THE MOST SHOCKING FACTS ABOUT EVERYDAY INDIA LIFE FOR A TOURIST?

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Have you been curious about seeing this historic nation filled with priceless traditions, lifestyle, spices, and amazing festivals and attractions? Well, why not? One way or the other, you must have seen and heard about this iconic country. Hence, you decided to have a firsthand view of this place, to share their lifestyle and rich heritage. We believe your position is right; this is why this article focuses on bringing to tourists awareness, interesting facts on nations that will help them better adjust, and appreciate the country they wish to explore. Today, we bring to your awareness daily facts that will shock your mind. These are happenings you never knew occurred in India.

FACTS ABOUT INDIA

  1. LEFT HAND IS CONSIDERED UNCLEAN

When you get to India it is important you do know which hand is appropriate to eat with. For those who love to use the left hand when dining, these action is frowned upon. Traditionally, the natives perceive their left hand unclean and never uses it to eat. This action is as a result of their preference in utilizing their left hand to clean up themselves by utilizing the toilet.

  1. KILLING COWS IS A TABOO

During your stay in India, you will find a lot of cows walking freely on the streets. This occurrence is as a result of the high value placed on cows. In India, cows are seen as one of Humans seven mothers. This perception lies in the fact that we thrive on cow’s milk as we survived through our mother’s milk. Hence, cows are not killed, they are rather reverenced and worn the Tilak for good fortune.

  1. SHAMPOOING BEGAN IN INDIA

Yup, the word shampoo was derived from the Sanskrit word Champu; this word means to massage, and before the world developed their shampoo products, India has been making use of their herbs to clean the hair. Hence, one of the things to do when you get to this beautiful land is to try their herbs shampooing. Indian herbal medicine called Ayurveda has been a subject of numerous studies of modern western scientists. If you are willing to research this topic further, you can check custom essay writing Eduzarus to get professional assistance.

  1. THE LARGEST POSTAL NETWORK

India, till date, remains the country with the largest postal network. As a tourist, you will be amazed by the amount of functioning post office settled in the country. Some of these offices float above water, which is one of the beautiful things to see when you get there. These postal offices serve an average of 7175 people each per day.

  1. THE WETTEST PLACE IN THE WORLD

The wettest place in the world is housed in India. When you get to the country, you should check the Mawsynram village on Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. This village is recorded to have the highest rainfall average in the world. If you decide to check out Mawsynram, endeavor to go with your umbrella.

  1. THE LARGEST NUMBER OF VEGETARIANS

Indians have the numbers for the largest population of vegetarians in the world. When you arrive at the country, you will find out that 20-40% of the people resident there are vegetarians. This surprising occurrence does not stray away from religious beliefs and personal choices. Hence, the land remains the most vegetarian-friendly country in existence.

  1. A SPA FOR ELEPHANTS

As a tourist in India, you might be unaware of this unless you are looking. India treasures elephants, if not more than the same way they treasure their cows. Hence, it is not far-fetched to come across an Elephant Spa in the country. One of these Spa establishments is Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre, located in Kerela. Elephants receive food, bath, and massage in this establishment. You seeing it, will not will not only be a fun thing to experience but one of the things you should do when you get there.

  1. THE LOTUS FLOWER IS SACRED

The lotus flower is a sacred symbol in the Country. When you get there, you will find its design on some Hindu and Buddhist temples. Currently, the Lotus Temple also known as Baha’i, situated in Delhi, is built to look like a lotus flower. The Temple has a 27 mammoth lotus petals structure covered in marbles. It is a fantastic sight to behold.

  1. LOTS OF SPICE

Spice is integrated into everyday India life. Currently, the country produces 70% of the world’s spice consumption, which makes it the highest spice producer and exporter in the world. When you get there, certainly you will see lots of stuff to buy when it comes to spices.

 

 

 

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Finally, London

LONDON, ENGLAND: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” that’s what English poet Samuel Johnson said about this city. London, a truly multicultural city, doesn’t really need an introduction. Even if you have never visited this trendy city, I am sure, you have seen it many times in the movies or heard about its history and culture in books or news. And of course England’s Queen and the Royal Family members are always in the spotlight for their affairs and businesses too…over the centuries, they have added much to the London scene for today’s traveler.

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London, England

Before visiting England, I always had an impression that it’s just another western, English-speaking world. I knew little bit about its past centuries and culture, but as far as the tourism goes, I had very little idea about its landmarks, rich heritage, and powerful history. London can be chaotic, at the same time relaxing, and exciting. You can be taken back to the medieval time when touring Tower of London and can be brought back to your senses when up in the London Eye. London is the heart of whole England or whole Great Britain without any doubt. And I have to go back to London once again to finish visiting many other things that we couldn’t see in this trip.

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Walking around in London and being mesmerized by its old buildings and narrow streets

We used to take train from Luten everyday to come to the center of London during this trip. The Tube or Underground railway and double-decker bus are probably the best way to get around and an Oyster Card is conveniently taken in all transportation in and around London. Once we were in the city, surprisingly, it’s easier to explore the tourist spots on foot. If you really want to spend big money, hire one of the famous Black Cab, though they are not always black.

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London…looks like a scene from Mary Poppins or Harry Potter

TIME of TRAVEL: We visited London during the summer of 2012, when the Paralympic was going on. The streets were crowded (well, then usual), and many streets were decorated for the big event. It is always a good idea to carry a light sweater and an umbrella here, you never know when the clouds will gather together to make you all wet.

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London is decorated for Olympic 2012, when we visited, the Paralympic just started

We took Euro Rail from Brussels downtown all the way to King’s Cross Train Station which goes under the English Channel for a short period of time. From there, took another local train to Luten, where my uncle-in-law and his daughter live.

EATING and SHOPPING: London is considered as one of the leading global cities and therefore, it is a paradise of all sorts of international cuisines. Curry is definitely one of my favorites and after India, this is probably the place where you can find some award winning curry restaurants. If you are looking for true English plates, go for some fish and chips, meat pasties, or scones. I had spicy hot dogs one afternoon near Tower of London and can’t remember what I had the other days.

London is one of the most fashion trendy cities in the world. Though things are a bit pricey here, but I guess it’s worth paying those big prices.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We had two full days for London…yes, I know it’s NOTHING really. You will probably need at least a month or even a year to appreciate London. If we had another day, we probably would have gone to the British Museum (it is a shame that we couldn’t visit it during this trip). Founded in 1753, the museum has collection from over two million years of human history and experience iconic objects from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Ancient World. Another place that you may want to consider is Kew Gardens where visitors can enjoy world’s one of the most diverse collection of rare and fascinating plants.  

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Underground subway in London – Mind The Gap

Other than the British Museum, London hosts some of the outstanding collection of world-class museums and many of those museums and galleries have no entrance fees. If you are not a museum person, stop by London’s theater district around Leicester Square or Covent Gardens.

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On London’s streets

1) TOWER of LONDON: Our first day in London actually started with Buckingham Palace’s Change of Royal Guard. But I kept it for later, because we couldn’t really visit the palace until the next day. So we walked towards Tower of London from there and spent about half a day inside the complex.

The Tower of London is the city’s original royal fortress by the Thames. This 900 years old royal residence was also a military stronghold in the Middle Ages. The rooms here were built and used by King Henry III (1216-1272) and King Edward I (1272-1307).

This is a perfect place to discover what life was like in the luxurious Medieval Palace and explore the stories of Henry III and Edward I. The historic White Tower exhibition celebrates the 500th anniversary of Henry III with displayed artifacts over 3 floors. Some of the world’s rarest arms and armors here have been selected from the treasures of the Royal Armories. Also enjoy the surprising serenity of the Chapel of St. John…a unique survival of an 11th century fortress chapel.

Beside of being one of the historic royal palaces, Tower of London is a powerful fortress that protects the Crown Jewels. 23,578 gems make up the Crown Jewels, including the dazzling Imperial State Crown which alone has 2858 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies. The astonishing collection of priceless Coronation Regalia has been an unmissable highlight of any visit since the 17th century, with only one attempt to steal them.

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A Royal Guard in front of the Crown Jewel tower in Tower of London

It is also considered as one of the most haunted grounds in the world. Visit the infamous Bloody Tower from the 1220s where two little princes were murdered mysteriously. The Tower also held many famous prisoners and the Prisoner’s exhibition can be seen in the Beauchamp Tower with some extraordinary graffiti done by the prisoners. You can see some medieval instruments of torture in the Lower Wakefield Tower. Get a wonderful view of Tower Bridge and whole London while walking over the old stone walls of this complex. You can see some great live costumed enactments on the South Lawn. The famous Bell Tower is from 1190 A.D.

Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage site. During our visit the fee was £21 per adult and £11 for 5 – 17 years of children. Five different audio tours are available to go along with your journey in Tower of London. You would probably need few hours to see the towers (visitors can enter most of the towers but not all) and museums inside this historic place…be ready to walk a lot.

2) TOWER BRIDGE: Tower Bridge is London’s one of the favorite landmarks and probably the most photographed bridge in the world. We didn’t really go inside the Tower Bridge, only enjoyed the view from Tower of London and once drove underneath it by car. But I do want to share some points about this bridge.

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Tower Bridge in London, the most photographed bridge in the world

Tower Bridge is recognized for its Gothic grandeur. It was built at the end of 19th century and was opened in 1894. Now the tourists can take a lift up to the Bridge’s high-level walkways (42 meters above the River Thames) to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of both East and West London.

Tower Bridge Exhibition is a self-guided tour and lasts about 1 ½ hours. You can also visit the engine rooms along with the exhibition. Admission price is £8 per adult and £3.40 per child.

3) MONUMENT to The GREAT FIRE of LONDON: We stumbled upon this monument while walking towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666 which burned for three days consuming more than 13,000 houses and devastating 436 acres of the city. The monument is 202 ft. in height. The balcony of this monument can be reached by a spiral stairway (with admission fee) of 311 steps for a panoramic views of the city.

 

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Monument to the Great Fire of London

4) LONDON BRIDGE: Another stop before St. Paul’s Cathedral was the London Bridge. This is a rather recent addition to the city which was built in 1967.

5) ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL: Built after the Great Fire of London in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral is Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest accomplishment. The great dome of cathedral is a majestic part of the city. This is a majestic architecture inside and out and a must-see here.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

The Churchyard and garden of St. Paul was first laid out as open space in 1878 combining the ancient burial grounds of the cathedral. We didn’t pay any fee to enter the cathedral, but no photography is allowed inside.

6) MILINIUM BRIDGE: Another photogenic bridge of London is the Millennium Bridge on River Thames. From St. Paul Cathedral, it’s only a few minutes of walking. Once we crossed the bridge we were on the other side of Thames…the drama/theater district of London.

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Millennium Bridge on River Thames in London

7) GLOBE THEATER and SHAKESPEARE: After crossing the Millennium Bridge, on the other side of Thames River the famous Globe Theater in the center of what was once London’s most notorious entertainment district.

The Globe Theater is a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse from 1599 A.D. where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays. It was burned to the ground in less than 2 hours in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII, but the theater was quickly rebuilt. The annual theater season runs from April to October and productions include work by Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and many modern writers. If you have time check out their matinee performances.

 

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Globe Theater in London

Although we couldn’t take a tour, the Globe Exhibition is the world’s largest and most comprehensive exhibition devoted to Shakespeare. The exhibition is house beneath the Globe Theater. The exhibition uses modern technology and traditional crafts to bring Shakespeare’s world to life. You can listen to recordings from some of the most famous Shakespearean performances, can feel the fabrics and marvels, enjoy live demonstrations and costume dressings. An audio guide is included with the admissions. The exhibition is usually open until 5pm everyday.  

8) LONDON EYE: London Eye is the world’s third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the River Thames offering magnificent view over London and its landmarks. The Parliament and Big Ben are within walking distance from here. Other than this, there are many other things to do and see in this park. You can spend a day just visiting its surroundings and doing people watch.

Be ready to stand in the line for a while, maybe more than an hour, but believe me it’s worth it.

 

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From London Eye…view of the whole city and its landsmarks

9) PARLIAMENT SQUARE: The next day we started our day with this square. Whole London is busy and crowded and Parliament Square is no exception. An outdoor exhibition of some kind was going on during our visit. Many important landmarks surround this square, including the Parliament, Big Ben, and other official buildings. I am sure you can take tour inside the Parliament but we were there after office hours, so just admired the long building from outside.

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Parliament Square in London

10) BIG BEN: Another iconic landmark of London is Big Ben. We just saw it from outside, though like Parliament, I am sure you can go inside Big Ben and take a tour.

 

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The one and only Big Ben in London

11) BUCKINGHAM PALACE and CHANGING of ROYAL GUARDS: We came to the palace walking thru Hyde Park, adjacent to Kensington Garden, which is a quiet and serene green park amidst of chaotic London. It was time for Changing the Guard ceremony and looked like whole London gathered around the palace to see this event. The ceremony takes place at 11:30am at alternate days, weather permitting.  I don’t think this palace needs any introduction. But I will give it to you anyways.

Buckingham Palace is the office and the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, as well as the administrative headquarters of the Royal Household. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.

 

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Change of Royal Guards in front of Buckingham Palace in London

The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace are lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection – paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, and many others, exquisite examples of porcelain and some of the finest English and French furniture.

The Royal Mews is the home to the royal collection of historic coaches and carriages. One of the finest working stables and a living part of Britain’s heritage, the Royal Mews is responsible for all road travel arrangements for The Queen and members of the Royal Family. Take a closer look at the most dazzling coach on display the Gold State Coach, which has been used in every coronation since 1821 and in 2002 played a central role in Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

During our visit, there was a special exhibition going on called, “Diamond: A Jubilee Celebration”. It was in the State Rooms area showing many ways in which diamonds have been used by British monarchs over the last 200 years.

Situated on Buckingham Palace Road, Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms, Queen’s Gallery, and The Royal Mew are accessible to publics usually in summer from June to October when the Palace is not being used in its official capacity. At that time it’s usually open everyday from 10am to 6pm. It will be the best idea to book your ticket ahead of time either online, by phone, or from their office. We tried to go there on our very first day, but everything was sold out. Pick up a free audio-tour to get the most of this place. You can upgrade your ticket and include a highlights tour of the famous Buckingham Palace Garden. The whole tour took us about 3 ½ to 4 hours.

12)  WESTMINSTER ABBEY: This Abbey, with its grand exterior and magnificent interior, is an essential part of any trip to London and is central to the life of the British London. The mix of rich history and a tradition of worship creates this unique place a must-see. Founded over a thousand years ago as a Benedictine monastery, and rebuilt by Edward the Confessor in 1065, the building we see today was begun by Henry III in the Gothic style in 1245 A.D. Since originally, the Abbey was built as a monastery, there are some beautiful green spaces within the precincts to relax. It is a working church and an architecture masterpiece.

 

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Westminster Abbey…London, England

The Abbey has been the setting for Coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066 and is home to the Coronation Chair. It has witnessed countless royal and state occasions including Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953, wedding ceremony of Prince William and Princess Kate, and many other coronations, royal weddings, and funerals. This is also the final resting place for monarchs including Edward I, Henry III, Henry V, and Henry VII. In one of the chapels contains the bodies of Elizabeth I and her half-sister Mary I (‘Bloody Mary’), and the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. In the Poets’ Corner of this Abbey stands Chaucer’s tomb surrounded by memorials to William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, and many others. Great scientists, musicians, and politicians are also remembered in the Abbey, like Newton, Darwin, and Winston Churchill. Kings, queens, statesmen, soldiers, poets, priests, heroes, and villains – they all make up the rich historical tapestry of Abbey’s heritage.

Westminster Abbey is located in the heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Admission fees apply, but the day we visited, we didn’t pay anything. Taking photos or filming are not allowed inside the Abbey. Tours and audio-guides are available in different languages.

13)  TRAFALGAR SQUARE: This is the home of Nelson’s Column and the lions. With its pedestrian zone, you can say this it the “center” of London. We stayed here only for half an hour or so and left without really going around the square and exploring each corner.

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Trafalgar Square in London

14)  PICCADILLY CIRCUS: From Trafalgar Square, we walked to the Piccadilly Circus. This is one of the busiest spots of London. The statue of Eros stands in the middle of the square. Many stores and cafes are lined up on all sides of the square. The square is crowded with both locals and tourists.

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Piccadilly Circus in London

Love Animals? Here’s Some Great Holiday Ideas!

One of the downsides of living in the city is that you don’t always get to spend much time at one with nature. Breathing in the clean, fresh air and being able to marvels of the natural world all around is something many people take for granted. If you’ve been brought in the countryside then have moved to the big bad city, you may miss it. It’s good for the soul to spend some time in the great outdoors. It’s essential for a healthy mind and body. Getting in touch with Mother Nature helps keep things in perspective too. Sometimes we can get so swallowed up by our own worries we can forget we’re just small parts of a much bigger picture.

If you’re an animal lover, you may not even have room for a small pet in your apartment in the big smoke. So if you’re missing contact with some four-legged friends why not spend some time with some on holiday? From Swimming with Dolphins to Monkeying about with apes, you could spend some time walking with the animals. What could be better for something different to do on your vacation this year?

Pack a Trunk on Safari

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Megan Coughlin: image credit

Passionate about preservation? Then why not visit the stunning wilds of Africa on a safari drive? You could walk amongst the elephants and see masses of cheetahs. Namibia is home to the largest colonies of wild cheetahs. They also have unique terrains, and you’ll get to see animals you’ve only ever seen in books or on tv right up close. It’s very humbling to be amongst such a variety of animals in their natural habitat.

Do you, donkey?

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Marilyn Peddle : image credit

If you’re planning to get married on vacation, Did you know you could get wed with some very special animals? You can get married in the UK in a Donkey Sanctuary! If that’s not a unique holiday/wedding idea, then you’ve got a much better imagination than this blogger! Saying I do amongst braying donkey’s might not be everyone’s ideal big day, but you could be doing some serious good. By having your nuptials here, you’ll be giving something to charity and help animals in need.

Swimming with Dolphins

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hirotomo t : image credit

Do you love dolphins? You can swim amongst them when you visit the Azores. A firm favourite destination with many for years, the Azores are classy and sophisticated. And as swimming with dolphins is on many a bucket list, there’s no better place to do it. It’s the ultimate if you are amazed by all things marine. Swimming in the clear warm waters beside such picturesque scenery is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.

These experiences would be ideal for any animal lover and would make a fantastic surprise. Imagine fulfilling your dreams on holiday! For anyone with a fondness for wildlife, you normally wouldn’t come across these things in your everyday life. Make your holiday memorable and extra special this year in 2016!

Masaya and Granada in Nicaragua

MASAYA and GRANADA, NICARAGUA: While Masaya is a natural beauty with volcanic rocks, crater, and mountains, Granada is a historic town with beautiful churches, colonial style architecture, and good food. Both are famous destinations and must-sees of Nicaragua.

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The historic city of Granada in Nicaragua…this is the oldest colonial town in the western hemisphere of the Americas or the first European city in the mainland America

How about some facts now? Nicaragua is the 3rd largest country in Central America. The country got its independence in 1821. By the time Civil War ended here in 1990, the country lost about 25,000 of its people. It had its first democratic election in 1990. Currently, Nicaragua is working on their own canal, Nicaragua Lock, to compete with its neighboring Panama Canal. It’s a $50 billion project by a Chinese company which should be finished in 5 years. Ruben Dario is the most famous poet of Nicaragua and you will see his statues and monuments in many places. 80% tourists of this country come from the U.S.A. … no surprise there.

Nicaraguan volcanoes form part of what is called the “Pacific Ring (or Belt) of Fire”. “Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve” is a natural preserve in Granada, 41km from Managua, where we didn’t make a visit but highly recommended. Mombacho invites visitors to enjoy its beauty, rich history, and wonderful views. The preserve contains the only cloud forest on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Hikers will find a great variety of birds and spectacular overlooks of Lake Nicaragua. The volcano is not currently active, but its fumaroles indicates that this giant’s heart of fire is still alive. One of the biggest earthquakes in Nicaragua was in 1972 that took 22,000 lives.

We booked Masaya and Granada day trip thru viator.com. It was a private tour with a professional guide. We were picked up from our hotel in the morning and were dropped off in the evening.

TIME of TRAVEL: After visiting El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica, Nicaragua concluded our Central America tour which we took back in March, 2015. We had two days to spare before returning to our home in Oregon. First day was well spent in Managua and last day was for Masaya and Granada. It was pretty hot and humid, but I guess not as bad as El Salvador. Still it’s always better to be prepared with lots of sunscreens, hats, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water bottle when you come to this region around this time of the year.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Holiday Inn Managua – Convention in Managua. This was a beautiful hotel with fancy restaurant, big swimming pool, nice rooms, and friendly service. First day, our hotel concierge arranged a cab-ride around the capital for few hours. The cost was $50 or 1350 NIC for this private tour in a cab. The hotel location was nice but not too close to the city center.

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Breakfast in our hotel in Managua, Nicaragua

EATING and SHOPPING: After visiting Masaya, we had lunch in the center of Granada. “El Zguan” is a traditional Nicaraguan restaurant that serves typical local dishes in a very cozy sitting arrangements. They have great service and menu. I had tortilla soup for lunch with some fresh fruit juice. Try ceviche when you are in this region and other seafood and pasta. Overall, cuisine in Granada is very Moorish style, especially when it comes to kebabs.

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A hearty lunch in Granada, Nicaragua

Nicaragua offers variety of souvenirs to its guests. Hand-made clay pots, hammocks, wood-carvings are just to name some. Masaya and its surrounding artisan villages are known for their local traditions. They are very reasonably priced. You can bargain but every dollar you spend here, know that you are helping a family and to keep their culture and heritage alive.

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Pottery collections in San Juan de Oriente near Granada, Nicaragua

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: Nicaragua has total of 50 volcanos and out of that, 7 are active. So, it will be unthinkable to leave the country without seeing a volcanic sight. Our tour started with a visit to Masaya.

1)     MASAYA: Also known as “City of Flower”, the town of Masaya is about 30km from the capitol Managua. Tourists mainly come here to visit the volcano, Parque Nacionale Volcan Masaya or Masaya Volcano National Park, from which the city got its name from. This is Nicaragua’s first national park, established in 1979. The park also serves as a memoir for the revolutionists who were thrown in the crater from helicopters/planes while they were still alive.

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The first holy-cross of Nicaragua near Crater Santiago from 1529 A.D. built by the Spaniards

Masaya Volcano National Park, is a popular tourist site and one of the excellent parks of Nicaragua, featuring a smoking volcano. It is the most active volcano in the region. Masaya visitor center displays some of it historical and geological information and artifacts. The most famous and historical eruption (which was a pyroclastic lava) of the Masaya Volcano happened on March 16, 1772. It emitted an extensive flow of lava during several days, into the lagoon.

We drove by old lava flows while approaching the volcanic site. The guide took us to the visitor center and gave us bit of information on the park and Nicaragua’s other volcanic mountains before arriving to the craters. Visitors can take mule or horse ride or even hike Masaya Volcano to see the craters…just be careful.

 

There are total 5 craters in this area and out of these five craters, 250 meters deep Crater Santiago is still active. The last eruption from this crater was in 2009 with ash and water. Crater Nandiri is still covered with ash. Few vultures were roaming around over our heads for hunt. We saw the first holy-cross near Crater Santiago from 1529 A.D. built by the Spaniards. The national park is situated by Laguna de Masaya. Local villagers refine the lake water for different usages by using volcanic rocks.

 

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Crater Santiago in Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua

From the volcanic park, we made a short stop at Masaya’s handcraft market, Mercado Artisano. This is a good place to get some gift items and souvenirs from Nicaragua. Make sure to bargain with the vendors. I even saw some artists working right outside their stores. Masaya’s handicraft market is well known for its variety of product at reasonable price.

From there we headed towards Nicaragua’s deep crater lake named “Apoyo”. Apoyo Lagoon is another beautiful gem in the Town of Catarina and is a popular attraction in the area. Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve is located about 8km south of the Masaya. Measuring 4 miles wide and over 656 feet deep, this stunning turquoise and crystalline lagoon is the largest crater lagoon and deepest natural well in Nicaragua. It occupies the crater of a volcano that exploded thousands of years ago. Standing here, you can see Mombacho Volcano on the right and Lake Nicaragua on the other side. Sit on one of the benches and enjoy the attractive view. You will find couple rows of souvenir, hand-craft shops and restaurants by the lagoon.

 

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Stunning beauty of Apoyo Lagoon in Masaya, Nicaragua

From Apoyo Lagoon to Granada, we drove by a small artesian village, called San Juan de Orient and made a quick stop in one of its many shops to look/buy some clay potteries and hand-crafts. These are all locally crafted, mostly by women, in this village or nearby places. These are very cheap yet gorgeous gift items to bring back home as memories and you will be supporting many artists and their families in the process.

2)     GRANADA: Granada is a very touristic yet cozy town with colorful colonial-style buildings, mostly dating back to the 16th or 17th century. From Masaya to Granada, it was about 15km drive and from Granada to Managua, it was about 45 km drive. By the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada is the oldest colonial town in the western hemisphere of the Americas or the first European city in the mainland America. Founded in 1524, obviously the name comes from Spain’s ancient city Granada. Therefore, lots of Spanish influences are everywhere in this town. Economically and politically, Granada is one of the most important cities of this country. This was also Nicaragua’s first capital, later which moved to Leon, and finally to Managua in 1852. While you are there, visit its colorful and picturesque churches. Mombacho Volcano can be seen from different parts of the town.

Much of Granada’s ancient landmarks were destroyed by the American filibuster William Walker who tried to rule Central America in the mid-1800th. Tourists can still enjoy some of the finest colonial-era architecture and historic churches. Our first stop was to Lake Nicaragua. Entrance was free because of the Easter holiday. This is a nice place for strolling or enjoying a late afternoon.

 

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Lake Nicaragua in Granada, Nicaragua

From the lake, we drove straight to the city’s downtown. The Gunpowder Fortress, built in 1748, could have been our second stop, but it was closed. Another site we couldn’t go in, was Church of Xalteva. The church was burned down by William Walker and was later restored in 1856. It was closed to the publics during our visit. We then walked to Iglesia de la Merced, a Baroque and Neo-Classical designed church with a simple altar. Built in the 17th century, this church’s façade and tower were also destroyed by William Walker. After restoration, visitors now can climb the tower for 25 NIC.

Next stop was San Francisco Church and Convent. This was William Walker’s stable at one point. It is the first church in Granada from 1529 and was built by the Spaniards. Although it’s not an active church, its vast collection of indigenous artifacts and basalt stone statues from Onetepe Island and serene cloister attract many visitors every year. Some of those items in display here are 800 years old and many are from B.C. era. Majestic Mombacho Volcano can be seen from here while standing on the terrace. It’s $1 to enter the museum and the venue is also used for events and weddings.

 

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View of Mombacho Volcano from San Francisco Church and Convent in Granada, Nicaragua

We then walked thru some small streets of Granada to come to House of the 3 Worlds. This is an art and music workshop place. Unlike a gallery, this is where artists come and work, give workshops, and sell their arts directly. We saw artists at work, chilling and chatting with other like-minded people. “Radio Volcano” is also stationed here.  The location hosts weddings and we saw caterers getting ready for a wedding for that evening.

 

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A wedding preparation in House of the 3 World in Granada, Nicaragua

On the other side of House of the 3 Worlds is Granada’s most popular spot, Plaza de la Independencia. The square is lined with mesmerizing old and colorful Colonial style buildings, shops, cafes, and food vendors. This is a collision of different architectural era and style from Classical Spanish (Palace of Music), Neo-Classical Baroque, and New Orleans (House of Bishop).  An obelisk and a beautiful fountain from 1925 Funete de la Ninos are couple of structures that adorn this hustling and noisy (in a good way) place.

Granada Cathedral in Plaza de la Independencia is a beautiful Neo-Classic Baroque architecture with a dome and two towers. It is simple but big. Visit the small chapels and the statues while in this cathedral.

 

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Plaza de la Independencia and Granada Cathedral in Granada, Nicaragua

Last spot in Granada was Iglesia Maria Auxiliadora which was built in the beginning of the 17th century. It is the most beautiful church in this city or probably in whole Nicaragua. With its Gothic exterior and Moorish interior, this Catholic church is only its kind in this country. It is small in size but anyone would appreciate its gorgeous wood-curved alter, intriguing ceiling, and sophisticated arches.

 

Capital of the first and oldest kingdom on earth – Copenhagen, Denmark

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK (KØBENHAVN): Copenhagen is a consistently beautiful city everywhere you go. It seemed all the little things at every direction I looked were saying, “click me, click me”. Copenhagen is the largest city in Oresund region and the capital of the first and OLDEST KINGDOM of the world. The city is well-blended with fairy tale figures, statue of old kings, and interesting contemporary sculptures all over. You will see really old style buildings standing right beside ultra-modern brave and sexy architectures.

A naturally blue city Copenhagen, Denmark

What make the city even more fun to visit are the friendly and helpful Danes. They speak very good English, as well as some German. The city is very spread out and therefore, be ready to walk a lot. Best thing is to focus on one area and spend a day or 2 just on that. The city has lots and lots and LOTS of places to explore and things to do, which can easily keep its guests busy for months.

View of the surroundings from top of Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen, Denmark

TIME OF TRAVEL: Copenhagen was our 3rd stop during our road trip during end of July 2012. Our first stop was Hamburg, Germany, then Billund Legoland in Denmark. It was about 3 hour drive from Billund. Weather was great, around 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer in Copenhagen is usually very pleasant during day and may be a bit chilly during night, that’s why most of the hotels (if not all) here don’t have AC.

Beautiful blue sky and blue water as seen from one area of Churchill Park, Copenhagen, Denmark

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Radisson Blu in Copenhagen, which was about 15-20 minutes of walk from the town hall or Christiansborg Palace and about the same time to go to Nyhavn. The location is ok if you are willing to walk a lot. The hotel didn’t have free breakfast but did have free Wi-Fi and a paid parking garage (garage is free in July).

WHAT TO EAT & BUY IN COPENHAGEN: Cheese or fruit Danish in Denmark is definitely better than any other place. Also, we came to know that WORLD’S BEST restaurant NoMa (Nordic Mad, Mad means Food in Danish) is not too far from Nyhavn in Copenhagen. The ingredients used in this place are ONLY from Denmark or up north from the Nordic area…not from anywhere else in the world. The restaurant was awarded as the best restaurant in the world 3 years in a row and they get 15,000 requests per day to get reservation. You have to make reservation there about a year ago and if you are lucky you may get a table to eat there after a year.

Saw world’s best restaurant NoMa, located not too far from Nyhavn in our boat tour

For souvenirs, Danish sweaters, Viking items (like ships, hats), bear mugs, statue of Little Mermaid are always something memorable to take back from Copenhagen. Also, if you have kids, Legos are something original of Denmark to give them as gifts.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We had about 2 ½ days in Copenhagen. It’s not enough if you want to go to every castle of the town or go to every museum. There are so many things to do and places to see that you can spend weeks enjoying every little bit that city has to offer to its visitors. But we covered quite well within those couple days even with 2 kids.

A sand sculpture (there were many of them) at Ofelia Beach as seen from Ameliaborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

1) RADHAUSPLADSEN & TOWN HALL: Radhauspladsen is a huge square that houses city’s Town Hall. Square has many old buildings lined up by the sides. It’s a great place to chill, do people watching and listen to live music played by local talents. There are couple statues here including a dragon attacking a bull and another one is 2 men on top of a pole looking for their way. The square has many fast food restaurants like KFC, Burger King, and McDonald’s along with many carts selling hot dogs. Frederiksbergsade from the square is a pedestrian zone packed with many fashion designer stores, restaurants, and souvenir stores.

Town Hall of Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen’s Town Hall is a nice example of classical architecture. Unlike many other town halls, this impressive town hall allows public to roam around inside the building without any guided tours or fees. The main lobby is very large with high glass ceiling. Make sure to go upstairs to 2nd and 3rd floor to check out the hallways, beautiful designs on wall and stairs.

The main hallway of Copenhagen Town Hall, Denmark

2) PALACES OF COPENHAGEN: There are about few palaces in Copenhagen; we visited 3 of them, excluding Charlottenburg and Frederiksberg palace.

Danish Royal Guards during the ceremony of Change of Guards in front of Ameliaborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

a. CHRISTIANSBORG: This once used to be the official residence of Danish Royal Family. Presently, it is used as the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court. The palace is today situated at the site where Bishop Absalon built a castle in 1167. The present palace was finished in 1928. At 106 meters high, the tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest in Copenhagen. During the following 900 years several castles and palaces have been replacing one another. Some of them were demolished and others burned down, but new buildings were always erected again symbolizing the power of the Danish Kingdom.

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Reception Hall consists of several important rooms of the castle, like the Throne Room, Great Hall, Dining Hall, Alexander Hall, and others. Each room is decorated with luxurious and elegant look. The beauty of the old furniture, tapestries, chandelier, art/paintings, decorative doors, lamps, vases, candle-holders, marble fire-place is beyond any expressions. These rooms are no less magnificent than the ones of Versailles Palace of France.

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Ruins from previous palaces, about 900 years old, are preserved in one area of this palace. This is a large section underneath one of the present buildings of castle. It briefly tells you the timeline of the early castles built on this spot. You can discover the dark passages and cellars, and read about the story of Copenhagen’s founding and the site’s development from the 12th century. These ruins are a witness to the history of the palace as the center of political events and power struggles for more than 900 years.

Ruins of previous castles beneath today’s Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Royal Stables at Christiansborg Palace are the home of the horses and carriages that are used by the Royal Family for official events and festive occasions. When the stables were built in 1745, 250 horses stood among the marble pillars. Today the stables have 14 – 16 horses.

Royal Stable of Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

The whole tour of the castle probably took us about couple hours, may be 2 – 2 ½ hours. The Royal Stable, ruins from early Copenhagen, and Reception Hall are all self-guided. The Danish Parliament can only be accessed by guided tour. The castle is open from 10 – 5 pm (Royal Stable is open till 4 pm) and charges 110 DKK per adults (kids under 7 are free). We had no problem going around the castle with a stroller.

Decoration pieces in the Reception Halls of Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

b. AMELIABORG: The palace is very beautifully situated by a big canal. The 4 buildings of this whole palace were built somewhere in the 18th century. The palace is not open to publics since, this is the OFFICIAL RESIDENCE of Danish Royal Family. There are some museums that are accessible by the tourists. You can see uniformed Royal Guards walking in front of each buildings and see change of Guards every day at noon and 2 pm.

Ameliaborg Palace, the official resident of Danish Royal Family, in Copenhagen, Denmark

c. ROSENBORG PALACE: This is another beautiful palace of Danish Royal Family. This Dutch Renaissance style castle was built and designed by King Christian IV in 1606 – 1634 as a summer castle. The next three generations of kings lived here, until King Frederik IV erected Frederiksberg Castle in 1710 when it became a sort of storehouse. The royal collections of the kings, who had lived there, Christian IV to Frederic IV, were well-preserved and eventually were opened to the public in 1838. It thus became the FIRST MUSEUM of contemporary culture in Europe.

Entering Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The rooms of this castle are small but very sophisticatedly adorned with very old furniture (beautiful hand-made wardrobes, chairs, and tables), decorative mirrors, large paintings, dazzling chandeliers, high ceilings, pretty floors, hand-weaved tapestries, Victorian porcelain, and many more unique items. Basement and Treasury display objects made of ivory and amber, arms and barrels of Rosenborg-wine, Christian III’s Sword of State from 1551, and crown of few kings and queens of Denmark from 1500s, crown jewels, scepter, orb, the Order of the Elephant, and the Order of the Danish flag.

Coronation Hall of Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The palace is open from 10am – 5pm. The ticket to the Royal Treasury and to the castle is 80 DKK per adult and free for kids below 17. You have to pay another 20 DKK if you want to take pictures inside the palace. The combine ticket for Ameliaborg Palace and Rosenborg Palace is 110 DKK. We had to put away our purses and baggage in a locker. The palace is very close to The Round Tower and Church of Our Lady. It took us about 2-3 hours to visit all the rooms and treasury, and then spend some time in the garden.

Guards inside the perimeter of Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

3) RUNDETAARN (ROUND TOWER): One of the best-known and most popular structures in Denmark, the Round Tower has been a distinctive feature of Copenhagen skyline since 1642. At the top of the tower you’ll find Europe’s oldest functioning observatory tower, which was originally built for the university by Christian IV. The tower rises 114 feet (34.8 meters) above street level and you can spot most of the city’s famous buildings from here. The path to the viewing platform is via the unique spiral walkway, which is 686 feet (209 meters) long and corkscrews 7 ½ times around the hollow core of the tower. As you are ascending the tower first you will see Trinititus Kirken (Trinity Church) that was built for the students but still an active place for the worshippers. Then at halfway up the Round Tower is the 900 sq. m. stunningly beautiful Library Hall with exhibitions, shops and café. This once housed the whole university’s book collection (about 10,000 books), but when the collection became too large, the library closed in 1861. After that the library moved with the main building of University of Copenhagen, opposite of Church of Our Lady (on Fiolstræde). Now the Library Room in Round Tower hosts changing exhibitions and other cultural events all year round.

Round Tower, which used to house the original library of Copenhagen Univeristy back in the Middle Age

Round Tower is within walking distance from Town Hall, may be 10-15 minutes. It is open from 10am – 8pm every day. Ticket to enter is 25 Danish kroner for adults, 5 kroner for 5 – 15 years, and free for kids below 5.

The original library of Copenhagen University inside Round Tower, now has a museum, a cafe, and a shop

4) CHURCHES OF COPENHAGEN:

a. MARBLE CHURCH: Also known as Frederiks Kirke, has one of the largest dome, with a span of 31 meters, in northern Europe. Exterior of the church is beautifully adorned with 4 large pillars and many statues. Inside is small and simply with not overly decorated altar. But the fascinating part of it is that the walls and the pillars are made with marble.

Simple yet beautiful altar inside Marble Church of Copenhagen, Denmark

The dome of Marble Church can be climbed up to the top deck only by a guided tour. There are only 2 tours available every day, at 1 pm & at 3 pm. Ticket is 25 Danish kroner for adults, 10 kroner for kids 5 – 15, and free for kids below 5. Visitors have to climb 250 stairs to get a breathtaking view over the city. You can see almost all the main attractions of Copenhagen including towers of all the churches and Town Hall, Ameliaborg Palace right in front, canals, Oresund Bridge, and finally, Sweden on the other side of the bridge.

View of Ameliaborg Palace from top of Marble Church in Copenhagen, Denmark

b. CHURCH OF OUR LADY (VOR FRUE KIRKE): Also known as Copenhagen’s Cathedral, this national cathedral is situated in Vor Frue Plads and next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen. This church has been built four times on the same place since 1209. The cathedral had been associated with the Royal Family for a long time where their ceremonial events such as crowning and weddings took place. The tower is 60 meters high and houses 4 church bells weighing over 4 tons and are the largest bell in Denmark. The smallest bell in the tower is the oldest bell in the country, dating from 1490. The façade of this cathedral is built is neoclassical style with 4 columns supporting the prestigious pediment from mid-19th century. There are 2 statues of Moses and King David on the 2 sides of these columns.

Love the ambience of the altar of Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark

Inside the cathedral is simple but very elegantly adorned with everything white…pillars, walls, ceilings, dome, and sculptures of 12 apostles of Jesus on both sides. The statue of Christ and the beautiful baptismal font in a form of an angel holding a large scallop shell at the altar are made with Italian marble.

Curved stone work on one of the walls of Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark

c. CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOR: The exterior of this church has to be the one of the most uniquely designed ones in Copenhagen (if not the most beautiful) with beautiful spiral tower that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The church is designed in Dutch Baroque style. Visitors can climb its 83 meters high tower. There are 400 stairs to go all the way to the top. But that is too much for you, climb 250 steps to the platform and you will still get a wonderful 360 degree view over the city.

The unique spire of Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen, Denmark

This is located in Island of Christianshavn. The church is open from 10am – 3.30pm every day, and the tower is open Mon – Sat: 10am – 7pm and Sun & Holidays: 10:30am – 7pm. The fee to climb the tower is 35 DKK for adults and 10 DKK for kids.

View of Marble Church and its surroundings from top of Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen, Denmark

5) CHURCHILL PARK, LITTLE MERMAID & ST. ALBAN’S ANGELICAN CHURCH: Churchill Park is one of the loveliest parks in the city. It is right by the Langelinie water front and a nice place to walk around its small gardens or to have picnic. One of the largest monuments in Copenhagen, Gefion Fountain, is located in one side of this park. The sculpture was built in 1864 – 1937 that features a group of strong oxen’s pulling the plough of legendary Norse goddess Gefion. Then there is another statue “Angel of Liberty” somewhere not-so-visible area by the tourists.

The huge Gefion Fountain in Churchill Park in Copenhagen, Denmark

But the most famous and the most photographed statues in Copenhagen is a fairy tale figure “The Little Mermaid” in Churchill Park by Langelinie waterfront. This is the Mannekin-Pis of Brussels, or Eiffel Tower of Paris or Colosseum of Rome. You can’t return home from Copenhagen without seeing this mermaid sitting on a big stone and looking out over the water. She has been sitting there since August of 1913 being the icon of Copenhagen.

Little Mermaid, a world-famous statue and the most photographed landmark in Copenhagen

St. Alban’s Church, or as the locals calls it the English Church, is located in Churchill Park very close to Citadel and right beside Gefion Fountain. This is a 125 years old church with Victorian style stained-glass windows. Although we couldn’t go inside (think it closes around 4 pm), the outer look is very impressively decorated in traditional English style with Gothic Revival look, also known as Lancet Gothic.

St. Alban’s Angelican Church in Churchill Park, Copenhagen, Denmark

6) NYHAVEN & BOAT TOUR: This has to be the most colorful and the liveliest place of Copenhagen (and my most favorite place). You will see the buildings by the canal painted with all the colors of rainbow…such a wonderful way to sooth your eyes with. The streets on both sides of the canal are teemed with cafes and pedestrians. Enjoy the crowd, restaurants, canals, boats, sunset, and everything else about it. This is absolutely the hottest spot for young and adults, locals and tourists. Look for a blue building in between a yellow and a maroon building, written 1681…this is the oldest building in Nyhavn.

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

This is also the place where you can get boat tours around the canals. The tour takes you to many important sites, like Black Diamond (Part of Royal Library), Ameliaborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, Stock Exchange buildings, Little Mermaid, Royal Theatre, and many other places which I can’t remember right now J. Here are 2 options of boat tours offered by 2 separate services, we took the 1st one:

  1. Open until 8 pm every day. Charges 40 Danish kroner per adult, 15 kroner for kids 5 – 15 years, and free for kids below 5. The ride is for an hour and runs every 20 minutes.
  2. Open until 9 pm every day. Charges 70 kroner per adult, 35 kroner for kids 5 – 15, and free for kids below 5. The ride is for 1 hour and 15 minutes and runs every 15 minutes.
We saw many of these beautiful boats on the canal in our boat tour

7) CITADEL (KASTELLET): This is one of North Europe’s finest and best preserved fortifications. Presently the fortification is used as a modern military establishment and the buildings are mainly used for paper works. This is a nice and quiet place to take a little stroll, a good place to go jogging too. It is very close to Churchill Park, St. Absalon’s Angelical Church, and Little Mermaid. There is a church, a monument for all the Danes that says “One Moment, One Place, One Person” in Danish, and an eternal flame inside the territory of this citadel.

Entrance to Citadel in Copenhagen, Denmark

8) TRIP TO LEGOLAND, BILLUND: Billund is about 2 ½ hour drive from Copenhagen and is the ultimate place of Legos. If you haven’t been in LEGOLAND before, this is an awesome place to take your kids to. We spent a whole day there, but you can easily spend couple days exploring all the things made of Legos and going on all the cool rides.

My 2 princesses in front of Legoland Billund main entrance

9) TRIP TO MALMO, SWEDEN: Malmo is beautiful city of Sweden and only less than an hour drive from Copenhagen. It makes a perfect day trip. Just a FYI, you have to cross Oresund Bridge to go to Malmo from Copenhagen, where you have to pay about $50 or 310 DKK when crossing the bridge via private car. Please check out my Malmo page to see all the things you can do here.

Malmo Town Hall, Malmo, Sweden

10) TRIP TO LUND, SWEDEN: Lund is another small Swedish town, only 20 – 25 minute drive from Malmo. This is a typical university town and out of all the chaos of its nearby city Malmo. There are not too many things to see or do here, other than just enjoying the beautiful city. This is another great getaway while in Copenhagen or Malmo.

Imposing Lund Cathedral in Lund, Sweden

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