Tell someone you’re off to the land of Borgen and The Killing and they’re bound to ask, “Is Copenhagen expensive?”. Technically the answer is ‘yes’, but only in the same way that Paris or London can be pricey for the uninitiated. You really can do Copenhagen on a budget without skimping on culture, and I’ll show you how.
Free Things to Do in Copenhagen
Catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony every day at noon, at Amalienborg Palace. Yes, it’s a tourist cliché, but it’s fun too. Also, make time to wander around Nyhavn, which you’ll recognise from postcards and any films set here. For something a little offbeat, read my review of the free tour at the Danish Parliament, the Folketinget, or consider visiting the Danish Music Museum (Rosenørns Allé 22).
Well, guest blogger June has captured the mood and is here to inspire you with tips for travelling solo in Tokyo, so you can see what all the fuss is about…
Solo travel can be daunting, let alone when you want to see the most populated metropolis in the world. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a massive city with a population of more than 13.3 million people, and it’s known worldwide for great food, trendsetting fashions, shopping areas and a stark contrast of tradition and modernity. There’s something for everyone, especially solo travellers.
I’ve unashamedly had Christmas songs stuck in my head since July, and I contemplated buying decorations in September, so let’s just say compiling this Christmas gift guide wasn’t a daunting challenge.
Each item is practical but fun (because, no matter how many times it’s suggested by retailers, it is not exciting to receive a water filter or anti-wrinkle cream), and should stand out amongst the other presents around the Christmas tree. Happy shopping!
Up to £10
The Unusual Notebook (£3)
If you already love Herb Lester’s colourful maps (£4 each), you’ll enjoy the brand’s new notepads (£3 each, or £12 for six) based on fictional hotels, including the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks. The tribute to Agatha Christie’s novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, is similarly tempting. Other Herb Lester products to add to your cart include a set of menu reading phrasebooks (£8), and a guide to visiting New York on your own (£4), which I agree is a good idea! See my solo guide to New York for details.
There’s nothing more annoying for an Instagram addict than realising it’ll cost you a fortune to post that perfect holiday photo online because you’re using your phone abroad. Data charges can be a nightmare for anyone, but it’s extra frustrating for bloggers who’ve promised to provide live social media coverage during a sponsored trip (cue massive phone bill).
That’s why I was pleased to be sent this travel infographic from Three, who have just added Spain to their list of Feel at Home destinations, allowing customers to use their normal data allowance (plus calls and texts) abroad at no extra cost. Time to fill everyone’s Twitter timeline with a drip-feed of Spanish holiday antics – known affectionately as holiday spam…
Checking into a government-owned national monument isn’t usually on the cards when I travel, but the Hotel Nacional de Cuba was worth making an exception for. Its nuclear bunker, neatly cut into clipped lawns in front of the building, is a reminder of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Just a few yards away are antique cannons, and inside there was once a casino created by the Mafia. You couldn’t make it up.
The list of previous guests at the Nacional is embarrassingly vast, with their names and photos covering the walls of the Hall of Fame Bar; Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, Simone de Beauvoir and the Backstreet Boys are among those who have walked through the doors. Now it was my turn to follow them.
There are no four star hotels in Valletta. This is somewhat surprising, given that the city is Malta’s capital, and it’s due to be dubbed the Capital of Culture in 2018. Instead, visitors to Valletta can choose between two, three or five star properties, which range from tiny guesthouses to sprawling complexes with dramatic views.
All I knew when I planned a recent family holiday to Malta were our rough requirements for accommodation: close to the city centre, with good reviews, free Wi-Fi, and a secure place to leave luggage before or after our stay.
Picking a hotel in London isn’t an easy task, even in the Internet age, but when I was nudged in the direction of the Mercure London Bridge, I soon stopped dithering; it has a four star rating and comes recommended by Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. I recently checked in for a one night stay, armed with my camera and notebook to report back to you.
If you’ve never heard of the brand before, here’s a quick primer. There are over 700 Mercure properties around the world, often with unique selling points, including the Ink Hotel in Amsterdam (part of the MGallery Collection), based in a former Dutch newspaper office. Closer to home, Hythe in Kent has the Imperial, a sprawling Victorian house complete with a spa and golf course. London has several different hotels under the brand, from Kensington to Greenwich, and a Hyde Park branch will open in October 2015.
On Friday I was part of a group of bloggers introduced to a new competition by Mercure Hotels, which aims to put the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory into practice. The theory, developed in 1929, says that everyone can be connected to everyone else on the planet by only six stages of communication or fewer. At the launch event we tested our social media skills with some blogger challenges, and soon realised how easily we could connect with strangers from all over the world, helped by the hashtag #6FriendsTheory.
Set just a stone’s throw from the exclusive shopping street of Avenue Louise, The Hotel Brussels takes its cue from its stylish surroundings and creates something that never goes out of fashion. I saw this for myself when I took the short walk from the Louise Metro station to the complex, passing Versace, Chanel and Jimmy Choo stores in the process. Stepping inside the building, my jaw began to drop as I took in the seriously chic decor – dark panelling, thick grey carpet and elevators sealed by gold doors. Definitely a classic.
Who fancies a trip to the fictional state of Zubrowka, across several decades? You’ll need to bring an enthusiasm for stealing priceless paintings, an appetite for Mendl’s cakes (think pimped up Laduree macarons and you’re half way there) and an eyeliner pencil to draw on a false moustache like the lobby boy in the very best hotel Zubrowka has to offer. Oh, and a rich old lady clad in Fendi and Prada, if you know any.
No, I haven’t gone completely mad: I’m talking about Wes Anderson’s brilliant new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is an unashamedly quirky tale of tourism, family ties, money, murder and prison etiquette. I fell in love with the film at a recent screening, and I wanted to share some of its best travel-related talking points in more detail.