Hire bikes to get around town

On previous visits to Copenhagen we walked everywhere but with the family it made sense to hire bikes so we could get effortlessly around town. We hired ours just around the corner from our apartment (Gammelholm Cycler at 12 Holbergsgarde) and it cost 100 DKK (around £11/€14/ $18) per person per day with a bit of a discount as we were hiring for the whole family. Cycling around Copenhagen is easier and safer than in most other cities since there are separate cycle lanes everywhere and the car drivers are bike-aware and slow down to let you by.

You do still need to take care since local cyclists will whizz past you as you bimble along and at busy junctions we found it was safer to get off and cross at the pedestrian lights. In Copenhagen cyclists own the road and will get annoyed if you accidentally step into their path. They even take their kids in the Christiania style bikes that have a carriage on the front and have perfected the art of cycling nonchalently, talking on a mobile while wearing a flimsy dress and high heels. Did you know that you can also take your bike on the train in the special carriages that are marked with a bike symbol, which makes sense if you head out of Copenhagen on the coastal train to Helsingor, Klampenborg or any of the other interesting things to see along this route? My kids effortlessly got into the bike vibe and really enjoyed the freedom of the city.

Rent Bikes to cycle around Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

We rented bikes to cycle around Copenhagen

3. Go swimming in the harbour

The harbour baths at Islands Brygge are justifiably popular as soon as the sun comes out and you do have to trust that the harbour water really is THAT clean (there is an oyster farm in the harbour after all!). There’s a shallow kid’s paddling pool, a longer pool for serious swimmers (spot those training for a triathlon) and a high jumping off point which my kids tested out multiple times. It’s free, open to all and there are lifeguards on duty, but if it gets a bit too crowded, remember that there are plenty of other unofficial places that you can swim in the harbour in summer. Just look for a stretch of harbour wall where there’s a ladder and not too many boats and you’ll probably see a local already having a dip. Our favourite spot was the stretch of harbour near our apartment between Nyhaven and the harbour bridge near the Parliament building where there’s a deck at the bridge end and plenty of benches and tables to sit out. Perfect if you want to bring your own beers and have an evening swim while the sun is setting. The Havnebadet Islands Brygge is open 7am-8pm 1 June-31 August.

Swim in the harbour baths at Islads Brygge in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Swim in the harbour baths at Islads Brygge in Copenhagen

4. Rides and more at Tivoli

Tivoli is a Copenhagen institution where you could take your granny or your teenagers and they’d all find something to enjoy (although probably not the same things). The gardens and fountains were beautiful, with roses blooming in the sunken garden and plenty of grassy areas where you can let the kids run around or sit on the grass. There are just enough rides to keep the adrenalin junkies entertained and although I braved The Demon loop the loop with the kids I enjoyed the old fashioned Alpine themed roller coaster much more. There are endless restaurants and food kiosks within Tivoli but I love that you can also bring in your own snacks or picnic and enjoy them in a shady area of grass under the trees.

We bought the PULS package bookable in advance for 329 DKK per person (£35/ €44/ $59) which gave us entrance to the park, a multi-ride pass and a snack and drink from one of the fast food vendors. As night falls the park takes on a more adult feel with glowing Chinese lanterns and people enjoying dinner with outdoor musical, pantomime or ballet performances in the different theatres. Best of all Tivoli has a high quality Danish feel and a lovely relaxed atmosphere that appeals to all ages. Tivoli Gardens are open April-end September and also at Halloween and Christmas. Entrance 99 DKK, Multiride ticket 199 DKK with other packages available.

Riding the roller coaster at Tivoli Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Riding the roller coaster at Tivoli

5. A gourmet bite to eat at Torverhallerne

When I stayed nearby at the Ibsens Hotel a couple of years ago, the Torverhallerne market halls were under construction but now they are a buzzing place to stop and buy fresh food and deli-delicious lunch-time delicacies. The outdoor paved areas around the hall are full of fruit and veg stalls with benches and tables to sit down, while most of the food vendors inside also have some seating space. Guy and I tried a lunch of smorrebrod, the Danish open sandwich, served at the bar of Hallernes Smorrebrod on Royal Copenhagen plates. The kids eyed up the Thai food trailer outside but settled for sandwiches made with nutty Danish brown bread and we finished up with coffee at the legendary Coffee Collective and a strawberry tart from Laura’s Bakery opposite. If you prefer to pick up a picnic there are stalls selling artizan bread and cheeses or deli stalls selling different salads and dips, then head for the nearby Botanic garden or the Kings Garden to stretch out on the grass. Torverhallerne is between Frederiksborgadde and Vendersgade close to Norreport Station and is open 10am-7pm most weekdays with slightly shorter hours at weekends.

Have lunch at Torverhallerne in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Have lunch at Torverhallerne in Copenhagen

6. A picnic in the Kings Garden

And spreaking of the Kings Garden or Kongens Have, this is where locals like to go in summertime to laze on the grass in the shade of the trees. In the centre there’s a romantic formal garden while on one side of the moat from the Rosenborg Castle there’s the rose garden which in summer blooms with scented roses and lavender, watched over by a statue of Queen Caroline Amalia. Ok, so the rose garden is more likely to delight your mother than your teenagers, but the Danish Crown Jewels in the Treasury of Rosenborg Slot are pretty impressive too. The Rosenborg Castle is also delightful if you enjoy a walk through Danish history but the Treasury really is packed with jewels and despite the soldiers on guard outside, it feels pretty laid back despite the considerable bling on display. The Kings Garden is free entry, the Rosenborg Castle and Treasury is open 10am-4pm (closes 5pm in summer) and costs 90 DKK to visit (children up to age 17 free)

A picnic in the Kings Garden Kongens Have in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

A picnic in the Kings Garden Kongens Have in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

7. A smoothie on the deck by the Copenhagen lakes

From the Kings Garden it’s a short bike ride to the Copenhagen Lakes, the stretch of water that snakes through the centre of Copenhagen and borders the residential neighbourhoods of Norrebro and Frederiksberg. We met my new blogging friend and Copenhagen expert Alex Berger from VirtualWayfarer for a coffee at the floating deck of KaffeSalonen where you can drink a smoothie or coffee or hire a brightly coloured or swan shaped pedalo to get out on the water. Alex advised me that the lakes are not quite as clean as the harbour, so best not to swim, but it’s a fabulous spot to relax overlooking the water. There are paths to walk or jog that run beside the lakes and benches to sit down and admire the view plus you could also try the Den Frankse Cafe or Cafe 22 as an alternative to KaffeSalonen.

Sitting by the Copenhagen Lakes at KaffeSalonen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting by the Copenhagen Lakes at KaffeSalonen

8. Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island

This new food venue on Paper island opened in April just along from the Royal Opera House in a large warehouse that’s filled with street food stalls and trailers and a stretch of harbour front lined with deck chairs and benches to sit outside. It’s a cool place to gather with friends on a sumer evening with DJ sounds, overlooking the harbour to catch the last rays of the sun with a beer in hand. The concept is to give small food vendors a place to do business, offering great food at reasonable prices, where you can get a snack from around 50 DKK. When we visited for a Friday night street-food-fest, we loved the atmosphere but I felt the food vision hadn’t quite been realised, with some vendors seeming a bit overwhelmed by the popularity of the place.

The pulled pork wrap I tried was outstanding, but required a 25 minute wait once my name had been added to their list – not quite fast food! The pizza slice I had in the meantime was burnt on the bottom and couple of other stalls had closed early or run out of food, but my kids enjoyed their spicy chicken stew from the Cuban stall. If you adjust your foodie expectations and don’t expect a gourmet experience just yet, Copenhagen Street Food gets a big tick as a cool place to chill with a bucket of beer overlooking the harbour. Copenhagen Street Food can be reached on the waterbus from Nyhaven to the Opera House and is open 12am-10pm for food and from 10am to late for coffee and drinks.

A beer by the harbour at Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

A beer by the harbour at Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island

9. Modern art by the sea at Louisiana

Louisiana modern art museum is well worth the 30 minute train ride from central Copenhagen at any time of year but in summertime it offers the perfect day out for those who enjoy art in a natural setting overlooking the sea. The original seaside villa has been enlarged with purpose built galleries housing changing exhibitions of art and sculpture. When we were there, there was a colourful Emil Nolde exhibition plus a sureal collection of paintings by American artist Philip Guston as well as modern art by some of the big names such as Giacometti and Danish painter Asger Jorn.

The gallery is surrounded by lawns and trees dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore and others, overlooking the sea. The large cafe serves excellent smorresbrod, pretty cakes and a lunchtime or dinner buffet with tables inside and outside or you can just bring your picnic and find a grassy spot overlooking the sound. When you’re done with the art, leave through the gate at the bottom of the hill and go for a swim off one of the jetties along the stretch of beach and shingle outside, my idea of a perfect artistic summer’s day. Louisiana is also magical in the evening when it’s open until 10pm Tuesday to Friday.

To get to Louisiana we took the coastal train from Norreport station in the direction of Helsingor and got off at Humlebaek station, then you can walk 15 mins or take a short bus ride down the road following the signs to get to Louisiana or alternatively take your bike on the train as we did with a 5 minute cycle at the other end.

Louisiana Modern Art Gallery in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Louisiana Modern Art Gallery by the sea in Copenhagen

10. Have a drink by the harbour as the sun goes down

The Copenhageners love to make the most of the short Scandinavian summer by spending as much of it outdoors as possible and we enjoyed warm summer evenings on our holiday just sitting by the harbour with a sundowner. Close to our apartment we found the deck of the Royal Danish Theatre at the end of Nyhaven had set up an outdoor summer cafe with a DJ to welcome the weekend. From here we could watch the lights come up in the Opera House opposite and the harbour buses going back and forth. Being delightfully democratic Denmark there are plenty of places like this along the harbour where you can just sit and enjoy a summer sunset, such as the deck by the ‘Black Diamond’ Royal Library or the Toldboden cafe near the Little Mermaid, but if you prefer you can bring your own wine or beers and find a place to sit along the harbour for the sunset.

A sundowner in Copenhagen harbour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

A sundowner in Copenhagen harbour

More cool things to do in Copenhagen

Bike + Train = adventure in Copenhagen
Eat the neighbourhood in Norrebro
A celebration of mussels – our gastro-cruise in Copenhagen with Copenhagen cooking

Cool places to stay in Copenhagen

A cool boutique hotel in Copenhagen – The Andersen Hotel
Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen – an affordable boutique hotel in Nansensgarde
Cosy up in Copenhagen at Avenue Hotel – video

Follow Heather on her travels’s board Wonderful Copenhagen on Pinterest.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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