Many people aspire to travel when they’re young, however this often involves much money and time. So why not take a long weekend and travel to a city in Europe.
Lots of people disregard the Scandinavian countries because of the weather and the expense. However, Copenhagen is a city rich with culture, history, and community. Initially a small fishing town, Copenhagen has survived many fires, the plague, and multiple invasions. This city is not just for the wealthy traveller as there are plenty of inexpensive ways of seeing the beautiful sites and rejuvenating lifestyle of Copenhagen.
In terms of where to stay on a budget, I would highly recommend ‘The Generator’ Hostel. A modern styled hostel based in the centre of the city, it really throws the whole stereotype of bunk bedded hostels out the window.
One problem with city breaks is fitting everything in. I highly recommend using the company Free Walking Tours as they’re a great way to see the city within a limited time with the added guidance of enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers from Copenhagen. The tour includes sites such as the City Hall, the Christiansborg Palace, and the Old City Centre, where the guide explains the political and social history of Denmark, such as the Danish tradition of Hygge. Furthermore, there is the idyllic Nyhavn harbour filled with buzzing bars and cafes. For Art lovers, there is the Charlottenberg Art School that has Ai Wei Wei’s sculpture of the refugee life jackets in the wall. The tour also includes the modern Royal Opera House, where the guide delves into the life of the prolific writer Hans Christian Andersen. The tour ends with the enclosed area of the Royal Palace of Amalienborg with its wonderful architecture and stories of the monarchy.
There is still plenty to see outside the tour as well, such as Eriksen’s bronze statue of the Little Mermaid, next to the star-shaped military fortress of Kastellet. Moreover, for those looking for less of a traditional tourist day out, there is Freetown Christiania near the centre. Christiania is a district full of unorthodox art and culture, which is worth visiting if you want to see another side of Copenhagen. For those more into the more traditional art and history, there is the New Carlsberg Museum next to Tivoli Gardens. And for those foodies, I highly recommend visiting the food markets of Torvehallerne, full of traditional Scandinavian fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. In evening, I also recommend you go for a old school drink at Andy’s Bar near The Generator hostel.
Another unusual but fascinating city break is Zagreb. When most people think of Croatia, they think of the sunny beaches of Dubrovnik and Hvar, but there is a reason why Zagreb is the capital of Croatia: it is absolutely bursting with history and culture. Like Copenhagen, Zagreb has been through a lot, especially war. One can see this in Zagreb’s architecture, which is a combination of Austro-Hungarian and Balkan style. A great example of this is the Post-medieval St. Mark’s Church and its mosaic roof. St. Mark’s Church is in the Old Town which can be easily accessed by the shortest funicular in the world. The Old Town has a lot of character with its cobbled streets, unusual architecture, and pop up art stalls. Another unique place to go is the ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’, which is full of funny, random, and emotional stories of breakups from all over the world.
However, there are plenty of hidden gems in the modern part of Zagreb as well, such as the Grič Tunnel. This was formerly an air raid tunnel during the World Wars, but now is used as a regular underground pass for the local citizens. The tunnel leads down into the main part of town where the Trg bana Jelačicá, the main square, is. Like most cities in Europe, the main square is full of fun bars and cafes and plenty of public transport. Another breathtaking site in Zagreb is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly known as St. Stephen’s, which was rebuilt in the neo-gothic style after an earthquake in the 1880s. Near the cathedral is the Dolac market for those looking for some authentic traveller jewellery or even just some fresh food. For those looking to get in touch with nature, Zagreb’s Maksimir Park also offers the perfect setting for a picnic lunch. Many of these sites are included in the free walking tour as well.
In terms of accommodation on a budget, I suggest staying at the ‘Chillout’ Hostel. It’s based in the centre of town, 5 minutes’ walk from the Trg bana Jelačicá, and is in the the perfect location for exploring Zagreb on foot. It also has a huge international community and even host their own bar crawl.
These two capital cities are bursting with life, history, arts, and culture and are both worth visiting. Each of them are easily accessible to those on a budget and with only a long weekend to spare.
– by Katie Wells