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Copenhagen: Seeing one of the world’s most expensive cities on a fairly frugal family budget

By on May 28, 2019 in Travel with 0 Comments
Bicycles stacked up outside of bus station: An impressive percentage of the Copenhagen population ride bicycles.

By Keith Kellogg

In early 2018, I began planning a bow hunting trip to Greenland, only to discover that flights there are very limited, either connecting through Iceland or Copenhagen, Denmark.

At the same time, I was trying to organize a family vacation and while we usually take our family vacation in the winter to get away from the cold, I thought a change would be fun. 

Though my family has traveled extensively, we had not been to Europe, so for a change I asked my daughters, Inga and Kirsten, if they were interested in meeting up in Copenhagen. They were all in.

So I began hotel research for five. Inga has a son named Azuruya (Az or Azzie), who was about 20 months old at the time of the trip, and Kirsten has a daughter named Rosalia, who was just under 3 at the time of the trip. 

As I did my research I was in awe of the prices — the very high prices. I quickly learned that Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in all of Europe. 

I persisted with my research, and eventually found a location called the Steel House, which was classified as being a luxury hostel. We were set, and on Aug. 4, we all met at the Steel House, which, located downtown, was great for all of our excursions. 

Our room was comparable to the sleep quarters in a submarine. It was small and very cramped. There were two sets of bunk beds and a small bathroom, and that was about it. There wasn’t even a chair, but we made do. 

To save money we cooked most of our meals in a communal kitchen. Though crowded, I actually found this to be quite enjoyable. We met people from all over the world, and it was fun to watch persons from other cultures cook and socialize. 

Copenhagen is a city of approximately 777,000, but the greater metropolitan population is a little over 2 million. From what I saw and read, Denmark and specifically Copenhagen has invested greatly in clean technology and Copenhagen has seen a large investment in its institutions and infrastructure. 

Public transport (buses and trains) is huge in Copenhagen, and due to very flat terrain a very impressive percentage of the population ride bicycles. 

In the mornings we would be engulfed by huge waves of bicyclists, one right after another, and at bus and train stations there were literally hundreds of bicycles staged in storage areas as the people moved on to their daily activities. 

I quickly noticed that fast food restaurants were practically nonexistent, and from what I could tell food portions were much smaller than we generally see in the U.S. As a result there seems to be little problem with obesity in Denmark. 

My daughters were happy to see that there were lots of vegan or gluten-free options everywhere we went, and small friendly restaurants were everywhere. 

Everyone we dealt with was friendly, and it came as no surprise that everyone spoke some level of English. In fact everyone seemed to want to show off their English speaking abilities, so a simple question often led to a friendly conversation. 

Overall I was very impressed with how clean everything was in Copenhagen, and we never felt threatened in any way. 

At the time of our trip Copenhagen was in the middle of a drought and heat wave, so with two children under 3 we had to be careful with overdoing. In the Copenhagen environment we were on a fairly tight budget, so we did lots of walking, but also used taxis, buses and trains to get around. 

We tried to get out early to avoid the heat, and did lots of free or low to medium fee activities. This may have been limiting to many people, but we like the idea of seeing the culture at ground level. 

Recent archeological finds date Copenhagen back to the 11th Century, and with such a long history the city is full of interesting architectural buildings and historic sites. For a history buff such as myself this was perfect for our self-designed walking tours. 

I would highly recommend the National Museum of Denmark. It was extensive, and because of my Scandinavian background I found the portions dealing with historical Vikings to be quite interesting. 

The kids, though, loved the associated children’s museum, which allowed for more of a “hands on” experience. 

There is an extensive canal system in Copenhagen, and we took a relaxing and informative boat tour. This was a great way to see different areas of the city, and to gather historical facts. 

We also visited the Rosenborg Castle, which was surrounded by beautiful gardens. This 400-year-old castle was filled with art treasures, crown jewels, and other items surrounding generations of royalty. 

Daughter Inga and grandson Az visit a petting zoo: One of the best days as kids love animals.

 Maybe our best overall day was when we visited Copenhagen’s excellent zoo. Most every child loves animals, and especially baby animals and we saw plenty. 

By the time we were done with the day we were all pretty wiped out, but it was great. During our wanderings we found a couple of city parks that had excellent toys dedicated to children. These parks proved to be a perfect distraction for my young grandchildren, who quickly grew bored with our wanderings. 

One day we took the train to Malmo, Sweden, which was not only easy via the well-organized transport system, but very enjoyable as well. 

There turned out to be a big festival going on in Malmo, so we had the opportunity to listen to music, sample different foods, and explore a new culture. 

All in all the week went too fast. We had a safe healthy trip, learned about new cultures, met many interesting persons, and above all had quality family time. 

 Get out there and see the world. It’s a wonderful place. 

 Keith Kellogg is a retired Wenatchee police officer who loves traveling with his family, and enjoys everything outdoors.

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