What to do in Northern Europe?
September 15, 2009 8:41 PM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: Amsterdam, Cologne, Copenhagen, Oslo. 2-3 days each. Mid-November. What to do?

I'm going to those cities in Mid-November, and spending 2-3 days in each. What should I do? Where should I eat? Cheap is good, but I'm more interested in interesting/exciting/fun/unique. Where should I stay for cheap?

Also, how cold will it be? Should I bring a light jacket + sweaters? Heavy jacket? I live in LA, so cold for me is having to wear jeans.

My friend is continuing on to Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Moscow, then taking the train to Beijing. Any suggestions for him?
posted by wayofthedodo to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In CPH see Tivoli, the library, Christiania, and the Carlsberg factory (not sure where it moved to recently, though). MeMail me if you want a referral for a place to stay. I also rather liked the National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst) if you're into art and architecture - the building itself is amazing. A few days of wandering around the lights, snow, and taking a tour by boat/canal will let you see all the sights and fill in the time - it is not a cheap town, for sure, but walking around is as entertaining as anything! Same with Amsterdam, for that matter.

It will vary between snowing and raining in all those places. If you're walking much, I'd just take layers, including an outer waterproof one on top of a midweight technical or wool layer. You'll keep warm enough from the movement otherwise.

I'm not a big fan of Cologne, myself, so I'd love to know what to do next time I'm stuck there. :)
posted by kcm at 9:41 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: In Oslo -
I stayed in the Scandic Edderkoppen last time I was in Oslo.
It was reasonably cheap, close to Karl Johans Gate and the train station. It also had the best breakfast out of any of the hotels I stayed in on that trip.
The other hotel in Oslo was the Hotel Bristol, but that's not the cheapest by far.
I also stayed in the Soria Moria, but that is a bit out of town. Nice views though,and close to the ski jump. The breakfast was a bit lacking though.

Oso has dozens of museums. I liked Akershus Fortress, the City Museum (as well as the park it's in), and the Resistance Museum.
The ship museums on Bygdøy were also quite interesting, the Fram one especially.

Keep in mind though, that a lot of the museums and attractions in Oslo are closed on Monday. Be prepared if you are in the city then.

I quite enjoyed the "3 hour tour" around the Fjord. We had a beautiful day for it though, not sure how fun it'd be on a rainy day in November. If you get a clear day though, it's very recommended.

Outside of town, the ski jump museum was fun, though I'm not sure it's worth a trip on its own. If you get a clear day, the view from the top is probably worth it. I wouldn't recommend it if you are prone to vertigo though, those steps are steep.

Foodwise, be prepared to pay. Oslo in general is quite expensive. We had good food at Deli de Luca. You can find grocery stores, but they seem to be a bit hidden (at least, the ones we saw were). They usually have some takeout to go.
Have some reindeer at the Theatercafeen. It's a touristy spot, but still fun.

Finally, my trip on the Flammsbana was stupendous, but it is a day trip from Oslo. It's an amazing railway if you are into that kind of thing. What you really want to do is rent a bike to go down the valley, and then take the train back up, but I'm not sure the time of year is right for that.

Oslo seems a pretty decent town for wandering. Get an Oslo Pass if it works for you. It's just about worth it for the public transport alone. Plus, discount ice skates if it's cold enough!
posted by madajb at 10:49 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: Oslo - I really loved the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Beautiful figures, some impressively massive. What got to me were all the sculptures of loving fathers with children, just gorgeous. The Viking Ship Museum features some pretty impressive viking ships (if you couldn't guess). It and the open air Norwegian Folk Museum are on the Bygdoy peninsula. If you are an Ibsen fan, his apartment is now a museum.

Amsterdam - yeah, just walking around is great. Obligatory mentions of the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum; one hopes the latter has mostly opened from renovations by now (closing much of the building during the 400th anniversary celebration of Rembrandt's birth, really?) For eating, I really enjoyed the traditional dutch pannekoek. It might be a little tourist-trappy, but my various dishes at The Pancake Bakery were too good for me to care. The Tuschinski Theatre is very cool if you like slightly wacky or Art Deco architecture. There are all manner of interesting churches - St. Nicholaas, Moses and Aaron (built over Spinoza's former dwelling), the Oude Kerk; and the Portuguese Synagogue from 1674. There's also the Flower Market and Vondelpark. But seriously, just walking around is fantastic.

Copenhagen - another vote for Tivoli! You can walk from the city's Little Mermaid statue (really crowded with irritating tourists, but kind of obligatory) to its largest monument, the Gefion Fountain - it features giant bulls that appear to be snorting steam because of the water's flow and spray. Fredrik's cathedral is beautiful, and Nyhaven is a picturesque area around a canal, if you're not tired of that after Amsterdam. There's Rosenborg Palace with the Crown Jewels. For hunger pangs, look for the golden pretzel symbol denoting bakeries.

Stockholm- walking around the Old City was my favourite part of my time there, though in the vein of the Viking Ship Museum, the Vasa Museum houses the giant ship of the same name, the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged (it sank in the harbour because the king who ordered it built did not understand that a ship can, in fact, be too top-heavy.

Helsinki- The Rock Church or Temppeliaukio Kirkko is really cool (I'm not actually obsessed with churches; I think Europe is, instead). It's an underground modern church blasted into a rock hill with a roof made of coiled copper wire.

St. Petersburg - Hermitage times a million. You could spend your life there. Also, for possibly the city's other most recognizable feature, The Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood. Much prettier than it sounds.

Have fun, I am jealous of your trip!
posted by ilana at 12:51 AM on September 16, 2009

Best answer: In the Netherlands, I've found the most comfortable outfit to be a t-shirt, a sweater, a light jacket that's water-resistant or waterproof, a scarf, and a hat with some kind of brim. It will be cold, and it will most likely rain, but Dutch shops and restaurants can sometimes be a bit over-heated, so you might want to shed some layers when you get indoors. The hat will help keep rain out of your eyes when the wind kicks up (and it will).

The nice thing about Amsterdam is that, if the weather is truly awful, there's plenty of indoor stuff that's totally worth seeing. (Although, much like madajb pointed out, remember that some museums are closed on Mondays.)

You shouldn't miss the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. They're at either end of Museumplein, so it's easy to visit both in one day.

The Anne Frank Museum is also worth a visit. It doesn't take long to go through the museum. The only problem is that, although it goes fast, the line is usually quite long and is outdoors.

There's a plethora of old churches to visit: the Westerkerk is right next to the Anne Frank Museum, the Sint Nicolaaskerk is just across from Centraal Station, the Nieuwe Kerk is on Dam Square (where you can also visit the Royal Palace, which just re-opened to visitors), the Oude Kerk is conveniently located right next to the Red Light District, and I've heard that Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) is really impressive.

I highly recommend visiting In De Wildeman, too.

The Bulldog Hotel and the American Hotel are both quite famous -- depending on your price range and the type of experience that you're looking for. :)

If you stay in Amsterdam, you'll probably mostly use the trams to get around. There are a lot of different special offers for tourists using public transportation. The 24/48/72/96 hour tickets are quite cheap, and allow unlimited travel on the tram, bus, and metro. Of course, central Amsterdam (e.g. within the canal rings) is quite small, so it might be more economical to just pay cash when you happen to use the tram.
posted by transporter accident amy at 12:54 AM on September 16, 2009

Best answer: This hotel has budget prices and a very good location, near the Natonaltheatret station and almost next to the Royal Castle. Across the street is Lorry, a popular and informal "brown" pub/cafe that opened in the 1890's. They serve 129 different types of beer. Oslo Mikrobryggeri , a popular brewpub, is in the same area.

Mid-November is julebord (and juleøl) season in Norway, so many restaurants serve Norwegian seasonal dishes, if you want to try that. Reindeer steak, perhaps?

Monday to Friday, 0730-0830, you can try Tai Chi at the roof of the new Opera House in central Oslo. (Call +47 91160581 in advance for more information.) With or without Tai Chi, the roof has a great view to the fjord. To see more of the fjord, visit Aker Brygge, and perhaps take the local ferry to Nesodden and back.

Take the tram to Ekebergrestauranten, a newly restored Art Deco building with a nice view and good food, lunch from kr. 130,- ($ 22).

A short tram ride (or a 15 minute walk) outside Oslo sentrum is Grünerløkka, a slightly bohemian neighborhood with quirky shops and a good selection of non-chain cafes etc, with somewhat lower prices than in downtown Oslo.

If you are interested in concerts and other cultural events, Oslopuls is the most complete local event calendar.

The average temperature in Oslo in November is +2°C, the highest last November was +9°C, the lowest -7°C.

Some more information about visiting Oslo in the links.

(Btw, I live in Oslo. If you want more information, MeFi mail me.)
posted by iviken at 5:46 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

In De Wildeman is a fantastic place. If you're looking to stay for free, there's always couchsurfing, which will always be unique and interesting, though it may not be your cup of tea.

Also in Amsterdam, wander around the red light district for a bit just to see the sights. There's obviously pot too, if that's your thing. Renting bikes can be a fun way to get around.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:07 AM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: you guys are awesome. Thanks for all your help. We thinking of taking a sidetrip to brussels. any thoughts?
posted by wayofthedodo at 9:24 AM on September 16, 2009

This small restaurant in Amsterdam, Japanese Pancake World, serves the most delicious okonomiyaki. "Japanese Pancake World is in fact unique to Europe, and is the only restaurant to serve Hiroshima pancakes outside of Japan." Wagamama has two restaurants in Amsterdam, serving tasty noodle dishes. And you should try kroketten and fries from one of the many Febo automat restaurants.

If you like comedy shows, you will probably enjoy Boom Chicago.

Finally, the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky serves a very good breakfast/brunch in their winter garden. Worth a visit, even if you stay at a different hotel.
posted by iviken at 1:02 PM on September 16, 2009

For Oslo and Copenhagen in November, and particularly for your friend continuing on to Stockholm, Helsinki and Moscow, I strongly recommend thermals. A long sleeve T for both of you and and leggings for your friend. If it's going down to -7 and you're used to LA temperatures, you will want them. You can wear them under jeans and a jumper and it makes a world of snugly warm difference. North Face and Helly Hansen's are both good in my experience.
posted by Skaramoosh at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2009

I didn't like Brussels at all. It's fairly dirty and boring as worldly cities go, in my opinion. I loved Bruges/Brugge, though it's overrun by older British tourists.. it's a beer haven, so if you enjoy fine oude guezes please do take a visit - it's perfect for a side trip of a day or two at most. Do have the three course prix fixe at Cambrinus. Also: another canal tour and the De Halve Maan brewery trip (though a bit of a walk).

It's a very short, cheap, and frequent train trip from Brussels to Bruges, so you can substitute it easily.
posted by kcm at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2009

« Older Router & Modem bridging   |   Replace my pants Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.