Copenhagen had been on my wishlist for years. Instagram images of the pretty multi-coloured houses of Nyhavn lining up against the canal had filled me with wanderlust for some time. But whether it was a family destination I wasn’t so sure – and since our getaway time fell slap bang in the middle of the summer holidays it seemed sensible to try and team a city break with a another stop – perhaps one more suited to summer hols and children.
We investigated Copenhagen’s beach resorts, were recommended Aarhus as a fun add-on to Copenhagen and were contemplating skipping across the border to Malmo in Sweden. But then someone suggested Legoland. Denmark is the home of Lego, and Billund, three hours’ drive from Copenhagen, is home to the original themepark. The discovery that they’d just launched a new selection of Lego Ninjago-themed cabins in the next-door Legoland Holiday Village sealed the deal.
Who needs the real Nyhavn when the lego version is so pretty?!
The flight to Billund is quick, easy and inexpensive and the airport is mere minutes from the resort. We arrived very late at night so grabbed a quick cab to the holiday village. There is one thing that cannot be ignored about Scandinavian travel and that is that things are expensive. Our taxi took minutes and cost an eyewatering £20. But check in (or out-of-hours key retrieval) was speedy and simple and before we knew it we were tucked up in bed inside our Ninjago cabin, the boys beside themselves with excitement at the ninja stars and weapons all around them.
Legoland itself is a dream – even in mid-August. Perhaps queues get bigger at other times of the year, but there didn’t even seem the infrastructure in the park to handle horrendously long lines, so I doubt it. For the two days we were there, we never queued longer than 15 minutes for any ride, and many we walked right on. My sons are 11 and 8 and they were perfectly aged (of course there’s masses to do for younger kids too but 11 wasn’t too old – my concern since Finn had definitely started growing out of Windsor’s offerings). There are a handful of grown up rollercoasters and a few truly terrifying (or awesome, depending on who you ask!) other rides that throw up you up, down, sideways and on your head – certainly enough fun for a tweenager!
Enjoying Star Wars land despite a drop of August rain
Food – like in Windsor – is a little limited and expensive but the Holiday Village had a ‘Pack Your Own Lunch’ option at the buffet breakfast for the equivalent of about £5 each, which meant you could make your own sandwiches and fill up with pastries and fruit at the breakfast bar – a perfect solution when you’ve eaten as many make-your-own pancakes as we had a few hours earlier!
A fabulous (and for us, unexpected) surprise was Legoland’s neighbouring Lalandia – a huge resort with amazing waterpark inside, which was included on our 2 day Legoland wristband pass. Lalandia is something else – a mixture between Vegas and Centre Parcs, an indoor village (complete with Vegas-esque false sky) offering crazy golf, trampolines, bowling, ice skating, shops, restaurants, bars and I’m sure a whole lot else. We only explored the pool (again the exchange rate and high prices made the other offerings less appealing) but the pool was MORE than enough!
The waterslides put anything we’ve ever experienced in the UK to shame – the 4-person Tornado is utterly terrifying, and a host of other rides from lazy rivers to rides on mats, or in giant donut rings, were fantastic fun. The Danes do saunas very well (and seriously) so while the kids played in the waves, we detoxed in bio saunas and lolled in Jacuzzis. The hygiene was also taken incredibly seriously (showering first without costumes on is obligatory), and first aid and customer service (when we left costumes and other items of clothes behind on both days) was faultless. The perfect afternoon antidote to a day spent in the theme park.
Fun at the Legoland Holiday Village
The Holiday Village also had plenty to do even when you weren’t engaged with lego. There were playgrounds aplenty, a petting zoo with goats, sunken trampolines. August weather was mixed and to be honest with only two days to make the most of the parks and Lalandia we didn’t have too much time to use them but if you were staying longer or had younger kids to amuse there’s a lot of fun to be had.
We had a decision to make about our transfer to Copenhagen. There are planes, trains and automobile options and we decided to break our tradition of holiday car hire and try public transport. It was an adventure – but one I’m so glad we made. We caught the 45 bus from just outside Legoland (on the far side of the road) to Veillje Station (kids under 12 travel free across Denmark) which took about 30 minutes, and then jumped on a train to Copenhagen Central station. It took just under 3 hours and I’d probably advise booking a seat (this is doable from the automatic ticket machines) to avoid the bit of seat surfing we did, but the journey was simple and easy. As we jumped off the train into central Copenhagen I had a real feeling we’d progressed from family holidaymakers to family travellers, and it felt exciting.
Jumping on a train from Billund to Copenhagen
Our home for the next three nights was the Absalon Hotel in the city’s Vestebro area. Formerly the red light district there are remnants of its less salubrious past (the boys didn’t enquire about the few erotic shops we passed but you might want an answer or two up your sleeve if you’re walking from the station!). It’s now however an incredibly cool district and it felt really fun to be hanging out in hipster-ville en famille. A moment’s walk from the amazing Tivoli Gardens (more below) and neighbouring the super-cool Meatpacking district, restaurants and bars are all around. And the Danish are very relaxed about families – kids are welcome in bars with their parents for a drink, regardless of if they’re eating.
The highlights of our Copenhagen trip as a family of four were our Go Boat trip, our family running tour of Vestebro and our afternoon and evening spent at Tivoli. Summer is the perfect time to visit – it’s not too hot, similar to the UK, so sightseeing is pleasant but not sticky and Nyhavn lived up to Instagram expectations. Locals and tourists alike take dips in the harbour in the multitude of pools that open up around the town and the parks are full of people being fabulously outdoorsy – running, cycling (everyone cycles everywhere – adults and children alike) and generally putting us Brits to shame!
Enjoying life on our Go Boat
The city is built around a maze of canals and while exploring on foot is fun, it’ll cost you less grumbles and bribery ice creams to explore them in your very own boat. The GoBoats are superb – electric, largely solar powered vessels with a huge picnic table in the middle. You can hire them by the hour and take off (at barely more than walking pace) totally alone to explore Copenhagen’s most beautiful spots. Taking their eco-credentials seriously, GoBoat offered my two young sailors nets to catch rubbish from the harbour in. Rubbish means points, and points mean ice cream – needless to say, it was a hit! We ate a picnic lunch, stopped off at the uber-trendy Paper Island food market to grab some organic juices and pootled around for 2 blissful hours.
Lena managed to make 5k seem like something everyone should do on holiday
Less relaxed, but equally enjoyable was our next day’s family running tour of our new neighbourhood. Our hotel had suggested this as an activity and as a keen jogger myself, I had been very keen to try. The kids had been less enthusiastic, but the reality was a huge hit. Our amazing guide Lena manged to get just over 5k out of both of them in the course of just over an hour and paced both our speed and our stop offs perfectly so as to keep the kids engaged and just tired enough at all points. It was great to discover so much about the area’s history and the daily life of ‘regular’ Danes and it meant we felt totally relaxed about tucking into the world’s biggest pizzas at Mother (in the uber-cool Meatpacking district) later that night!
Tivoli Gardens after dark
Tivoli Gardens is my new favourite place in the wold. After Legoland I wasn’t sure we really needed to visit the urban fairground but it’s a magical, wonderful place! There are some serious rides (I was the only one of our family of four who couldn’t manage the Golden Tower….Google it - it’s not for the faint-hearted!) but somehow Tivoli manages the perfect mix between amazing rides for kids (and big kids) and the potential for a really sophisticated evening out. Open air jazz plays into the night. Fireworks and sound-and-lights shows delight those still going after dark. And there’s a choice of swanky and chain restaurants – so upmarket dates go on side-by-side to school-party scoffing. There’s even a Wagamamas for those craving a taste of home!
I was happy to play photographer on this ride
Having worried about exploring Copenhagen with kids, I ended the holiday desperate to take on our next family holiday adventure. The travelling and the dual destinations were so much fun. And Copenhagen is perfect, it seems, for all members of the family - no matter how old or young, there are life-long memories to be made.