Hello friends! Jackie here. I have just gotten back from a trip to Portugal, Denmark & The Netherlands and I had such a great time! I am so excited to share my experience with you all in this blog. Read on … 🙂
When I saw the cheap airfare being advertised online, I knew that at that price I had to book it … figure out who to go with and what to do later. Sam wasn’t able to go with me due to not having enough PTO (#PTOProblems), so I was originally planning to go by myself. My mother and my aunt later expressed interest in going with me and alas, the trip had been born! I found the amazing deal on my flight on secretflying.com. We love this site b/c it tells you how to find cheap & LEGIT airfare to many world destinations. If you can be a little flexible on when and where to fly, you can find so many wonderful deals literally right at your fingertips. The airfare was with TAP Portugal, a star alliance member, and the national airline of Portugal. What’s great about this airline is their awesome stopover program, which allows you to add on Porto, Lisbon or BOTH for up to 5 days with no additional charge, so you basically pay to fly to your final destination only and get one or both of these destinations added to your trip for FREE (and come on, what’s better than FREE?). Being the trip was so short, I just chose to add on Lisbon only for 23 hours, then continue on to Copenhagen. For my roundtrip, I paid $285. Seriously, $285! At that price though, there were some limitations, as I booked the TAP ‘discount’ fare. This meant I could not check any bags and my carry-on had to be a certain size & weight; so while it was a bit limiting with what I could pack, I didn’t mind b/c I packed very light! (They didn’t weigh my bag @ JFK, but please note, other airports MAY. Pack light and you should not have a problem adhering to their restrictions).
Mom, aunt & myself left on the 11:30pm flight out of JFK on Monday, November 11th. This got us to Lisbon @ 11:10am the next day and gave us 23 hours in Lisbon. Finally our European adventure was about to begin!
Day 1 – Lisbon
Upon landing @ Humberto Delgado airport in Lisbon, we got in a cab to drop bags off @ our hotel and then headed into the city. First stop was a café near the hotel for lunch. After lunch we walked around the beautiful alleyways of the Alfama area. We wanted to hear Fado music but being that it was a Tuesday, we unfortunately didn’t find any restaurants that had it. Fado music started in Lisbon around 1820 & is characterized by mournful tunes or feelings of loss, so the music is overall sad in nature, but however has some sentiments of hopefulness and invokes very strong feelings in both the singer and the audience alike. Although disappointed we didn’t get to hear any Fado, we still had an amazing time in Lisbon!
One of the things we saw in Lisbon that we recommend is the Santa Justa Lift. This is an elevator that takes you up to get some beautiful views and there is even a bar and restaurant at the top that we had dinner at, so it was incredible to see night fall on the city below. The restaurant is called Bella Lisa Elevador and we enjoyed the food. Lisbon is just beautiful, in both the daytime and also at night. Thanks to TAP’s stopover program, we were able to see this amazing city for free!
Where we stayed:
Rua Portas de Santo Antão, 99, Lisboa, 1150-266
Phone: +351 213 426 609
We loved this cute little hotel and we highly recommend staying here! Great location and the lady at the front desk was just lovely! This was also the only hotel on our trip that included free breakfast.
Day 2 – Lisbon / Copenhagen
The next day we caught a 10:10am flight out of Lisbon, to our second destination of the trip, Copenhagen! After 3 hours flight time (and a 1 hour time difference), we arrived @ Copenhagen Kastrup airport.
From the airport, we took the train to our hotel to drop off bags. The train from the airport goes out of Terminal 3, so if you land in either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, it’s just a quick walk over to Terminal 3. When you walk into Terminal 3, there will be big red ticket machines inside with the letters DSB on it. That is where you buy the ticket and there are airport personnel to help with the process. We found both buying the tickets and taking the train to be very easy. All trains to Copenhagen Central Station (Kobnhavn H) leave from Track 2. It was 2 stops and approximately 15 minutes from Kastrup to Central Station (our hotel was right next door to the station – we recommend staying in that area, super convenient!).
Upon dropping off our bags at the hotel, we then headed into the city! Our hotel was very close to mostly everything – Tivoli was right across the street and the main shopping area, Stroget was about a 10 minute walk. Additionally, Central Station is open 24/7 and you can get Dunkin, McDonalds, Starbucks etc at pretty much any time of day (this was particularly helpful when my mother got hungry @ 4am and wandered into the station for an Egg McMuffin). The first thing we did was walk around and check out the Stroget area before finding dinner. We ate dinner at a restaurant called Puk that was like a hole-in-the-wall from the outside, but as we opened the door, we went downstairs to a lively, inviting space … a far cry from how it appeared on the outside. The owner was really cool. When we stepped inside and started speaking, noticing our accents, he immediately asked where we were from. Once we said America, he asked us if we had come in to hide from Trump lol. The food here was so delicious and the owner and the workers were so nice as well. The place was decorated with all sorts of antiques – old cash registers, old rotary phones … it was a really cool spot to have some cocktails and food for sure. Highly recommend!
After dinner, we went across the street for a drink at a bar called Copenhagen Downtown. This place had both inside and outside seating, where, outside, you could sit under heaters and blankets. This is apparently a very popular thing to do b/c many places we saw had the same heaters and blankets at their establishments and despite 40 degree temps, there was no shortage of people drinking outside! We sat out front of the place on a bench, under an awning with a heater and blankets, donned with our winter coats, scarves & hats but we had a great time, despite how cold it was. Definitely a fun thing to do while in Copenhagen!
The interesting thing we noticed almost right off the bat was how many people ride bikes there. Something like 80% of Danes ride bikes to work and even more interesting is that people there are so nice & honest, no one actually locks up their bikes.
After a fun night, we went back to the hotel for another drink at their bar, Library Bar, which was an old library converted to a bar, with all the original books still intact. So cool.
Day 3 – Copenhagen
This was our first full-day in Copenhagen, as the day before we had not gotten to our hotel and into the city til about 4pm. We were excited to have a full-day here to explore!
The morning started with a visit to Nokken, on Islands Brygge. We had to take a bus ride there, approximately 15 minutes or so. It was a few euro in cost. It was hard to find Nokken, as it’s a bit of a ways from the bus stop you get dropped off at and is not labeled. I had to use the GPS on my phone to find it and we eventually did.
Nokken is a small community with tiny colorful houses, which is home to only about 100 people. It was originally constructed in the 1930’s as a fishing village. The homes don’t have heat so a lot of them were vacant as we were walking around. The houses are pretty much the size of a shed, but they are very cute and colorful. There is even a bar in town for the residents, but this was closed @ the time. We saw one man cutting wood outside of his house. It was interesting to see. If you do come to Nokken, please be mindful of the residents that may be living there. Do not litter or be loud as you are walking through and always be respectful. This is a small & quiet community, and they like it that way.
Here are some of the charming houses we saw in Nokken:
After our visit to Nokken, we got back on the bus and headed to Nyhavn. This is a picturesque harbor, lined with colorful buildings and boats. It was absolutely beautiful and there were Christmas markets lined up all along the harbor. Outside restaurants again had sitting areas with heaters and blankets and served everything from Frikadeller (Danish meatballs), to Glogg (sort of a hot, mulled wine type drink), to herring, cookies, cakes, hot chocolate and everything you could think of.
We had lunch here and did some shopping. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and we were blown away by just how beautiful it all was.
After a few hours at Nyhavn, it was time for dinner. We ended up at an Italian restaurant that was pretty good. They had a small selection of items but for a New Yorker in Scandinavia, the food was tasty. They didn’t serve a lot of traditional staples like Chicken Parmigiana or Spaghetti with meatballs … but I got a Ravioli with Pesto Sauce and was pleased with my meal. They also had a dessert where you could sample 4 different types of gelato, to which we happily obliged 🙂
On our way back to the hotel, we saw some places that were getting ready to set up Christmas markets so we decided the next day we’d do a little more shipping and check those out.
Day 4 – Copenhagen / Amsterdam
This day we had most of the day to again explore Copenhagen. We had a 4:55pm flight out of Copenhagen to go to Amsterdam, so we had until 2pm to see the rest of the city. Albeit beautiful (and my favorite destination of the trip), Copenhagen is pretty small so you don’t really need a lot of time there, which was great for us, with this trip really being about 5 days total (not including travel).
In the morning, we explored some of the Christmas markets around the city. They had a lot of interesting & unique things to buy. We even saw Santa at one of the markets, so that was quite a treat. We also did a little more shopping on Stroget and had lunch. Then we headed to the airport for the flight to Amsterdam.
The security in Copenhagen airport is pretty strict, but incredibly thorough so expect to have it take a bit of time trying to get through.
Where we stayed:
Bernstorffsgade 4, Copenhagen, 1577, Denmark
This was an amazing hotel, with a glass elevator inside and the floor in the bathroom was heated! Conveniently located right next to Central Station. We loved this hotel!
Upon arriving in Amsterdam at night, we checked into the hotel, dropped off bags and then got some drinks. The next day would be our full day in Amsterdam and we were excited to check it out!
Something to note: Amsterdam was an add-on to the trip and therefore was not included in the TAP deal. Albeit still pretty affordable, we had to book this airfare separately & and on an entirely different airline. The flight took approximately an hour on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Day 5 – Amsterdam
This was our only full-day in Amsterdam so we were excited to see what was in store! Upon first glances of the city, it all looked beautiful. Our hotel was right on one of the canals so imagine the first thing you see when you get up in the morning being a canal … amazing!
We spent most of the day shopping, drinking and just walking around taking it all in. The interesting thing here is of course the way marijuana is smoked so freely, that it is even served in many of the city’s coffee shops. The hilarious moment of the day was when my mom walked into a coffee shop to ask if they had croissants and they didn’t and instead they offered her marijuana (she declined lol). Like Copenhagen, Amsterdam is a biking city though I felt there were a lot more cars there than in Copenhagen overall. A cool thing we did was have a drink at the oldest bar in Amsterdam, Café Chris. This place opened in 1624 and is still running. The best place to sit is at the bar, not at the tables to the side, and make sure you bring cash. They do not take cards here. It’s still pretty old school when it comes to the register here. The bartender took our orders on a little note pad and wrote everything down, there are no computerized receipts here and no ‘keeping tabs open’ … it’s about as authentic you can get. The walls also don all the original artwork from 1624 as well.
At night we did a canal tour. It was so beautiful to see the city all lit up and to learn a bit about the history too. Most of the houses lean toward the right, and are referred to as ‘dancing houses’ and as well, many people live on houseboats. The Dutch like to keep their windows open so as the boat passed by we were able to see inside all the adorable houseboats.
Day 6 – Amsterdam / Copenhagen
We had the morning and most of the afternoon to explore Amsterdam before getting on our flight again back to Copenhagen.
In the morning, we saw the Anne Frank House. This was the actual house she and her family were housed in, behind the warehouse where her father worked. If you know the story, they were hidden for 2 years under the care of Miep Gies, her husband and a few others. It was incredible to see the space they were in and see some of the actual artifacts from when they lived there. Admittedly I am not a fan of museums, but this is a must-see for any visitor to Amsterdam. It was an incredibly moving & eye-opening experience, getting almost a first-hand look during one of the worst times in world history. We were not able to take any pictures in the house unfortunately, as photography is prohibited.
After Anne Frank, we went to the restaurant next door for the amazing staple, Pofferjies, which are little pancakes with sugar & butter. These were so yummy and the restaurant was really cute inside. For how crowded it was, we were sat and served very quickly. Opposite of Café Chris, they only accept cards, no cash.
After that, we went to the Red Light District and walked around a flea market and shops. For lunch we ate at Wok & Go, which was a make-your-own Chinese place, like the Asian equivalent of Chipotle. After lunch, it was time to head to the airport and back to Copenhagen.
Like Copenhagen, we took the train here as well. It was close to our hotel and super convenient to get to the airport, at about a 15 minute ride also. Both the trains here as well as Copenhagen were very clean, but this was crowded, as a lot of people were going to the airport at that time.
Where we stayed:
Singel 13-17, 1012 VC Amsterdam
+31 0 20 62 63 108
Upon landing in Copenhagen, we dropped off bags at the hotel and headed to Tivoli Gardens for the Christmas display. We had to go this day because the first day it opened was November 16th and we were in Amsterdam. Tivoli was awesome, equipped with rides, shops and all kinds of beautiful Christmas trees, lights and interesting things to see. We ate a hotdog at the park and had drinks on an old pirate ship. We didn’t go on the rides, and although we expected a lot more shops, we had a great time here. It was so beautiful all lit up at night. My favorite was the Asian portion. They had a huge Chinese dragon and pagoda all decorated with colorful lights.
Where we stayed
Best Western Plus Kastrup Airport
Kastrup 2770 Denmark
Day 7 – Flying Home
This day we flew all day. We took the 6:10am flight from Copenhagen back to Lisbon and then separate for our flights home. Mom & aunt took the 8pm flight out, I was on the 12:50pm so I had a 4 hour layover in Lisbon.
This was such an amazing trip and I enjoyed all 3 places, with Copenhagen being my favorite, followed by Amsterdam and then Lisbon.
Thanks for reading! Which European city should we visit next?
As always, Saif travels!