Copenhagen and Scandinavia Tour
6th January, 2023 – arrival in Copenhagen
Upon arriving in Copenhagen, we were greeted by a sign at the airport exit with our name on it. This was quite the luxury and so was the vehicle we rode in! We were all of a sudden travelling in style!
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We got to the Scandic Sydhavnen at about 7:30pm, dropped off our luggage and jumped in a taxi to Nyhavn to meet Travelling With Five, another Australian family who we had been following and chatting to online while we were in Lapland. Our paths crossed for literally fourteen hours in Copenhagen, so we decided to meet up for waffles in the most photographed and talked about street in the city! It was an exceptional way to start our time in Copenhagen.
The taxi cost us $40 each way, we travelled about 5km each way – excessive? Yes! Were they the most expensive waffles and churros we’d ever bought? Yes! Was it all worth it? Yes!
It was great to talk to Travelling With Five about their travels, share stories and discuss future travel plans. As for the waffles and churros, WOW! They were something to write home about!!
There were pancakes on sticks, churros and waffles, served with almost any topping you could imagine! They were exorbetent in cost, too – welcome to Denmark!
7th January, 2023 – Copenhagen
Our day started with buffet breakfast at Scandic Sydhavnen, this was a welcome bonus. A big breakfast covered in the cost meant we could not only save on our meals throughout the day but also meant we could get some healthy foods in before we indulged on danishes and other yummies only to be found in Scandinavia!
We left Scandic Sydhavnen at around 10:00am and made our way to the train station where we navigated our way to the city centre. It was very easy to travel by public transport, which of course made us question why we had not considered it the night before. That said, we were limited for time the night before so the taxi was a good and easy option.
We arrived the city, got Google Maps up on the phone using our HolaFly eSim and we were off! We had mapped out our day with key sites for the day being The Round Tower, changing of the guards at Amelienborg Palace, visiting the museum at Amelienborg Palace, a walk through of Rosenborg Castle and the gardens, making our way to Nyhan for dinner.
We managed to tick all of the boxes for the day, walking over 20,000 steps and the little legs were ragged by the end of it!
The Round Tower was fun, making our way up the tower stopping in at all of the exhibits along the way, including being able to look up and down the centre of the tower. It was an impressive building and the boys were amused (and liked) by the fact that the King wanted the tower to be a ramp so that he could be pulled up in a carriage, all of those years ago!
Our next stop was the changing of the guards at Amelienborg Palace. We knew it started at 12pm so we left in enough time but there were tired legs by this stage already and therefore the feet were dragging! We had a list of must-try Danish foods/treats, so we stopped in at a supermarket on the way and bought ourselves some Super Flyers, a licorice stick filled with sherbert; and, Flodebollers, a gooey marshmellow treat with a biscuit base and covered in chocolate! With a quick hit of sugar, we made it to the Palace, just in time! The band was playing, the guards were marching and changing positions. It was quite a spectacle and we all thoroughly enjoyed watching it. This was a real highlight for the boys, they had never seen anything like it.
We wandered around the centre point of the buildings that made up the Palace for a while before walking through the museum. It was impressive, interesting and a great size to keep the boys engaged.
Our next stop was Rosenborg Castle with the hope that we were going to find a white hot dog stand (as was recommended) on the roadside to get ourselves a traditional Danish hot dog. Unfortunately we didn’t find one before the Castle, but we did manage to catch up with the band as they went back into the grounds of the Castle.
Rosenborg Castle was most impressive and a highlight for all of us. The architecture was stunning, it was a smaller castle than others I’d been to and therefore enjoyable to walk through. The rooms were tastefully decorated, beautiful tapestries, the ceilings were incredible, the artwork throughout was unfathomable. We were even able to see the crown jewels in the basement exhibit. The boys were in awe of the REAL swords, REAL crowns and REAL armour. Prior to this, these were just objects in TV shows or movies they watch. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
The gardens at Rosenborg Castle was immaculate. So well designed and cared for. Walking through them was a highlight for me.
By the time we left Rosenborg Castle, we were well and truly ready for lunch! We had seen a hot dog stand back near The Round Tower, so we made a bee line for that one and boy it was the best hot dog we’d had! Finn had a mega dog and he thought it was hilarious how they squirted the sauce in the centre of the bun then shoved the hot dog in the middle. Taj had a bacon dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon – perfect for our meat loving kid! Geoff and I had the traditional hot dog which was a hot dog topped with pickled cucumbers, mustard and crunchy onions – so good!!
Our afternoon commitment to the boys, and the one they had looked forward to the most, was the Lego Shop on the Stroget (the main pedestrian street). The Stroget is 1.5km in length and lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Their eyes were wide and they almost ran through the door! There were Lego kits for anything and everything you could imagine! They soon found the ‘hard to find anywhere else’ section and were set on a mission to find a Lego kit that represented our trip in a significant way. There was a little bit of contemplation back and forth but they both walked out happy with Christmas related kits – Taj bought Santa’s Village and Finn bought Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer. Two happy boys! They had been saving their Christmas money for that moment, so were very pleased.
Once we had ticked the Lego shop box, we had to tick the coffee box!! We found a cafe/bakery nearby, ordered ourselves some local treats and coffee and sat for about an hour! We needed a break, before we took off again for Nyhavn. It was warm, quiet and relaxing – it was perfect!
We then dangled the bait of dinner at Nyhavn, pizza or pasta was the request, so that was what they were promised. They just had to walk about 1.5km to get it! We got Google Maps out again and made our way along some interesting streets until we got to the canal which we followed all the way around the Nyhavn. There was a lot of whinging about tired legs and our minds were going a little crazy by this stage, so as soon as we arrived, we found the first place with pizza and pasta, sat down and ordered our meals, with local beer included!
For our final leg of the day, we had to get back to Scandic Sydhavnen on public transport. We made it without hiccups which was a real blessing. A wrong turn may well have broken us!!
8th January – the beginning of the Jewels of Scandinavia tour – Copenhagen
We began our tour – Jewels of Scandinavia, with Europamundo Vacaciones. We are on tour from Copenhagen, to Stockholm and back to Helsinki. We are travelling by coach and ferry between Stockholm and the mainland of Finland.
We met our guide, Jose and the driver and joined other passengers for a bus tour, with a local guide, of Copenhagen. We passed by many of the attractions in two and a half hours and had three stops.
1. Nyhavn, which was the first time we’d seen it in the daylight. It is a very impressive stretch of very colourful buildings! Very iconic!
2. Amelienborg Palace, where we learned where everyone lived and discovered that Princess Mary and Prince Frederik’s twins were celebrating their twelfth birthday. The flags were up and everyone was home.
3. The Little Mermaid, which is as underwhelming as we were warned, however, her fame comes with an interesting tale. The story goes that she became famous when she made headlines around the world when someone chopped her head off. It was considered very suspicious when a journalist coincidentally found her head and broke the story. She subsequently lost her head again and an arm, here or there, however, she is repeatedly repaired and will continue to be as required.
Our tour of Copenhagen ended at about 11:30am and we were on our own to explore further.
And, that we did…
We set off on foot to the National Museet especially to see the Viking exhibit. It was very impressive and the boys thoroughly enjoyed seeing items from the 800s and learning about the history of the Vikings.
I was equally as impressed with the Toy exhibition, particularly the dolls houses. The detail in each room was exceptional and the way it was displayed for visitors was excellent.
From there, we walked to Torvehallerne KBH, the most amazing food market in Copenhagen!! We wanted one of everything but resisted sampling amazing Smørrebrød, a bakery treat, a coffee from the Coffee Collective (which was amazing but did cost $11.50 each – youch!) and a specialty chocolate! Oh my, it was amazing!!! I wish we had more days here so we could go back!!
After lunch we made our way back to Nyhavn for a canal tour. We were a little early, so we stopped for a beer on the path of King’s New Square. Little legs were getting tired and needed juice to keep going.
Finally, we went on our canal tour which was truly exceptional! We thoroughly enjoyed the ride, loved seeing everything from a different angle and the highlight was most definitely going under/through the low and narrow bridges! The precision of their driving of the boats is amazing. The guide said that the boats are made specifically to measure to fit under the bridges in these canals. We were dropped at the far end of Nyhavn, so we wandered one last time up the streets taking in the magnificence of the colours and the atmosphere.
On our way back to the hotel, the plan was to find a unique pub, perhaps (and ideally), one underground, or in a basement. We had walked past many the day before and wanted to go in but it had not been the right time. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any on our way back to the train station so we opted for an American diner where we could get a burger and chips and quickly be on our way.
After dinner, we stopped at Netto, a little supermarket near the train station and bought ourselves some travel snacks for the trip the next day.
We wanted to get back early enough to give the boys some digital time before they went to bed. They have been so good on this trip, walking large amounts, visiting places that in some cases they would prefer not to. One thing we know about travelling with them though, is that they absolutely need their downtime where they can switch off and do what they want to do. The flavour of the month is playing Pokemon at the moment and as always watching Netflix downloads on their devices.
While the boys had their down time, Geoff and I madly packed so that once the boys were in bed, we too, could have some downtime!
9th January, 2023 – Copenhagen to Stockholm
We had an early start on our tour today, we had to be ready and on the bus by 7:30am. Again, the boys were great and we did it with ease.
We drove through the Monday morning Copenhagen traffic and stopped just shy of any hour into the trip at a town called Helsingor where we were given some time to wander around Kronborg Castle. It is a very impressive castle and has a huge moat around the outside. The castle itself is located on the edge of the mainland of Copenhagen. From the waters edge, you can see across to the town Helsingborg, in Sweden.
After a walk around the base, we returned to the bus and drove to the ferry which took us the short, twenty minute trip, across the border to Sweden. Customs did a quick check on the bus, took a look at us all and then sent us on our way. No stamps in passports here either, it is very strange (and disappointing) that there are not more thorough checks of passports in Europe these days. We didn’t even have our passports checked when we flew into Copenhagen from Finland.
We enjoyed a nice little stop in the city of Jönköping on our trip between Copenhagen and Stockholm. There was enough time for a delicious löjrom pizza from the stylish Stuk followed by a walk along the pathway of the second largest lake in Sweden.
We continued to travel on the bus and in the dark. This was to be expected but a bit of a shame as it meant we couldn’t see anything. It was a nice break though so Geoff and I managed a little doze and the boys were glued to their devices, enjoying their much needed ‘time out’ doing what they wanted to do.
Just fifty kilometres from Stockholm, the quaint little town of Mariefred, is home to this majestic Gripsholm Castle, which we were fortunate to see lit up in the evening. It is located on an island just off the shore, of the third largest lake in Sweden, Mälaren.
We arrived late to Scandic Talk Hotel so opted for dinner in the restaurant at the hotel. It was good, as was the Swedish beer! As soon as we finished, we were off to bed. Even though we hadn’t done much, we were tired and ready for a good night sleep.
10th January, 2023 – Stockholm
Our local tour of Stockholm once again started at 9:00am, so we were up and at it for breakfast and ready in the Scandic Talk foyer by 8:50am. After collecting the local guide from the city, we toured around the outskirts of the Old Town, through the ‘down town’ (the new part of Stockholm) and made a couple of stops for photos along the way. The local tour finished with a short walking tour in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. We saw the smallest sculpture in Stockholm and she showed us some points of interest in the narrow cobblestoned town. It was an enjoyable tour.
We had coffee and treats at a small cafe in the Gamla Stan and stopped into a souvenir shop to buy our magnets, pens, patches and pins for our collection. We walked up and down narrow streets and laneways, taking photos and looking for a basement cafe for lunch. The place we found was very vintage, in the basement and the food was amazing!
From the Gamla Stan, we got the public ferry across to the theme park which is located just a couple of hundred metres from the Vasa Museum. One of our Stockholm highlights was visiting the Vasamuseet / The Vasa Museum. It was an equally impressive exhibition as it was story.
In 1628, the Vasa sank on her maiden voyage, after being just 1000m on the water. It lay at the floor of Stockholm Harbour for over 300 years, before it was located in the 1950s. Over the next decade, the Vasa was salvaged.
After 333 years since it went down, in 1961, the Vasa was lifted from the water. She is as high as a four storey building. The Vasa was deemed a time capsule from 1628.
In their findings, they discovered bodies had been preserved underwater so well that they were able to determine what people ate and the illnesses they had at the time.
Originally the thought was that it sank due to there being a fault in the construction of the cannon holes. However, it was determined that the Vasa was too high, too narrow and there was too much weight below the water line.
The Vasa is one of the largest pieces to ever be restored in the world and it is continually being worked on to ensure this hugely impressive exhibit is in Stockholm for many years to come.
After leaving the Vasa, we made our way to ‘down-town’ Stockholm by tram to find ourselves somewhere to have dinner. The pedestrian street connects the Gamla Stan and the new part of Stockholm with the Royal Palace in between. It looked spectacular at night, so we took our time getting through to the new part of the city.
We really wanted to sit in a local pub, have a pub meal and choose from a selection of local beers. We found one – Pickwick’s in the pedestrian street. It was Swedish meatballs and mash potato with pickled cucumbers for Geoff and I and of course a local beer to go with it. It was a welcome break in our busy day on foot and it fueled us just enough to get us all home to the hotel for an early night in!
11th January, 2023 – Scandic Talk to Stockholm Port to board Silja Symphony
On Wednesday, we had a lazy morning at the hotel. The boys were particularly tired and really needed some downtime. As much as Geoff and I wanted to be out seeing more of Stockholm, we probably also needed the break and therefore gave into it and enjoyed the quiet time with our feet up!
We crossed the train line to get ourselves something quick for lunch, before we had to be on the bus leaving Scandic Talk at 1:30pm, headed for the Stockholm port. We were not able to check in when we first arrived, so we went to the bar for a drink while we waited. We got talking to another Australian group on our tour and enjoyed their company as we exchanged travel stories and plans.
We boarded the Silja Symphony to travel from Stockholm to Helsinki at around 3:30pm. The grandness was quite a surprise to all of us, and the excitement level was high! After getting into our cabins, we all had lots of fun exploring the boat, checking out the ‘sun deck’, the playground, bars and where we would be able to watch a show later in the night.
A beer at the onboard pub was calling our name, so we made our way there and found the Australian group also there. We sat with them and continued our conversation from earlier on. As we left Stockholm, we passed by all of the many islands on the way out. Unfortunately it was dark so we couldn’t really see too much but we did see the lights of the city centre as we left and that was very nice.
We have made a promise to ourselves to come back in Summer one day and do the same trip from Helsinki to Stockholm, hire a car and travel through Sweden and Denmark some more. That trip will also need to include Norway!
Our evening finished with a tribute to ABBA, a live show on the boat. It was very cheesey but good fun. The boys loved it! It was an unexpectedly fun time.
12th January, 2023 – arrival and overnight stay at Scandic Park Helsinki
We arrived in Helsinki at around 10:30am, by Silja Line Suomi ferry from Stockholm. We were able to enjoy the beautiful views coming into Helsinki, including busting through the frozen waters. There were massive slabs of ice floating in the water, it was really awesome to see.
From the big ferry, we made our way to a little ferry where we took the twenty minute ride to Suomenlinna / Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. We had been wanting to go across there since we first arrived in Helsinki a month prior to, but we knew we were doing this on the tour, so had waited. It was a really spectacular set up and one we enjoyed walking through. The history was unbelievable and the old buildings were beautiful. Unfortunately a lot of the museums and cafes (and toilets) were closed during the winter so we didn’t get to see everything, but then again, we didn’t really have the time for much more than walking through to the Kings Castle and back.
A little of the impressive sea fortress where construction began in 1748. In its time, the fortress:
• was used as a naval base for Finland (1788);
• it was surrendered to the Russian army and remained a Russian naval base for 110 years (1808);
• it became a camp for prisoners of war (1918);
• it became a coastal artillery, anti-aircraft, and submarine base (1939);
• the Finnish garrison left the island, and the ministry of education and culture took responsibility for the island (1973);
• finally, Suomenlinna was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as an outstanding monument to military architecture (1991).
We checked into our room at Scandic Park Helsinki at about 3pm and decided to have another rest. The little legs were not really coping with the fast pace of how we were having to travel on the tour and needed a break.
I decided to go for a run. It had been a while and I was busting to get out and run around the lake across from the hotel. When we were there a month earlier, it was not frozen, this time it was and there were even people ice fishing on it! I donned my running gear and made my way to the edge of the lake only to find I may have been better off wearing ice skates! My trail runners had been perfect in the snow, not so much on ice! I slipped and slid all over the place and found myself laughing out loud at myself. I’m sure people walking past me must have been highly amused!
I thought I was going to have to give up on my run but fortunately I was able to find another route. Although it was a very half-hearted ‘run’, I managed to stretch the legs a little and that was good. Back at the hotel, the boys and Geoff were enjoying the break.
As we were leaving the ferry port in the morning, the guide had mentioned the Food Market, so we decided that is where we would have dinner. We made our way to the tram stop across the road from the hotel, bought our tickets online and then made our way there, in just enough time to get dinner. The website said it closed at 9pm but most places were closed when we got there which was a shame, I think it would have been great to visit when it was open properly.
For dinner we managed to find the most amazing baked potatos! Geoff and I asked for one that the stallholder recommended – there was reindeer meat, smoked aubergine, coleslaw and all sorts of other yummy foods!
We made our way home via the Senate Square which looked completely different without the Christmas Market and without all the snow! But, the boys still managed to find a strip of snow on the stairs, just enough to slide their way down and have a laugh. There were snow mounds around the city but they were dirty and slushy, not at all like they had been when we were there at the beginning of our trip. It made us realise just how lucky we had been to see it the way we did.
Our evening finished with wine and hot chocolates in the hotel bar.
13th January, 2023 – end of our tour – from Finland to The Netherlands
Our tour had ended and it was also a travel day. It is hard to do much on a travel day but we did manage another quiet morning, re-packing our bags (we’ve managed to keep everything in the three bags we brought) and a quick trip out to a cafe for a final Finnish treat.
We had a transfer pre-booked with our tour so waited in the hotel reception for the driver before making our way to Helsinki International Airport. We said our final goodbyes to Finland. We’re all sad to leave Finland, it has been an exceptional experience and we really have done and seen so much.
Our flight departed at 4:30pm from Helsinki and we arrived in Amsterdam just before 6pm. It was a good flight and we were lucky to be sitting at the front of the plane, which is always nice at the end of the flight when you get to be the first off!