Castles in Copenhagen

Of all the attractions we saw during our week in Copenhagen, the castles we visited top both of our lists of favorites. We rented a car on Wednesday of our trip to head out and see some sites beyond the city. While public transportation in Copenhagen is efficient and accessible, we chose to rent a car so that we could go at our own pace, and easily add/delete items to our itinerary based on our moods (read: Teo’s mood) throughout the day.

The drive to our first castle, Kronborg Castle, was incredibly scenic with views of the sea much of the way. The day was gray, rainy and cold but that served us well as there were not many tourists when we arrived at the castle. We really did feel like we had the place to ourselves! Without a crowd, we could safely let Matteo walk, run and play which he enjoyed immensely.

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Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle is described as “one of northern Europe’s finest Renaissance castles” and was built in 1574-1585. It is famously known as Hamlet’s castle, and performances of the play still take place on the grounds every summer. The castle is absolutely beautiful — in a cold, romantic, tragic way. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering the halls and exhibits, viewing the art, and taking in the history of this majestic property. Matteo wasn’t the least bit bored as he imagined himself a knight while we were there, and prepared to defend his “fortress”.

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Frederiksborg Castle

The next castle we visited was Frederiksborg Castle. This castle was built by King Christian IV in the early decades of the 17th century, and then rebuilt after a fire in 1859. The castle has been turned into a Danish history museum, vand has a very different, more opulent feel, compared to Kronborg Castle. The museum is laid out so that each floor of the castle houses art and historical displays from a different era of Danish history, with the top floor dedicated to the modern day royal family. Covering 500 years of history, the art on display on each floor of this castle is exquisite — as such, it was slightly less Matteo friendly. Each floor had a “hall monitor” present to keep guests from touching anything, getting to close to displays, etc. They were all kind and gracious — but you could see them visibly tense at the sight of our wild child.

 We so enjoyed spending the day at these castles. If you enjoy history at all, they are a MUST SEE on a trip to Copenhagen.
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The Copenhagen Card

If there was one takeaway to give you after our trip to beautiful Copenhagen, Denmark last week, it is this: GO THERE.

We loved it. We have been incredibly fortunate over the last year of purposefully pursuing travel to visit some really cool locations. In the US, we visited Austin, San Antonio, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle and since moving to the UAE in September we’ve added Muscat (Oman), Istanbul (Turkey), Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck (Austria), Munich (Germany), Ras Al Khaimah (UAE), London (England — just Tony) and now Copenhagen (Denmark). While we loved just about every location on that list, Copenhagen has pulled forward as both Tony and my favorite place to date.

It’s just a beautiful city. It was very “toddler travel” friendly with super high walkability/public transport, as well as being easy to navigate. Tony and I will take turns writing about some specific parts of the trip, including our top list of sites to see, but for now I wanted to start with how we travelled to an expensive city without blowing our budget.

Scandinavia in general is considered an expensive place to visit. With the help of travel hacking, we started this trip ahead of the game. The 7 day hotel stay was covered with a credit card award earned last year — the only hitch was we had to stay at the same hotel property for the full 7 days. Typically, we like to hit more than one city on a stay that long, so we wanted to pick a city where we felt like we wouldn’t run out of things to do and see. Copenhagen delivered on that front. Our flights were booked on points, although we had to deal with a less than ideal route to make that happen (we flew Abu Dhabi > Rome > Paris > Copenhagen). Because we stayed at the Marriott Copenhagen with elite status, we had access to the hotel’s executive lounge giving us free breakfast each morning, as well as afternoon snacks and a hot hors d’oeuvres each evening. This bonus alone insured we could easily keep our spending in check on our trip.

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The other big cost saver for us was the Copenhagen Card. Benefits of the card include:

Tony purchased the cards for us at the Copenhagen airport. You choose the card based on the length of your stay — options include 24, 48, 72, and 120 hours. With Matteo under 10, and thereby covered by the purchase of an adult card, we only needed to buy two adult cards. The cost came to just under the equivalent of $245. I know that might sound steep at first glance, but don’t forget that it includes our transportation (including to and from the airport) for 5 days and admission to so many museums and attractions!

By using the list of attractions covered with the Copenhagen card, we were more easily able to narrow down what we saw and did each day. We visited both Experimentarium City and the Zoo — without the Copenhagen card, entry to those two places would have cost $65 and $66 respectively. That’s nearly half the cost of the Copenhagen card right there. We also visited three different castles, and the Viking Ship Museum with free entrance under the Copenhagen card. Adding all of the entry fees to the costs covered, we ended up saving about $40 overall buying the card rather than paying admission charges upon arrival. That savings does not take in to account the public transport we used — mostly, because I can’t remember all of the buses/trains we took, and charges varied depending on where you were going (i.e. more expensive to go to the airport than to the center of the city). Had Matteo been a little older and able to handle longer days, the savings would have been even greater as there were several museums we didn’t get to visit due to him holding us back (kidding! well, not really, but that’s travel with a  three year old).

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Glad to have the option for public transportation when the wind made walking feel too cold to our desert sensibilities

So that’s the Copenhagen Card! They can be purchased online at http://www.copenhagencard.com/buy-copenhagencard or do what we did and pick one up at the airport. How you get the card isn’t important, what is important is that you GO TO COPENHAGEN. You’re going to love it!