A peek into the highlights of visiting Copenhagen, Denmark with my sister.
Copenhagen (København) is the capital of Denmark.
Currency: Danish Kroner (DKK)
Fun fact: Danish Monarchy is the oldest in Europe.
Like Amsterdam, you'll see as many if not more bikes than people.
Get to know the city on a Free Walking Tour: Grand Tour of Copenhagen
Hi = Hello
Hi hi = Goodbye
Tak = Thanks
Skol = Cheers
Hygge = cozy
Canal tours are crowded and touristy, around 80 DKK.
Nyhavn = New Harbor: Just walk through and take a picture; everything is touristy and overpriced.
Smørrebrød = traditional open-faced Danish sandwich. (A bit tough to find vegetarian options but they exist).
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
About an hour outside city by train; take DSB (Danish State Train) from Central Station to Humlebœk station, then a 10 minute walk (follow signs.)
115 kr / $17
So worth it. You can literally spend a whole day here. Much more than a museum. Art inside and out. Beautiful sculpture park and nature paths. You can see Sweden across the water.
Kastellet = castle, free star-shaped park right next to Østerport train station. Great for sunrise and sunset.
Little Mermaid statue (Den Lille Havfrue) located on the harbor near the eastern point of the star. See this early morning or late afternoon to avoid peak tourist time. (Widely considered the most famous/disappointing monument in Denmark. )
FREE entry, FREE lockers, FREE wifi
First floor pre-history, history of Denmark & Vikings
Second floor Stories from Denmark 1700s-2000s
Also try the Free walking Tour: Christianshaven
Includes Christiania: Alternative, experimental micro country with a green light district, skate park, street art
Copenhagen Street Food (Paper Island)
Enjoy a variety of food, music and events while mingling with locals!
Open every day 12:00 - 21:00
Electric bicycle rentals, high-tech but heavy
25 kr per hour
Copenhagen has very friendly people and so much unexpected history. It makes me want to see more of Denmark!
Hamburg will always be a special place for me since I lived/studied here in 2008. I visited a friend here again recently and some things have changed over the past 8 years but mostly it's the same old city I remember.
Hamburg is a big, busy port city in Northern Germany.
S-bahn/U-bahn local trains included in Eurail or buy daily pass €6.
FREE Walking Tour | Robin & the Tour Guides (yellow umbrellas) 7 days/week.
I enjoyed Rhonda's Historic City Center tour (11:00 - 2:30) so much that I joined the Harbor/Reeperbahn tour (14:00-16:00) as well!
Big body of water between the city and the suburbs. Lots of parks/greenspace on the suburb side; shopping and architecture on the city side.
Take a walk through the underwater Elb tunnel under the harbor.
HVV Ferry (Fähre) cheap ride around the harbor, €2.
Discounted touristic rides on Sundays.
Small St. Pauli park overlooking the Harbor is a great place to watch the sunset.
ST. PAULI / REEPERBAHN
Abundance of street art concentrated in St. Pauli/Reeperbahn area.
FREE Alternative Hamburg Tour Wednesday - Saturday; see lots of street art!
See the Beatles tribute: sculptures + round record-shaped discography on the ground.
Eat at least one Franzbröchen, Hamburg's famous cinnamon pastry.
Have a drink (€4-€14) at Clouds/Heaven's Nest downtown for a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Reeperbahn at night: Red light district
Lots of clubs/bars around Hans Albers Platz offer live music with no cover.
Contemporary, Avant Garde Art & Photography
€14 both halls
Tuesdays after 16:00 = €5
Just make sure you check out the current exhibitions online first so you don't get stuck paying to see a bunch of port-a-toilets like I did. -_-
I'm pretty late to the Paris party. Many friends have traveled here before me and most can't stop gushing about the place. In the words of Audrey Hepburn "Paris is always a good idea."
Except when it was my idea. My timing turned out to be te-rri-ble.
It all started when I went to reserve my seat on a train from Rotterdam to Paris. The ticket agent refused to book the seat since they couldn't guarantee the train would arrive due to a railway workers strike in France. So I just had to show up at the platform later that day and hope that the train did too.
Thankfully I boarded said train and eventually met my sister and a friend at Paris Nord. We had a decent dinner. Not the Fall-Out-Of-Your-Chair flavor that everyone raves about but palatable. I like rose wine and cider so I ordered a rosé cidré hybrid but it tasted awful like partially composted flowers and apples.
Despite it being the beginning of June and supposedly summer, the weather was cold and slightly wet with temperatures hovering around 14°C.
The three of us did a free walking tour of Paris the next morning. We assumed the media-hyped strike would paralyze all the metros until our guide told us that "No, of course the metros are working. The city cannot just shut down."
Except the city did partially shut down later that evening. My friend and I arrived at the Musé d'Orsay to find a note taped to the ticket office window announcing an early closure.
So we headed back to Marais to do some thrift shopping, for all of 30 minutes, because all the shops apparently close at 19:30.
The next day we were scheduled to visit the Louvre at 13:00 with our pre-purchased tickets. However the top story on my BBC news app announced that the worlds most famous museum would be closed all day while employees moved art & artifacts above ground since the river Seine was on the rise after heavy, unseasonal rains.
We decided instead to take the metro/train west to the Palais of Versailles. When we went to change trains at Invalides, the entrance to the C-line was blocked with a notice that the line was closed; another precaution due to flood fears since the main line to Versailles ran along the river.
We figured out a detour and took at least an extra hour but eventually we arrived at our royal destination. After about four hours wandering the palace and gardens, we walked back to the station to discover there was only one train per hour heading back to Paris due to some combination of striking and floods.
Again it took extra time and effort but we finally got back to the city and climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower. It was like the final challenge in an obstacle course and we reached the pinnacle of it victoriously despite so many struggles along the way.
It all seemed a bit surreal because if you went by the media coverage alone, you'd think the streets of Paris were filled with soggy, angry chaos but not once did I see a protest or floods or even moderate rain.
The transport strikes have been a pain for many people but I know the taxi and uber drivers at least are benefitting from it because I had to pay €81 to get from the city to Charles de Gaulle airport early on my last morning.
Guess I'm just gonna have to go back to Paris at some point. ;)
Venice is a roughly fish-shaped cluster of islands in shallow water off the Eastern coast of Italy.
If you're staying in the islands, take the train all the way to Venezia Santa Lucia.
Buy a continuous ACTV Public Transport pass for the public boat taxis (vaporetto) and busses. €20/1 day, €30/2 days, €40/3 days. Pass activates after the first swipe and will remain valid for the following 24/48/72 hours.
All transport costs/entry fees reduced if you are under age 26.
City streets are confusing but walkable. Download Ulmon offline map app. (link)
Register in advance online for a free walking tour. Three hours rain or shine. Tip your guide at the end. Lots of local insight and information like how to skip the huge queue at San Marco's Basilica. ;)
Don't try to see every island - most look the same. Do visit Murano (famous glass products and production) and Burano (a rainbow of architecture).
Pick three main museums or landmarks to make priority.
Free to go inside the famous San Marco Basilica.
Eat small, inexpensive tapas dishes at an authentic Osterilla.
AVOID all pizza and foods at the most touristic spots (Rialto Bridge, San Marco's Square) and places with huge, multi-page menus, pictures of the food or promoters trying to recruit you.
Watch the San Georgio limestone church (built by Palladio) glow at sunset.
Buy one thing: Murano glass accessory (jewelry, wine stopper, cuff links, etc) - many options under €10. Street stalls are cheaper than shops and items are usually cheapest on the other islands.
Cool books, postcards and stamps available at Acqua Alta bookstore.
Touristy Gondola rides are €80 for 30 minutes. Instead take a short trip across the canal in a "ferry Gondola" for €2.
I really loved Venice and want to come back here to live for a little while someday.
Fairytale village in Southern Switzerland in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Super expensive ski resort; some people still on the slopes in mid-May.Hiking & Mountain Biking popular in summer.
No cars allowed - only small electric vehicles.
Special train from Visp to Zermatt: 36 Francs each way or discounted to 27 Francs with Eurail pass. Beautiful scenery!
More like military barracks. Bottom bunks too low to sit up straight so mind your head. Wifi was ok. Check-in only 16:00 - 21:00. Breakfast = additional 8 Francs/person 7:30 - 9:30.
We hiked to Riffelalp, the first third of the the trek to the summit of Gornergrat. Incredible views of the Matterhorn during the hike.
I used a walking stick named Sven until my sister spotted a stray ski pole that was probably only recently revealed once enough snow melted.
Cable cars & gondolas take you to the top of Gornegrat (observatory & shopping) or Klein Matterhorn (Glacier Paradise) for a hefty price.
Dinner at Cafe Du Pont; oldest restaurant in Zermatt. Fondue with herbs and Kirsch Schnapps served hot and bubbling in a red pot along with bread and potatoes.
The proper way to eat this traditional Swiss meal is to cut up the potatoes on your plate & dip pieces of bread into the pot; some cheese drips off the bread & covers the potatoes. Alternate bites of bread and potatoes.
Paired with salad and a local Vallais white wine called Hieda. (Many vineyards in the area.)
The following morning the valley was foggy and cold. Like waking up in the middle of a cloud.
Fun fact: The Matterhorn is the inspiration for the shape of the famous Swiss Toblerone chocolates & the peak featured on its packaging.
Second largest city in France, located on southern coast.
Ancient; first Greek settlement in France = Massalia.
Very diverse, at least 50% immigrants.
Relatively walkable but also a metro, tram and busses.
City is old, dirty and kinda stinky in some parts but still many diamonds in the rough.
St. Charles = Main Train Station
Vertigo Centre Hostel is super close. Clean and comfy enough. Breakfast (extra 5 Euro) is good if you like bread.
Vieux Port: Packed with boats and people
Ferry to Chateau d'If around 11 euro
Inspiration for Count of Monte Cristo. I ran out of time before I could do this. :(
Le Fort Saint-Jean
muCEM 9.50 Euro but so worth it
Incredible, inspirational collection of Pablo Picasso
Well executed, educational displays on Mediterranean history
Historic architecture and cathedrals
Basilisque Notre Dame de la Garde
NOT the famous/Hunchback one (it's in Paris)
Hike up a hill and lots of stairs, nice architecture and interior decor
The bo-bo (bourgeois-bohemian) community
I serendipitously stumbled into the street art capital of France.
I spent hours meandering around the streets & admiring many murals.
Musee de Beaux Arts / Musee d' Histoire Naturelle / Palais De Longchamp
The building is more interesting than anything inside. Save yourself 11 euros and just admire the architecture and Longchamp park behind it.
Parc Nationale des Calanques
Beautiful national park less than an hour from the city center.
It's huge and there are no signs so I highly recommend a map.
No entry fee and can be reached by public transport (1.60 Euro each way)
Metro red line towards Santa Marguerite
Change to Bus 21 at Rond Point du Prado (walk left out of station, cross street, bus in front of big stadium)
Ride until the last stop at Luminy (University) and walk past the traffic circle towards the giant rocks and you'll eventually run into the trails.
Admittedly, I was a little cocky when I decided to do a half-day hike through the Calanques. I became THAT dumb tourist that got lost but thankfully was able to figure things out before ending up on the news.
With no map I headed towards the first summit I saw near Luminy. I was in awe of the natural surroundings and noticed colorful little markings on some sporadic rocks and thought "Hmm the graffiti is even in the national parks. These symbols can't possibly be important. The only directions I need to know are up and down."
I got hungry around noon and wished I had packed a lunch so I decided to head back down. I encountered very few other people and was all like "Sweet! I have the whole park to myself!"
My half-a-day hike evolved into a 7 hour ordeal because I got thoroughly lost. I wandered for a while before I met a French couple with a map. I asked about Luminy and he told me in English I was quite far away and showed me the RED trail around Mount Puget to get back.
Turns out I should have actually paid attention to those colorful little symbols after all. So there was some up and some down and some climbing up through rock crevices and then a lot more up.
Eventually I found a rock designating the summit of Mount Puget so I was sorta going in the right direction. I took advantage of the view, but could no longer see the city. It was here that I realized I should have taken pictures of that guy's map with my phone. Facepalm.
I then spotted a path several meters below me that looked like it went where I needed to go. I started climbing down a cliff face that looked safe until I got half way and then it wasn't anymore so I went back up and followed some symbols that guided me down a different cliff face.
This is where I met a small, fit, middle-aged woman who was climbing up the same path I was climbing down. She noticed my vibrams and asked in English if I climbed and I replied "Not intentionally… but I am now because I'm lost."
Her name is Christin and she is from Geneva and she has a daughter my age but most importantly, she has a map. Oh, how I love the Swiss! (And not just because my sister is married to one.)
Christin offered me her phone number and to join her and her sister and to drive me back to Luminy once we reached the car park.
The map, which I took pictures of this time, indicated there was a bus that stopped at the car park. I didn't want to be a burden so I thanked her profusely and intentionally followed the red trail she recommended towards Col de la Gineste.
I made one last wrong turn before getting back on track and finally arrived at the car park around 17:00 to wait for the bus. Impatiently, I contemplated hitchhiking just a little ways until I found another bus stop.
Thirty minutes later, my Swiss Angel appeared again. This time I gladly accepted a ride. She dropped me at a stop for Bus 21 that would take me back to the city and then they drove back toward Cassis.
I was happy to pay Christin's kindness forward at the Metro station and gave a kid a Euro who was just short of ticket fare.
Moral of the story: A map is always a good idea.
There's fabulous art & entertainment everywhere in Munich as long as you know where to look!
Englischer Garten / English Garden
Huge greenspace (3.7 km) on the Isar River. FREE!
Walk, jog, run, bike, surf. Yes, surf!
Mini Hofbrauhaus: English Garden, No costume necessary. Less crowded and less tourists but many dogs.
I dislike it but I attempted to drink a whole glass of beer but could only finish Half-a-weissen. 😂 LOL
Personally, I do not understand the appeal of beer gardens since I don't smoke cigarettes or drink beer or feast on dead flesh but apparently a lot of other people find it enjoyable.
I walked for several hours during my street art scavenger hunt today. Couldn't have done it without this helpful post/map. Like hunting for buried/hidden treasure as most of the murals are below street level and/or under bridges.
Three street art hot spots on the east side of the river.
Street Art Mecca is located at Burogebaude Viehhof / Outdoor cinema near Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt. www.viehhof-kino.de
The place was kinda closed and partially under construction but I found a way in anyways. Met a group of local guys about to start a fresh design.
Bikers, sunbathers, picnic blankets and book readers are scattered around the Rosengarten & Frülingsanlagen when the weather is nice.
Schwabing = University & Arts district & my favorite area.
Pinakotheken / Pinakothek der Moderne = Traditional & Modern Art in four buildings; one of the world's largest art museums.
Marienplatz: Full of tourists but you have to fight the crowds to see the old architecture.
Haus der Kunst | Contemporary Art Museum
Next to Haus der Kunst is the famous city surf spot, Eisbachwelle.
Dean&David: A chain with relatively cheap vegan/vegetarian food.
Munich is such a creative city! I hope to come back to paint my own mural here someday!
Bodensee is a massive, natural lake with shores in three different countries. Here, you can bike through Switzerland, Austria and Germany all in one day. (And you can see Lichtenstein too!)
My sister, brother-in-law and I thought it would be a good idea to go here during a long holiday weekend. Apparently, lots of other people had the same idea.
We took a train from Zurich to Konstanz then biked to a ferry and crossed the lake to Meersburg.
The views include lakeside villages, the Alps, vineyards, forests, apple orchards and roadside gardens.
Sometimes it felt like we were part of a peloton but mostly it was wide open roads.
It took us at least an hour to find a room for the night and we ended up booking the last two rooms for €160 at a hotel that resembled an old farmhouse called Dorfkrug between the towns of Langenargen and Krossbronn.
This is German territory so naturally there was a bier garten out back. We enjoyed traditional Bavarian dinner and breakfast here as well.
We stopped in Lindau, Germany for a coffee break and a quick walk around the tiny island. A famous German storybook from my brother-in-law's childhood about a music box maker named Augustin was set here.
My brother-in-law departed for a faster and more challenging ride through the hills while my sister and I continued to Bregens, Austria where we had lunch and caught a train to Munich.
In total, we traveled about 60 KM from Konstanz to Bregens which is about 25% of the 256 km of bike paths around the lake. The weather was perfection!
I'd love to come back someday and bike around the whole lake. So glad I got to spend some quality, family time in such a beautiful setting!
Lauterbrunnen: Part of Bernese Oberlands. Weather a bit chilly, but beautiful in May.
A valley in the midst of majestic mountains and 72 waterfalls. See some of Switzerland's most famous peaks: the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau.
Walking, Hiking, Biking, Sightseeing, Skiing
Arrive by train at Interlaken OST. Buy ticket to Lauterbrunnen. (Not included in Eurail but discount ticket = 11.40 CHF)
Walk south from Lauterbrunnen on the road closest to the waterfalls. About 45 minutes walk to Trümmelbach and then another 30 to Stechelberg (plus picture-taking time.)
I walked one way then took the bus (4.40 CHF) back. Can also bring/rent bikes.
Stop at Trümmelbach & ride the lift deep into the mountain to see 10 hidden glacial waterfalls gushing around you. Cost: 11 CHF
Pack a picnic lunch to save some money!
Mürrin: the least expensive stop on the cable car at 22 CHF round trip. You'll get a good view of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau.
(For comparison, 102 CHF will get you even higher to Schilthorn where the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed and 184 CHF gets you to Jungfraujoch.)
Thanks to my sister and her native Swiss husband for the recommendation!
Bern roughly translates to Bears. And you will see them all over the city.
Established 12th Century.
Capital of Switzerland since 1848.
UNESCO World Heritage Area: Altstadt = Old Town.
Situated on the Aare River.
Arrive Bern Banhoff (train station) center of town. FREE map at the tourist info shop at the station.
City is very walkable:
Follow the flags & fountains downhill.
FREE water! Fill your water bottle/drink out of the fountains!
Pause to admire Einstein's house.
Continue, cross small bridge.
Walk up steep hill to the Rose Garden (FREE):
Flowers blooming, birds chirping, panoramic view of the city; serene, botanical bliss!
Walk downhill toward big bridge.
Bärengraben = Bear Pits (FREE)
5,000 square meter waterfront enclosure. (I usually don't support animal captivity but the bears seem healthy & happy.)
Kunst Art Museum near train station; 7 CHF entry for permanent collection including Matisse, Dali, Picasso, Anker, Degas, Monet & more.
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH Kunsthalle Art Gallery across Kirchenfeldbrücke bridge which is a disappointing ripoff. -_-
Tibits Vegetarian Restaurant: $$$ Expensive buffet, pay by weight, beverages particularly pricey (learned the hard way.)
Cheapest to eat at Migros or similar supermarkets/kiosks.
Gurten mountain day-trip 25 minutes by tram
Switzerland is really expensive so I try to save money wherever I can.