What kind of European vacation do you take with nine travelers and one dog, spanning ages 13 to 92? A cruise is one way to go. I’d never done an ocean liner cruise before; everything I love about travel is on land. But when faced with this question, our family decided a cruise to see parts of Northern European (Denmark, Norway, Germany) aboard the massive MSC Meraviglia might be the best way to accommodate everyone.
In short, our teenagers, who had run of the boat, loved it because they could easily find their tribe and enjoy their freedom. The grandparents, who could nap, stroll and dine at their leisure, loved it. The brothers-in-law, veteran masters of cruising, loved it. My husband and I….well…not so much.
I’m glad I went for three reasons.
- Number 1: I was able to visit places I’d never been.
- Number 2: August temperatures in this region are ideal, in my opinion, mid 50s – 70s F.
- Number 3: Now I’m sure I don’t like cruises.
Our journey began and ended in Copenhagen, Denmark so I built extra days into our itinerary to explore the city. It’s marvelous. Danish culture intrigues me, especially their mastery of light and their now famous concept of hygge, pronounced HOO-gah. Roughly translated it means coziness but encompasses warmth, curling up in your favorite blanket in front of the fire and passing the time with loved ones. Not surprising for a country with long cold and dark winters.
[PRO TIP: Many of the flights from the United States arrive early in the morning. If you can swing it, book your hotel room for the night before you arrive so you can check in first thing in the morning.]
It’s not likely you’ll hit by a car but quite likely you’ll get run over by a bike if you aren’t careful when on foot! Almost all the hotels have bikes to use or rent. Uber and other ride-sharing services are illegal in Denmark and not available for travel in Copenhagen.
Where to Stay
Steel House Copenhagen is now one of my all time favorite hotels EVER. It’s actually not a hotel, but bills itself as a “luxury hostel” two words usually not seen side by side. I booked a private room for our family of four; it was small and very well appointed in that very Nordic way (think Ikea with a view). The best part was hanging out in the lobby filled with music and people eating, drinking and playing games.
Check their schedule for all the cool activities and amenities they offer. Not only is this place well priced, but also super cool with a great location. I actually chose it so that we could walk to Tivoli, which was at the top of my list.
For our last night in the city before departure, I was able to book a 5 bedroom apartment which accommodated our entire family. It was in a different part of town, this time within walking distance of Rosenborg Castle and Gardens, also on my list of must sees for my first time in Denmark.
What to Do
...Is awesome! Since 1843 Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park has been delighting visitors of all ages. Put it this way. Tivoli is to Disney what Ford is to Tesla. Walt Disney himself, who visited the park in the 1950s, allegedly said, “Now this is what an amusement park should be like.” It’s a wonderfully Danish Hans Christian Andersen wonderland of rides, restaurants, and games in a beautifully manicured fantasy-land setting.
[PRO TIP: Tivoli is open seasonally, so check the website for dates and hours. Visit during the day and night. For one admission you can go in and out of the park all day. Check out the Tivoli Food Hall for good eats.]
[PRO TIP: After enjoying the outdoor concert a night, we treated ourselves to dessert at the decadent Cakenhagen, ending our fun filled day in the park.]
This was an easy and leisurely way for young and old to see the city together.
ROSENBORG CASTLE AND TREASURY
This was one of my favorite sites. Commissioned by King Christian IV in the early 17th century as a summer hermitage, his “pleasure palace,” the castle is beautifully preserved. The lavish rooms are filled with period furniture, art and treasures of the Danish Royal Family. Before it was opened to the public as a museum in 1838, it was the palace where the kings placed their oldest, finest and rarest objects representing their wealthy and status of the kingdom.
Don’t miss the Treasury, housed in the lower level, where you’ll see many incredible ceremonial weapons, objects, coronation, war and wedding gear as well as the Crown Jewels, which are still used a couple times a year only by The Queen and only within Denmark.
[PRO TIP: As with many of the world’s museums, there is a gift shop and cafe, open to the public. For those in your party who may not want to visit inside the castle, the park and gardens make a lovely place to pass time.]
NYHAVN CANAL CRUISE
I had read that a cruise on the canals was the perfect way to end a summer day and I couldn’t agree more. Originally, Nyhavn was a busy commercial port but today the beautiful old houses have been renovated and the bars, restaurants and cafes line the street.
[PRO TIP: Pre-purchase your tickets online with Stromma to be sure to get the time and day you want.]
STROLL & SHOP
Strøget is Copenhagen’s aorta and one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets offering everything from budget-friendly chains to exclusive luxury brands. Running from City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv Square for just over one kilometer, it’s a nice place to wander and shop for an afternoon. Vesterbro is another nice neighborhood to shop.
Where & What to Eat
If you want to eat at the world-renowned Noma, good luck. I have nothing for you. But there are plenty of other great meals to be had. Three things you should definitely try are licorice, the pasties (you’ve eaten danish before right?) and Smørrebrød, traditional Danish open faced sandwiches.
TIOVLI FOOD HALL
Anyone can gain entrance to the food hall, but there is also a door that opens directly into the park. Therefore you can eat here if you are in the park, as well as any other time. We appreciated the variety of cuisine here in a casual indoor market stall-like setting. Our favorites were from LETZ SUSHI and Hallernes Smørrebrød.
Need I say more? Why not eat danish in Denmark!
BOB Biomio Organic Bistro
The largest organic restaurant in Denmark. [Halmtorvet 19, 1700 København]
Mind-blowing chocolate coated licorice. My favorite flavors are “anniversary,” passion fruit, and sea buckhorn. Just trust me on that last one. Food of the gods. Lakrid, by the way, is the Danish word for licorice so you’ll see it everywhere. Bülow has a shop in Tivoli.
[PRO TIP: If you stay at The Steel House, pop into a grocery store and pick up snacks and a bottle of wine, then head to the lobby to play backgammon. One of my happiest happy hours ever!]