We wanted a few days family holiday before the craziness of Christmas. We aren’t ski people and you have to travel too far to guarantee warm weather in December. The kids are 4 years old and 9 months so what could we find that they’d enjoy?
We opened a Top Ten Christmas Markets blog and dropped a finger onto the list. Copenhagen. Great! Big Borgen fans.
We are big believers in the Keep It Simple travelling ethos. Get an apartment so you don’t have to share a room with the baby, eat in during the evenings so you can maintain their routine, and don’t try to over-stuff your days.
Here is how that ethos held up in the Danish capital:
Copenhagen Airport, Metro and trains
I thought two things when we first arrived at Copenhagen airport:
- This is a clean and tidy looking airport.
- What are these “cabin luggage trolleys” for? I’ll just carry my cabin luggage like any normal person.
So I was right about the first thought, the airport is clean, spacious, tidy, modern and LARGE. Which leads me on to how wrong I was to not accept the offer of a Cabin Luggage trolley! It is a fair hike from the terminal to baggage reclaim, probably 15mins worth. With the buggy not meeting you at the gate (we flew Easyjet) but appearing at carousel 9 (the out-size baggage), that is 15mins with baby, nappy bag, cabin bag and small child, who is still recovering from the horror of learning what your leg falling asleep feels like. It was, let’s just say, quite an effort.
MadDadSkill One: Use Cabin Luggage trolley at the airport.
Within the airport everything is well signposted. There are machines where you can buy public transport tickets and there are some very helpful people stationed by these machines to help you understand all the ticket options. We used the metro and S-trains throughout the trip and they were easily spacious enough for the buggy, very regular and on time, and some of the cleanest public transport we’ve used. Metro/rail ticket from airport to Østrebro (our apartment) was £8 for the family. A taxi would have been £45 and required us to fly with car seats. We didn’t take the bus simply because we always had the buggy so the spacious train was preferable, but I did have a look at the buses and they seemed clean and modern.
MadDadSkill Two: Download the free Rejseplanen App for route planning on public transport.
Day One: Tivoli Gardens and Christmas Market
We spent the first day at the famed Tivoli Gardens, which opens at 11am and is right next door to Copenhagen Central train station. It’s a delightful winter wonderland of amusement rides, winter clothing, and craft stalls as well as restaurants and street food. There were plenty of rides for my 4 year old to enjoy including: three carousels, spinning pirate ships, and ride on cars. Beware that each costs 25DKK per person! So if you are blessed/cursed with a child, like we are, who insists you accompany him on every ride, it’s the equivalent of £5.60 a time. Therefore, we opted for the unlimited ride bracelet at 220DKK per person. Ten rides and it’s worth it, we almost clocked up 10 rides on the pirate ships alone!
If that’s too pricey there is a large free playground in the north-eastern edge of the park. It has a sandpit, rope bridges, slides, and climbing frames, all of which parents can clamber over too.
MadDadSkill Three: Beware the ride – vendors don’t take cash. You’ll need to purchase tokens from automatic booths around the park, these only take card. It’s a bit of a mission to find the cash booth (in the center under the large green swing labelled Balloon Land! Just ask someone, they are very helpful.)
When the sun sets is when Tivoli really transitions from pretty to magical. The Christmas music is turned up, the trees and buildings are all lit with Christmas lights and there are areas of illumination art. If you’ve been put off by the price of the rides, seeing the lights by night is worth the entrance fee (£12) alone. Just come in, walk around, and stuff your face with candy floss!
We ate in Price’s Diner – simple American Diner but with a standard of burger much higher than Frankie & Bennys or TGIFridays. They serve the Juicy Lucy, a steamed cheese burger with cheese melted inside the burger itself, I’ve been craving one since an episode of ManvFood years ago! Our kids needed a break around 3.30pm so we stopped in Kahler which had a section to just sit in the warmth and have a drink (there was a noticeable lack of coffee shops, most places were classier sit down restaurants or takeaway coffee stalls). A cup of Glögg (mulled wine) cost us 79DKK, couldn’t help but notice it was 30DKK outside! But the kids needed a rest and to warm up so needs must.
MadDadSkill Four: You know how much your kids can handle, plan your arrival so you can survive to nightfall (approx 4.30pm in December), it’s worth it.
Day Two: Strøget, Round Tower, Nyhavn, Copenhagen Street Food and Christiania
Unfortunately, we were struck by some fairly miserable weather on the second day. We walked down Strøget (one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe), it’s basically 1km of every international retailer you can name. We passed Rundetaarn (The Round Tower), which looked like good fun as it is a ramp all the way up so we could have pushed the buggy, but the weather wasn’t good enough to get a decent view so we skipped the climb in hope it would clear up later – it didn’t. We walked through the Nyhavn Christmas Market. It was nice and festive but we were a little disappointed to not find more locally made Christmas ornaments, still, there was a lot of Glögg to be had! Nyhaven is also the location of the iconic multi coloured house facades, and apparently a “lock up your Love” bridge.
We continued across the new Inner Habour Bridge to Paper Island, the home of Copenhagen Street Food festival. I’ve written a whole separate post on our experience there, but suffice it to say, this was our personal highlight of the trip. We love a good street food scene and this was one of the best we’ve been to. With the miserable weather outside we spent all afternoon eating in there.
MadDadSkill Five: The whole walk (Nørreport-Nyhavn-Paper Island) only took us about 30mins along large, mostly pedestrian streets easily manageable with a 4 year old and a buggy.
CPH Street Food
MadDadSkill Six: Paper Island street food is closing in 2017. Go, go now!
From there we walked past Christiania, mostly just to say we’d seen it. It is people’s homes, not a tourist attraction, and the “street art” is much more on the graffiti side of the scale than historic murals.
Just west of Christiania is the Church of Our Saviour. Again not buggy friendly but with a massive tower and staircase on the outside, it looks like it would be a lot of fun for those fans of a panoramic view and brave parents with baby slings!
Hop the Metro back north two stops to Nørreport and immediately outside the metro station is Torvehallerne, two lovely glass fronted market buildings with food stalls inside. Ideal to park yourself for a snack, coffee or to pick up quality produce for dinner. We got a sizeable quantity of sushi to take away at Sushi Lovers, they had some excellent looking “Dragon” rolls.
Day Three: Danish National Aquarium – The Blue Planet
We needed to be at the airport at 1pm but discovered The Blue Planet (largest Aquarium in Northern Europe) was literally the stop before the airport on the Metro so we elected to swing by there on the way home. Once off the Metro at Kongens Nytorv it’s an easy, signposted, 12mins walk.
MadDadSkill Seven: They have large storage lockers for luggage so don’t worry about being burdened by your bags.
I’ll be honest it didn’t feel like a particularly large aquarium, perhaps we’ve been spoilt by Seaworld. We had wandered around it all within half an hour. Admittedly that may be because we were going at a 4 year old’s pace and that involves running from tank to tank gawking as opposed to reading the information. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it, it is worth a visit, particularly for the interactive element. There was a “petting pool” and in the rainforest section a stall where the kids could handle some creepy crawlies and even eat bugs!! (my son wasn’t keen and my rugby initiation days are behind me so I don’t know how tasty the bugs are!) Outside there is a large playground with an excellent view over the water.
Overall we found the Copenhagen experience to be fun, festive and relaxing. Relaxing isn’t always how I’d describe our family holidays, but notably the laid back and helpful nature of the Danes made for an environment where we felt very welcome as a young family, never rushed and never inconveniencing anyone. The city has that delightfully old European feel that meshes very nicely with Christmas decorations and lights, yet retains all the modern amenities to make family travel with a buggy a breeze. You can really see why it is known as the “Friendly old girl of a town”.
Going to Copenhagen soon? Ask us some questions below and we’ll help however we can.