When you finally get to take the trip that COVID disrupted – this was originally fully booked for Aug 2020 – it feels just that much more special. Add in that I got to check off a bucket list item (traveling in Germany with Sam!) and this trip through Germany and Denmark was definitely a keeper.
In just 9 days we saw incredible spots in 4 cities and 2 countries – all connected by easy train rides!
If you want to hit the highlights of Northern Germany with a dash of Denmark this was a really fun and quick itinerary with no back tracking!
Day 1 – Travel and Arrival in Germany
After an 8+ hour overnight flight to Munich, with then a transfer to Berlin, we were finally on the ground in Germany. It was a Herculean effort and when we got there we were wrecked. We stayed at Hotel Zoe which was a solid choice. Walkable to a few areas and multiple train stops (though not often the trains we really needed). Despite it being SO HOT in Berlin this year, the heat wasn’t unbearable despite the lack of air conditioning at the hotel.
Given how exhausted we were, we chose to do a river boat tour and it was the perfect way to “do” something on our first night without really doing anything. We grabbed a beer and laid back to relax. If you can plan it out, you should reserve your tickets ahead in the summer. We almost didn’t get a spot when we stood in line last minute – our only saving grace was some impending rain!
Getting off the boat it was still far too early to go to sleep but so we hoofed it to Brauhaus Das Lemke where we wasted no time getting another beer and our first currywurst in Germany. The outdoor space was absolutely delightful even in the oppressive heat and, while maybe not the most “standard” currywurst I’ve ever had, it was very tasty. Definitely find time to enjoy this space.
Then, being the party animals we are, we went back to the hotel and fell asleep for 12 hours. No regrets.
Day 2 – Exploring Berlin
Just down the street from Hotel Zoe is Cafe Latrio. We were able to grab breakfast there and it was quite good. They even had a couple of sidewalk tables for us to use to enjoy the quiet street. The whole area was under construction at the time so I’m not sure if it’s always so quiet but for us it was really nice.
Then we decided to take a walk! We planned to do a walking tour later but knew it wasn’t going to make it to the Brandenburg Gate and the Tiergarten so we kicked that off ourselves in the morning. It was a hike from our place but worth it instead of doing a train transfer and to just see more of the city. Walking around Berlin is so easy and I highly recommend it.
After that we took the Berlin Street Art Alternative Tour. I won’t list it here because, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it at all. Maybe it was out guide but it wasn’t very engaging and while we did see some cool spots I didn’t necessarily get much from the “tour” – we also missed a few of the more iconic street art spots so I feel like it would be easier/better to just map out what you want to see on your own.
We then made our way to the Holocaust Memorial and Museum. This was something I wanted to make sure I prioritized and, while I’m glad I went, it wasn’t the most emotional memorial I’ve seen. I didn’t feel the impact of the grave-like structures outside and the interior was designed to inform people of the Holocaust as if they had never learned about it before. This wasn’t the case for me, so only a few tidbits stood out as being interesting. If you don’t know much then absolutely go and learn about it but if you already have a good understanding it might not be worth your time.
After that we went to eat and drink and ended up at a super cute beer garden called Schleusenkrug. Americans could liken it to a fancy concessions stand. You sit at long picnic tables and order at the stand. You can view the locks of the river and generally just enjoy a beautiful summer day. I did accidentally buy a bowl of boiled pale sausages floating in water (our German language is very lacking and this was not a tourist destination so English was minimal from the staff) but, as always, the beer was good.
We took a break for a bit at the hotel and then headed back out to view the Berlin Wall Memorial. I found this incredibly fascinating and think they did a really good job of telling the reality of the recent past. Highly recommend stopping by this open air exhibit.
You’ll be shocked to hear that we rounded out our day with more beer at Eshenbrau in the Wedding neighborhood. This place is super tucked away – we thought we were for SURE going the wrong direction – but once you find it, it’s a beautiful oasis. So much fun. They technically have food there, ultra thin pizzas that seemed to be served on a crust made like a saltine cracker, but the beer was the main attraction.
Day 3 – Last bit of Berlin -> Travel to Hamburg
We started off our final day in Berlin by getting hopelessly lost on the train. I’m usually really good with train directions but for some reason Berlin really confused me – I think it’s because their subway and regional lines use a lot of the same stops and – operating old school with maps because we were being stingy and cheap with our phone data – made it hard to understand what connected where.
We hit up Checkpoint Charlie which is just as disappointing as everyone says it is. Definitely skip. But we saw that because we were intentionally trying to see a long portion of the Berlin Wall still intact nearby – that was super interesting and well worth walking past.
We enjoyed breakfast at this Backerei which was tasty with good outdoor seating and then even stopped at this really cute courtyard near the Hotel Zoe which was a good location for coffee (Röststätte Berlin) and souvenirs.
Then it was time to check out and we made our way to the train station for our trip to Hamburg! The train was fast and easy and we conveniently stayed at the Reichshof Hamburg right across the street from the train station. This was honestly a much nicer hotel than I anticipated. If you are doing train travel it’s very convenient and also a good place to kick off walking around the town.
We met with our old friend, Sam, who has been living in Flensburg -she played pseudo tour guide and we hit up all the best places on another scorching day. Hamburg is a truly beautiful city to just walk around and explore. I do highly recommend you take the time to go up – and below – St. Nikolai though. The small museum underground is really well done and hard hitting.
We enjoyed a truly lovely meal outside at Frau Möller, highly recommend. And just walking along that road in such a trendy area was a delight.
Day 4 – Explore Hamburg – > Travel to Flensburg
We started our morning with a nice long walk along the waterfront – Hamburg is gorgeous. We had a limited amount of time and Eric was convinced he couldn’t leave the city without the famed fish sandwich (Fischbrotchen) – so – fish for breakfast! There’s a bunch of options but Brucke 10 did not disappoint. It was the perfect spot to sit and watch the water. I myself had a coffee at 9am, thank you very much.
We made it back to the hotel in time to check out and then headed straight for the midday train to Flensburg. This town would have NEVER been on our radar if this trip weren’t doubling as a reunion. And as much as I enjoyed the other cities in our trip, Flensburg was hands down my favorite. If you have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend. Even without your own personal guide, it would be a delight to discover.
Flensburg is a little university town where our friend Sam has lived for a number of years now and it’s the perfect mixture of laid back and small, but because of the harbor and university there’s plenty of activity and shopping too. It’s the perfect stop over on the way up to Copenhagen and well worth at least a night (honestly, two was perfect!).
We stayed at Sam’s apartment while we were there so I have accommodation recommendations. Our days were filled with amazing food (don’t forget to grab a Doner!), incredible conversation, and some good old fashioned walking and sightseeing. Flensburg is a dream and I cannot wait to go back someday. Our first night we enjoyed a snack and beer at the Flensburg Beach Club – there’s a whole line of fun restaurants right on the boardwalk and this one was a great spot to sit and watch the sunset and goings-on.
Day 5 – Glucksburg Castle + Exploring Flensburg
In the morning we hopped the ferry to the Glucksburg Castle. It’s a really fun and easy 45 minute ride with coffee available on the boat. Pro tip: Stop at Migge’s Danish Bakery before you get on the ferry – their pastries are top notch and cheaper than ferry food! Once you’re on this small island there’s a lovely walking path to get to the castle for some cute pictures.
Back in Flensburg for lunch where we stopped at HafenLiebe and had another currywurst (because, GERMANY) and make sure to get our bottles that plopped! This part is an absolute must. Flensburg has their own style beer bottles that make a lovely little popping noise when you open them. And the beer isn’t half bad either! I recommend the Radler style since that’s a very uniquely German beer + juice mix.
Flensburg is such a truly beautiful little city. From the shopping areas, to streets full of flowers on cute houses. I highly recommend taking at least a day or two so you can slow down and just spend some time wandering these streets.
There are so many hidden courtyards with cute, fantastical items.
Another supper recommendation is this little fixed menu spot, Hafenküche. It’s one of the most upscale places we went and had a truly delightful beer selection and really tasty menu items. The back patio area was gorgeous and, being way down on the boardwalk, makes for the perfect evening walk afterwards, too.
Day 6 – “Rest” of Flensburg and Train to Copenhagen
Our morning led us to breakfast at Cafe K (delightful on the square with outdoor seating). Then we spent the rest of our time wandering all the way down the shopping streets. We stopped into a couple nice bookstores (plenty of English selections).
If you get to Flensburg, you can’t forget to check out the part of the road were all the power lines are completely taken over by shoes! Apparently they regularly have to take them down and put up new empty lines because it gets too heavy. There’s no specific story as to why/how this started other than “college kids” which – you know – really does explain a lot.
You can follow this all the way down to the old arch into the city. We did this, which was a lot of walking, so we took one final break at Feuerstein for a beer. Then it was time for a goodbye to our friend and off to the train station to Copenhagen!
The train to Copenhagen did require a transfer but it was super easy and comfortable. Pro tip: buy a seat. Our trip was very crowded and plenty of people didn’t have seats. Especially in our second portion – I’m not sure if it’s normal or not but there were a lot of younger people, seemingly students, who all had to sit on the train floors for the duration of the decently long trip.
We got into Copenhagen fairly late but found our Airbnb in the Meatpacking District easily. Sparse on amenities, but it had a great location and the inner balcony courtyard area was fun.
Since we were tired and it was late, we meandered into a restaurant we normally wouldn’t choose on our own – Pate Pate. It was nice if not great, but the vibes were worth it. That whole area is super fun with lots of choices!
Day 7 – Exploring Copenhagen
We started off our day slow, stopping at The Living Room for coffee before our Free Walking Tour. If you know me, I always highly recommend the first activity in a new city to be a walking tour as it can check off soooo many boxes right away and this is no exception. Our guide was from Australia and was a strong Dick Van Dyke look-a-like. He did a great job giving us the highlights of the city. It was very busy so be sure to book ahead as they go have group size limitations.
After the tour it started to get a bit hairy as what had previously been a drizzle turned into full scale rain. We found all of the place we planned to go to that I had researched on blogs or travel guides were packed to the gills with no options to wait for a table. I’m not sure if it was due to the rain or the popularity, but lesson learned – if you want a specific restaurant in Copenhagen, I recommend making a reservation!
Due to this we ended up near the Paludan Bogcafe (because books and coffee will forever be my kryptonite) but it was so packed it wasn’t fun at all. Around the corner though was a random Lebanese restaurant, Mahalle, that ended up being really good.
Admittedly, wandering the streets of Copenhagen in the rain is not the most fun I’ve had. The tiles of the road and sidewalks get slippery and full of puddles. But we were already thoroughly soggy so we wanted our way back across town and, on a whim, decided to go to Tivoli.
Originally we weren’t going to bother with Tivoli – without our kids around it seemed a bit depressing and we weren’t going to do rides on our own. Honestly, though? Highly recommend checking it out! It’s like traveling back in time and the grounds are absolutely beautiful. It was really fun to go in during crummy weather too because there were no crowds at all! So if you end up in Copenhagen on a bad weather day but don’t want to spend it all inside, this is the place to go.
By the time we got back to our Airbnb and had finally dried out, we had earned our trip to Mikkeller for a few brews to round our the night.
Day 8 – Exploring Copenhagen and the Pride Parade
For me it was 100% crucial to visit a “true” Danish bakery and we were not disappointed by Backeri Brod. We got there early and there was still one heck of a line. The options were so tasty and they offered a full service coffee bar. We ate in the square before taking our first subway trip (the trains are SO CLEAN, you guys). We spend the morning on the 1 hour boat ride that leaves from Nyhavn. If you went on the free walking tour you should be able to get 10% off tickets. While not spectacular, it was pretty fun and showed us parts of the city we hadn’t yet seen – including the thoroughly lackluster Little Mermaid statue. If you do have to see it, this would be the only way I would recommending doing so.
We were super lucky to be in Copenhagen during a very festive Pride week and that day was the huge Pride parade. And I mean huge. For lunch we went to Smagsloget which is more takeaway than restaurant but they have incredible sandwiches and two tiny tables out front. We snagged one and managed to sit there enjoying the food and the start of the parade.
It truly went on forever and was a fun experience, but felt a little tame. Then I remembered the only other pride parade I’ve attended is the one in Chicago – and what doesn’t feel tame compared to a party in Boystown?
Our afternoon taken up by the parade, we spent the rest of the day walking back to our Airbnb, grabbing some souvenirs (Anker Chokolade was soooo good) and finally rounding out the night with beer at Fermentoren. No food, though they have bags of chips, but their outdoor space with lots of picnic tables it really nice. Highly recommend on a beautiful night.
Day 9 – Travel home
Travel to the airport from our location was super easy and we left early!
All in all the trip was truly lovely. We spent so much time walking through these beautiful cities in Germany and Denmark. Each location was so unique. For us, Berlin’s perk was its history. Hamburg, its architectural beauty. Flensburg was an entirely different beauty with such a laidback, beachy, and small town vibe. Copenhagen offered unique beauty and even more culture. It was easy to feel at home there even with how short our time really was.
Our itinerary could easily be stretched out to add a night or two more in any of these cities – but at the same time we don’t feel like we missed anything either! All in all, another great bucket list trip in the books.
Berlin – Hotel Zoe
Hamburg – Reichshof Hamburg
Copenhagen – Airbnb in the Meatpacking District
Berlin – Brauhaus Das Lemke (beer and food), Cafe Latrio (breakfast/coffee), Röststätte Berlin (coffee), Eshenbrau (beer and snacks), Schleusenkrug (beer, lunch, snacks), Backerei (breakfast, coffee)
Hamburg – Brucke 10 (fish sandwich), Frau Möller (traditional German dinner/lunch)
Flensburg – Hafenküche (dinner), Feuerstein (beer + food with outdoor seating), Cafe K (food, breakfast, ice cream), Migge’s Danish Bakery (bakery), Flensburg Beach Club (beer/light dinner), Doner
Copenhagen – Fermentoren (Beer/snacks), Smagsloget (sandwiches), Backeri Brod (bakery/coffee), Mikkeller (beer), Mahalle (lunch/dinner), The Living Room (coffee/light breakfast), Pate Pate (dinner)