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World At My Feet

Europe’s secret city

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I’m going to start with a confession. Before I booked my trip to Gdańsk, I’d never heard of the place. And that’s what it makes it so good; nobody really has. It’s cheap. Beautiful. Metropolitan. Like an untouched, undiscovered London. All of the benefits. None of the crowds.

Tempted? Here’s a few more reasons to hop on that (crazy cheap) flight…

There’s more than just wódka on offer

50p shots of Polski vodka means some areas of Poland (think Krakow) can be catnip for thirsty stag parties. Luckily, Gdańsk is yet to make it onto their radar. Instead, you’ll find cocktails bars necklacing colourful streets, with jewels like Flisak ‘76 demanding a visit. Tucked into a basement, it boasts a décor even more tantalising than its cocktail ingredients. Think cozy armchairs on the inside. Deckchairs on the outside.

It’s also worth sampling local liquor Goldwasser – gold-flecked vodka. If its 40% strength isn’t enough to take you to new heights try out High 5 – a classy rooftop bar that sits on top of the Hilton and overlooks the river.

img_6088‘Researching’ a rhubarb cocktail at Flisak ‘76

You can sail on an actual pirate ship

There’s no better way to travel around Gdańsk than aboard a pirate ship. And you don’t need a treasure chest to afford it. For £9 you can enjoy a two-hour sail down the mouth of river Vistula and take in the city from top deck. Not only are there guides to tell you about the city’s history and monuments but there’s also a bar on board to grab a rum.

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It’s where the first shot of WW2 was fired

Gdańsk is known as the city of beginnings.  Sail past the Westerplatte memorial and you’ll find yourself at the exact point where war between Poland and Nazi Germany commenced. Fifty years later, it’s noted as the city that marked the beginning of the end of communism. If Teuton Knights are more your thing (I’m not judging) you can learn about their brutal takeover in 1308 where they murdered the entire city to call it their home. It’s worth taking your nose out the guidebook and taking a free walking tour to find out more – they last about two hours and occur daily.

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There’s a gorgeous royal-worthy square

When the king of Poland visited Gdańsk from Warsaw, he was met with a procession of ornate gates which still stand today. Head along Stare Miasto, known as the ‘Royal Route’ that runs between the gates and take in the gorgeously colourful main square littered with buskers and ice cream stands. Climb up the Mariacka’s cathedral forgreat views and cool down afterwards by Neptune’s Fountain.img_6089
One of the many impressive gates in the city 

Want to pay a trip before the rest of Europe finds out? You can secure a return flight for as little as £30 flying from Stansted (and most other major airports). Head from May onwards to feel the heat and avoid the crowds of August. It’s also worth timing your trip with a festival so consider the likes of Open’er in June – a great line-up at a festival less than an hour’s drive from the centre.

Copenhagen: Venturing beyond Nyhavn

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The king of Sweden declared that all buildings had to be painted a different colour. A sassy move. But a clever one; Copenhagen is beautiful. Chic but not try-hard. Cosmopolitan without being snobby. Just exactly what you’d want from a long hygge-filled weekend.

Here’s a few suggestions that go beyond the classic boat-trip at Nyhavn:

1. See it from the rooftops

You’ll find the Rundertaan ‘round tower’ sitting inconspicuously in the main square. Built in the 17th century as an astronomical observatory, you can pay a mere 25 DKK (£3) to stand on top of this fairy tale city. The panoramic view littered with tanned spires and domed spheres is well worth the trek to the top. And, if you’re not a fan of heights (like me) the spiral ramps are a lot more appealing than stairs to peer over the rooftops.

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2. Hit the shops

Head to the old town and visit Strøget – Copenhagen’s aorta and one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets. There’s a mix of designer labels on offer if pay day has been kind to you: Prada, Max Mara…Mulberry. Or, alternatively, if it’s just ‘treat yo’self’  day. But there’s also plenty of hot dog stands and bars for people-watchers or impatient boyfriends who need entertaining in the meantime.

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If you’re after something a little more authentic, check out the street that runs parallel: Strædet. You’ll find a range of shops both smaller and more “Scandi”. Gorgeous window displays and hidden-door exteriors are met with Aladdin’s cave-esque interiors. Visit the likes of KIRK – a mouth-watering homeware shop that will make you wish you hadn’t just opted for the stingy ‘hand luggage only’ option.

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3. Take a ride

…In Tivoli Gardens. It’s the oldest theme park in Europe and has been around since 1843. The rule goes that the originals are always the best. And Tivoli is no exception to this rule.  The second-most popular seasonal theme park in the world, Tivoli has a lot on offer. Many of the rollercoasters also offer great views of the city – so you can sightsee while you scream. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t open until April, so remember to go later in the year if you want Tivoli to feature in your itinerary.


4. Grab a bite

If you go anywhere, make sure it’s Copenhagen Street Food market in Papirøen. There’s around 50 different international street dishes all served up from trucks, huts or stalls – along with a tonne of specialist beers and cocktails to wash it down. Menus vary day-to-day but you can get a meal for around 60 DKK (£7).

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5. Be a queen for the day 

Rub shoulders with the royals and head to Amalienborg Palace for the grand tour. Home of the Danish royal family, you can take a peek at the Queen’s wardrobe and have a nose at the gifts they’ve received from fellow royals around the world. Turn up at 12 and you’ll catch the changing of the guard as they march from their barracks at Rosenburg Castle through to Amalienborg.

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 Getting about

The city has a great over-ground metro system which is exactly what you’d expect from scandi country: simple, swift and clean. You can get practically anywhere and it’s pretty cheap too. If you’re on a budget, it’s worth investing in the Copenhagen Card which covers free admission to 73 attractions and free public transport by bus, train and metro. A 72 hour option will set you back around £70, but there are also 24 and 48 hour options for shorter trips. Purchase online before you go to get it at it’s cheapest.

Any suggestions you’d add? Let me know in the comments below.

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