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Friday 26 May 2017

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Copenhagen to Helsingør via Hans Christian Andersen

If you’re thinking of travelling to Denmark, Copehagen is a pretty good place to start, but it won’t give you a typical flavour of the rest of this great country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the expansion of the EU, whilst greatly beneficial to new members in so many ways, is slowly but surely diluting the character of those countries belonging to it. The huge cultural differences between east and west are diminishing as we head ever closer to a much more uniform state of Europe.
That said, Copenhagen has many charms and – despite its northern latitude – is host to a plethora of alfresco eating and drinking opportunities. When it gets a bit chilly, they just switch on the patio heaters and hand you a blanket – it all makes us look really nesh in the UK, as we dive under cover as soon as the temperature drops below 70 (other temperature scales are available).
As you wander the sprawling streets of this ancient city, you can soak up its charms fairly easily on foot, but a canal cruise is highly recommended. It’ll set you back about £7, and you’ll pay almost as much for a beer which will be offered on a tray prior to leaving the harbour (there’s neither a bar nor toilet on board), but it’s a great way to spend an hour and a half.
A good time to travel weather wise is July or August, when you’ve got more chance of sunshine. Scandanavian Airlines run a very efficient, reliable service from Manchester on their workhorse MD 87s (don’t listen to the safety grounding rumours – pilots love these planes, and the grounding of American Airlines’ MD 80 fleet seems more political than anything).
There’s no denying that Copenhagen is an expensive city. Eating out will demand a fairly significant budget, but good value can be found in establishments off the main pedestrianised streets. Expect to pay well over a fiver for a beer (usually Carlsberg or Tuborg) and anything up to twenty quid for a bottle of house wine. Most main courses are around the £15 mark, so by the time you’ve added a starter, a sweet and drinks, you’re looking at a bill which you’d expect from some of the more exclusive restaurants in the UK.
Hotels are generally of a good standard. We stayed at the Ibsens Hotel, about a ten minute walk from Strøget (the longest pedestrianised shopping street in the world) and just five minutes from the train station at Nørreport. Note that breakfast is not usually included in your tariff, but offered as an optional extra for about £8 per person per day. We found it great to skip breakfast, not having to get up to a timetable and drag your scraggy carcase down to feed with a lot of other bleary-eyed (or annoying bright-eyed and bushy-tailed) residents. We would then amble out for the day in our own time, and enjoy a smørrebrød (traditional Danish open sandwich – highly recommended) or an authentic Danish pastry (obligatory) – a far cry from the ones we’re used to at home.
If you like to do the ‘unmissable’ sites when you visit a place, you might want to drop in on the twice beheaded ‘Little Mermaid‘, but be aware she really is quite tiny, and not so easily accessible from the main drag. On a nice day you can walk, but if the weather is not so clement, she’s just one train stop away from Nørreport.
A little further afield, but well worth the trip, is Helsingør – home to Kronborg Castle, inspiration for Shakespeare’s Elsinore. It’s a mere 45 minutes on the train, and the cheapest way to get there is with a 24-hour ticket (about £12) – whatever you do, don’t forget to validate the ticket at your first journey; escaping the wrath of the Danish ticket inspectors is highly recommended.
A visit to Tivoli Gardens is also a must – even if you’re not really a theme-park rider. These delightful grounds are home to some twenty-odd rides (only three or four can be classed as anything approaching white knuckle), landscaped gardens and a host of eating and drinking establishments. You can quite easily lose a day here simply absorbing the atmosphere.
And if you can possibly manage it, do squeeze in the Hans Christian Andersen experience. It’s of the ilk of Bowness’s Beatrix Potter Experience in the UK’s Lake District, and offers a charming blend of Andersen’s life story and the bringing to life of his most famous fairy tales. It’s around £7 to get in, and you can complete it satisfactorily within half an hour, but it really is quite magical.
Well, that’s my brief overview, but do have a look at the other Denmark posts for more details on eating, drinking and entertainment.

Copenhagen Harbour - the romantic waterside

Copenhagen and Helsingør in a long weekend

If you’re thinking of travelling to Denmark, Copehagen is a pretty good place to start, but it won’t give you a typical flavour of the rest of this great country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the expansion of the EU, whilst greatly beneficial to new members in so many ways, is slowly but surely diluting the character of those countries belonging to it. The huge cultural differences between east and west are diminishing as we head ever closer to a much more uniform state of Europe.

That said, Copenhagen has many charms and – despite its northern latitude – is host to a plethora of alfresco eating and drinking opportunities. When it gets a bit chilly, they just switch on the patio heaters and hand you a blanket – it all makes us look really nesh in the UK, as we dive under cover as soon as the temperature drops below 70 (other temperature scales are available).

As you wander the sprawling streets of this ancient city, you can soak up its charms fairly easily on foot, but a canal cruise is highly recommended. It’ll set you back about £7, and you’ll pay almost as much for a beer which will be offered on a tray prior to leaving the harbour (there’s neither a bar nor toilet on board), but it’s a great way to spend an hour and a half.

A good time to travel weather wise is July or August, when you’ve got more chance of sunshine. Scandanavian Airlines run a very efficient, reliable service from Manchester on their workhorse MD 87s (don’t listen to the safety grounding rumours – pilots love these planes, and the grounding of American Airlines’ MD 80 fleet seems more political than anything).

There’s no denying that Copenhagen is an expensive city. Eating out will demand a fairly significant budget, but good value can be found in establishments off the main pedestrianised streets. Expect to pay well over a fiver for a beer (usually Carlsberg or Tuborg) and anything up to twenty quid for a bottle of house wine. Most main courses are around the £15 mark, so by the time you’ve added a starter, a sweet and drinks, you’re looking at a bill which you’d expect from some of the more exclusive restaurants in the UK.

Hotels are generally of a good standard. We stayed at the Ibsens Hotel, about a ten minute walk from Strøget (the longest pedestrianised shopping street in the world) and just five minutes from the train station at Nørreport. Note that breakfast is not usually included in your tariff, but offered as an optional extra for about £8 per person per day. We found it great to skip breakfast, not having to get up to a timetable and drag your scraggy carcase down to feed with a lot of other bleary-eyed (or annoying bright-eyed and bushy-tailed) residents. We would then amble out for the day in our own time, and enjoy a smørrebrød (traditional Danish open sandwich – highly recommended) or an authentic Danish pastry (obligatory) – a far cry from the ones we’re used to at home.

If you like to do the ‘unmissable’ sites when you visit a place, you might want to drop in on the twice beheaded ‘Little Mermaid‘, but be aware she really is quite tiny, and not so easily accessible from the main drag. On a nice day you can walk, but if the weather is not so clement, she’s just one train stop away from Nørreport.

A little further afield, but well worth the trip, is Helsingør – home to Kronborg Castle, inspiration for Shakespeare’s Elsinore. It’s a mere 45 minutes on the train, and the cheapest way to get there is with a 24-hour ticket (about £12) – whatever you do, don’t forget to validate the ticket at your first journey; escaping the wrath of the Danish ticket inspectors is highly recommended.

A visit to Tivoli Gardens is also a must – even if you’re not really a theme-park rider. These delightful grounds are home to some twenty-odd rides (only three or four can be classed as anything approaching white knuckle), landscaped gardens and a host of eating and drinking establishments. You can quite easily lose a day here simply absorbing the atmosphere.

And if you can possibly manage it, do squeeze in the Hans Christian Andersen experience. It’s of the ilk of Bowness’s Beatrix Potter Experience in the UK’s Lake District, and offers a charming blend of Andersen’s life story and the bringing to life of his most famous fairy tales. It’s around £7 to get in, and you can complete it satisfactorily within half an hour, but it really is quite magical.

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