Why Vienna is the Perfect City To Visit in the Off-Season

Traveling in the off-season has its perks; the low airfares and discounted accommodation enables you to travel abroad without spending a fortune and sights are often less crowded. Also, workers can sometimes be nicer and more helpful because they aren’t dealing with the craziness and large amounts of people that accompany the tourist season (okay, this isn’t guaranteed either way, but I definitely noticed a difference). But it can also mean that activities that are normally available in the touristy season are not offered in the low season, sights are closed, and tours are not operating. So, if you choose to travel in the off-season, you need to be cautious about where you go and ensure that it has plenty to do during the less-visited time of year.

I began my backpacking trip in December, so most of my travels so far have been during the low season. When planning my route around Europe, I did my best to choose cities that would have plenty to offer even during the winter months. Vienna, the vibrant capital of Austria, sticks out in my mind as one of those cities. The large capital has a vast royal history, gorgeous architecture, more than enough museums, and a variety of restaurants and cafes to choose from. It reminded me of Paris, with its wide streets, big parks, grand buildings with styles from different time periods, and a river flowing through it. Except, it felt a bit more laid back and undiscovered. I was there with my parents for two weeks, and we were busy sightseeing each day despite it being the middle of January (so busy that I needed to take a few rest days!).

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Some of the stunning buildings lining the streets

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Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg

 

Here are all of the reasons Vienna makes the perfect destination for travel in the off-season:

It’s Easy to Get Around

During the winter months, you don’t want to be outside walking for very long in the cold weather. Luckily, the Vienna public transport system is advanced and includes trains, buses, and trams that can get you anywhere need to go. Though I stayed in an apartment outside the city center (money saving tip), it was no problem because the closest metro stop was a 5 minute walk and could get me downtown in 10 minutes. There are a variety of different travel passes that can help you save money and are valid on all forms of local transport, such as a weekly pass or 72 hour pass depending on your needs. This site does a great job explaining the various options. I was there for two weeks, so I opted for the weekly pass which made travel easy as I didn’t have to buy a ticket each time. I could just hop on and go.

The City’s Main Sights Offer an Escape from the Cold Weather

Because of its complex history associated with the powerful Habsburg monarchy who ruled from the city for more than six centuries, Vienna has grand palaces, exemplary churches, and high-quality museums to explore that are all open during the low season. Here are just a few of the many places you can visit to avoid cold, snowy, or rainy weather in the city:

Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg

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The Habsburgs were one of the most prominent royal dynasties in Europe. Known for increasing their power across countries through marriage rather than war, the Habsburg’s influence spread from Eastern Europe into Germany and Spain and even as far as Mexico. They were connected to the French royal empire as well, as Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI who was famously beheaded during the French Revolution, was a Habsburg.

The Habsburg’s palace in the city center reflects the grandeur of their reign. Visiting the Imperial Apartments gives you a glimpse into the massive wealth and way of life of the Austrian monarchy. And visiting the apartments during the off-season is even more enjoyable. I’d imagine touring the apartments in the summertime can get as crowded as the famous Palace of Versailles in Paris. However, when my family and I visited the apartments, there were so few people there that the guided tour we decided to join ended up being a private tour with our own personal guide! We could take our time, ask as many questions as we liked, and gain a deeper understanding of the Habsburg’s complicated royal lineage.

Schönbrunn Palace

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The Schönbrunn Palace was the Habsburg’s summer residence and like the Imperial Apartments, its splendor is not to be missed. Again, we were able to stroll through each room of the palace with few crowds, which made the experience much more pleasant. I’ve visited many popular tourist destinations in the summer like Versailles and the Vatican, and each time it’s been so packed that we were literally shuffled from room to room like herds of cattle. It’s so much better when you don’t feel rushed and you have the time to really take in all of the gorgeous decor around you.

Of course, the only downside to visiting in the off-season is that the gardens are not blooming. However, instead of roaming the gardens we had coffee and cakes at the palace’s café, Café Restaurant Residenz, which was one of our favorite cafés in Vienna!

Imperial Treasury

As one of the longest ruling monarchies in Europe, it’s no surprise that the Habsburg’s have one of the most impressive treasuries in the world open to visit in the low season. You can see ornate crowns dating back to the 10th century, intricate relics, swords made of “unicorn” (narwhal tusk), and glittering jewels collected by the Habsburgs over centuries.

Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Habsburgs were great admirers of art and their vast collection of masterpieces can be seen in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The museum exhibits paintings by artists such as Raphael, Titian, Rubens (one of my favorites), Rembrandt, and Vermeer. In addition to the splendid works of art, the museum building itself mimics a royal palace with a gorgeous grand hall and massive staircase. You can spend hours here escaping the chilly winter temperatures.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

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The famous cathedral towers over the city’s main pedestrian street, Graben. You can marvel at its stunning mix of Gothic and Romanesque architecture and pop inside to see where Mozart was married. Rick Steve’s offers a self-guided tour on his app, Rick Steves Audio Europe, that I recommend downloading before your visit to give you a better understanding of the historic cathedral.

You can listen to music at year-round performances in one of Vienna’s many music venues

Known as the City of Music, Vienna has a renowned musical history and many famous composers such as Mozart and Beethoven once lived in the city. It’s reputation for being the center of music has only increased with time and has led to the construction of beautiful concert halls where you can watch a variety of performances.

My family and I had a wonderful time seeing Cinderella at the famous opera house, the Staatsoper. There are performances happening year-round and the opera is even translated on a screen in front of your seat so you can easily follow along. I recommend looking into the various performances happening not only at the opera house, but across all of the venues Vienna has to offer and booking your ticket ahead of time, as they might sell out even in the low season.

You can warm up with a cup of coffee and delicious pastry in a Viennese coffee house

Coffee is a big part of Viennese culture, and a trip to Vienna is not complete without visiting a Viennese kaffeehaus. It’s very common and encouraged to order a coffee drink, read a newspaper, and sit for hours enjoying the slower side of life. The Viennese take their coffee culture very seriously, and the waiters even wear full black and white suits— it feels as if you’ve stepped back in time to the 1930s! The cafes also serve extravagant pastries. You can try the classic sachertorte (though not my personal favorite as I’m not a big fan of chocolate), a fruity apfelstrudel, or one of the many other delicious creations on the menu.

If you want a typical traditional experience in a café whose interior looks like it hasn’t changed in decades, try Café Bräunerhof. For a bit more modern take on the tradition, (and my favorite) try Café Diglas. Of course, coffee houses are open year-round, and it’s the perfect way to warm up during the colder months that will leave you feeling like a true Viennese!

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The Danube Canal

During my two weeks in Vienna in January, there was only one activity I was interested in that I wasn’t able to do, and that was see the Lipizzaner horses in action at the Spanish Riding School. This was because they were taking a short break from shows the two weeks I was there (not the whole winter, don’t worry). But, like my mom says, you always need to have a reason to come back to any place you’ve visited (smart woman, my mother)!

Overall, traveling in the low season has some awesome benefits like saving money and less crowds. But, you shouldn’t have to compromise anything when planning your vacation, either. Vienna is a city that offers beautiful sights, significant history, delicious cuisine and plenty of activities regardless of the time of year you visit, which makes it a great choice for travel in the off-season.

 


 

 

Charming Sachseln

I sat in awe, staring out of a wide, clear window as our train weaved through massive snowcapped mountains past glacial-blue lakes. I knew that Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe; it’s a popular destination favored by travel accounts and I’d seen it on my Instagram feed many times. But even the best photograph doesn’t compare to being there in person. Everything was so green. So blue. So vivid in color that it didn’t look real. And so clean! It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, wow… the world we live in is so damn beautiful. I could feel the excitement bubbling up inside me as we pulled up to Sachseln’s tiny train station.

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Dewey and I found Sachseln by chance when we were looking for Airbnbs. I did a quick Google Image search of the place and was immediately sold. Sachseln is a small town in the Swiss countryside nestled in a valley next to Lake Sarnen. It’s about a 30 minute train ride from Lucerne, which we thought was perfect. While we could enjoy the benefits of a city, we could also escape to an undiscovered place and relax in the serene mountains. Little did we know, Sachseln offered so much more than we expected.

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Our hosts picked us up from the station and drove us up… and up… until we reached our apartment which was situated at the top of a steep private road. The houses in Sachseln are dispersed from the bottom by the lake all the way up along the side of the towering mountains. Our apartment was located high up on the mountainside, overlooking the center of town and the lake.

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View from our apartment

We immediately felt the charm of Sachseln. It’s tiny, but has everything you need: one grocery store, one pharmacy, two banks, and about three restaurants. We were definitely the only tourists, and we got the sense that everyone there knew we were foreigners. Yet, whenever we passed by someone on our walk into town each day, they would always smile and greet us with a kind hello (or in Swiss German, “Grüezi”).

We strolled passed neighbors salting and shoveling their driveway, pink-cheeked children sledding and playing in the snow, an older woman feeding carrots to her pet bunnies, and farmers tending to their cows. We became regulars at the local café, drinking our coffee amongst older men reading the paper and enjoying a lunchtime beer. There was no sense of urgency here.

Dewey and I were eager to embrace the quieter life. Having just spent 10 busy days in Paris, we were ready to relax a bit. One afternoon, we walked out to the edge of a snowy hill just across the street from the entrance to our private road. There were no benches, so we laid down plastic trash bags to sit on. We sipped on our $1 beer brewed in Lucerne and purchased at the local grocery store and watched the sun set behind the Alps. It was the happiest of hours!

Another time, we brought a picnic down to the lake and watched ducks dive for food in the turquoise water. It was the first time in awhile on this backpacking journey that I didn’t feel pressure to do anything. I didn’t have to jam a bunch of activities into the day. I didn’t have to sightsee or go to museums to feel like I was getting the whole experience of visiting the country. If you have ever traveled for a long time, you know that breaks like this are important. They give you the rest you need to continue.

Staying in Sachseln provided an intimate view of life in the Swiss countryside. The only downside to staying outside the city was the price of train tickets; it cost $10 one-way into Lucerne. However, the benefits of getting to live amongst locals in this quaint village definitely outweighed the costs for us, and we were still able to spend a day in Lucerne, another day visiting the summit of nearby Mount Pilatus, and even took a day trip to Bern.

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View from the top of Mt. Pilatus

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The beautiful city of Bern

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Lucerne’s charming old town

If you know me, then you know I am the type of traveler who enjoys exploring lesser-known destinations across the world. I believe that traveling is about getting to know new cultures, and that can be difficult to do in super touristy places. Even when I am in a touristy place, I try to seek out those restaurants or parks or other experiences enjoyed by locals. That’s why I fell in love with Sachseln; it gave me a glimpse into the real life of a small Swiss village.

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If this sounds like the type of experience you would enjoy, you might want to consider staying outside of a major city when visiting Switzerland. There are countless smaller towns located just outside cities like Lucerne, Bern, and Geneva that could give you more of an authentic trip. Who knows what other charming places in Switzerland are just waiting to be discovered by the curious traveler!

 


 

Day Trip to Peles Castle

Day Trip from Bucharest or Brasov, Romania

Peles Castle’s stunning Neo-Renaissance architecture and location in the scenic Carpathian Mountains in Sinaia, Romania makes this castle a must-see if you are staying in Bucharest or Brasov. Its beauty is considered to rival that of Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria (I personally preferred Peles, but that’s just me). Built in the late 19th century by King Carol I, under whose rule Romania gained independence, the castle was the summer palace for the Romanian royalty.

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What I loved about this castle is the combination of European styles in the castle’s interior. Designed by German architect Johannes Schultz, the castle combines classic Italian, German, French, Turkish, and Austrian styles, transporting you to a different country each time you enter a new room. In addition, the entrance hall is an extraordinary example of intricate woodwork and contains a magnificent wooden spiral staircase. The castle’s beauty truly is the epitome of fairytale romance and needs to be seen in person!

 

To visit the interior, you must join a guided tour. I enjoyed having a guide because we learned so much more about the castle, and she even showed us secret doors and passageways that I wouldn’t have noticed on my own.

On your way to Peles, you can also stop and wander the peaceful Sinaia Monastery, located conveniently along the route to the castle. It’s a beautiful Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 17th century.

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After you have finished exploring the castle and monastery, you can relax with a meal at one of the many restaurants located in the town of Sinaia while you wait for your train. Dewey and I enjoyed some Romanian beer and Mamaliga, a traditional Romanian dish similar to polenta served with cheese and sour cream. Yum!

The combination of the striking Carpathian Mountains, the enchanting castle, and the charming monastery made this day trip a highlight of my time in Romania that I highly recommend if you are visiting Brasov or Bucharest.

How to Get There

The castle is just a short train ride from either Brasov or Bucharest.

Traveling from Brasov
Train time: 1hr 10min
Cost: 1-3€ one way

Traveling from Bucharest
Train time: 1hr 40min
Cost: 4-7€ one way

Finding the castle is simple once you arrive in Sinaia. From the train station, simply follow the signs that take you to a forest path that leads to the castle. The Sinaia Monastery is located along the path to the castle and is impossible to miss.

Castle Information

Opening Times

Summer: open daily from 9:15-4:15pm, Wednesdays 11:00-4:15, closed Mondays
Winter: open Thursday-Sunday 9:15-4:15pm, Wednesdays 11:00-4:15pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Cost

The castle has two guided tours you can take. The main tour takes about 45 minutes and includes most of the castle except the upper floor, while the optional tour takes 1hr 15min and includes some rooms on the upper floor. I recommend taking the full tour while you’re there; it isn’t much more expensive and the rooms are spectacular!

Main tour:
Adults- 30 lei (6.50€)
Students- 7.5 lei (1.50€)

Optional tour:
Adults- 60 lei (13.00€)
Students- 15 lei (3.00€)

Why Trier Should Be the Next City You Visit in Germany

When planning a trip to Germany, places like Berlin and Munich are among the typical cities people choose to visit. Travelers don’t usually have Trier on their radar, mostly because they haven’t heard much about it. I’ll admit, when planning the cities Dewey and I were going to visit in Germany, it took some research before I discovered the city of Trier— but I am so happy I did.

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Trier is Germany’s oldest city located on the Moselle River near the Luxembourg border. Founded by the Roman Emperor Augusta, it is considered by many to be the “Rome of the North” and served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire for over 400 years. Fortunately, the city still has an abundance of well-preserved Roman ruins that tourists can explore. When I found this out, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before. It’s also located in the Moselle wine region and known for producing Riesling. Interesting history and delicious wine… what more could you want?

Check out all of the reasons why you should include the city of Trier on your next vacation to Germany:

The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has many monuments to explore

As I mentioned, Trier was founded by the Romans and contains more Roman ruins than any other city north of the Swiss Alps. It’s also home to Germany’s oldest cathedral. Here are a few sites you can explore, all walkable from the center of the city:

Climb to the top of the Porta Nigra (‘Black Gate’), the largest Roman gate outside of Italy, for excellent views of the city. You can read about the history of the gate, turned church, turned back to gate and also get some nice shots of the main square of Trier below.

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View looking out from one of the gate’s many windows

Get lost in the tunnels under the well-preserved Imperial Baths. Built in the 4th century, the Trier Imperial Baths are considered to be the largest preserved baths outside of Rome and are definitely worth some time to explore. Dewey and I had fun navigating the underground tunnels and learning more about Trier’s Roman past.

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Dewey in front of a part of the baths.

Visit the 67 meter long and 33 meter high great hall in the Basilica of Constantine (Aula Palatina), built in the 4th century. You don’t need to spend too much time here, but the size is remarkable and there is a a nice garden surrounding it.

Marvel at the oldest church in Germany, the Cathedral of Trier, known for its impressive mix of Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque architecture. Many also believe it holds the Holy Robe of Jesus, which was given to the city of Trier as a gift from Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, who brought it back from one of her many trips to the Holy Land.

Gape at the glorious interior of the Basilica of St. Paulinus. Okay, Dewey and I wandered in here sort of by accident, but were taken aback by its glory! Built in the 18th century, the church exhibits a stunning mix of Baroque and Rococo architectural style. It contains an elaborate ceiling fresco and an impressive gold leaf gate. You can donate €1 and get a pamphlet to read about the church’s interesting history. At the time we visited, we were the only ones there and were lucky enough to hear someone practicing the organ! I always recommend visiting churches when traveling to Europe because they are usually well preserved, free, and provide a glimpse into the past.

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It has one of the most charming town squares in Europe

Trier’s hauptmarkt, the city’s main square, is the busy center of Trier and is surrounded by colorful buildings with interesting architecture. It seriously looks like something out of a German fairytale. I was lucky enough to be there in December when the Christmas markets were set up, which made it even more magical. In the summer, you can explore the outdoor markets and sit outside for a cold drink at one of the many cafes.

It’s a perfect destination in both the winter and the summer

Like I mentioned, I visited Trier in December when the main square was filled with festive Christmas markets. I had come from Cologne, which is a city known for having one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, and I actually liked Trier’s better. It was less crowded, smaller, and more intimate. The scenic backdrop of the colorful town square added to its appeal! Plus, I didn’t have to wait 20 minutes in line for more gluhwein (hot red wine popular at the markets).

But Trier is also a great city to visit in the summer. Because of its location in the valley along the Moselle river, it’s great place to escape the summer heat. You can swim in the river, go on hikes in the surrounding mountains, and cool off with a glass of Riesling at one of the many surrounding vineyards.

It’s a great home base for a day trip to my favorite castle, Burg Eltz.

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Rick Steve’s and I have this in common: Burg Eltz is our favorite castle in Europe! Okay, well let me clarify- if we are judging based on exterior, Burg Eltz is my favorite (Peles Castle in Romania is my top choice as far as gorgeous castle interiors go.) I wasn’t able to go inside because it’s closed in the winter, but just viewing the outside was extraordinary.

It’s a quick day trip from Trier and should not be missed! Plus, you can take a relaxing stroll through an enchanting German forest which will bring you to the fairytale castle. Dewey and I brought a picnic and took advantage of the lack of tourists in the off season by taking some amazing photos.

All in all, Trier is a charming city with complex history just waiting to be discovered on your upcoming trip to Germany.


 

 

Things to Do in the Winter in Copenhagen

With Christmas markets, glogg stands, museums, and the magical Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen is one of the best European cities to visit in the winter. We spent 5 days in the city, which was plenty of time to enjoy the sights and relax. Whether you are visiting for a week or just a few days, here is a list of things to do for your winter stay in Copenhagen:

Get lost in Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is a winter wonderland in December. When you enter the park, you feel like you’re walking inside a snow globe. Every pine tree is decorated with ornaments, fairy lights line the walkways, there is fake snow sprinkled across the ground and in the trees, and nonstop Christmas music plays from the speakers. They even serve Nordic street food… which is reindeer meat served in a pita (run, run Rudolph!).

Visiting the amusement park is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. They have a few rollercoasters, but don’t expect anything too extreme like those you’ll find at Six Flags in the US. You can get a pass for unlimited rides, or you can simply pay to enter and then pay individually for each ride. I’m not a huge fan of rollercoasters or anything that spins, so my boyfriend, Dewey, and I bought entrance tickets. We meandered around the park taking in all of the glorious Christmas decorations, window shopped at the little log cabins selling goodies, and picked up yummy snacks along the way. Yes, we tried the reindeer meat, and we loved it! We also had a lot of laughs playing carnival games and winning silly prizes.

Overall, I recommend going just for the scenery alone, especially in December. It’s right in the city center, so you can enjoy the park and then continue exploring after.

Wander Strøget Street

Strøget is Copenhagen’s pedestrian-only cobblestone street that winds through the center of the city and leads to the popular waterfront area, Nyhavn. String lights and garland decorate the street in the winter and it’s filled with restaurants and shops. It’s a busy area with squares where street performers play classic Christmas jingles. We enjoyed strolling down the street while munching on Danish hot dogs and people-watching.

Take it all in at the Nyhavn District

Nyhavn is Copenhagen’s well-known canal and waterfront district. It is worth visiting just to see the vibrant colored houses and the house where the famous Danish writer, Hans Christian Anderson, lived. It’s lined with restaurants, but you don’t need to spend money here— unless you enjoy an overcharged meal! Simply take a walk and enjoy the scenic atmosphere.

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Browse the Christmas markets

In December, Strøget street and the Nyhavn area are filled with Christmas markets. Decorated stalls sell everything from intricate Christmas ornaments to different kinds of savory cheeses and meat. Of course, you must sip on some Glogg (mulled wine) to keep you warm as you browse the stalls! Dewey and I have been to lots of Christmas markets on this adventure so far, and we can confidently say the mulled wine in Copenhagen was our favorite because it’s served with shaved almonds and juicy cranberries. For an extra kick, ask for a shot of whiskey with it!

Relax with Danish beer and a movie

Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from all the sightseeing and just relax. When I’m traveling, I like spending a day doing things that aren’t typical tourist activities, like seeing a movie with Danish subtitles! On our walk into the city center, we passed a large pink building that was odd-looking and made me curious. Turns out, it was a movie theater. We went to see a movie and it ended up being a unique experience because it was the premiere of the new Spider-Man movie, which was apparently a big deal in Copenhagen. The lobby of the theater was blasting music and had fog machines and laser lights made to look like a spider web. It was packed full of movie-goers and had a red carpet with people posing next to cardboard cut-outs of Spider-Man.

Afterwards, we headed to Taphouse for a beer. They have over 60 taps serving both local and international beer. It’s a cool place and great for trying different Danish beers. Go at happy hour for even better deals!

Stroll through Christiania

Christiania is a hippy commune that developed in a squatted military area in 1971. It’s a Freetown that has its own rules independent from the Danish government, though its legal status is controversial. It’s a peaceful place where yoga and meditation are practiced and important to its citizens. I originally thought it wasn’t going to be very impressive, but the commune is much more modernized than I expected. It has a concert venue, food stands, small bars and restaurants, and even a large market inside an old warehouse.

We strolled down the main drag known as Pusher Street, where hash used to be sold openly out of stalls (it is still sold, but the stalls are gone and it’s definitely not as open as it used to be). We enjoyed listening to a jazz band and ate traditional Danish open-face sandwiches purchased in the market. It was truly a unique place that you should go to just to see and get a sense of the hippy culture that is so strikingly different from the rest of the city.

If you go, be sure not to take any photographs! The town does not allow tourists to take pictures.

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Visit the National Museum of Denmark

A trip to a foreign place is not complete without learning a bit about its history. Plus, museums are a great activity for escaping the cold. The National Museum of Denmark covers 14,000 years of Danish history and it’s easy to spend hours there! The “Stories of Denmark” exhibit was a highlight for me because it does a great job of showing you what life was like for the Danish throughout different periods in history all the way up until the present. Learn about Vikings, gaze at the Sun Chariot from the Bronze Age, and stroll through a room filled with intricately made dollhouses (one of my favorite rooms). You can even see an old hash stall from Christiania before Danish authorities banned cannabis trade in the commune. All in all, it’s a unique museum and should definitely be added to your list! They don’t offer student discounts, but it’s worth the $15 ticket.

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Old hash stall on display at the National Museum of Denmark

 


 

 

Saving Money in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a colorful city where unusual sights and attractions combine to offer a unique cultural experience. It’s a city composed of juxtapositions. It’s fast-paced, yet relaxing, where modern buildings sit across from 17th century architecture. Copenhagen is the only place in Europe where you will find an amusement park, a hippy commune, and national museums all in the city’s center. It’s an edgy city with an intriguing history and so much to explore that there’s no wonder why it’s a popular destination for tourists. However, Copenhagen is also known for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe. If you don’t want to miss out on visiting the eclectic city but don’t want to burn your budget while doing so, read on for a few tips on how to save money while making the most of your trip.

Stay outside the city center

Accommodation is pricey in Copenhagen, but you can save quite a bit by choosing to stay outside of the city center. It’s a compact city that is designed in a way that makes it easy to explore. Plus, the metro system is efficient and can quickly take you to the main tourist attraction areas. We stayed in Frederiksberg, a fun neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. It was about a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute metro ride to the center, and our Airbnb was only three minutes from the metro stop. My boyfriend, Dewey, and I often choose to stay outside of the main tourist areas not only because it’s good for our wallets, but it also gives us a chance to see more of the city and get a better sense of the culture. In the area we were in, it was rare for us to hear other English speakers— and we like it that way! We love feeling like we are living like the locals whenever we visit a new place and it’s a thrill when we discover restaurants and bars that are local favorites.

 

Do the research on the type of accommodation

Regardless of your destination, it’s important to do thorough research on the type of accommodation to make sure you’re getting the best deal. In Copenhagen specifically, every option is going to be expensive— even hostels. If you are traveling alone, hostels are probably the way to go. However, if you are traveling as a couple, look into staying in private rooms in Airbnbs or other rental agencies. I typically prefer Airbnb over others because it has the cheapest options and I’m used to using them.

Renting a private room in a local’s apartment on Airbnb is often cheaper and a better value than renting individual beds in a hostel dorm. For example, our private room in Frederiksberg cost €40 (20 per person) a night, whereas the cheapest hostel bed we could find was €25 a night (€50 total for two people). So, not only did we save money, but we didn’t have to share a bathroom with a bunch of strangers and we stayed with a local who could give us insider tips on the city!

Walk whenever you can

Like I mentioned before, Copenhagen is a compact city with all of its major sites dispersed around a central location, the city hall. So, it’s very walkable. If you’re healthy and able, choose walking over taxis or public transport whenever you can. In the five days that I was in Copenhagen, Dewey and I walked into the city center and only took the metro home at the end of the day when it was dark and we were exhausted from sightseeing. We were able to see more of the city and walked off all of the pølse (local hot dog) and smørrebrød (Danish open-face sandwich) we ate! It saved us $40 altogether— $40 that I’d much rather spend on a night out to dinner!

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Dewey posing by a pond on one of our walks into town

Pack a lunch or eat at a pølsevogne

I followed the locals’ example on this one. It’s very common for locals to picnic at one of Copenhagen’s many squares or along the canals because the food is not cheap— even Doner kebab is about $8! Packing a lunch when you’re headed out for a day of sightseeing is a great way to control your spending. One day, we made sandwiches out of leftover bread from our dinner the night before and ate them in the lobby of the National Museum of Denmark. So, though we had to pay to get into the museum (with no student deals available, unfortunately), we saved on lunch!

Another option, if you want to try some Danish street food, is to stop at one of the many sausage wagons (pølsevogne) located around the city. This is the cheapest (about $5) food you’ll find in Copenhagen, and it’s fast and tasty!

Buy your alcohol at convenience stores, not in restaurants

This is the golden rule of Copenhagen and all of the Danes know it. Prices for alcohol at bars and restaurants are so high that many locals prefer to purchase their beer at convenience stores and drink them along the canals or in squares. Drinking in public is legal, so grab a few beers, sit by a canal and take in the scenery around you.

Avoid eating around the Nyhavn canal area

Nyhavn is a must-see during your visit to Copenhagen, but don’t be persuaded into dining here. While it can be tempting to eat and drink at one of the many outdoor cafes lining the canal, it’s also a tourist trap where you’ll end up spending a fortune. Stroll along the canal, gaze at the vibrant colored houses, and then make your way out of the tourist area for dinner. Copenhagen is filled with great places to eat and it’s always fun to discover a local’s spot.

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Dining in Dublin

In the 11 weeks I’ve been in Dublin, I’ve tried TONS of different restaurants (does going out to eat count as a hobby?). Dublin is a foodie city, and I have been in foodie heaven. From traditional Irish cuisine to Asian street food and Spanish tapas, here is a list of some of my favorite places in Dublin:

Breakfast

Beanhive

Why you should go here: for one of the best Irish Breakfasts in Dublin.

 

Beanhive is an adorable little café across the street from St. Stephen’s Green. It’s small and has limited tables, but the food and coffee is definitely worth the wait. I ordered the Full Irish Breakfast, and what I love about theirs is that they really mean full. It has everything. I’m talking fried tomato, mushroom, sausage, ham, white and black pudding, beans, a fried egg and toast. Can you say breakfast of champs!? If meat isn’t your thing, don’t worry. They have vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. Plus, the baristas are artists and coffees always come with a fun design on top— great for that perfect Insta shot.

Queen of Tarts

Why you should go here: for the tasty breakfast options and the freshly baked cakes and sweet treats.

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Queen of Tarts is another great spot for a hearty Irish Breakfast. They are also widely known for their baked cakes and treats ranging from cheesecake to scones to slices of freshly made pecan pie. It’s quite popular (deservingly so), but luckily they have two locations just around the corner from each other, so it doesn’t take too long to be seated. Both restaurants are in a central location near City Hall, so it’s a good place to pop in while sightseeing for a warm cappuccino and cake break.

Brother Hubbard

Why you should go here: for a different approach to the usual weekend brunch.

 

Brother Hubbard serves up tasty, vegetarian-friendly brunch with a Moroccan twist. There are two locations, one in North Dublin and one in South. I went to the South Dublin location. In addition to the flavorful food and a menu that favors eggs and avocado, I enjoyed sitting outside where I could easily people watch. It was pouring rain the day I went, but they have large umbrellas and heat lamps to keep you comfortable. There’s something cozy about eating outside in the rain! If you find yourself dining here, I recommend ordering a side of fried halloumi. And if you aren’t a vegetarian, definitely try the chorizo for some added crisp!

Bibi’s Café

Why you should go here: to enjoy an appetizing brunch at a cute local’s place.

 

A hidden gem located in South Dublin, Bibi’s is the neighborhood favorite. The café offers a homey atmosphere with ceramic blue plates and shelves stocked full of cookbooks. The food is simple and of excellent quality, as they try to source locally whenever possible. I tried the most popular dish on the menu, Squash Eggs, and it did not disappoint. Their menu changes with the season, ensuring only the freshest ingredients. Definitely check this place out if you are interested in a local’s spot.

Lunch

Green Bench Café

Why you should go here: for the best sandwich in Dublin!

**Disclaimer: photo of food not available due to incredibly fast consumption of sandwich**

My oh my, the Green Bench is not your average sandwich shop. It is a go-to lunch spot for Dubliners, and there’s no questioning why. The Green Bench serves some of the most flavorful sandwiches in all of Dublin. Their menu changes daily, but the sandwiches never disappoint and the price is very reasonable (about 6-8 euro). It’s takeaway only, but it’s quite close to St. Stephen’s Green, so you can easily find a bench in the park to sit and enjoy your food like I did! Bring your appetite, as the sandwiches are big!

The Fumbally

Why you should go here: for fresh sandwiches and salads in a funky atmosphere.

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The Fumbally is your classic hipster-healthy café. It’s the kind of place where all of the waiters have either man buns or beanies, there’s always vegan options, and people describe it as having “good vibes”. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the food is really good, especially if you like fresh salads and sandwiches. Their specials change daily depending on the season and the chef, and it’s all locally sourced. It’s off the beaten path (I only discovered it because it’s close to where I was interning) and a bit pricey, but it’s definitely a unique experience with great food.

Bao House

Why you should go here: for the fluffiest bao in all the land and affordable prices.

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Bao wow wow…..this place is incredible. A small, Taiwanese restaurant located on Aungier Street, Bao House is a must-visit if you enjoy Asian street food. If you’ve never had bao, this is the place to try it. The buns are fluffy pillows of heaven stuffed with savory fillings, such as crispy pork belly or duck. They also serve rice and noodle bowls, which look delicious, though I haven’t tried them (yet). They have student deals as well, so be sure to show your student ID for a better price!

Dinner

57 The Headline

Why you should go here: for upscale Irish staples at an awesome local’s spot.

 

If you are looking for a fun local’s spot, 57 The Headline is it. Located in South Dublin, this cozy gastropub serves no ordinary pub food. 57 (as locals call it) offers upscale Irish staples including fish and chips and savory roasts. I tried their take on bangers and mash, which were made with venison and sourced from a local butcher. It was easily the best bangers and mash I’ve had in Ireland (as one of my favorite Irish dishes, I’ve ordered it many times). They also offer a variety of craft beer and being from Virginia where there’s lots of microbreweries, I love me some craft beer! The bar has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and draws in a slightly older crowd. It’s a great option to relax with dinner and drinks after a day of sightseeing.

O’Donoghues

Why you should go here: for the Guinness Stew, good music, and good craic!

Okay, so O’Donoghues is a widely popular pub namely for its pints of Guinness and live traditional Irish music. However, it’s not just a place for drinks and good craic (though, would it be a problem if it was?). This historic pub also serves the best Guinness Stew I’ve ever had at a very reasonable price. Some of my friends in my internship program said this was their favorite place to eat and drink in Dublin! What’s better than a warm, hearty bowl of stew, a Guinness and live music on a chilly fall night?

The Ramen Bar

Why you should go here: for thoughtfully prepared, delectable food and a little something different.

 

Hands down, the Ramen Bar was my favorite restaurant in Dublin. If you are looking to venture away from the typical Irish cuisine, the Ramen Bar is the place to do it. It was so tasty that I went twice (and would go again, if I could!). They have kimchi mozzarella arancini! Need I say more? They hand make their noodles from scratch and the ramen is just. so. flavorful. This place is great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and it has an edgy yet inviting atmosphere. I recommend the prawn cracker nachos to start, and my favorite ramen is the Yaki Niku Pork, though I’m sure everything on the menu is delicious. Don’t skip out on this place if you are visiting Dublin!

Church Bar and Café

Why you should go here: For the interesting history a unique atmosphere and yummy food!

 

Yes, that’s correct. It’s a bar inside an old church! The former St. Mary’s Church of Ireland was built in the early 18th century, but has been restored into a funky bar and restaurant that serves delicious food. I really liked being able to have a bit of history mixed in with my dining experience. I was there for the early bird set menu (a great deal if you can make it there between 5-6pm) and dined on perfectly cooked salmon directly in front of a giant organ. It was quite the experience! They serve a variety of food from cheaper, casual bar food (I heard the nachos are LOADED) to fancier set menus. Whether you go for appetizers and drinks or dine on a three-course meal, this historic place is well worth a visit. Fun fact: Arthur Guinness, the Father of Guinness, was married inside this church!

Salamanca

Why you should go here: for delectable tapas that are great for sharing on a night out with friends. 

Tapas, tapas, tapas! Ok, so when you think of Ireland you don’t exactly think tapas. However, Salamanca gives Spanish restaurants a run for their money. This restaurant is a great place to go with a group where everyone can choose from a variety of vegetarian, meat, and seafood options to share. What could be better than sipping sangria while enjoying each other’s company over plates of delectable food? My favorite tapa was the pimientos de Padrón. Simple, yet so yummy! For a good deal, this restaurant also offers an early bird special between 4-6:30pm.