This time last year, I returned from Copenhagen in complete awe of the locals and the way they do things. Throughout my trip, I kept a list of all the things the Danes seemed to do better than anyone else. Here’s what I found:
- Carbon neutral cities. Copenhagen has a desire to become completely carbon neutral by 2025, and I bet it’s going to make it. Unusual for a country that relies on heating, it has managed to keep its impact on the environment right down and should be applauded for doing so
- Sandwiches. Only Denmark could come up with such a simple speciality. But they do them so well! Smorrebrod is typically a slice of bread topped with fish or meat with some kind of sauce. My favourite was a smoked herring with sour cream and dill. If I’m honest,I wouldn’t have even tried it if I was in any other country. But in Denmark, it was delicious, and the tastes have inspired us to try new combinations back home
- Transport. The trains were luxurious with comfortable seats and headphone sockets to listen to music (and that was just in standard class!) Even the metro wasn’t bad, with wide trains that felt spacious even as the carriage filled up. Give me that over the tube any day!
- Carlsberg. This might seem obvious as Carlsberg is a Danish beer, and no-one else can do Danish beer, right? But drinking Carlsberg in England is not a very pleasant experience. There’s something weird about it, the taste, the texture, the colour, even the name Carlsberg Export suggests something is wrong. However, as soon as we tried it in Denmark, we were hooked. No wonder the Danes hate to see it leave
- Languages. Everyone under the age of 70 speaks English, perfectly. It’s compulsory to learn in school from the age of 6. You’ll meet Danish kids that can speak better English than you can! I even met one lady who said her grandson was typing in English before he could even speak Danish!
- Space. I may have lucky with the timing of our trip, but in some places it felt like we had the city to ourselves. Copenhagen’s squares are big, sprawling places with enough space to walk, dance, handstand, whatever you want to do without fear of bumping in to anyone
- Architecture. Danish architecture is underrated, but you can’t move for beautiful buildings in Copenhagen. There’s a definite Danish style with large red brick façades decorated with green copper trim and topped with tall spires and towers. In fact, every time I put my camera away I got it straight back out again as there was something else beautiful to look at
- Cycle lanes. There are as many cycle lanes in Copenhagen as there are pavements. At least that’s how it feels. Cycle lanes even have their own traffic lights, meaning it’s an incredibly safe, energy efficient and healthy way to travel
- Tourism. The Copenhagen Card is an absolute bargain, and well worth the money in a country that is renowned for being expensive. It can get you entry into all of the city’s museums as well as certain tours, metro journeys and regional trains in the Greater Copenhagen area. It even gets you discount in a number of cafes and shops, and on other tours as well. It’s definitely worth getting one
- Pastry. How could I ignore the humble Danish pastry? It is, without doubt, one of my favourite foods (especially at breakfast time). The Danish are modest enough to call them Viennese pastries as they’re a Danish adaption of an Austrian version of a Danish recipe! Come on, Denmark, take the credit because they’re delicious
It’s not all praise, I’m afraid Denmark. There’s one thing that deserves Denmark’s “must try harder” sticker.
- Airport seating. After being delayed in Copenhagen airport for 3.5 hours, we were desperate for somewhere to sit down but we couldn’t find any seats! Businessmen taunted us from their cosy lounges as we wandered aimlessly, only finding a group of 20 or so seats to accommodate 200 or so people that wanted to sit down. Luckily, we were some of the very first people to spot the seats so made ourselves at home to while away the time
Do you agree with these 10 things? Where do you think these things are done even better than in Denmark?
Imagine Greece and you’ll probably think of a stunning Greek island and beach. Or if you’re a city lover like me, you’ll picture Athens and its glorious ancient sights. In either case, I bet your imagination has conjured up bright blue cloudless skies and searing temperatures. Oh, and don’t forget the crowds of tourists all gently baking in the sunshine. Now, imagine those same Greek scenes in winter. Make you shiver? It shouldn’t do… there are loads of things to do in Athens in Winter, and they shouldn’t just be reserved for summer.
What is Athens like in Winter? Should I go?
I think my answer to that by now is clear… yes! The benefits of visiting Athens in the winter months are certainly worth the slightly cooler temperatures. Let’s sum up the reasons to visit Athens in winter:
- All major sights and attractions stay open, despite it being the low season. Saying that, if there are sights you are desperate to see, do check before you travel just in case opening times have changed since I wrote this.
- Flights are remarkably cheap, even in between Christmas and New Year, which is when we went in 2016. Now this made me worry and wonder whether there are actually things to do in Athens in December. Well, guess what, there are loads of things to do in Athens in winter. Keep reading to find out my favourites.
- There are far fewer tourists in Greece in winter, making queuing a lot easier. Everything is a lot calmer and you don’t need to fight your way through crowds to get that perfect shot of the acropolis or wake up at the crack of dawn to be first in line for tickets. Win win in my book.
- Athens in winter is still one of the warmest European cities, yet it’s much cooler than the height of summer. This means that there is no wearing yourself out by walking to the acropolis in the baking heat. But do watch out…
- It can get really really cold. It was a balmy 5 degrees when we were there and it even snowed! I’m told this is highly unusual though, so you might even think yourself lucky to see the white stuff.
Things to do in Athens in Winter
- Acropolis – A trip up the Acropolis hill has to be at the top of every visitor’s things to do in Athens list. It certainly is on mine! And for good reason. Though not as well maintained as the roman equivalents, the Ancient Greek temples and buildings at the top of the Acropolis are still pretty spectacular – just ignore the crane mending the hole in the centre of the Parthenon! As well as the buildings, you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the city from the top of the hill.
- Other Ancient sights – If you buy the combined ticket to the Acropolis, you’ll also get access to many other buildings and ruins in central Athens including the Roman Agora, Temple of Dionysus and Temple of Zeus. I enjoyed wandering around all of them, imagining the people that used to live there in ancient times.
- The New Acropolis Museum is another must-visit if you ask me. It’s home to artefacts that were once on the Acropolis, including the last remaining marble statues from the Parthenon. There are also videos and exhibits showing you what life would have been like back then, so I found myself learning a lot on our two hour visit. A word of warning: do pay attention to the tiny no photo sign at the entrance to some areas. Those guards are mean.
- Changing the Guard – Every hour on the hour, the area in front of the Presidential Mansion fill with tourists all desperate to get a peek of the guards in their little coats, short skirts and bobble shoes. But what they’re really here to see is the way the guards march. Their slow motion goose-stepping march is pretty funny to watch.
- Eat and drink – one of my absolute favourite things to do in Athens (in winter especially) is visit restaurants and bars! We found some great little places that are highly worth a visit – Klimataria, a local’s tavern with live music and an incredible menu; and Falafellas, a brilliant street food stall serving the best falafel in town. For drinks, we loved the Central Hotel‘s rooftop bar, which has stunning views of the sun setting behind the Parthenon in winter; and 360 Cocktail Bar in Monastiraki Square with yet more views (and yummy wine!)
- Get lost in the backstreets in the foothills of the Acropolis – This area of Athens is relatively untouched by tourists, but it was one of my favourite parts of the city. With the houses’ white walls and blue roofs, you’ll feel like you’re on a Greek island, even if the slightly cooler air tries to convince you otherwise.
- New Year’s Eve Fireworks – New Year’s Eve in Athens is fantastic. It can be as crazy (think organised club nights where even the 16 year olds don’t get home til gone 6am), as subdued (most of the restaurants have set menus in New Year’s Eve so shop around and book early! We ended up eating at a friends house), or as cheap as you like (at midnight we all congregated to the Herodion Hotel’s rooftop bar where we watched fireworks behind the acropolis. Fantastic). Forget London or New York, Athens is the place to be on December 31st.
Have you ever been to Athens in Winter? Or any other part of Greece? If not, why not? Would you consider going?