48 hours in Istanbul: Where to eat, sleep and go

Turkey’s biggest city has got a lot going for it. Stunning architecture, friendly faces and more than enough to keep you going for a long weekend. Let me share my advice on how to spend 48 hours in Istanbul.

After a quick three and a half hour hop over Europe from London, I arrived in Istanbul on a fabulously sunny Friday morning. I was excited (if a little trepidatious) as to what I might see and the people I might meet (the Turkish referendum was happening the very weekend we were there!) but as usual, I had nothing to worry about.

People seem to absolutely adore this place, so I knew that I’d have my work cut out to do it all in 48 hours. This post gives you my recommendations on how to make the most of your short trip to Istanbul.

48 hours in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Where to go with just 48 hours in Istanbul

Istanbul is famed for being the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Because of that, there’s a hell of a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover. 

Historical walking tour 

For that reason, we chose to do a full day walking tour with  Daily Istanbul Tours. It allowed us to take on all the main sights in the old town including the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace. 

They’re all fascinating places with incredible histories that we just wouldn’t have known without a guide. As part of the tour, you have free time at each place to explore and take photos. The tour also includes a hearty lunch and entrance to each place. Even though it might seem expensive, it’s really worth it. 

48 hours in Istanbul: Hippodrome

Our guide, Oz, was fantastic. She clearly loves her city and that comes across in the anecdotes she would tell us over lunch and while walking between sights. Her knowledge of the history was unquestionable and she was honest enough to say she didn’t quite believe that is really Moses’ 3000 year old staff behind glass in the Topkapi Palace exhibition. Well, you wouldn’t really, would you? 

48 hours in Istanbul: Blue mosque

Basilica Cistern

While you’re merrily wandering the streets at ground level, you may be completely unaware of the cavernous tunnels that lay beneath you. The best way to see them? Go underground to the Basilica Cistern – a labyrinth of archways and columns, built in the 6th century to store and provide water to the surrounding buildings. 

48 hours in Istanbul: Basilica Cistern

It’s a fun place to explore and try to take non-blurry pictures (good luck with that without a tripod!) The biggest attraction has to be the two columns with Medusa heads sculpted into the base. No one really knows why they’re there or even why neither is upright, but it’s fun to come up with conspiracy theories of your own. Maybe we all used to live upside down?!

48 hours in Istanbul: Basilica Cistern

Bosphorus trip

One must do that we didn’t do (isn’t that ironic?) was a trip up the Bosphorus. It’s a body of water that effectively splits Istanbul in half across the two continents. There are loads of tour companies that will take you on a leisurely cruise along the coast of Asia and then back via Europe. Just beware,  the whole journey could take you all day if you take the wrong one – not a great way to spend your precious 48 hours in Istanbul! 

Day trips

There’s more than enough to keep you occupied in the city itself. However, if you had more than just two days here, you could consider a day trip to another part of Turkey. We met a guy that was headed to Gallipoli, but you could also explore Ephesus, Pamukkale and even Capadoccia if you really wanted (and don’t mind spending half of it on a plane!) 

Where to sleep in Istanbul

Most visitors tend to choose between the modern town and the old town when looking for somewhere to rest their heads. While the modern town is home to Taksim Square – the lively hub of the city – having just 48 hours in Istanbul meant we wanted to be as close to the main sights as possible. We opted for the neighbourhood of Sultanahmet, which was definitely the right decision. Not only could we flop out of bed and into a tourist attraction in the morning, we could also stumble back to bed after one too many rakis at night.

We slept in the Sura Design Hotel – a fabulously decorated modern hotel in the heart of the old town. Normally a place like this would be way out of our budget, but visiting in the turbulent times of 2017 meant we could take advantage of Turkey’s drop in tourism and a drop in prices along with it.

48 hours in Istanbul: Sura Design Hotel

The turquoise and gold rooms are comfortable, spotlessly clean, and smell AMAZING. It even had a little balcony overlooking the landscaped garden and (if you leaned really far over to the right) the blue mosque.

Breakfast was the usual selection of English style hot options, and continental cereals, yoghurts, pastries and fruit. If you wanted to be really Turkish, you could try salad, cheese and sickly sweet puddings. We passed.

Where to eat in Istanbul

Street food

There’s a little red cart on every corner selling roasted chestnuts (but it’s not even Christmas?!) and simit – a Turkish bread a bit like a bagel that you can either eat plain or spread with Nutella. It’s delicious and a great option for a lunch on the run (quite normal if you’re spending just 48 hours in Istanbul!)

48 hours in Istanbul: Where to eat

Sura Restaurant  

We ended up eating at the Sura Restaurant for dinner one day and lunch the next, completely by accident!

The first time, we were wandering along the street looking for somewhere to eat, when a friendly guy standing next to the menu struck up a conversation (they’re good at that). Before we knew it, we were sat inside the restaurant ordering kebabs and vegetable casseroles! It was great food, though, and the big windows looking out onto the street made it ideal for people watching. Also, the 10% discount offered to hotel guests didn’t hurt.

The second time, our tour group stopped off for lunch at the same restaurant. Our guide even said it was one of the best places to eat in the old town. Result! Our group had a set menu, so I ended up eating the same thing both times too. I didn’t mind though – I was relieved to find somewhere that meant I wouldn’t be forced to eat a kebab without the meat!

48 hours in Istanbul: Where to eat

Gulhane Sark Sofrasi

I’m usually wary of places where the ‘host’ chases you down the street to look at his menu. But Gulhane Sark Sofrasi surpassed all expectations. We were the only diners for an hour, the stark reality of Turkey’s 85% drop in tourism beginning to hit home. The restaurant host’s keenness makes sense now, doesn’t it?

The restaurant is a lovely little family run thing with delicious food and BIG portions. We were treated to an appetiser of ‘balloon bread’ (the most sought after prize in Turkey seems to be how big your bread gets rather than anything else) that we scoffed down with yoghurt and tomato dips, halloumi and hummus.

For our main, there was the usual selection of kebabs (not your greasy, hangover style kebabs – the real ones). The waiter seemed very keen for us to peruse the fish menu too. I took the hint and ordered the fish, but was very glad I did. It was a piece of salmon cooked in a very tasty but spicy vegetable sauce, served on a sizzling plate. It was fantastic and so so yummy.

They’re clearly feeders at this place. They wouldn’t let us leave without trying their baklava and offering up a glass of raki and water. Raki is a Turkish spirit with a distinct aniseed and liquorice taste. They mix it with water to dilute it, and it turns the whole thing a cloudy white colour. You’ve got to try it – just once – and let me know what you think.

~~~

If you’ve got 48 hours to spare, you won’t go wrong with a trip to Istanbul. Just three and a half hour flight from London, it’s perfect for a long weekend away. As a melting pot of identities and cultures, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled to more than just one city. 

Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to write this post, so you can be sure that everything is my own humble opinion. Everywhere on this list was chosen through my own research. 

Pin for later >>>

48 hours in Istanbul

A Viennese Whirl-wind trip: Things to do in Vienna

Back in October, Tim and I spent 48 hours in Vienna: the beautiful capital city of Austria. It’s a place I had been to before with my parents, but going back, I was surprised by how little I remembered and how much more I loved it as an adult. The best things to do in Vienna range from wandering through parks and visiting museums to taking tours of the cathedral.

To save money and effort we invested in the Vienna Pass, which gets you free or discounted entrance into all the main things to do in Vienna. But watch out, they are only valid for calendar days meaning you can only use a 1 day card up until midnight. We didn’t realise this until we picked up our 2 day passes at 2pm and were told we only had 34 hours to cram as much of Vienna in as possible! Challenge accepted.

Let me share our list of things to do in Vienna:

Sightseeing bus
The Vienna hop on and hop off bus is the perfect way to get around and learn about the city at the same time. I know people will probably mock a traveller wannabe that goes on the buses – I can imagine them saying “dude, you have to find your own way”, but all lines of the sightseeing bus are included in the Vienna Pass and they teach you far more than you’d ever care to read about in a guidebook. What’s not to love?
More info…

Schonbrunn
Like something out of Versailles, Schonbrunn is a huge and wide summer palace built for the Hapsburg monarchs over 300 years ago. I’ll be honest, the outside is much more impressive than its 1,441 indoor rooms. They won’t let you in to half of them anyway. We whizzed around the bits you can get into in about 20 minutes, and most of that was spent waiting for fascinated tourists to get out of our way. Every room is impressive, granted. But they’re all similarly impressive and it’s not good to drool over other peoples’ wealth. So we didn’t. The gardens, however, were fantastic. Pristine lawns and hedgerows, with an enormous fountain and (other building) out the back. We could have stayed there for hours.
More info…

Things to do in Vienna: Schonbrunn

Apfelstrudel show
Also on the Schonnbrun site is Café Residenz – said to be home of the apfelstrudel. Every day, almost by the hour, an apfelstrudel genius shows hungry visitors how to make the famous Viennese dish in a kitchen auditorium. While the baker is stretching the dough with their elbows (yes, really), everyone is given a piece to try. You could tell it had been sitting out for a while but it was still good. They give you a recipe and sell ingredients in the kitchen shop if you wanted to give it a try at home.
More info…

Stephansdom
This huge cathedral looms over Vienna and is one of my favourite religious buildings in the world. Its roof is covered with yellow, green and black tiles making it much more interesting than your usual cathedral stone. As well as the grand statues and porticos in the main part of the building, you can visit the towers and look out over the city and the roof in more detail. If you’re not scared of heights, it’s definitely something for the list.
More info…

Things to do in Vienna: Stephansdom

Catacombs tour
Also in the cathedral, you can visit the underground crypts and tombs. The main tomb is reserved for bishops and other significant figures from Vienna’s past, but there are smaller rooms dotted about for storing the bones of victims from the Black Plague. It’s pretty harrowing but fascinating to see. I couldn’t look at everything and the frequent reminder from the guide not to get left behind otherwise he’d lock us down there forever made it seem even scarier. Go if you dare… it ended up being one of my favourite things to do in Vienna!

State Opera House
The Staatsoper is a pretty iconic building in Vienna, one that you’ll walk past even if you didn’t mean to as it’s considered the hub of tourist activity in the city. The Pass doesn’t get you access to a show, but you can wander inside for a quick look around the foyer if you don’t look too shifty. Of course, don’t try going to a show without a ticket!

Things to do in Vienna: Staatsoper

Art History Museum & Natural History Museum
These two buildings stand opposite each other in perfect symmetry – but because of the sheer magnificence of the exterior, you’d expect them to house royalty rather than pieces of art and dinosaur bone. I’ll tell you a secret – we didn’t actually go inside because the outside architecture and gardens were good enough for us. Grecian style statues and fountains stand in very neat patterns in the central courtyard.
More info…

Things to do in Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum

Stadtpark & Burggarten
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the many famous parks in Vienna. Stadtpark is home to Johann Strauss and is always full of tourists trying to emulate his pose. Not that Vienna is particularly busy, but the park still came as a welcome relief from central crowds. Burggarten’s most visited sight is the famous Mozart statue, complete with a treble clef made entirely from bright red flowers. It’s one of the most iconic images of Vienna and you can see why!

Things to do in Vienna: Burggarten

Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt mainly sells frankfurters or other sausages served in bread roll coats and bread roll hats (see photo). I managed to find plenty of falafel stalls to keep me happy. There are also a few restaurants and souvenir stands too. It’s where the locals go to enjoy a stein of beer or twelve. If I lived there, that’s absolutely where I would be.

Things to do in Vienna: Naschmarkt

Overall, we had a great time on our long weekend in Vienna. I would certainly recommend it as a city to explore if you’ve got a weekend free. Keep this list of things to do in Vienna close, and you’ll never be stuck for somewhere to go or see.

~~~

What have I missed? What would you do with 48 hours in Vienna? Share your ideas in the comments below! 

48 hours in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a hell of a lot to see and do – cat cafes, owl cafes, maid cafes, robot cafes… And that’s just cafes! With that in mind, is 48 hours in Tokyo enough to do it justice? And more importantly… Is it worth the 24 hour round trip to get there?

Firstly, let me explain before you think I’m as mad as the inventor of the owl cafe (I still don’t get it…) Every year, my company sends a few of its staff away on an all expenses paid holiday to say thanks for their hard work. This year, people wanted to go somewhere a bit different from their usual Cancun and Vegas party type holidays and chose Tokyo. Not wanting us to be out of the office for too long, we did it over a long weekend – hence the 48 hours.

We had an awesome itinerary planned that would pack a lot of the main sights in, but was I left wanting more? I’ll let you decide:

Thursday
15:00 We arrived in Tokyo airport after a 12 hour flight from London. It was our first time flying Japan Airlines and apart from the man sat next to me that complained to the air steward that my colleague and I were making too much noise, it was pleasant enough. Just for the record… we were most definitely talking at a normal volume – he was just expecting the flight to be silent!
Despite a bit of a kerfuffle at customs when one of our group tried to unknowingly smuggle in an acorn, everything went smoothly. We were met by our tour guide and coach driver in Arrivals, and were then taken to our hotel in Shinjuku.

17:30 Our hotel was incredible. We stayed at the 5* Keiyo Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, which is primarily a business hotel but I guess we were there on business?? We had a couple of hours to settle in, shower and admire the view out the window of our 45th floor room.

Misono Teppanyaki restaurant, Tokyo

19:30 The whole group met in the hotel lobby for dinner. We had a whole teppanyaki restaurant to ourselves on the top floor of a Shinjuku skyscraper, where we all sat on the floor around a teppanyaki grill watching skilled chefs cook up fried vegetables, scallops, red snapper, lobster and the biggest steak I’ve ever seen. Everything was washed down with Asahi beer and sake. The whole experience was a fantastic way to start our trip.

22:30 It was back to the hotel bar for a few drinks before I finally admitted jet lag defeat and headed to bed at midnight. Some of my colleagues were out clubbing until 5am the next day! No idea how they managed that…

Friday
8:30 I allowed myself a bit of a lie in before getting ready for our full day of sightseeing. There are 4 different hotel restaurants where you can eat breakfast – some typically Japanese and some Western to keep everyone happy. I tucked in to my usual holiday breakfast of whatever I can fit on my plate (or two) before meeting the bus and our tour guide.

Asakusa Tokyo

10:00 Our bus drove us to Asakusa – the oldest temple and one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. Unaware of the Japanese holiday we had just interrupted, we were shocked to see so many people crammed into the temple complex. The temple itself is a beautiful sight, and probably my favourite place in the whole of Tokyo. Our guide told us all about the history of the temple and then showed us some Buddhist rituals that we could join in with. After that, we had 45 minutes free to take photos and explore the sprawling markets for souvenirs.

12:00 Lunch! Most of the hungover group was dreading this part of the day… Raw fish and dumplings on a queasy stomach? I, however, couldn’t have been more excited. I love trying new foods, especially if they are ‘native to the country I am visiting. I feel it gives such an insight into the ordinary lives of others, right? And I often wonder what visitors must think of British people when they try our food.
We (some of us) tucked into sashimi, dumplings and ramen served by smiling waiters that wondered what on earth they had done to deserve us as guests.

Tokyo Skytree

13:00 We met the bus again to take us to Tokyo Skytree – a 634m tall structure with a viewing platform at the top where you can see over all of Tokyo and (if you’re extremely lucky) as far away as Mount Fuji. The view really put perspective on the size of the city and made me wonder whether we were really doing it justice.
Because of the national holiday, the queues back down to the bottom were huge, meaning we didn’t get long at the top, but we still managed to get all the way round once and were satisfied we had spotted everything we wanted to.

Maiddreamin' Cafe, Tokyo

15:00 In need of a rest after such strenuous activity (I’m joking) we headed to Akihabara to visit… a maid cafe! Seriously, you can’t come to Tokyo without visiting some kind of weird cafe.
We had the whole of Maiddreamin booked out for drinks and a private show (that makes it sound really dodgy, but I promise it’s not!) of maids talking in high-pitched squeals at how cute everything is. Their drinks and foods are decorated with animal faces drawn on with sauce, so I couldn’t resist an ice cream float made to look like a cat.

Maiddreamin' Cafe, Tokyo

The show was… Interesting. The girls sang teenybopper songs on a stage with pink flashing lights. They even grabbed some of the older guys in our group and got them to prance around with them. I loved it!

17:00 Time for our tour to finish! We headed back to our hotel via Shibuya where we saw a huge number of people crossing the famous pedestrian intersection. I remember last time I was in Tokyo, I saw a total of 20 or so people doing it, which wasn’t nearly as impressive. Today, with it being a holiday, there must have been hundreds, if not thousands. Great to see.

Tempura restaurant, Tokyo

18:00 Back at the hotel, we had a free night to spend as we wished. I have an old friend in Tokyo that met me at the hotel before we headed out on a night to see what Japanese people do in the evenings. She works in Shinjuku so knew the area quite well. She took me to a restaurant nearby that was famous for its tempura. I am famous for my love of tempura! It was perfect. The tempura was served individually on a stick, and each piece was different. We must have tried about 8 each (they’re surprisingly filling!) – prawn, okra, cream cheese and seaweed (this was AMAZING), some kind of omelette, fish, baby squid, and I wish I could remember the rest!
All around me were friends and family chatting happily in Japanese while tucking into their meal. This shows the benefit of having friends all over the world- there is no way in hell I would have stumbled across this place, and if I had, there would be no way of deciphering the menu. My friend made it possible, and that’s awesome.
When our bellies were full of tempura and beer, we visited an arcade to re-enact what we did when I last visited Tokyo. We played a drumming game that’s a bit like guitar hero but with big Japanese drums, and then went to a photo booth where you can decorate your pictures and turn yourselves into anime characters! It was so much fun, and even better to do it with a local.

23:00 Bed time. I know, I know, I should have been partying, but I had a very early start in the morning and I wanted to be fresh for it.

Saturday
5:30 Wake up!! Today was a free day, and what do you do if you only have 48 hours in Tokyo? While most of the group headed into the centre to explore some more, a like-minded colleague and I were off to… DISNEYLAND!

6:30 We were already in a taxi and feeling like children on Christmas morning. We had asked our taxi driver to take us to DisneySea – a separate theme park only found in Tokyo that is dedicated to rides and characters centred around the theme of water (pirates don’t count apparently, gutted.)

DisneySea, Tokyo

8:00 The park opened and we headed in. We spent the day going on rides, meeting characters and not understanding anything that was going on. We only counted 7 or 8 other western tourists while we were there, so if you want to be immersed into Japanese life, go to Disneyland. Honestly! That explains why none of the cast members spoke English or why there were no subtitles on any of the rides! We had to guess what was going on in a magic show and use the locals around us as a cue for when to laugh. It was actually really funny 🙂

13:00 We ate lunch in a New York diner and found it fascinating to see what their choice of ‘American’ dishes would be. Still, the food was delicious and kept us going for the rest of the day. There were a few rides we didn’t manage to go on because it was just so busy. Instead, we were quite happy to finish off in the gift shops and explore the shopping precinct outside the park.

15:00 We took the metro back to central Tokyo and headed to our hotel to get ready for the night’s festivities. The canny ones among you will have noticed that I’m over my 48 hours now, but I’m flying home first thing tomorrow morning, so it’s only a little over…

Tokyo boat cruise

17:00 With the group all glammed up, our bus took us down to the river to meet our private boat. It was a traditional long boat with Japanese lanterns down the side that took us down river all the way to Rainbow Bridge, passing Tokyo Skytree and hundreds of other skyscrapers all magically lit up. It was a beautiful sight!
While we were on board, we were served more food than I care to remember: sashimi, salads, tempura, miso soup… And it just kept coming! The beer and champagne was flowing when one member of the group spotted a karaoke machine in the corner… Uh oh! People sang their favourite songs, clearly preparing for our night of karaoke at a club later on.

22:00 Our boat trip finished back where it started, and we made our way to Rapponghi for a wild night ahead. We were allowed in! We had VIP wristbands giving us entry to private karaoke rooms where we sang the night away to classics like Livin’ On A Prayer and Born In The USA. The club was full of young locals who treated us like rock stars- everyone wanted to hold our hands and dance with us, and we even had bouncers follow us across the dance floor to make sure we didn’t attract too much attention. It was all a bit… weird, but fun all the same.

Sunday
02:00 Some people stayed out until the club closed and even beyond that. But, knowing I had an early flight, I was on my way at 2am – heading to my room to pack.

06:00 It was an early start for all of us to make our morning flight home. Leaving early last night definitely paid off – most of my group was hungover on the flight so I bounded up to them with a cheery ‘Good morning!’ that just might have made it worse. Mwahaha.

11:00 At the airport, we had enough time to buy some last minute souvenirs before boarding our 12 flight back to London and onward journey.

48 hours is rarely enough to do anywhere justice, and in Tokyo’s case, 48 hours in Tokyo was a bit of a stretch. Luckily I had been before, otherwise I would have passed up Disneyland to see more of the sights and local haunts. Despite the lack of time, we managed to cram a lot into our trip and, like any decent city, Tokyo left us wanting more. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend such a short stay, but if you’re not paying for it, then why would you say no?

~~~

Have you ever been somewhere that you wished you could spend more time at? What’s the smallest flight:holiday ratio you’ve ever experienced? Was it worth it?

Pin for later >>>

48 hours in Tokyo

48 hours in Copenhagen

For Tim’s Christmas present, instead of a pair of socks, I organised a surprise weekend away to Copenhagen. Neither of us had been before and I knew it offered both history and culture to keep Tim happy. So when I saw some bargain easyJet flights in early January, I jumped at the chance to book them.

Last Friday, we finished work early and headed to Gatwick to start our 48 hours in Copenhagen. Here’s how we spent them.

Sleeping in a designer hotel

Absalon Hotel, Copenhagen

The Absalon Hotel in Copenhagen is one of the largest and oldest in the city. Having recently undergone extensive refurbishment and interior design by the Designer’s Guild, it’s a stunning hotel decorated in blues and greens, with welcoming sofas, funky lighting and digital fireplaces in the bar where we enjoyed delicious cocktails on both nights at the hotel. If you’ve heard anything about Copenhagen, I bet it’s that it’s expensive. Now, this is true, but the drinks at our hotel were reasonably priced and you could get a pint of beer and a (very) large glass of wine for under 100DKK (about £10). That’s London prices to us Brits, so nothing we weren’t already used to paying back home.

The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from central Copenhagen train station, so within easy walking distance to most of the major sights including Tivoli Gardens (which is unfortunately closed until April) and City Hall.

Overall, it’s warm, inviting and the perfect place to thaw out after a freezing January day in Scandinavia. Speaking of which…

Sheltering from the cold

Ducks at Rosenborg Castle

We had heard Copenhagen was going to be cold in January, so we prepared with lots of layers, winter boots and thick coats. Trouble was, we were travelling with carry-on bags only, which meant we had to wear most of our luggage on the plane! After a very warm flight, the Danish air actually came as a refreshing change until we realised just how cold it was.

However, most of Copenhagen’s beauty is on the outside – the picturesque parks and fine façades of buildings – so it’s a shame to spend all your time inside. So we put on our layers, stiffened our upper lips and felt grateful not to be at work. It must have been somewhere between 0 and 1°c, as the ducks were able to both swim and walk on the moat surrounding Rosenborg Castle.

To avoid freezing completely, it was necessary to find refuge every so often in perfectly heated museums and bars. Everywhere has coat hooks and lockers to leave your coats so that you don’t end up ironically overheating once inside.

We were also lucky enough to see snow on our last day, just as we arrived at the airport to leave (impeccable timing, Denmark!). It was very impressive that nothing seemed to grind to a halt like it does in the UK. The airport simply revved up its de-icing machines and started to clear the runway as if it was just a normal day in the office. The Brits could definitely learn a thing or two from the Danes when it comes to snow!

Devouring Danish cuisine

Kodbyens Fiskebar, Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a foodie hotspot with some of the best restaurants and Michelin starred chefs in the world charging gastronomical prices (Ha. See what I did there?) Yet, we wanted to stay modest and see what we could get for less than 150 DKK (£15 a head) per meal. You’d actually be surprised at the quality and amount of food available!

Here’s our pick of the bunch:

  • Danish pastries for breakfast at Absalon Hotel. Danish pastries are probably my favourite breakfast item of all time. Whenever they form part of a hotel breakfast buffet, I always eat one. Or twelve. Actually known as Viennese pastries in Denmark, they’re a Danish adaption of an Austrian recipe, but delicious all the same. Breakfast at our hotel was a plentiful cold buffet with cheese, ham, yoghurt and fruit, but I survived on Danish pastries alone. Total price: Free!
  • Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) at Peder Oxe. This was probably my favourite meal of the whole trip, Tim and I shared 3 open sandwiches from their list for lunch – smoked herring with sour cream and dill, shrimp with creamy dill sauce and two cheeses with chutney. We had a cosy table next to the open fire and couldn’t have been happier with our delicious sandwiches washed down with two glasses of Danish beer. Total price: 240 DKK (£24)
  • Fish and chips at Kodbyens Fiskebar. The meatpacking district is one of the most popular areas to eat in Copenhagen with great quality food at very reasonable prices. After a bit of research, we chose Kodbyens Fiskebar, which promised an extensive fish menu in a lively restaurant. We hadn’t booked a table and were nearly turned away at the door as it was packed. Lucky for us, a couple hadn’t turned up for their table and we were very glad they hadn’t! We were able to take their seats and ordered water, beer and two choices from their ‘middle’ menu, mussels in a cider sauce and fish and chips. The fish had a smoked Danish twist and was served with deliciously seasoned chips. Yum yum yum. Total price: 300 DKK (£30)
  • Danish beer at The Taphouse. The Taphouse has 61 beers on tap from around the world in a very cosy room decorated with sparkly fairy lights. It was a great find, just around the corner from the Town Hall so perfectly located to take a break from sightseeing in the most European way possible. In choosing our two small glasses of beer each, I randomly picked numbers from the board while Tim was much more considered about his decision, selecting based on his love for pilsner. We both enjoyed our beers along with two packets of salt and vinegar crisps. Total price: 182 DKK (£18)

Seeing the sights

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

Copenhagen has loads of things to see and do, but before we booked our trip, we didn’t actually know what any of them were! After researching using travel blogs, guidebooks and the Copenhagen card, here’s what was on our ‘must do’ list:

  • Canal boat tour. Our Copenhagen card got us free travel on the canal boat tour that took us along the canals to the neighbourhoods of Nyhavn, Christiansborg and out to the sea to get a good view of the new Opera House and the Little Mermaid’s back
  • The National Museum of Denmark is free to visit and houses collections dedicated to Denmark’s history and culture. We learnt about the Vikings, Nordic traditions and culture, as well as exhibits from other continents and countries so there’s always something new to learn
  • City Sightseeing bus tour. I love a bus tour. I think it’s a great way to see the City from the comfort of a seat, but still affords you the opportunity to hop on and off to visit the sights you must see up close. The mermaid tour took us past some of the most famous buildings and statues in Copenhagen with an audio guide that gave us more insight into life in the city
  • The Little Mermaid is a statue based on Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. The statue is a bit out of the way of most other sights, so we were very grateful when our bus tour stopped at the sight for 5 minutes to let us all get off and take photos. Otherwise, I’m not sure we would have made it!   
  • Rosenborg Castle was built for King Christian IV as a hunting lodge and summer house. Of course it was. It’s simply not big or imposing enough to be his everyday residence, right?! In all seriousness, it’s a magnificent building quite typical of Danish architecture. The Castle is now home to exhibits from Christian’s life, the crown jewels and beautiful grounds. Plus entry was included in our Copenhagen card, so everyone’s a winner!
  • Rundetårn is a great way to see the whole City from above thanks to its viewing platform at the top. Plus, with a slope winding its way all the way to the top, it’s not even strenuous to get up there! The core of the tower is hollow, and there’s a glass floor near the top for people brave enough to stand on it. I only just managed it by holding Tim’s hand and taking very tentative steps!
  • Nyhavn is probably the most photographed area of Copenhagen, and certainly one of the most recognisable. It’s a lively area with good restaurants and bars but, scared of falling in to a tourist trap, we avoided them. For us, it was a nice place to wander and take photos of the sailboats moored up alongside colourful and disorderly terraced buildings
  • Amalienborg Palace is the winter home of the Danish royal family and has been turned into a museum with exhibits from the royal family’s lives. To be honest, the building is more impressive than the inside, but as entry was included in our Copenhagen cards, it was worth a visit
  • Tivoli Gardens was on our must-do list, but unfortunately it is closed in January. It’s worth checking opening hours and days before you book so you don’t miss out. There’s still plenty to see without Tivoli, though!

Wasting time in the airport

It wasn’t until we had raced through airport security and eaten dinner at gorms restaurant that we checked my easyJet app to find out our flight was 2.5 hours delayed. Oh no! Turns out there was a technical problem with our plane so we had to wait for another one to become available from Finland. I’d rather that than fly on a dodgy plane!

We wasted time by shopping around for souvenirs, spending our easyJet meal voucher on chocolate and searching for a seating area (they’re surprisingly rare in Copenhagen airport!) until it was finally time to get going.

In the end, we landed about 3.5 hours later than scheduled, but this wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits after a wonderful weekend in Copenhagen.

~~~

Overall we had a fantastic 48 hours in Copenhagen and it was enough time to see and do everything on our ‘must do’ list. It was also a great way to kick start 2016, which is set to be my most travel filled year ever! I just hope it won’t be the last European mini break of the year…

Have you ever been to Copenhagen? What were your favourite places to visit?