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TRIP JOURNAL: Nicole721 Get[s]away to the Baltics


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Hiya all!

 

I think this probably falls under the better-late-than-never category because, you know, it's been a bit since we got back from our first NCL cruise onboard the Getaway. I've been blogging about it since we got back, but I read every review I could find here before we left, so I figured I'd share mine in case anyone is planning a cruise to the Baltic Capitals (...or wants to read 75 pages of my waxing poetic about them).

 

If we haven't crossed paths on Cruise Critic before, let me introduce myself: I'm Nicole. I'm in my early 30s, but I've been cruising (and sharing my reviews!) since I was in college, when my Mom, sister (Stephanie) and I started taking yearly cruises as our family vacations. Stephanie and I are all grown up now, with full time jobs and crazy busy lives, but the three of us still try to cruise together twice a year.

 

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Most of our cruises have been on Carnival, but we've dabbled into Princess and Royal Caribbean. A few years ago, when we'd made our way through most of the Caribbean islands, we turned our sights to Europe. We've done two Mediterranean cruises and as we were planning this trip and looking into a third, this Baltics itinerary popped up and we couldn't turn it down: one, because it was an itinerary full of places we never thought we'd get to visit (like Russia!) and two, because it would give us an excuse to finally try Norwegian. We'd heard nothing but good things from friends, and the Freestyle concept is right up our alleys (spoiler alert: we loved it!).

 

Our Itinerary

 

Day 1: Chicago to London

Day 2: London to Copenhagen

Days 3 - 4: Copenhagen

Day 5: Embarkation

Day 6: Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany

Day 7: Sea Day

Day 8: Tallinn, Estonia

Days 9 - 10: St. Petersburg, Russia

Day 11: Helsinki, Finland

Day 12: Nynäshamn (Stockholm), Sweden

Day 13: Sea Day

Day 14: Debarkation

((And then we spent four days in Paris for Mom's birthday before flying home))

 

It was a monster of an itinerary and I'd be lying if I said we didn't come home completely exhausted, but I can say with absolute certainty that it was the trip of a lifetime.

 

So I hope some of you find this helpful. Or entertaining. Or at the very least, enjoy the pretty pictures (because there are tons!). And I hope some of you will follow along -- that's my fun in all of this is getting to share it and re-live it, and talk to people who love cruising as much as I do :D

 

And if you have questions along the way, holler 'em at me!

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Day 1: Chicago to London

 

So here we are. Another adventure.

 

I’ll save you from the this-one-just-snuck-up-on-us stuff. This one didn’t sneak up on me. It came up fast, don’t get me wrong, but I knew it was coming every step of the way. It excited me and terrified me all at the same time. Six new countries. That’s terrifying, and entirely exhilarating, all at the same time.

 

New places. New experiences. New cultures. Even new currencies (don’t ask me to tell you the difference between a Danish Krone and a Swedish Krona – I literally could not tell you, nor can I tell you the exchange rate of any of these currencies of the countries that we visited unless they’re on the Euro. I’m building an altar to the XE app for saving my wallet as we speak).

 

We booked this trip to the Baltics sometime around Thanksgiving. Why the Baltics? Why not? We’ve done the Mediterranean for the past two years (and will again in April, when the Carnival Horizon launches) and we wanted something a little different. The ports of call were very different. So was the cruise ship. And the cruise line. We’d never cruised with Norwegian before. This was a whole new world for us in so many ways.

 

Oh, and it was pretty inexpensive. About half the price of our first Mediterranean cruise, less expensive than our Vista trip, too. And as I was playing around with Google Flights one day at work, I found airfare on American and British Airways from Chicago to Copenhagen and home from Paris to Chicago (stopping over in London both ways) for $500. It was almost like a good omen that this was the trip for us this year.

 

But I was still terrified. I was terrified that this experience wouldn’t live up to the last two Europe cruises we've done and terrified I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of these new things we were going to experience. Oh, and also terrified because I suck at math and there was a very real chance I was going to screw myself with all of these currencies (because I had to pick up cash in five different currencies before I left).

 

This trip intimidated me more than it excited me. It was a lot. It was so different. But even that fear was so…exciting.

 

It started the same way they all do – I packed until the last moment, I threw out my trash and cleaned my apartment (because nothing feels better after coming home from a long trip than walking into a clean home), went to work and caught a train back to the suburbs so I could go to the airport with Mom and Stephanie in the morning. Our flight wasn’t super early, but Mom lives closer to the airport than I do, and I can squeeze an extra hour of sleep in if I go to O’Hare from her house instead of coming in from the city.

 

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There was one thing, though: Mom was convinced we had to be at the airport super early. Like 3+ hours early. And called a cab for 5:00 am…for our 9:00 am flight. She lives 20 minutes from the airport. We compromised to a 5:30 am pickup and I got in exactly two hours of sleep after showering and repacking my suitcase with warmer weather clothes (because the forecast kept changing literally up until we left – warm, cold, warm, dry, cold, wet). But that was okay -- I had a long flight to catch up on my sleep.

 

We breezed through check in at O’Hare on a busy travel day, thanks in large part to my oneworld status and TSA Pre-Check. All our bags weighed no more than 48.5 lbs each (a feat for this family) and we walked straight through security, with three hours to spare before boarding time.

 

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Because we were traveling on an international flight, my oneworld status granted me access into the Admirals Club. I could only bring one person in with me, so Mom caught up on her emails while Stephanie and I checked out the Admiral’s Club in O’Hare’s T3.

 

We were handed drink vouchers (good for a premium cocktail or a bottle of water) and the wifi password and sent in the direction of the elevator. There are two different lounges on two different floors: the Flagship lounge on the second floor and the regular Admiral’s Club lounge on the third, which is where we ended up. The lounge looks out onto the tarmac, with Chicago’s distinctive skyline in the far distance. It was busy for the early Friday morning, and the offerings were sparse compared to what we had available to us in Paris’ Admiral’s Club lounge last year – an oatmeal bar, fruit, yogurt, bagels and breads and some hard boiled eggs. There was a tea chest, some orange juice, a Coke Freestyle machine and a few espresso machines, and the bar where the vouchers could be redeemed off in the corner. There were loungers and chairs, some couches. It was comfortable and well worn. It was a nice perk to have available to us, but probably not a membership I’d pay for.

 

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Not wanting to leave Mom alone for long, we stayed long enough to have a cup of coffee and a snack and headed back downstairs to Mom, so we could head off to find our gate.

 

I’m not sure why I was anxious before the flight. I’ve come a long way in conquering my fear of flying, but flying over the ocean always gives me a little extra smidge of nervous energy. And when I’m anxious about flying, the best thing I know how to do is walk off the extra energy, so Stephanie and I walked around T3, stopping to get popcorn at Garrett’s and some chocolate at Vosges to enjoy on our long flight.

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Our flight boarded right on time and we were quick to board with group 3. On our previous flights to Europe, we’d flown on some of American’s older aircrafts. This time, we were flying on the Dreamliner, one of the newest. I’ve flown the Dreamliner, once, in business class from Dallas to Chicago. And it’s an amazing and spacious experience in business class. In coach, though, the Dreamliner has a reputation for being a bit cramped, with thinner, more narrow seats and less pitch. We had seats in Main Cabin Extra, which boasts an extra five inches of legroom, but I’m only 5’3 and it wasn’t as much as I even thought it would be. No one would be passing in front of me without me getting up, and that’s my barometer for extra legroom. The woman sitting in front of me turned around to ask if I’d be okay with her reclining a bit and to let her know if it was making me uncomfortable in any way. It’s been awhile since the person in front of me had asked if I’d be okay with them reclining (I don’t recline, myself, because I find the position uncomfortable) and I thought it was refreshing in this day and age where people come to blows over space entitlement to see someone still exercising that courtesy.

 

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The pilot came through the aisle to greet everyone before settling into the cockpit and the entire crew was fantastic throughout the entire flight. After a few bumps in the air as we ascended to our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, we faced nothing but smooth skies on our ride to London.

 

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Once we leveled off at our cruising altitude, in flight wifi was available -- $12 for 2 hours, $17 for 4 hours or $19 for the entire flight. This flight offered Panasonic wifi instead of the traditional Gogo, and the signal would persist even when we were over the water. Wifi was a no brainer for me – keeping connected helps ease any anxiety I get when I’m flying.

 

Breakfast was served shortly thereafter – a choice of a cheese blintz with scrambled eggs or a vegetarian cheese omelet. Both came with a croissant, a small fruit cup and a snack pack of dried fruit, cheese and crackers and shortbread cookies. Two rounds of drink service were made with the meal and the flight attendants made frequent rounds through the cabin to ensure everyone was taken care of.

 

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It’s always so interesting to me how stepping onto an airplane can put you in some weird suspended animation where time moves at this weird speed around you. Our flight crept by and then felt like it went all too fast. We passed the time watching movies in our seats, planning our time in Copenhagen, trying (and failing) to get some sleep and, in my case, doing a sheet mask to keep my skin hydrated. A sheet mask that may or may not have had a panda face printed on it. Vacation is supposed to be fun, right?

 

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The day moved in some sort of warp speed where it felt slow but the day moved so quick, mostly because it was a long flight where we lost an entire day: the seven and a half hour flight had us leaving Chicago at 9:00 am and landing in London at 10:30 pm. It was still the late afternoon at home when we descended through the dark skies of the UK.

 

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Though Heathrow is amongst the busiest airports in the world, it was surprising to us that it does actually close down in the evening. Right around the time we landed, actually. Most of our fellow travelers were ending their journeys in London, but we had a connecting flight to Copenhagen that was departing at 6:30 am the next morning. We contemplated getting a hotel, but we’d really only be there for a few hours, not at all if our flight ended up getting delayed. So our plan was to sit it out in the airport.

 

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We followed the signs to connecting flights, went through a lite security check and then headed to the Rest and Relaxation room – an unused gate where people with early connecting flights wait the night out. The room was small and felt like that room they keep you in when you wait to find out if you’re chosen for jury duty. It wasn’t entirely comfortable. Sensing that, some of the staff offered to take us through customs to the arrivals area, which has more comfortable spaces to lounge and a 24 hour coffee shop.

 

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Customs stamped our passports with a 48 hour visa and we made our way through Heathrow’s T3, hoping to catch the last express train to T5, where our flight would depart from in the morning, but as our luck would have it, we just missed the last train. Not a big deal, though, all of the arrivals areas are just about the same and we could catch the first train early the next morning.

 

So we settled in. There were restrooms that were spacious and clean for us to freshen up in, easy access to the outdoors and some fresh air and Caffe Nero was open through the night with sandwiches, scones and plenty of coffee. And Heathrow has some primo free wifi. Super fast connections that would keep me entertained for hours. The police came through to do safety checks every hour or so and we felt entirely safe – there were plenty of other travelers around us waiting out their layovers, too.

 

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Oh, and side note, T3 at Heathrow is where Love Actually was filmed. There are signs up. Many pictures were taken. I love that movie.

 

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Mom and Stephanie tried to catch some sleep, but it’s so hard to sleep in public spaces, and I just wasn’t tired (knowing full well that the jet lag would bite me in the ass the next day).

 

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Around 3:30 am, we packed up our little mini camp and headed into Caffe Nero for a “dinner” of sandwiches and coffee, waiting out the rest of our layover until we could catch the first express train to our terminal and hoping that a couple of extra shots of espresso could give us the jolt we’d need to get through the next day.

 

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Day 2: London to Copenhagen

 

 

We almost missed our flight. I never say that. That never happens to us. We’re the ones at the gate 45 minutes before boarding watching the people who are late run for it. We’re not the people doing the running.

 

((Well, we had a little buffer room, and we were speed walking to be more accurate, but we came closer than any of us ever want to))

 

You may be sitting at your computer thinking to yourself “Nicole, how do you almost miss a flight when you spend the entire night at the airport?” Funny thing…

 

So Heathrow is like, really big. And we’ve only been there once, so we’re not entirely used to the spacing of the terminals, the layout of the gates or the policies and procedures of traveling through. We left Caffe Nero around 4:30 am – the Heathrow staff who accompanied us to the arrivals area the night before had told us that the Heathrow Express (a complimentary train service that will take you from terminal to terminal) begins between 4:30 am and 5:00 am. It definitely begins just before 5:00 am, but that’s not to say the first train of the day is there at 5:00 am. In fact, the trains don’t go to both T4 and T5, either. There’s a T4 train and a T5 train. And they only run sporadically. Ours was on the arrival board for 5:27 am, which set us into a frenzy – our flight began boarding at 5:45 am and we had to go through security and find our gate.

 

We didn’t know Heathrow well but we knew it well enough to know that it can take up to 20 minutes to walk to your gate. Our tickets had time frames for us – we had to be through security by 6:00 am and boarded by 6:15 am. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to us to think that taking the train to our terminal an hour and a half before our flight would cut things close, but I guess we’re just so used to fast tracking it through O’Hare. Thankfully, the arrivals board was wrong and there’s an announcement that a train will arrive at 5:12 am, right after a train that wasn’t boardable and a train to T4.

 

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The train arrives at precisely at 5:12 am. I guess the Brits have train arrivals down to a science. The ride only takes four minutes, a relief because I was under the impression it would take 15. We have to take an elevator up – you can’t take the escalator, has to be the elevator. We have our tickets from the agent at O’Hare, but I want a new ticket so we can get our gate information. The kiosk can’t find our reservation, but that's fine because we already have paper tickets. We proceed to security with our original tickets and are turned away because they’re too busy. At 5:30 in the morning. That never bodes well. They send us across the departures area to the South security gate. We enter the queue and are immediately flagged – we can’t proceed through security with the tickets the gate agent gave us in Chicago. We need new tickets after we pass through the border agent (…even though we definitely passed through customs when we arrived a few hours earlier). The border agent prints us new tickets and we go into security at the South gate, which, thankfully was not nearly as busy as the North security gate was. I get flagged for random testing on my shoes. Mom gets flagged for random testing on her bag. We keep trekking until we meet the sign that says a walk to our gate would take 20-30 minutes, because we’re near the A gates and, of course, our plane is at a gate at the end of the C gates. There’s rail service to the B and C gates and thankfully it comes quickly – but they then do a surprise security check, where a single agent goes through every car of the shuttle. That takes a bit. Our flight boards in seven minutes. We make our way onto the rail and through the B gates, finally to the C gates. We haul up two escalators and power walk to the second to last gate in the terminal, and we arrive exactly at 5:45 am.

 

…and we arrive only to find out the flight attendants were running late and boarding would begin about ten minutes late. So a few action items here: if you come in the night before and have a flight first thing the next morning in another terminal, find a way to that terminal the night before. And two, always check in at Border Patrol before you go through security. Oh, and also give yourself an extra half hour to navigate your way through the iron and crystal maze that is the Heathrow departures area.

 

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We boarded our flight to Copenhagen and found ourselves in a row of seats with no air nozzles. Why do a few rows of BA planes not have air nozzles? It’s a mystery, but we’re all overheated from our relay race through Heathrow. We were also too tired to care at that point and I passed out sometime in between the captain announcing our flying time (a brief 1 hour, 20 minutes) and the flight attendants coming through the cabin to present the items you could buy duty free onboard (side note: it’s amazing how much time they have for things like this now that British Airways doesn’t serve so much as a free glass of water anymore. Two years ago, we got a full meal, complete with complimentary libations. Now, you have to pay for water). I woke up as we began our descent into Copenhagen, re-energized from my hour-long power nap.

 

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Copenhagen Kastrup is a fairly simple airport. It’s not huge and it’s not that complicated. It’s bright and airy and easy to navigate, all things I appreciated after our morning at Heathrow. We were quickly off the plane, made a stop at 7-11 for bottled water (there are 7-11’s everywhere in Copenhagen) and quickly passed through border patrol before making our way down to baggage claim, where our bags quickly made their way off the belt and onto our luggage carts.

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We had pre-ordered the Copenhagen Card, which comes with full access to the public transit system, as well as complimentary access to dozens of sights and attractions and discounts to even more, and picked up our cards at the departures area of the airport. I wanted to take the train to our hotel (the Tivoli Hotel, located about a ten minute walk from Copenhagen Central Station), Stephanie wanted to take a cab and I let her win the argument because we were too tired to weigh the pros and cons of public transit. We made a quick stop at the airport Starbucks for some (more) caffeine and my first cappuccino freddo of the trip and then made our way outside, where we were quickly picked up by a cab and on our way to our hotel.

 

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The Tivoli Hotel is centrally located– there is plenty of transit nearby – and it was a 15 minute drive from the airport. Taxi’s are pretty expensive in Copenhagen (much like…basically everything else in Copenhagen except, apparently, the airfare) and our ride made out to around $44 USD.

 

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We were at the hotel by 11:00 am, hoping that our room would be ready, but no such luck. They did offer to check our bags, though, which allowed us to venture out for some brunch while we waited for our room.

 

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Over the past decade, Copenhagen has really blossomed into this foodie mecca, where food is not only delicious and good for you, but organic and locally produced, and really an art form. Stephanie found a restaurant called Neighbourhood on Instagram, where it’s famous for it’s pizzas and it’s brunch plates. It was a quick walk from Copenhagen Central and we walked right in and were seated right away.

 

 

 

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I’ve never had a brunch like what we had at Neighbourhood. An entire wooden board of goodness was served in front of me. A mini breakfast pizza that was out of this world. Cheese and charcuterie and the sweetest grapefruit I’ve ever tasted. A pot of yogurt topped with fig and thyme infused granola and some of those dark rye breads Denmark is famous for. The piece de resistance, though? The pesto and lavender infused honey served in small pots on the side. It was all so good.

 

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After brunch, we headed back to the hotel, hoping that our room would be ready now that we’d given it another hour and a half. Still no luck. At this point, Mom and Stephanie were running on fumes and I was falling asleep standing up. We sat in one of the lounges for awhile before deciding to walk along the water across the street. The fresh air helped a little. We kept walking, ultimately coming to Fisktorvet – one of the area’s shopping malls. And it was exactly like a shopping mall in the US, except prettier, brighter and with better shopping. We found one store called Normal that sold every day goods and groceries. It was an interesting experience, though, because instead of aisles, the store was like a maze with one start and one end and you had to walk all the way through to get out. It was a fascinating sales strategy.

 

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Once we were stocked up on shampoo and liquid soap for our cruise, we headed back to the hotel at exactly 3:00 pm, the designated check in time, and found our room was finally ready. I headed upstairs with my bags while Mom and Stephanie waited for the rest of theirs, and I thought I’d found myself in the wrong room. We’d booked a triple room (which I thought was a bit bigger than a standard room) and found a room that was smaller than an Oceanview cabin on most cruise ships. Hotels in Copenhagen aren’t known to be particularly spacious and it was a bit of an adjustment. The room was modern and decently appointed, though. The largest tick standing out in the minus column was that the beds were super soft and you just kind of sunk into them. Mom took the pull out couch because it was a little firmer and as soon as we called downstairs for some extra linens, we all passed out. We woke up to housekeeping knocking two hours later, startling Mom so much that she literally fell out of bed. I swear these things only happen in our family!

 

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It was the early evening by this point, but I really wanted to do or see something in Copenhagen before we called it a day because there was just so much on our list, and the sun doesn’t set until well past 9:00 pm in this part of the world in the late spring time anyways. Mom opted to stay in the hotel and relax and Stephanie and I freshened up and headed out to Nyhavn, a waterfront neighborhood famous for it’s bright, colorful buildings that line the canal with restaurants and bars. There was a bus that picked up a couple of blocks from our hotel and would drop us right at Nyhavn.

 

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The public buses in Copenhagen couldn’t be cleaner or easier to access. The stops are clearly marked and the buses run almost exactly on time. We were traveling on the Copenhagen Card and all we had to do was flash it at the driver as we boarded and we were on our way.

 

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Nyhavn is like the life of the party neighborhood. It’s noisy and boisterous and everyone just seems jovial and happy. That could be the whole Danish hygge thing, but I like to think that it’s just the general vibe of the neighborhood. Local musicians play loudly on the waterfront, tourists and locals alike sit on the waters edge with cones of ice cream and crepes while others flock to the patios of the dozens of restaurants that line the street. It’s a feel good place. I was still trying to figure out how I felt about Copenhagen -- it felt most similar to Zurich but was so unique to any place we’d ever been -- but whatever thoughts I was working through, I knew I

liked it here.

 

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We strolled through Nyhavn for an hour before hopping on the same bus that had dropped us off, this time headed to Tivoli. One of Copenhagen’s most famous attractions, Tivoli is a large amusement park in the middle of the city, and it was towards the top of my must-visit list for this trip. Tivoli was built in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world. It’s also one of the top visited amusement parks in the world, and while the Copenhagen Card didn’t cover rides, it did cover entrance and we just wanted to walk around.

 

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Tivoli has been modernized, but still feels super retro. Old school games line the sidewalks, ride queues are short and orderly and food kiosks are plentiful in options. Stephanie had mentioned that Walt Disney was inspired by Tivoli when he was planning the Disney parks and it was funny to me how many of the rides I could immediately correlate to a Disney ride.

 

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We just walked around, snapping pictures and enjoying the brisk spring air. The park is immaculately kept and it was refreshing to walk through an amusement park that wasn’t crammed in beyond what the park could comfortably accommodate (sorry, Disney, I’m still bitter). We found our way to the gardens and they were absolutely stunning. We just kind of sat and admired them before deciding we had to come back with Mom before we left Copenhagen.

 

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Tivoli was open until midnight and had a fireworks display at 11:45 pm, but there was no way we could make it that long after the two days of travel we’d had. We grabbed some dinner to bring back to the hotel and settled in for the rest of the night with CNN -- the only television channel broadcast in English -- and planning for the next two days. There was so much to do and see and I knew we probably wouldn’t get it all in, but I was just excited to see what other treasures we’d find in this country we were already enjoying so much.

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Day 3: Copenhagen

 

 

I woke up with an extra pep in my step on our first full day in Copenhagen. It didn’t last long – the jet lag was killer and I’d go from super energized to can’t-keep-my-eyes-open exhausted within a matter of minutes, but I was so excited to get out and start exploring.

 

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Stephanie had put together a Google map of all of the places we wanted to visit and we started our day with the site the furthest out: the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. We hopped on the 34 bus right outside of the hotel, rode it two stops to Copenhagen Central Station and hopped right onto a train out to Humlebaek. Our Copenhagen Card made it super easy, too – we just showed it to the train conductor as he came by to collect tickets.

 

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Humlebaek is located about 40 km outside of Copenhagen, a brisk 40 minute train ride from Copenhagen. By the time we were on the train, I went from full energy to totally sapped. This jetlag was going to take a few days (and an extra few cups of coffee) to kick. Thankfully, there was a coffee shop right outside the train station where we could recharge with a caffeine infusion. The coffee shop we visited was downright adorable, and you know you’re off to a good day when there’s a smiley face in your cappuccino. The Danes might be the happiest people ever and I just wanted to bottle some of their joy and take it home with me.

 

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The museum is a short ten minute walk from the train station and it was the perfect day for a stroll through the quiet neighborhood. The weather was in the low 60s, warm, but not too warm, and the air was fragrant from the wild flowers growing in the parks and front yards we walked past. It was a peaceful start to the day.

 

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We scanned our Copenhagen Cards at the entrance and made our way into the gift shop to figure out our first move. The Louisiana Museum houses more than 3,000 works of modern art, including a pretty awesome light installation that, as our luck would have it, was closed during our visit. I was bummed to miss it, but there was so much art to dive into that we couldn’t fret over it too much.

 

We spent an hour and a half walking through the exhibits, each one unique and fascinating and stunningly beautiful. The museum wasn’t too crowded in the morning hours, so we had plenty of space to take in each work.

 

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At the end of the museum was a small café serving up Danish delacacies and sweets, and we started our morning with a couple of treats on the outdoor patio, looking out at the sculpture garden and water. The sun was shining down bright and I couldn’t have asked for a better start for the day.

 

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We continued our way through the museum, walking around the outdoor exhibits (which were even more beautiful than the indoor ones!) before landing ourselves back at the gift shop to plot out our next move.

 

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There were so many things to see and do on our list, so we started whittling away by looking at what was closed on Monday’s. We landed on a visit to the Cisterns and, having just missed a bus to the train station, embarked on the short walk back…where we missed the train by exactly one minute.

 

The public transit system in Denmark is nothing if not reliable, clean and simple. The only things you can really ask for on public transit, really. Chicago offers none of these qualifications, so I appreciated them all the more. Trains were running every 15 minutes at this time of day, so we didn’t have too long to wait. The wait felt even shorter because we were able to hook into the wi-fi of a nearby 7-Eleven (two notes there: 7-Eleven’s are everywhere in Denmark, no lie, and two, high speed wi-fi is also everywhere).

 

Our ride back to Copenhagen felt much shorter than the ride out, and we immediately headed outside to catch the bus to the Cisterns, a series of underground tunnels and channels that now house pop up art exhibits. Stephanie had assumed the bus would pick up at the bus depot in front of the train station (where most busses stop). It would only be our luck that the bus did not stop there, and we spent a half hour walking around the perimeter of the expansive train station, still unable to find the bus stop.

 

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With so much to do and see left on our list, we made a group decision to change plans and leave the Cisterns for next time, skipping ahead to the next thing on our list: a canal tour. We had 20 minutes until the next bus, so we waited it out by grabbing lunch at Andersen Bakery, a well-known eatery in Copenhagen. I ordered a hot dog (which was definitely different than the hot dogs this born and bred Chicagoan grew up on!) and Stephanie and Mom split two smørresbrøds. Dine on Danish cuisine? Check that off the list.

 

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The canal tour picked up across the street from where the bus left us off near Gammel Strand and a fresh new boat pulled up right as we arrived. We scored some primo seats in the back and waited while the boat slowly filled up before heading off through the canal. The tour took just over an hour, taking us through Copenhagen’s robust canal system and past many of the city sights, like the Old Stock Exchange, Amalienborg Palace, the new opera building, Freetown Christiania and even the Little Mermaid Statue (which is teeny tiny and in the middle of nowhere – a definite skip). We road under grandiose bridges, through old, narrow bridges and sleek, newer bridges and it was the perfect way to acquaint ourselves with the city, especially on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

 

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When we debarked back in Gammel Strand, we decided to pause our plans and walk around, as we had unexpectedly found ourselves near Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall Square. Rådhuspladsen was where all of the shopping and action was. It almost reminded me of Rome and the area near the Spanish Steps, with long streets lined with high end boutiques, big name stores and cafes for days. In fact, it’s one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets. We stopped for some iced teas and a snack before window shopping our way up the street.

 

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As we walked past what had to be the millionth Joe and the Juice shop (seriously, though, if I didn’t know better I’d think it was the national juice chain of Denmark because it’s everywhere!), we spotted the Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower, which was on our list of things we wanted to see.

 

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The Round Tower was built in the 17th century, built by Christian IV as an astronomy observatory and is still in use as an observatory by amateur astronomy buffs. It was open until 6:00 pm on the day we visited, and we squeaked in at 5:30 pm, scanning our Copenhagen Cards and beginning the walk up to the observation deck.

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The walk up isn’t entirely taxing or difficult, but it’s not easy, either, with steep inclines and a final leg up two regular flights of stairs and a tight staircase of thin spiral steps at the end. If you walk along the outer wall, you’ll have a less steep walk up, but you’ll have a longer walk than if you walk along the inner wall, which is much steeper but a quicker path up.

 

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At the top of the tower is an observatory with panoramic views sweeping across the entire city, out to the water. I couldn’t get enough of the warm sun or fresh air and the views in front of me only made it better.

 

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We didn’t stay long – Mom didn’t join us on the walk up because her back hadn’t been feeling great from the long flight – so we took our pictures and made our way back down to her.

 

Sunset in Copenhagen in the middle of spring falls just after 9:00 pm, so we knew we had three hours of daylight left, but we felt content with the amount of sightseeing we got in for the day and decided to head out for dinner before going back to the hotel. And there was only one place for dinner on our list: Papirøen.

 

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Papirøen is the home of Copenhagen Street Food, located on Paper Island, with a gorgeous view of the city in front of it. The market is a celebration of street foods from all over the world and has every possible cuisine you could think of or want, each served from a stall decked out like a food truck. Booths line each aisle with unique offerings – duck fat fries in one booth, Indian curry in the next, Bibimbap and Jup Chae at an Asian Fusion truck in the back, Danish hot dogs at a stall in the front, even American barbecue makes an appearance. And desserts. Don’t get me started there. I only have three words for you: Crème Brulee Doughnuts.

 

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There’s music and plenty of fun spaces to sit and enjoy your food at, both indoors and out. Lounge chairs line the waterfront outside so you can enjoy your food and a beer al fresco, right on the water, with the most beautiful of scenery in front of you.

 

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Next to the market is one of my favorite exhibits in Copenhagen, the Wish Tree Garden. Started by Yoko Ono in 2016 (and running through the end of 2017), a group of trees sits next to the Market, with paper slips to write your greatest wish on and strings to tie them to the trees. When the trees are full, the wishes are sent to Iceland, to be buried at the base of the Imagine Peace Tower (where, to date, over a million wishes have been buried).

 

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We poured through each tree, looking at the wishes others had brought with them. Some of them were hilarious. Most of them were for love. Others were poetic and thought provoking. We didn’t leave a wish, ourselves. I wish I had, but there’s always a next time. At least, I like to think there is.

 

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The bus that took us to Papirøen would take us back in the general direction of our hotel, but we instead opted to take the long way, a walk across the bridge towards Nyhavn. It was just too beautiful an evening and beautiful evenings call for long walks, especially after heavy meals!

 

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The 66 bus picked us up right in Nyhavn and dropped us off at Copenhagen Central Station, where we had a 20 minute wait for our bus back to the hotel (bus service slows down on many lines after 8:30 pm). We browsed through a grocery shop inside the train station, grabbing water bottles to bring back with us to the hotel. Have I mentioned that everything in Denmark is pretty expensive? A 25% VAT tax is added into the price, and every day pricing on basic items (like water bottles) were at airport-like prices.

 

We headed back out and waited at the bus stop for a while. The entrance to Tivoli was right in front of us and I was still so intrigued by this park that it kept me long entertained until the bus slid up to the stop.

 

The bus left us off two stops later, right in front of our hotel. The sun was still out, well past 9:00 pm, which always trips me up when we travel to this part of the world at this time of the year. We poured through pictures from our day back up in our room while we watched more CNN and we planned for the next day.

 

And I stayed up until 3:00 am, long after everyone had gone to sleep. #jetlagproblems. But if it was good for nothing else, I got to look up anything I could possibly want to see on our last full day in this amazing city.

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I am so pleased you have decided to post your trip report. Your photos are stunning. I look forward to the rest. We were on Serenade of the Seas out of Copenhagen at about the same time.

Edited by willma
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great review

 

we are doing Baltics this July embarking Warnemunde so have few days pre cruise in Berlin

Copenhagen will be a port stop for us.

Friends from Indianopolis are searching out reasonable air fare but will stay first few days in London so wont have that layover mess

Heathrow is a nightmare airport especially if have to travel between terminals

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