Here is a list of 7 small towns in Europe with incredible history. Towns that definitely is worth travelling for. Small towns that have been former capitals at some point. As always, I only write about places that I have visited myself, so these seven towns get my warmest recommendation.
1. Cetinje, Montenegro
Cetinje is a small town of around 14,000 people, but it is the very heart of Montenegrin culture and identity. All Montenegrins will tell you “a real Montenegrin” comes from Cetinje. Walking down it’s streets and sitting at it’s cafes, discussing culture, history and the country’s future, will give you the very essence of what Montenegro is.
It is the former capital, and here you find royal graves, monasteries, a palace, Ottoman ruins and so much more. The history of the Montenegrin kings is long and eventful. Because Montenegrin are a very proud people, you will start to learn how 700 year old events still have an influence on the culture and mentality to this day.
This is my favorite town in Europe.
2. Jelling, Denmark
In the outskirts of the city of Vejle, you find the small town of Jelling with only 3500 inhabitants. This is no ordinary small Danish town though. This is the former viking capital, and the home of king Harald Bluetooth, the old Danish viking king, who was the first to embrace Christianity.
In this town you will see the Jelling Stones, where he declares the new state religion. There is also a very interesting free museum, where you can learn about his motives for converting to Christianity. How he wanted to modernize Denmark, and how his name became synonymous with a new widespread technology, we all use every day.
3. Bayeux, France
With only 13,000 people, the town of Bayeux is not so big, however it sees a lot of visitors. It once was the capital of one of the Celtic tribes living in the area during the Roman Empire, however, it’s importance today comes from the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the Norman invasion of England. The province of Normandy, where Bayeux is located, has a very tumultuous history with viking invasions, Frankish and Celtic wars, and wars with England. Having the story told by an audio guide while you slowly walk around the tapestry, taking in the history picture for picture, is one of the most educational and entertaining experiences a museum can give. You definitely will feel like part of the story.
Besides the tapestry, the town is beautiful with a cathedral in the city center. The city of Caen is not far from there either and is definitely also a place worth visiting.
4. Gniezno, Poland
Going a little bigger with 68,000 inhabitants, Gniezno is one of those rarely visited towns in Poland despite it being the very foundation of the country.
Legend has it, that a long long time ago in a distant land, 3 brothers went travelling in unknown land. They were 3 princes: Lech, Czech and Rus, all descendant from Janus, the grand grandson of Noah. After a while the three brothers decided to split up. Rus went East, Czech travelled West, and the eldest of them, Lech, travelled North.
Rus founded Russia. Czech founded Czechia, and Lech founded Poland. It is said, that he was hunting for food in an area guarded by a big white eagle. Lech found this bird magnificent, he therefore attempted to steal one of it’s eggs to train it himself. The prince tried to scare the mother eagle away, but nothing worked and it all turned into a bloody fight between the two. After seeing the eagle protecting her eggs despite her white feathers being stained with blood, Lech felt shame and pulled back.
He made the white eagle the symbol of Poland, for it’s bravery and fight for freedom. And just near this nest, he founded the city of Gniezno and made it his capital.
5. Krujë, Albania
Kruje is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe with cobbled streets with different historical symbols and in the Albanian colors. It was the former capital of the Kingdom of Albania. The main attractions is the Skanderbeg museum, which is a beautiful castle that depict the history of Albania when it was fighting the Ottomans. Besides the castle and the beautiful streets, the town also has a an interesting Bazar, a mosque and plenty of medieval architecture.
The are is quite mountainous and offer some beautiful landscapes getting in and out of the town. The town houses 59,000 inhabitants.
6. Toledo, Spain
Toledo is the largest of these towns with 84,000 people. However, it is also the one with most history. It has been the capital of many eras. It was a Muslim capital during the Toledo Taifa kingdom, then a center piece in the conquest of Spain by the kingdom of Leon and Castille. Today, remains of both eras can be seen and even a Jewish quarter has survived after the genocide against Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition. The town also houses the very most impressive catholic cathedral in my opinion.
It is a true throwback in time to visit this town, and best thing is: It is just a small day trip from Madrid.
7. Kalmar, Sweden
While this one has not really been a true capital, the city of Kalmar was the place where it was decided that Denmark, Norway and Sweden (with Finland, Iceland and Greenland under the same rule), should unite into one major political power. It was the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe I, who made this possible. For a short period in history, she was the most powerful woman in Europe ruling an empire that was half the size of the rest of Europe.
The unification happened in the Castle of Kalmar, which is a beautiful sight in the city center. The city has other attractions, a beautiful town, churches, lakes and a city hall. With a population of 36,000 people, this might be one of the most interesting towns in Sweden.
You always hear the same general travel advice in every travel blog out there. Here are 3 specific and very simple travel advices for what to when travelling, that I have learned and applied personally, that has enriched my travel experience significantly. So without further ado, here you have 3 advices you won’t hear from anyone else:
Visit universities Have you ever been in a city a little longer than it took to do all the sightseeing you could find in your travel handbook? I can most certainly tell you, that there is always more to see in every city. Even the most detailed travel blog or handbook won’t capture it all. But how would you know coming as a foreigner, not knowing much about the ins and outs of the city?What I often do, when I find myself in such situation, is to visit a university. Universities are the most underrated tourist attractions at all. I have personally visited several universities in more than 10 countries, from Sudan to Uzbekistan to Hong Kong.
Here are reasons why it is always worth visiting a university in the country you are in:
You will get a better understanding of the future of the country, watching the youth interact with each other, studying hard or even partying. Ear drop on conversations, specially if you find the campus of the political sciences. Or walk around inside the buildings reading the scientific posters that the students have hung up. If you have a scientific background yourself, you might understand the level of education, the level of innovation and what kind of ideas will shape the future.
There is always someone who speaks English there. Specially if you are in a country where you understand almost nothing because of the language barrier, the chances of meeting someone who speaks your language here is much higher. If not local students, then foreign students or exchange students. You will also find people from all faiths and continents in most universities. Maybe even someone from your own country, who lives there.
There is ALWAYS a very affordable cafeteria there, that you might benefit from.
You can always blend in. It doesn’t matter your age. You can be a undergrad student, you could be doing a PhD or even be a professor. You just walk around in confidence there, and merge in the atmosphere as were you a local.
Read local memes
This is a funny way to way to learn the deep and complex structures of a country and it’s relation to their neighbors. Or even their view on other countries. You can read all the news articles and essays about a country as you want, but the true mechanisms of the local’s mentality is more apparent in something as simple as a meme, rather than a 5 page analysis of the cultural aspects of a country.It is also a much more fun and quick way to learn some things, that you won’t be able to find in analysis reports or news, because of the political correctness that those have to adhere to. Good memes are rarely politically correct. Sometimes they even can be insulting or completely racists, but they will tell you the true mentality of some of the people there.
So go online, on Facebook or Instagram and search for a country specific meme page. It might take you a bit long to find. Prepare yourself to even opening google translate, to translate some of the memes. You will get more insight by those memes that are not translated to English.
Finally, if you know a local from the area, you might ask him or her to explain the memes that you do not understand or do not find funny. Yes – it might develop into a proper scientific research about memes, but believe me you will laugh most of the time. I can specially recommend memes from the Balkan region, those are clearly the most hilarious.
Book a room for 2 people, even if you travel alone
I often travel alone, and I have found out that hotels lately uses environmental concerns as an excuse to give a worse service regarding cleaning. Today, many hotels do not change the towels every day, even if you throw them on the floor.When you travel alone and book a room, you are often left with the option to book a room for 2 people anyway, as hotels rarely have a single room. The price is the same – you do not pay more if you were 2 people travelling together for the same room. So when I book such a room, I put down 2 guests to ensure that they prepare the room with twice as many towels.
There is a problem with this approach, as some cities will impose taxes that has to be paid per person. So when you show up, you have to tell the hotel, that you are only 1 person coming to stay there to avoid paying double taxes.
So that was all for now, I hope you can use and benefit from those advice as I do! Remember, travelling is all about learning and understanding the world. Not just what fits into your own world view, so dig deep into it and get fascinated by it, even if it is far from your own believe system or values. But always, keep your integrity while travelling!
Coming back from an adventurous trip to Iraq, I thought about how interesting religious festivals actually are. Some of the best travel experiences I have ever had, were combined with the observation of different old festivals with roots in world religions. I have previously made a list of Christian Festivals to experience, check that list out.
This list contains the name of the top 10 most fascinating Muslim festivals around the world, that would be great to experience in person together with the year 2020 happening dates.
Hajj Place to be: Mecca, Saudi Arabia Time to be next year: July 28, 2020
This one is undisputedly the most famous and important festival of the year in the Islamic world. Every Muslim is required to do a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or hers lifetime. The pilgrimage consists of few rituals that traces back to Abraham who built the Kaaba, which is the most holy building in Islam.Every year millions of Muslims from all kinds of nations and races gather here, strip themselves of all symbols of status, wealth and pride and they put on the same white garments. All as one they walk around the Kaaba seven times, they face while praying in a circle and they perform all kinds of other interesting rituals and prayers that makes them forget all about their earthly desires, their race and nation and just feel one with their fellow believers.Unfortunately, this festival is closed for non-muslims, so only a muslim (traveller) will be able to witness it in person. However, you can enjoy the rest of the festivals on this list. . .
Mawlid Place to be: Khartoum, Sudan Time to be next year: October 28, 2020
The mawlid is the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. This festival is celebrated all over the muslim world, officially except of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where it is forbidden, however, even there you can experience people celebrating it despite the law. However, if you want the best of all festivals, you should visit a strong Sufi dominated area. I can strongly recommend the Khalifa House Square in Khartoum. On the day, you will see Sudanese from all over the country arriving by foot and putting up a great festival in this square with lots of songs, dances, food and religious speeches. Every Sufi Tarika (Meaning “way of practice”) have their own tent and their own way of celebrating. Walk from place to place and participate in the event. .
Ashura and Arbaeen Place to be: Karbalaa, Iraq Time to be next year: August 28 and October 7, 2020
Ashura and Arbaeen are two very connected ceremonies, so I have gathered them together here. Ashura commemorate the events of The Battle of Karbalaa in 685 AD, where the family of Prophet Muhammad was brutally murdered and captured. During 10 days up to the day of Ashura, the whole city is filled with mourning pilgrims crying and beating themselves over this terrible event, while poems and slogans are shouted all over the city and even plays are performed. It all ends with a run towards the shrine of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad.
The Arbaeen is a similar but much larger (and more calm) event, that happens 40 days after Ashura. This event commemorate the day, when the remaining family of Hussein finally came back to Karbalaa to mourn their dead. Up til the day of Arbaeen pilgrims from all over the country walk from their cities to Karbalaa to pay their respect. The Arbaeen is the largest annual peaceful gathering in the world with more than 20 million attendees every year.
Mela Chiraghan (festival of lamps) Place to be: Lahore, Pakistan Time to be next year: March 28, 2020
This celebration marks the death day of another Hussein, namely the sufi poet Shah Hussein. He was such a beloved character by everyone from all casts and religions in Pakistan, and every year the whole citizens of Lahore decorate their houses with different lights and oil lamps, making a beautiful scenery.
The main festivities happen around Shah Hussein’s shrine. Here free food is distributed and people from all over the country come to light up candles, lamps and lay flowers. The climax is the ignition of the large bonfire, where people would throw in all kinds of cotton lamps and candles making wishes. The bonfire will go on for 3 full days. ..
Perang Topat Place to be: Lombok, Indonesia Time to be next year: November, 2020
There is a holy place in Lombok for both muslims and hindu. The Pura Lingsar shrines house the combined Muslim and Hindu autumn festival. The festival is also called the Rice War between Muslims and Hindus. A very peaceful kinda war though. It all starts after both religious groups have finished their prayers in the temple. Time of the day: Just after the muslim afternoon prayer (Asr-prayer).
Both sides of the war will gather in formations on each side of their temple wearing tradition clothes and arming themselves with rice wrapped in leaves. After a speech and some festivities, both sides start throwing the rice at each other. They then engage in a joyful and friendly fight with rice and laughter will fill the temple site. It is truly a celebration of harmony and peace between two religions who live side by side. .
Chechen Zikr Place to be: Grozny, Russia Time to be next year: Any Thursday or Friday, but best at major Islamic holidays.
The distinct Chechen Zikr is a one of the most fascinating Sufi ceremonies in the world. The circular dances, the rhythm, stamping and the prayers are simply so hypnotizing that just by observing it you can induce in a trance. The Zikr was in danger of being extinct due to atheistic rule enforcement by the Soviet/Russian authorities, who sees these ceremonies as a threat to them. Also Saudi Arabian Wahabi groups have several times attacked those Sufi orders. Now however, the Chechen Zikr is facing a renaissance and can be witnessed many places in Grozny, also in the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque. Try to visit during the Islamic Ramadan, Eid or Mawlid to catch a larger gathering of worshipers performing this ritual. .
Fez Festival of World Sacret Music Place to be: Fez, Morocco Time to be next year: June 12, 2020
This is maybe the most modern festival on the list as it in 2020 will only be the 26th edition. Here religious (mainly Muslims but also from other faiths) musicians from all over the world perform religious songs. You can find famous artists like Sami Yusuf, local musicians, Sufi orderes peforming and artists from all over the world like Iran, Spain and Scotland also attend and perform. It is a bridge between the Muslim faith and other religions build with the love of music and art. .
Bishwa Ijtema, Dhaka Place to be: Dhaka, Bangladesh Time to be next year: January 10, 2020
Directly translated to “World Conference”, this is truly an international Muslim gathering with over 5 million participants every year, making it another of the largest annual gatherings in the world. The small suburb city, Tongi, the streets will be filled with people praying all together as one. Not only the streets but also the rooftops and basically everywhere is occupied by worshipers praying for 3 days, reciting Quran and having preaches about the meaning of the Quranic verses. The final congregational prayer on the last day will be for wishing for world peace. . .
Durbar Festival Place to be: Kano, Nigeria Time to be next year: May 23 and July 30
This is one of the most interesting festivals of all. It takes place in the former Kano Emirate, that is today a part of Nigeria. It is basically a ceremony that happens on important occasions, most certain to happen during the Muslims Eid Holidays. The city of Kano still have the Palace of the Emir called Gidan Rumfa, and he and his family still lives in it. Every Eid-ul-Fitr or Eid-ul-Adha he will wear the traditional medieval clothes and ride on his horse with his men out in the city. He and his men will parade the city, there will be music, prayers and rituals on horseback. .
Tabuik Place to be: Pariaman, Sumatra, Indonesia Time to be next year: August 20, 2020
This festival is very closely connected to the Ashura and Arbaeen, as it also commemorate the Battle of Karbalaa and Imam Hussein’s sacrifice for the religion. This ceremony however is very different in execution, as it is held by predominately Sunni Indonesian Muslims rather than Shia Iraqi ones. Here they prepare tall funeral biers made of bamboo and send them into the sea. Then people would swim after them. The whole festival is filled with sport activities like swimming and kite running and also plays are performed.
Besides these 10 Muslim festivals, there are hundreds of others all over the world that you can enjoy. In addition, being invited to a traditional Iftar during Ramadan might also be an experience you want to have. If you find it difficult to visit some of these countries, you can find very similar events in more accessible locations. Might even be in your local mosque in your own non-Muslim country. Muslims are in general very welcoming and would be happy if you showed interest in their traditions, so do not be shy to go and ask.
Visiting Copenhagen for 2-3 days, you will be busy enjoying the fairy tale city’s most known landmarks. Being it visiting a cafe in the famous Nyhavn area, with all the colored houses or getting your adrenalin up at Tivoli.
There are lots of things to do in Copenhagen, and if you are efficient, you can do them all in 3 days. Maybe you need a week if you slow down and take it all in. However, if you decide to spend more than a week in Copenhagen, here are 25 hidden gems to chose from for unique and quirky experiences in this fairytale city.
Living in Copenhagen, you will start to realize that there is not much to do in this city except of the landmarks. Denmark is one of the flattest countries in the world, and thus have only very few interesting hiking trails. The city has many beautiful parks, but you need to go outside the city for good forest walks or a nice beach in the rare hot summer days.
Luckily, Copenhagen is located on a small island measuring 100 km wide and 130 km long which means there are plenty of options to find beautiful good beaches and harbors. The city is located in the far east of the country and connected directly to Sweden by a bridge. The reason is, that Denmark used to own the southern parts of Sweden; Skåne, Halland and Blekinge, which back then, would have located the capital in the middle of the kingdom. The island is also connected to the rest of Denmark via a bridge on the west side, which makes it even easier to make interesting day trips around the country and into Sweden.
The list composes 25 secret places I found, that only Danish people know about with a guide to how to get there, what you can expect to see and how to get the best instagrammable shots of them. The list compose both places inside the city, in it’s suburbs and small day trips from the city. They are all listed in relation to distance from Copenhagen city center:
1. Glyptoteket (600 m)
If you have been in Copenhagen for a few days, you might have visited the national museum. Carlsberg’s Glyptotek is not to miss though if you got extra time. This used to be the personal collection of the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Brewery. It has antiques from all over the world. Most noticable is his collection of roman figures, a nasothek, a gallary and the egyptian and nubian artifacts.
Practical info: It is free on Tuesdays, so go on a Tuesday! Otherwise it is 115 DKK (17 USD)
How to get there: It is located in the middle of the city. You can walk to it from the central station (Hovedbanegården).
2. Bastard Cafe (850 m)
One of the best board game cafe’s in the world, this cafe has all the nerdy board games you can ever imagine. Go there on a weekday, cause it is very crowded in weekends and enjoy the atmosphere even if you are not into boardgames. The place is full of international nerds and hipsters having the best time of their youth. Try one of their easy “free to play” board games and have one of the Game Guru’s help you out with the rules. I can recommend simple games like Patchwork, Ticket to Ride or maybe one of the funnier games like Cards Against Humanity.
Practical info: This is a place to go if you are travelling 2 or more people, as it will be hard to find another group of friends to join for a game. But if you are very outgoing, try your luck, people are very friendly there.
There is one wall with free games, but borrowing any of the other games is cheap and costs 25 DKK (4 USD) per person. You can always ask the Guru’s for help and they most likely will help you out with rules and introduction to the game.
How to get there: It is right in the city center – walk from the central station.
3. Lucia kayak parade/ Lucia kayak optog (2 km)
This is a traditional Scandinavian ceremony that you can only witness on December 13 every year. In Denmark, small girls and boys walk the parade of Lucia which pays respect to an Italian saint. There are many theories about how this tradition came to Scandinavia. The story is about Saint Lucy (Lucia) who found herself forced to take her own eyes out to continue her charity work. The boys and girls walk a parade with candles on their heads singing. The nights are very long in December, so a theory is that it is a contribute to the darkness she must have had all the time delivering food to the needing. This particular kayak event is special. A kayaking club perform this parade in the harbour along the city and is most enjoyable to catch when they reach Nyhavn.
Practical info: Don’t miss it if you are in Copenhagen on December 13th. Google their specific time schedule, but you should in general be able to catch it around 3-4 PM in Nyhavn.
How to get there: Nearest Metro stop: Kongens Nytorv
4. Frederiksberg Have (2.9 km)
Copenhagen has many beautiful gardens and city parks, and this one is one of my very favorite. It a castle garden featuring Frederiksberg Slot, which is located on a hill called Valby Bakke. This position of the castle makes amazing photographing opportunity both of the caste and of the garden. The castle can be photographed from the bottom with the stairs leading to the castle with trees on both sides and a green grass area in the middle. Walk up these stairs to take a stunning photo of the park itself – best time of the year for that is in the Autumn. The park will be less crowded, and the trees have the beautiful orange pop you want on your Instagram feed.
The Zoo is placed next to this park, so if you walk inside the park along that edge, you can have a free look into the Elephants house.
Practical info: If you come in summer the park will be overcrowded with sunbathing Danes.
How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have. You can also take bus 9A or bus 26.
5. The cisterns, Søndermarken (3.1 km)
Søndermarken is another of Copenhagen’s many parks, and this one is located right on the other side of the road to Frederiksberg Have. This one is more than just a park though, here you find the a 200 year old water reservoir construction. The people of Copenhagen digged a 16 million liter hole to ensure clean water for the whole city, as their wells and lakes started to be more and more polluted. Today it is empty of water and instead functions as a museum with different art galleries.
Practical info: It is closed on Mondays and entrance is 70 DKK (10.5 USD).
How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have.
6. Nørrebro (4 km)
Nørrebro is where everything happens in Copenhagen. It is where the hipsters are, it is where the internationals are, it is were the young people rebel. A lot of local history has been made in this district of Copenhagen. You can take a walk along Nørrebrogade, which starts at Dronning Louises Bro (the bridge), it will take you close to Blågårdsplads and Sankt Hans Torv, where the hipsters are. You can walk it further into the deep Nørrebro, where the shawarma-bars and café’s starts dominating the streets. You will end up at “The Red Square” and then it is only few seconds walk to Nørrebro Parken, which is a very active park with a mix of interesting people with graffiti, marijuana, ball games, sunbathing people, breakdance, skating and so much more.
Practical info: Nørrebrogade, is a long street so be prepared for a long walk and make some stops at the interesting shops and cafe’s.
How to get there: You can either start from Nørreport Station or take the train to Nørrebro Station and go the other way.
7. Experimentarium (7 km)
This is the perfect place to bring your kids to learn about science in Denmark. All Danish kids who grew up in and around Copenhagen has been to this Science Museum. There are plenty of shows and “experiments” to play with. You can cut open a pigs lung or play with huge bubble blowers. But there are also some very interesting exhibition for adults: As I write this, there is a beautiful exhibition with plastified human bodies. This work is very unique and can only be seen in here and in The Netherlands as far I know. It is basically real human bodies who have been plastified so everything is clearly visible from veins to muscles to skin and set up doing their own professional sport like ballet or running.
Practical info: You will see many kids there. Let them loose and enjoy the adult exhibitions. It is open all days, so you can save this for a Sunday. Entrance is 195 DKK (30 USD) for adults and 115 DKK (17 USD) for children. If you go here by car, you can park for free in a nearby mall called Waterfront for 3 hours. After that it will cost 20 DKK for every additional hour.
How to get there: From the Central Station: Take train A towards Klampenborg and get off at Hellerup Station. Walk for 15 minutes from there, or take bus 1A for 2 stops and get off at Tuborg Boulevard.
8. Blue planet / Den Blå Planet (8 km)
This is the national aquarium and it is the best in Scandinavia and a candidate to that same title in Europe. Not much to say about this place, other than it is definitely worth a visit. You will be able to see all kinds of water animals from around the world, and yes even alligators!
Practical info: Open every day of the week – so another good activity for a Sunday in Copenhagen!
How to get there: Driving and parking is possible. Parking costs 12 DKK per hour for the first 4 hours. Then it costs 15 DKK per hour. If you go by public transport take the M2 metroline towards the Airport and get off at Kastrup St.
9. Trolls / Trolde (8 km)
All around the suburbs of Copenhagen, trolls are hiding in some of the parks and playgrounds. It is a fun activity for the family to drive around and hunting each of them. There are 6 giants in total named Teddy, Oscar, Louis, Thilde, Thomas and Trine and they are located in the districts of Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Albertslund, Ishøj and Høje Taastrup. The trolls (or giants, as some people call them) are made by the artist Thomas Dambo and they are made of recycled wood and placed in places where people normally would never go.
How to get there: As if I would tell you that now! Happy troll hunt!
10. Øresund bridge (8.5)
What you tend to forget when being in Copenhagen is, that Sweden is only 20 min away. Normally, the capital city of a country would be located in the center of the country for defense and administrative reasons. Denmark is one of those countries, where the capital is located on the eastern most point of the country (not counting Bornholm). In Denmark’s case, the main reason is that Denmark used to own many of the southern Swedish territories. Those territories are now linked directly to Copenhagen by the Øresund Bridge, and it is one of the most interesting “bridges” of the world.
The bridge is specially unique because it is a normal bridge from the Swedish side, but a tunnel from the Danish side. They meet somewhere in the middle and it just looks stunning to see the bridge dive into the water from above. The technical reason for this construction is to allow large ships to sail through, as the bridge would have been too low for the ships to sail beneath.
Unless you pay for a helicopter ride, there is only one way to take a picture of the diving point of the trip: You have to do it from the airplane window when you land or take off. If weather and landing conditions are perfect, you can get a pretty good shot with even a smartphone, like I did. However, take a car and make the drive – it is nice nonetheless. And you can have the opportunity to see one of the largest Swedish cities as well, that offers many Gems as well: Malmö.
Practical info: The bridge is not free, a return ticket will set you back around 100 USD.
How to get there: Drive!
11. Bakken (13 km)
Welcome to the oldest amusement park in the world! And the entrance is free! You have probably already heard of Tivoli and maybe visited this amazing amusement park in the middle of the city, but it is not the only amusement park in Copenhagen. Bakken is an even more historic amusement park, as it is the world’s oldest still operating amusement park. It opened in 1583! Can you imagine that? Try out their famous wooden rollercoaster name Rutschebanen, which dates back to 1914. And don’t worry, it is totally safe! Or.. safe enough 😉
Another pro-tip: Every year on the day the park opens, Danish motorcyclists have a tradition of driving their bikes from the Copenhagen city center to Bakken. This parade is worth witnessing if you happen to be in Copenhagen in April.
Practical info: In 2019 the park opened on April 12. Check their website to see exactly when the next motorcycle parade is happening. The Park is very popular, because it is basically free to enter for everyone. So if you don’t like rides but only wanna pay for your kids, this is all possible.
How to get there: Driving is one option. With public transport: Take train A or C from the Central station towards Klampenborg Station and get off there.
12. Rungsted Havn (25 km)
This is a true hidden gem and my personal go to place when I need either piece of mind or a walk with a friend. This harbor i filled with yachts of all kinds and you will see some really fancy onces as well. During summer time, it is crowded and super cozy. You can also go to the beach there, which is one of the better beaches in the Copenhagen Area.
Practical info: There are restaurants there and a cozy atmosphere.
How to get there: Driving there is the best option. It is a bit long for a bus ride, but you can also take bus 29 from the central station.
13. Roskilde (31 km)
Make the trip to the nearby satellite city, Roskilde. This is the place where the Danish monarchs are buried. The cathedral is one of the most beautiful in the country. It is also the city where the famous and crazy Roskilde Festival for rock music is held every year.
Practical info: Enjoy the city!
How to get there: It takes 30 min with a regional train from Hovedbanegården to reach Roskilde.
14. Frederiksborg slot (37 km)
North of Copenhagen you will find the city of Hillerød. It houses one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark mainly because it is surrounded by a lake. The city itself is also worth a visit. Personally, I prefer to see this castle in the middle of the day in winter, because the view is wonderful when the lake is frozen. Walk around the lake and find your perfect angle of the castle. It is one of the most Instagrammable castles in Denmark because of the large lake and the size of the castle makes it easy to frame in one shot.
Practical info: Spend a day in the city. The castle is the city center, and there are plenty of dining options.
How to get there: Drive or take train A from central station to Hillerød Station. If train A is not driving to the city center, take line A towards Lyngby station and change to line A in Lyngby.
15. Visiting Malmø in Sweden (44 km)
If you are interested in crossing the the Øresund bridge, you will probably end up in Malmø. This is Sweden’s third largest city and definitely worth a visit. You can look up it’s many famous landmarks, but what probably wont show up is that they actually have a small restaurant for mice. So go around and look for that tiny miniature restaurant!
Practical info: The street for the mouse restaurant is Bergsgatan. Remember your ID, cause you will be crossing to a different country.
How to get there: From Hovedbanegården there are many trains and buses going to Malmø. You can also take the car!
16. Vallø castle (46 km)
If you drive to Copenhagen from Germany, you will pass by this beautiful castle that is totally hidden and unknown even for most Danish people. Only the locals of the suburban city of Køge knows about this gem. The castle is closed for visitors inside, but it’s beauty is from the outside and also the park around it is stunning.
Practical info: Bring a picnic
How to get there: Car is the best option, as there is a long walk from Vallø Station.
17. Helsingør (46 km)
Helsingør or Elsinore is a historical city at the narrowest strait to Sweden. Here you can visit Kronborg, the castle of Hamlet. You can actually see Sweden from the castle, which was used to collect taxes from ships passing by the strait. If you go to the basement of the castle, you can encounter Holger Danske (Olgier the Dane), who is a sleeping war hero, that will only wake up when one day Denmark’s existence is in real danger. Nearby you also find some interesting museums and the city center is very charming as well.
Practical info: You can cross to Sweden on a 20 min ferry. On the other side is also a beautiful city called Helsingborg.
How to get there: It takes 45 minutes with a regional train from Hovedbanegården.
18. Strandvejen (10 – 46 km)
If you go to Helsingør or Rungsted havn with a car, drive along the famous rich man’s beach street “Strandvejen”. This is the road along the coastline north of Copenhagen, and here you find the big mansions of all the rich Danes. Danish people are often proud of telling you how much equality you find in the country, which is also true. But like in all other countries, there is always the rich and the poor, and in Denmark, the contrast is most visible if you compare other places to this road.
Practical info: Enjoy the view, and if you need to fuel your car, do it at Skovshoved Tankstation, which is a fuel station designed by the famous danish designer Arne Jacobsen.
How to get there: Drive along it with a car or a scooter.
19. Sand sculptures in Hundested (64 km)
In Hundested harbour they have a sand sculpture festival going on every year. Go to the beach and admire the beautiful creations by some very talented artists.
Practical info: It is open between May 10 and October 20. The entrance is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).
How to get there: With a car it is easiest, but it is also doable with the public transport, you just need to change trains twice. First take train E to Lyngby St., change to train A to Hillerød St. and finally change to Lokalbane 920R train to Hundested.
20. Spiral forest tower (66 km)
It is almost a shame to put this place on a “off the beaten path” list anymore, because since they finished this tower in 2019, the place has been featured on many travel magazines like Lonely Planet and Time Magazine. And still very few has been here, so come join the trend and visit this beautiful spiral tower in the middle of a Danish forest.
Practical info: The price for entrance is 150 DKK (22 USD), but if you book online you can save 25 DKK. The place also offers several different climbing activities for kids, that might interest you. Car parking is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).
How to get there: Taking the car is the easiest solution. Otherwise, you can take a train to Næstved Station, and from there take Bus 630R towards Faxe Ladeplads and stop at Sydmotorvejen (Ny Næstvedvej).
21. Stevns Klint (66 km)
Stevns Klint is an amazing hike and surprisingly empty place. Enjoy the nature in one of the few places to do a good hike in Denmark. It is a world heritage site for several reasons, one of them being fish clay and traces of a meteor attack. There is 22 km coast line to hike and several interesting sites, museums and fortresses along the way.
Practical info: The question is where to start, and there are plenty of places. Try to
How to get there:
22. Bonbon land (73 km)
Maybe of all places in on the list, this one is the most bizarre attraction in the whole Denmark. That does not stop it from being one of the most popular amusement parks by Danish citizens. This amusement park is the opposite of Disney. Everything here is designed to be ugly, trashy and dirty. Some of the ride’s names are: “The Dog Fart”, “The Dump” and “The Seagull Poop”, which is not even the most bizarre about the rides. Animal figures are posing in a sexist and dirty way all over the amusement park. All this makes it genuinly one of the most interesting amusement parks in the world and in the same time the kids love it. Not alone is “Bonbon” an amusement park, but it is also a Danish candy brand that are extremely popular amongst Danish kids and also adults.
Practical info: The best way to get there is by car. Parking is 40 DKK (6 USD) and entrance is 180 DKK (27 USD) and all rides included. You can also t
How to get there: To go by train to BonBon-Land you must first reach Næstved with a regional train and then switch to another regional train that stops at Holme Olstrup station and from here there is only a 5-minute walk.
23. Trelleborg, Slagelse (95 km)
If you want real viking history, look no further! You can see a real viking fortress in the west part of Zealand. This viking fortress was built by no other than the famous King Harald Bluetooth, which your bluetooth device today is named after. Here you can visit a museum and learn about the life as a true viking. Check their website for event, maybe they have a viking play or festival you can snapshot!
Practical info: Everything is free except special events like the viking festival.
How to get there: Best is by car. Otherwise, take the train to Slagelse. then take bus 439 from Slagelse Station.
24. Møns klint (126 km)
South of Zealand is connected by more bridges to other smaller islands. This beautiful natural gem is located in one of those islands called Møn. This is probably the most beautiful hiking place in Denmark and most certainly in Zealand. This is a small cliff pointing to the sea and you can walk it from the top or from the beach at the bottom. I recommend you take a round trip – but remember good hiking shoes. If the weather is good, you can also enjoy the beach which is a stone beach but at least with a stunning view to the cliff. Remember your camera down there!
Practical info: It is free – remember to bring a picnic or some snacks, cause the dining opportunities are not many in the area. You can find a cafe there though.
How to get there: Go by car, this is my best recommendation as it becomes cumbersome and takes a long time to reach it by public transport. However, you can do that by taking a train to Vordingborg and from there take bus 660R to Stege and the shift to bus 678.
25. H. C. Andersen’s city and home (165 km)
Explore the home of the world famous fairy tale author H. C. Andersen. Coming to Denmark is for many tourists all about him. His home city is Odense, and there you can walk in his footsteps, visit museums, find statues from his fairytales and most importantly visit his childhood home. The city is on the island of Fyn, and you have to cross the beautiful brige, Storebæltsbroen, to get there.
Practical info: You can buy a 5-in-1 ticket to different museums and his birth home and his childhood home. You can also go visit the places in Odense one by one.
How to get there: You can take a regional train from Hovedbanegården to Odense. You can also go by car, but be prepared to pay for crossing the bridge, this can cost up to 500 DKK (73 USD).
In the summer 2019, I landed in Preveza Airport (Aktion Airport PVK). It is a small airport, where most visitors have already booked an all inclusive hotel and have a big “charter” bus from different travel agencies sending them to their respective destinations.
However, if you travel on a budget like myself, you might want to know how to get from the airport to Preveza city with public transportation. Likely, you would also be going to Lefkada island from the airport or maybe even have Parga or Athena as a destination. Here is the guide to how you travel to those places from the airport, and how you get around with local transportation in Lefkada Island.
So here is a guide for how to get between Aktion Airport, Preveza, Lefkada, Parga and Athens.
From Aktion Airport (PVK) to Preveza:
Preveza is 10 min away with car from the Airport, however, you cannot walk the distance, because it goes through a car only tunnel.
The easiest option is to take a Taxi, which will set you back 25 euros. In my opinion it is not worth the trip, but if you can find few other people to share the ride with, it might be worth it.
There is a bus, that goes from Preveza Airport (PVK) to Preveza Bus Station. The price is 2 euros. When coming out of the airport, walk right to the main road and you will see a bus stop, with this time table on:
If you are going to Preveza, you will have to look at the bottom green time table saying from Lefkas to Preveza Airport.
And be aware, that those times are not the arrival times, but the time of when the bus depart from Lefkada. It takes the bus around 45 min to reach the airport. I will suggest that you add 30 min and start waiting from then. At the airport, you can get food and coffee meanwhile.
Another important aspect: This bus do go to “Preveza Suburban Bus Station”, which is located 30 min walk outside the city center. It does not stop at the city center. If you want the city center of Preveza, you can walk or take a taxi from there, which is way cheaper than from the airport. You can also look for local buses, but these do not drive frequently.
From Preveza or Aktion Airport to Lefkada
If you are at Preveza Bus Station you can take a bus going to Lefkada. The bus will pass by the airport.
If you are at the airport, walk right to the main road when you come out. Here there is a bus stop, which is a bit away from the road. Make sure you stand near the road clear to wave it in, when it comes by.
This is the timetable for the bus for all days of the week. These are all departure times from Preveza Bus Station:
Preveza – Lefkada
It takes 15-20 minutes for the bus to go from Preveza Bus station to Aktion Airport.
From Preveza to Athens and return
There is a bus going from Preveza to Athens every day. It is not necessary to book your ticket before hand, as there normally is space in the bus. However, if you are at the bus station some days prior to your trip to Athens, prebook a ticket. A one way ticket costs 40 euros, or you can buy a return ticket for 60 euros. Online booking is not possible yet, but it will be soon on the following link:
You will arrive at Kefissos bus station in Athens, and from there take bus 51 to the city center. The bus stop for bus 51 is right on the other side of the bus station, so do not walk too much around looking for it elsewhere. Google Maps is not accurate when it comes to bus stations in Athens.
From Preveza to Parga and return
Going to Parga is also possible from Preveza Bus Station. Timetables are on the following link:
The easiest way to get around Lefkada Island is on a scooter or motorcycle. You can rent one for maximum of 20 euros a day and get it delivered to your own hotel, so you can return it there as well. In this way you can get to see the whole island and visit all the interesting beaches, caves and waterfalls.
Going around Lefkada Island with bus
There are buses that goes around the island, and it is much easier than you fear. The only setback is, that the buses do not go to some of the gems, where you will need to do a long hike or rent a bike to get to your destination. The buses do visit the major and some minor cities on the main road around the island.
At Lefkada bus station you can grab a flyer with the bus times. I have uploaded it here. These are timetables for the summer 2019:
You can pay at the station or on the bus. A good tip is to ask the driver or the ticket collector to stop somewhere along the route, if you know your hotel or your destination is not near a bus stop. They will be open to that.
From Lefkada to Athens or Thessaloniki
As you can see on the flyer above, there are buses going from Lefkada to Thessaloniki and Athens every day and back.
Timetable for buses from Lefkada to Athens and Lefkada – Thessaloniki:
We are approaching Christmas very fast but unfortunately this beautiful tradition has become more of a celebration of capitalism than actual Christianity. However, there are places and festivals around the world that gets to the inner core of the beautiful religion of Christianity and I thought I would share some of my favorite must experience Christian festivals around the world:
Christmas tree lighting Place to be: Bethlehem, Palestine Time to be next year: December 24, 2019
What is a better place to witness the celebration of the birthday of Jesus rather than in his very own birth city? The lightning of the Christmas tree is a huge event where the Christian Palestinians count down in the Arabic language for midnight to light up the tree. H
Semana Santa Place to be: Granada, Spain Time to be next year: April 14, 2019 (easter week)
I have witnessed this festival myself. Large parades with people dressed like something coming from the Ku Klux Klan or the inquisition. However, this ceremony is held to repent for the sins you have forsaken the last year and to acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus. Many people would exhaust themselves and walk it every day bare footed. The festival is best celebrated in Granada, but most Spanish and specially Andalucian cities will have it as well.
Semana Santa parade in Spain
Crusifixation Place to be: San Fernando, Philippines Time to be next year: April 19, 2019 (easter)
On the same track as Semana Santa people come here to recall the passion of the christ and experience a similar hardship. Men and women come here voluntarily to be crucified for real. It’s so admirable how much love and passion they have to actually letting nails go through their palms and hang there for hours. a
Mescal Festival Place to be: Adis Ababa, Ethiopia Time to be next year: September 27, 2019
This is a very unique celebration of the supposed finding of the “true cross”. It is said to be given to an emperor of Ethiopia and thus this is a huge celebration there. a
Day of the Dead Place to be: Janitzio Island, Mexico Time to be next year: November 2, 2019
This is actually a very interesting festival mixing Christianity with native Indian religion. It is celebrated in most places in Mexico but should be most original on the above mentioned island. a
Santa Claus Village Place to be: Rovaniemi, Finland Time to be next year: December, 2019
This is not exactly a festival but every year this park opens for visitors and I can imagine it really will feel like Santa Claus’s toolshop up there in the cold north. a
White smoke Place to be: The Vatican City Time to be: Unknown
This even does not need an introduction. We all know how a pope is chosen and watching white smoke from the Sistine Chapel is just historical! a
Race of the Candles
Place to be: Gubbio, Italy
Time to be next year: May 15, 2019
I do not know much about this festival other than celebrating some saints, but it does sound fun! a
Salto del Colacho Place to be: Burgos, Spain Time to be next year: June 23, 2019
Another south European festival. It is hard to understand where all those ideas come from but this one is probably about cleansing babies of sins and ensure them protection. Someone will play the devil and jump over new born babies. This might even be a dying tradition due to criticism from the Vatican saying only baptism can cleanse the sins. a
Mardi Gras Place to be: Binche, Belgium Time to be next year: March 3, 2019
Before the fasting period for the Christians starts, the Belgian Christians go out celebrating the last day with an enormous feast and a very fun parade in the city of Binche. a
In addition, there are many many other festivals to be mentioned. However, I tried not to include some of those ruined by capitalism already like Saint Patricks day. However, I have not been to all of the above yet, so I am yet to be surprised 🙂
Also remember, no matter what religion you have or none at all these traditions are fascinating to witness. The same goes for any other religion out there, and I might do a similar list for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism very soon. Would it interest you?
One of the largest reasons for people not to travel is fear. Specially when it comes to countries with bad reputation or with systems that is very different from the one of your own country. I thought I would share my experience travelling to some of those countries and 10 tips about how to prepare and how to behave 🙂
1. Freedom of thought does exist even in dictatorships
First of all, let me just state that there is no definite way of defining a dictatorship and even if you pointed at a country you think is a stereotype dictatorship, there will be millions telling you it is not. But this exact thing is actually the essence of the first thing you have to understand before even researching the country you want to visit.
Just like there are people of all different convictions and political opinions in your country, there is different convictions and political opinions even in the strongest dictatorships. And this is not just another “political correct” statement, this is an actual reality that you will encounter while travelling in dictatorships. You will actually get to meet people with opposite beliefs, but I will get back to that.
2. Do your research!
This is of course a given. But to relax your nerves I will tell you this: Dictatorships are often more safe to visit than democracies because law is strictly enforced, meaning no much space for thieves, rapists, scammers and the like. Some of the most safe countries in the world are what most people would call dictatorships. Just look at the Gulf or even Central Asia.
3. Check comments online
Another important piece of information is knowing the extend of the strictness of the dictatorship. The word dictatorship is thrown around very easily, even in democracies where a large minority just don’t like any of the options in an election. So it ranges from dictatorships that probably are not a dictatorship at all, to dictatorships where you can be hanged for saying an opinion different from the ruler’s.
So here is a piece of advice you can’t just get from researching the country: Go into different social medias and find a random political topic that people has commented on from that country. Read the comment’s closely and note these questions:
Are there anyone from this country that expresses the opposite opinion of his government or openly talks bad about them? (Make sure they are actually living in that country)
If there are many, probably the “dictatorship” is not that strict. So go there and relax but keep your opinions to yourself when meeting officials or total strangers.
If people comment but agreeing with the government even on insane matter’s, you will know that the country is very strict, however the population might love their “king”. But you will have to know, that there is always someone of the opposite opinion and if none of them express their opinion openly it is because they are scared for their lives. You can go there, but under no circumstances should you talk against the government while you are there (unless you are a political activist, then I wish you luck from all my heart).
Do people easily fight in the comments?
Be aware of the topics they discuss and avoid talking about your own opinions with the wrong persons. Do some research to know in which part of the country or city that those opinions are dominating. Do NOT be afraid of talking to people from both sides. People on the internet are way more aggressive than in real life. When meeting people from the opposite opinion than your own then ask lots of open questions instead of discussing your personal opinion. Maybe you will even learn something new.
4. Passport renewal and visa
Some dictatorships and questionable democracies do not allow you to enter the country if you have been visiting one of the “enemy” countries. If you are going to several countries and you know that the second country do not like the first one, you can sometimes ask for a removable visa. It is basically a normal visa, but instead of gluing it to the passport, they just put a paper clip so you can remove it.
Another idea is to renew your passport before you leave. Be careful that they would not be able to find out where you have been e.g. if you have visited before with the old passport or if you have lots of pictures online from that country. If so, do not lie if you are asked.
5. Take precautions before landing
Some dictatorships will interrogate you upon landing, specially if you come from a country they do not like or if you are known for your political statements on the internet. I would advice you to delete your Twitter app and log off from most of the websites and apps you normally use to express your opinions. Delete sensitive messages. Some dictatorships looks intensively in your phone and make you unlock it for them to read your messages.
They can be very insisting, even if you do not have anything to hide. For example: If you say “I don’t have Facebook”, they will insist they don’t believe you.
If you are going to China or another country who block’s common western websites, then make sure to install a proxy and WeChat before going. A proxy might be illegal in some countries so prepare yourself before going. For China I would recommend installing the proxy beforehand because they are not nosy with your phone at arrival, but keep a low profile. Do not walk around with Google showing on your screen or you can be facing a large fine.
Remember, this is not only for China. WhatsApp and Skype might be blocked in many countries, at least the calling service of it. Here WeChat or Telegram might be handy to use instead, but make sure those at home also have it.
6. Keep it cool at interrogations but do not lose your integrity!
If they want to talk to you at the airport, do not freak out. This happens probably a lot and in the worst case they will just send you back. Do not state any political opinion, just say that you do not care about politics and only interested in seeing culture and nature. But do not compromise your integrity either. Do not admit to an opinion that you do not have – but do not tell them your real opinion if it is against their system. Just keep avoiding the question – either they get tired of you and let you in or they get tired of you and send you back. There is nothing worth losing your integrity over, specially if you only want to do tourism.
My best advice, is keep an open mind, stay out of political discussions and treat them with a sweet behavior.
7. Do not express yourself openly
Keep your opinion to yourself publicly. Watch your mouth for things you say. I have done this mistake before where I just say something without thinking about where I am. Always be conscious about what you are saying and where. Most importantly: Do not question the ruler’s authority, right or opinion.
8. Adapt to the culture
You are out to experience a new culture, so adapt! It will also keep you safer. Again, do not lose your integrity, but do not do anything that is culturally not accepted or shameful in this country you are visiting.
9. Be careful with photography
Some dictatorships will ban you from photographing government controlled buildings or border crossings. I did the mistake once to have my GoPro video camera up at the border crossing between two dictatorships but I luckily got away with it after assuring them it was not filming. If photography is legal, then still be careful not to pose in a disrespectful way.
10. Meet different people
Remember the whole reason why you travel. It is not to confirm your own ideas about the world but to actually learn about the world. If you only hang out with people of the same political conviction as your own you will have wasted a whole trip convincing only yourself. Instead engage with everyone, do not be afraid and be understanding when someone expresses something differently. If you travel right, you cant avoid meeting people on both sides or even hearing opinions you never heard before. This is the best thing about travelling, so enjoy it with an open mind!