travel: Copenhagen, Denmark

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Copenhagen is the epitome of cool.

The design. The lifestyle. The simplicity. The stylish black wardrobes. The cool cafes. The world-class restaurants. The coffee roasters.  I think this city probably invented the genre ‘hipster’.

I have lost track of the number of my our friends, bloggers and Insta-grammers who have recently headed for Scandinavian cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is famous for a lot of things. Being a budget destination is not one of them.

Scandinavia has some of the world’s highest prices, but Denmark’s were not as expensive as Ryan’s trips to Stockholm or Finland. Who knew it was possible to get a taste of Copenhagen on a budget without draining the bank account? Here are the budget-friendly reasons that made this trip one of our best ever!

 

STAY

1. Airbnb: cool Scandi design on a budget  

We traveled to Copenhagen over the Easter holiday. It was our first time in Scandinavia and our first trip to ever using Airbnb! By now you will know we are hooked, and Airbnb has been a total travel-game-changer for us.  We chose this charming apartment in the Østerbro neighbourhood.

Østerbro is also known as Copenhagen Ø. It is somewhat posh and at the same time completely down to earth. Østerbro is located on the north side of Copenhagen city centre. It is one of Copenhagen’s most attractive residential areas, especially for families with kids – or dogs, or a couple like us that doesn’t want to be in the thick of it.

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Every morning we walked along the Søerne Lakes to grab a coffee or sit on a bench and people watch. The lakes are man-made and stretch over a large part north-west of city centre. You can’t miss them on a map and it’s a great spot to escape the city hustle and bustle.

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Our flat was the perfect retreat. This was the beginning of my adoration for all things minimalist and Scandi design. We made use of our kitchen as most cafe’s and restaurants were closed over the Easter holiday. Big brunches and cozy dinners were the best way to make use of our accommodation and the perfect way to start and end our days.

SEE + DO

2. Soak in the lifestyle+ find the free things

It was a quiet Easter weekend in the city which made this trip less about touristy attractions.

Some of Copenhagen’s major museums are free to enter – like the National Museum, the National Gallery, the Brede Works (museum of industrialisation), the Post and Telegraph Museum, the Danish Music Museum and the Open Air Museum. Though some may charge extra for special exhibitions.

One of the best things to do in Copenhagen… walk and take it in. There is a lot to see in Copenhagen, but there was not a lot of pressure to try and squeeze everything in like some of the other major cities in Europe. We just tried to soak in the Danish lifestyle and enjoy a slower paced holiday.

 

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Cyclist everywhere! Year round, it is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world

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A walk through to Assistens Cemetery to see where Søren Kierkegaard is buried

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Easter Sunday service at St. Albans Church

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The Little Mermaid sculpture, inspired by Hans Christians Anderson’s fairytale. (Get there early to avoid crowds!)

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On a clear day, you can see all the way to Sweden from Copenhagen’s highest viewpoints. Head to the top of the Rundetårn or Round Tower instead. It was easier than stairs as it has a spiral ramp (stroller friendly!) and we learned it was designed for horses to ride up.

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Nyhavn

The colourful waterside townhouses and the boats along Nyhavn are iconic – you know, the images you see on all the postcards. It is beautiful. Historic. Docks and boats. 17th century townhouses. Bright colours. It is a busy part of town, with lots of touristy places to eat (mind the overpriced food…) but makes the perfect place to people watch.

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EAT + DRINK

One of our budget-hacks is grocery shopping and doing our own cooking at the Airbnb. There were lots of supermarkets but limited hours over the holiday weekend.  For a quick snack there are plenty of stalls selling hotdogs topped with crunchy onions, or for something a bit more Danish grab a Smørrebrød, an open sandwich that’s piled high with fillings. We were warned to steer clear of touristy and expensive places in Nyhavn and headed to student-friendly areas like Nørrebro or Vesterbro for lower prices.

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On Papirøen (Paper Island), Copenhagen Street Food has lots of international street food stalls, with everything from Brazilian BBQ to artisan cheesecake, and English pancakes to a falafel bar. I really loved all the coffee stalls and seeing the variety of things- a must see for foodies.

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3. Indulging in Copenhagen’s coffee + pastry scene 

Copenhagen has a reputation for outstanding food, proven by it’s 15 Michelin star (yep, 15!) restaurants. A visit to Noma would have been cool, but our budget was happy with all the amazing coffee spots to get our caffeine fix.

We visited The Coffee Collective more than a couple of times… and now we can find their coffee at Baba Budan in Edinburgh! The Coffee Collective is a micro-roaster with two coffee shops and a coffee school. In order to achieve their goal of making the best coffee, they are cooperating with farmers to develop a sustainable production and to improve the quality of the coffee, we can get behind that!

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Central Hotel og Café is the world’s smallest hotel and Copenhagen’s smallest coffee shop, with just five seats. Cozy up.

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After giving up sugar for Lent, Easter weekend was a glorious time in Denmark. This part of the world is known for their baking and beautiful pastries and it exceeded all expectations. We made it our mission to try as many of the infamous Danish pastries as possible. A visit to any bakery here will leave you with a big decision on your hands as the selection is amazing. They are light and crumbly, sweet and delicious.

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The best part…. I wasn’t overcome with gluten envy! We found the best local gluten-free bakery called Naturbageriet. I have never seen such a variety of GF breads + pastries in one place. Let’s just say we were went every day of our trip. I found Copenhagen to be really friendly gluten-free city.

A great foodie neighborhood is Nørrebro. It is known for its hip, multicultural feel and is a great district to spend an afternoon (or more, if you have the time). Here you will find designer shops and trendy restaurants right next door to cheap kebab joints and dive bars. Nørrebro also boasts one of Copenhagen’s hippest streets: Jaegersborggade. We had the BEST lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant called Ma’ed. There are days that I still think about it….

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We also made it over to Sweden but I will save that adventure for another post. We adored our long weekend in the Danish capital and it was so refreshing. It is easy to see how time and time again, international surveys celebrate Denmark as the happiest country in the world. How grateful we are that we got to experience it!

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What places make you happiest in the world?

Happy travels and Happy Easter, friends!

x

travel: Dublin, Ireland

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Our plane took off from the Edinburgh airport, I listened to half of a podcast and we were already preparing for landing in Dublin. Crazy fast.

Ireland is an extremely quick and affordable trip from Scotland. Flights are easy, but if you have more time, a combination of ferry and land travel through England and Scotland would provide so many opportunities for some good ‘ol sightseeing at various budgets.

Visiting Dublin was a dream come true for my sweet mother-in-law. Being here for her was almost as good as Christmas morning and we are so glad that we got to share the city with them.

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Stay

We stayed at the Castle Hotel, located just off O’Connell Street and only a 15-minute walk to many of Dublin’s top tourist attractions.
 
Recently renovated, the Castle Hotel maintains old Georgian features + charm.  A grand staircase, fireplaces and comfortable lounges make it easy to sit back, relax and unwind. What made this hotel really special was the 19th century wine vault restaurant that hosts live Irish music every night.  If there had been some dancing… perhaps Irish jigging going on, my mother-in-law and I would have been even more over the moon! I loved listening to her sing along.

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See + Do

Dublin has emerged as a prime budget trip destination. It is a hub for cheap flights, inexpensive food, fun pubs and lively locals. Dublin is also full of literary + cultural history.

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Temple Bar District

Temple Bar is a lively area on the bank of the River Liffey. If you want to party, this is your place, full of pubs and clubs. Not really our scene, but there were also loads of talented street musicians and great for people watching. More than a party district, many of Dublin’s cultural institutions (film, art and theatres) have set up shop here.

 

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Live Irish Music

Irish traditional music (also known as Irish trad or Irish folk music) is a unique sound which is at the core of the Irish culture and history.
 
Traditional Irish instruments include the fiddle + banjo and combined with the flute, whistle and accordion you cannot help but clap your hands and tap your feet!  Like I said, we spent our evenings in the hotel vault and could not get enough of the music.
 
St. Stephen’s Green
 

Spending part of an afternoon in St. Stephen’s Green is a good way to relax and watch the city go by. This stretch of greenery in the centre of town is a welcome retreat . We all grabbed coffee from a coffee shop round the corner called The Beanhive (great gluten-free muffin selection by the way) and scored some benches. Again, great people watching, happy duck ponds, and lots of flowers and greenery everywhere you look. Best of all… it is free!

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Trinity College + Book of Kells 

Ireland’s oldest university makes for a beautiful stroll. The historic buildings, gardens and monuments are worth a visit. It is most famous for its library housing the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells was written in 800 AD by a group of monks and was buried in the ground for safe keeping against the Vikings. In the 1600’s it was rediscovered and sent to Trinity College where it has been ever since.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Built between 1220 and 1260, St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the few buildings left from the medieval city of Dublin. Today, St Patrick’s is the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland and still the largest cathedral in Ireland.

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Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest building, a leading visitor attraction and a place of pilgrimage for almost 1,000 years. Renowned for its beauty, architecture and exquisite floor tiles, it is home to the famous 12th Century crypt, one of the oldest and largest in Britain and Ireland.

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Ha’penny Bridge

The Ha’Penny Bridge is a pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides of the River Liffey. When it was originally built, it cost  half a pence to cross, hence the name Ha’penny Bridge. Before this bridge was built, people used to cross the river using ferries. Today there are many bridges crossing to each side, but this was the original and most significant one to see.

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Eat + Drink

The scene is changing in Dublin. Irish food is simple and hearty and lots of bloggers say it is an up and coming foodie scene and becoming quite the gastro haven on Instagram. A lot of menus I saw hosted a variety of seasonal cuisine; lamb in spring, to fish in summer, stews and soups in the winter and, of course, potatoes any time of the year. We enjoyed the huge breakfast spread at our hotel and were able to enjoy some local food throughout the day. Pubs seemed to have good, hearty local Irish food that was easy on the budget.  We had lots of fresh seafood, vegetable stews and Dad liked the soda bread.

The Rolling Donut 

Wowzer. Handmade. Baked fresh every day. The Rolling Donut specialise in unique, filled gourmet donuts created using a sourdough starter.

Check out some of these flavour bombs: Peanut Berry Delight, a rich peanut butter filling topped with a sweet mixed berry compote and finished with a sprinkle of toasted peanuts Baileys Bliss, a Baileys-infused cream filling paired with a rich vanilla glaze Molly Malone, a sumptuous apple and cinnamon combination topped with vanilla glaze and biscuit crumble!

No gluten free options, so a bit of gluten envy going on… but the coffee was delicious and I was genuinely happy that Ryan got to eat so many donuts. They are his favourite food group.

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Guinness Storehouse

Some would say that one of the best things to do in Dublin is to have a pint of Guinness. I am allergic and it is a bit too heavy for Ryan’s liking, but if you are into it, seems like having an authentic ale from the storehouse would be a highlight. People say that it really does taste better in Ireland!

The Guinness factory is a major part of Dublin and its history. Guinness provided housing and jobs for much of the residents of Dublin. You can tour the storehouse and have a sample on the rooftop patio. 

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Day Trip: Malahide Village

Before the trip ended, we decided to take a break from the busy sightseeing in the city and opted for a quiet day trip with some medieval history  in the beautiful seaside village of Malahide. Only 35 minutes by train, this quaint and charming village feels much further from the hustle and bustle of Dublin.

We started with a nice wander down main street, grabbed a coffee and strolled along the seaside path as we worked our way to Malahide Castle.  Surrounded by lush parks and tall trees, the walk up to the castle makes for a lovely stroll. Weeping willows, bright flowers – and even the odd peacock! – can be found within this secret garden’s walls.

Sharing grounds with the castle is a fab cafe called The Garden House. It was the perfect spot to grab a to-go bag and picnic on the castle grounds. I was really impressed with their healthy selection of sandwiches, salads and wraps – all locally sourced and loads of home baking.

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Not bad for a quick trip to Dublin. I feel like we covered a lot of ground and really took advantage of all the city had to offer. What are some of your favourite cities to visit with a long weekend?

 

Happy travels!

x

 

 

travel: Lake Geneva, Switzerland

budget trips, holidays, lifestyle, travel

Geneva, the capital of fondue, chocolate, luxury watches, Swiss Army Knives, and world peace.

They all sounds great. But an $8 coffee, not so great. We are budget travelers and our friends lovingly warned us about the prices.

Telling others that you are going to Switzerland on “a budget” just before Christmas, gets you some sympathetic head-nods and half grins. Switzerland is rated the most expensive country in the world to visit, with Geneva being one of the ten most expensive cities in the world to live in!

We really did not want to skip over Switzerland until we were older (aka retired with more money). To our surprise, we found it doable and we were able to enjoy it’s many Christmas charms and festivities.

 

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Do + See

Lake Geneva: Geneva is located on the shores of Western Europe’s largest lake, and surrounded by the magnificent Alps. Unfortunately, the weekend we visited, fog and light rain followed us from Edinburgh. We had lovely views of the Alps from our plane, but not from the shores of the Lake. Glaciers in the French Alps are bright turquoise and flow directly into the deep blue waters of the Rhone River, which is fed by the lake. The two colors mix together and give the lake an extraordinary marbled look!Bike/Jog/Walk/Snack on a bench. Take advantage of the paths surrounding the lake.

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Mount Blanc: From Geneva you can usually see Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. The combined views of lake and alpine mountains, yes please! We opted for a more affordable train ride through the villages that line the shores of Lake Geneva. However, a rental car to Blanc would be the perfect day trip from Geneva, as it is only an hour away.

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St. Peter’s Cathedral: It was here, where John Calvin lead the Protestant Reformation. Inside the church there is still a wooden chair once used by Calvin (yep, Ryan got a picture with it). Get a workout by climbing the towers of the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, where you can enjoy the best view of Geneva. Only 157 steps of the north tower to experience one of the city’s most breathtaking (and oldest) views. Be sure to go to the north tower so you can go outside for an unrestricted view for nice panoramic pictures of the city and Jet d’Eau.

Jet d’Eau (Water Jet) Fountain: Geneva’s most famous landmark shooting water 140m into the air. It is Europe’s tallest fountain, which blasts 132 gallons of water. The jet is a prominent feature in Geneva’s skyline. It is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Statue of Liberty, and Big Ben! We even learned that is turned on by hand every morning by a jet caretaker at exactly 9am, according to a precise Swiss watch, of course.

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Old Town + City Centre : The Old Town should be next on any visitors itinerary. A patchwork of pavement cafés, museums, designer retail and art galleries. Geneva’s most famous shopping district is full of designer retail + Switzerland’s famous watchmakers like Rolex and Cartier. Not part of our budget trip, but still really interesting to learn more about the birthplace of watchmaking, the industry + the luxurious window displays.

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Afternoon in Carouge: Carouge is a quiet neighborhood in Geneva with colorful buildings, local cafes, and charming boutiques.It was actually spell-bounding, walking along the streets, the Mediterranean-style houses, a number of gardens and the small artists’ workshops.

Carouge takes you back in time. Many locals would introduce Carouge to you as a “small Italy”. It is one of those areas which immediately stands out from all the rest, absolutely incomparable to the rest of the city. Cool architecture. Cozy cafes. Variety of bistros. Unique antique shops and vendors. We cannot recommend it enough- an afternoon or evening stroll, go for a café or dinner here for sure.

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Montreux Christmas Market:  Christkindlmarkt. Marché de Noël. Weihnachtsmarkt. I am obsessed with them and a bit of a Christmas market ‘junkie’. Most are full of wooden huts, homemade delicious treats, stunning decorations and unique gifts. I love to embrace the festive atmosphere. Slowly strolling. Amazing scents. Herds of jolly market-goers. Regional specialities- completely overwhelmed by auras of waffles, fondue and spices.

We spent a good half day in Montreux. As daylight gently turned to night, Montreux started to sparkle. Before roaming the market we sat on a bench looking at the lake, people watching and soaking it all it. Each little cabin, boutique and restaurant glowing with lights, gave us that warm Christmassy feeling despite the cold weather. We loved indulging in the fragrant cocktail of cinnamon, fruit and spiced wine, treating ourselves to a warming mug of Glühwein. Vin Chaud. Glögg. Mulled Wine … delicious!

The Christmas market at Montreux was highly recommended as an absolute must see. A touch of class and a whole lotta sophistication. If you like dramatic scenery and Christmas ambience mixed with some light shows, pots of fondue + music, then you will love it too!

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Day Trip to Vevey: A charming town on the north shore of Lake Geneva.  This French -speaking town created milk chocolate (1875) and was the final home of Charlie Chaplin. Vevey is known for its outdoor market  on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Buy a glass of wine, listen to brass bands + Swiss folk music, and watch traditional craftsmen at work in the market.

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Eats + Drinks

It is easy to indulge/overindulge in Switzerland. Everywhere you turn there are places to try raclette, fondue, truffles, sausages, chocolate of every variety, wine and pastries. We were surprised by all the international restaurants but I guess it makes sense with Geneva being such an international hub for the UN and where it is located geographically. Like always, we relied on Happy Cow to find good gluten-free options and local coffee joints.

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Geneva was such an unexpected surprise.

There were so many fun things to see and history to learn. We brought home the best souvenirs — fine Swiss chocolates, an antique clock for our mantle and Santa mugs from our mulled wine at the Christmas market.

Have you traveled to other countries during the holidays?

We hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season celebrating with friends and loved ones, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Blessings and peace as you begin 2017!

x