Check this video of Copenhgen's (and the world's) best restaurant...
All I can say is wow.
Denmark is a fairly close neighbour of the UK, so its a prime destination for getting to by ferry or as part of a cruise. The country was recently voted the happiest place not in Scandinavia, nor Europe; but the entire world. That kind of populace satisfaction doesn't come from nowhere - as visitors to Denmark's beautiful cities and stunning countryside will know.
If you're visiting Denmark around the festive season you'll be able to check out the amazing Christmas market at the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen. As with a lot of Northern countries the festive season in Denmark is a real treat, with specialities and great fun on offer. Yuletide specialities include gløgg & æbleskiver - the former being the Danish rendition of mulled wine, while the latter are spherical pancakey things not unlike profiterole pastry.
The ferry to Denmark from England is a pretty smart way to travel - the country's maritime history makes it feel like an authentic way to arrive in the world's happiest country!
For a winter visit, there can be few places more invredible than Norway's largest city. Set among a stunning landscape of hills, mountains and the Oslofjord, the city offers everything from nightlife to museums, fine dining and ...tobogganning!
Norwegian food is as you'd expect rib-sticking and hearty fare - game, fish and reindeer are favourites, plus there is in Oslo the usual big city selection of restaurants offering food from around the world.
Oslo also has a great retail scene, with a diverse range of shopping options - Grünerløkka is the area to head to for your bohemian hipster shops and hangouts, while Karl Johans gate will see you right for all your major chains - this magnificent thoroughfare is on a par with Edinburgh's Princes Street for imposing beauty.
With its museums, literature, Michelin starred restaurants, galleries and brilliant architecture, Oslo truly is a world class city of culture.
Karl Johans gate
When you think about destinations for a short break in France, a name that doesn't comeup as often as it should is Lille. Perfectly placed either as a base or as somewhere to visit, Lille's about an hour south of Dunkirk by car, and what with France's very good railway network only an hour from Paris on the train. Lille is also handy for Belgium - being as it is pretty near the border, so you can be in Bruxelles without too much of a stretch and even further afield if you have the time.
Lille itself is an ancient city with a rich history and yet has kept up with modern times, making it a true cultural hub. Foodwise - as in all of France - the cuisine of Lille is as delicious as it is unique and local, staying true to its Flemish roots in dishes like potjevleesch - potted meat which you can buy in the city easily enough (maybe not the prettiest thing I've seen, but mega-tasty!).
Being the fourth largest metropolitan area of France means that Lille has that real city feel and is well served by all the kinds of things a visitor would want. Being in the region it's in (with a strong brewing history) there are unsuprisingly plenty of good bars serving a very decent range of beers. I'm liking the name Pub Mac Ewans (link is in French) - but TBH it looks like it's got a wider range of ales than yer averoage Scottish pub!
Lille is also of course rightly famous for its futuristic and Blade Runner-ish Metro system, which is driverless. I don't know how they got that one past the famously tough French trades unions, but yes, a robot drives the metro in LIlle.
One of the lesser known delights of the Randstad, Haarlem is situated on the Spaarne river and is about 12 and a half miles from Amsterdam. The Randstad is a ring of towns and cities that form a conurbation in Holland - and with a population so big that about two thirds of Dutch people live there.
Being part of the Randstad means that one city is never that far from another. According to the AA's routeplanner even Rotterdam and Amsterdam are only an hour separated by car. I've never taken the car to Holland though, relying on public transport instead, but I'm not sure I'd want to test that one at rush hour. Being 12 miles form Amsterdam yu'd think that Haarlem would essentially be a suburb, but it's very much a town in its own right, in no small part due to its medieval roots.
Not far from the sea, and not far from the action of the capital, Haarlem is an ideal place to go visit or use as a base for futher exploration of the Netherlands. With the V&D department store, plenty of tourist sites (including the unusual smock windmill) and a load of great pubs, Haarlem's an essential Randstad experience.
Boats on the Spaarne
With the growing number of destinations for mini-cruises now available for the festive season, we thought it would be a good idea to post a quick guide to the destinations available.
New Year cruises and festive mini-cruises have a range of beautiful destinations in Europe. If you want a longer haul cruise - say, with two weeks holiday time - then there are of course cruises much further away to places like the Caribbean - but we're just focussing on short breaks away as that's what most of us can afford ;-)
Festive season mini-cruises are often centred around a destination suchs as Hamelin in Germany with its fantastic Christmas market. Other destinations in Europe include incredible winter cities such as Copenhagen, Cologne, Bruges - just a shame you can't visit them all at once.
It's often fun to observe the different Christmas customs and lore in different countries. While we all know about Gluhwein and Stollen cake in germany, there are other less well known Festive icons:
Nisser - little people who descend on Denmark during the festive season. Mischevious, ubiquitous and probably entirely imaginary, the nisser are a great addition to the Danish holiday experience.
Gløgg - Danish version of mulled wine. Great, great name - they should call it that worldwide.
Weihnachtskarpfen - bit of a cool European one, this. Carp for Christmas dinner. See this wikipedia page for details (in Deutsch...natürlich!)
One benefit of ferry travel seldom mentioned is that it's an ecologically sound mode of transport. Well, that's what I've always assumed, anyway? According to this report from the Caravan Club, indeed they are.
It makes a lot of sense whenyou think about it. Ferries carry a lot of people, meaning that the co2 per traveller is likely to be a lot less than some other modes of transport.
When electric and hydrogen cars hit the mass market - only a matter of time - then a ferry/ car holiday will be one of the greenest that is actually possible.
I just hope that there isn't an issue with continental plugs when plugging the car into the mains.
The best thing of course about travelling over land and sea is that the journey forms part of the holiday - this is why ferry travel is always going to be an attractive option. Why teleport yourself from one destination when you can experience all the great stuff between destinations?
pets on holiday when you go by ferry on certain routes.
This means that your pet cat, dog, ferret, hamster, tortoise, rabbit, mouse, guinea pig or even rat can enjoy a ferry trip with you if you are taking your vehicle too - although be sure and check the operator's website for any exceptions or rules - eg ferrets need their own passport - no I'm not kidding.
It would probably be a good idea to make sure that you've a supply of your pet's favourite food for the journey - after all for us human beings part of the fun of a ferry is sitting down to a decent meal.
Great video. Not so sure about the music??
Of all European cities, Copenhagen's got to be one of the most striking, set as it is within reach of the sea, and with its film-set looks. And a great time to visit is surely the Autumn when the foliage goes all sorts of golden colours. Book ferry ticket, see Denmark, enjoy!