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Getting to and around in Scandinavian capitals

July 9, 2009

Scandinavia is a historical and geographical region in northern Europe that includes, and is named after, the Scandinavian Peninsula. It consists of the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; some authorities argue for the inclusion of Finland and Iceland, in Scandinavia the term is, however, used unambiguously for Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which share a mutually intelligible language (a dialect continuum), ethnic composition and have close cultural and historic bonds, to a degree that Scandinavians may be considered one people. Regardless of how the term Scandinavia is used outside the region, the terms Nordic countries and Nordic region are used officially and unambiguously to identify the nations of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland as well as the Danish territory of the Faroe Islands and the Finnish territory of Åland as politically and culturally similar entities. Here's a complete guide to getting to and around the Scandinavian capital cities of Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia). NOTE: This post was published in 2009 and currencies have changed in Estonia from Krooni to Euro. Also, prices may have changed so please make sure to check the latest rates from respective websites.

Copenhagen, Denmark

[caption id="attachment_4910" align="alignnone" width="675" caption="Copenhagen"]Copenhagen[/caption] Getting there Air Copenhagen’s wonderful airport is Scandinavia’s busiest hub, with flights from over 100 cities across the world. There are direct flights to Copenhagen from Europe, Asia and North America, as well as a handful of Danish cities. The modern international airport is in Kastrup (IATA Code: CPH), 9km southeast of Copenhagen city centre, and sees about 1.7 million passengers each year. It has good eating, retail and information facilities. If you’re waiting for a flight, note that this is a ‘silent’ airport and there are no boarding calls, although there are numerous monitor screens throughout the terminal. Boat There is a daily sailing from Oslo to Copenhagen with DFDS Seaways ( Polferries ( operates boats to Swinoujscie in Poland, leaving from Nordhavn (the northern harbour) five times a week and taking about 10 hours. From Germany, it is just five hours by train from Hamburg to Copenhagen Central Station via the DSB (+45 3 7013 1415; boat-train from Puttgarden to Rødby. Bus International buses to several European cities are operated by Eurolines (, which has a ticket office behind Central Station. Long-distance buses leave from Central Station, though some buses, including those to Oslo, also stop at Copenhagen airport. Car & Motorcycle The main highways into Copenhagen are the E20 from Jutland and Funen (and continuing towards Malmö in Sweden) and the E47 from Helsingør and Sweden. If you’re coming from the north on the E47, exit onto Lyngbyvej (Rte 19) and continue south to reach the heart of the city. Train All long-distance trains arrive at and depart from Central Station, an elegant, 19th-century wooden-beamed hall with numerous services, including currency exchange, a post office and a supermarket. There are showers at the underground toilets opposite the police office. Getting Around To/From the Airport If you judge a city by how easy it is to get to/from the airport, Copenhagen takes top marks. The rail system speedily (and cheaply) links the airport arrival terminal directly with Copenhagen’s Central Station. The trains run every 20 minutes until midnight from 4.55am on weekdays, 5.35am on Saturday and 6.35am on Sunday. The trip takes just 12 minutes and costs 28.50kr. By taxi, it’s about 15 minutes between the airport and the city centre, as long as traffic isn’t too heavy. The cost is about 220kr. Bicycle Copenhagen is a great city for getting around by bicycle. Most streets have cycle lanes and, more importantly, motorists tend to respect them. Except during weekday rush hours, it’s possible to carry bikes on S-trains (10kr per ticket). You can load your bicycle into any carriage that has a cycle symbol and you must stay with the bike at all times. Virtually all of Copenhagen can be toured by bicycle, except for pedestrian-only streets such as Strøget. Bicycles are allowed to cross Strøget at Gammel Torv and Kongens Nytorv. When touring the city, cyclists should give way to bus passengers who must traverse cycle lanes to reach the pavement and have right of way, and to pedestrians (particularly tourists) who sometimes absent-mindedly step off the kerb and into the path of oncoming cyclists. Cycling maps, called Københavns Amt, are produced by the Danish cycling federation, Dansk Cyklist Forbund (, and can be purchased at bookshops. Car & Motorcycle Except for the weekday-morning rush hour, when traffic can bottleneck coming into the city (and vice versa around 5pm), traffic in Copenhagen is generally manageable. Getting around by car is not problematic, except for the usual challenge of finding an empty parking space in the most popular places. To explore sights in the centre of the city, you’re best off on foot or using public transport, but a car is convenient for getting to the suburban sights. Rental The following car hire companies have booths at the airport in the international terminal. Each also has an office in central Copenhagen. Avis Tel: Budget Tel: Europcar Tel: Hertz Tel: Parking For street parking, you buy a ticket from a kerbside billetautomat (automated ticket machine) and place it inside the windscreen. Copenhagen parking is zoned so that the spaces most in demand are the most costly. Your best bet is to search out a blue zone, where parking costs just 10kr per hour. If you can’t find an empty blue space then opt for a green zone, where the fee is 15kr per hour. Avoid red zones, where the parking fee is 25kr per hour. Parking fees must be paid on weekdays from 8am to 6pm (to 8pm in red zones) and also on Saturday to 2pm in green zones and 8pm in red zones. If you can’t find street parking, there are car parks at the main department stores, at the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel and on Jerbanegade, east of Axeltorv. Parkering forbudt means ‘no parking’ and is generally accompanied by a round sign with a red diagonal slash. You can stop for up to three minutes to unload bags and passengers. A round sign with a red ‘X’, or a sign saying Stopforbud, means that no stopping at all is allowed. Parking ticket fines will set you back 510kr. On Foot By far the best way to see Copenhagen is on foot. This has to be the most eminently walkable capital in Europe, with much of the city centre pedestrianised and few main sights or shopping quarters more than a 20-minute walk from the city centre. Public Transport Copenhagen has an extensive public transit system consisting of a metro, rail and bus network. The metro system – which is driverless – runs through the eastern side of the city centre connecting Nørreport with Kongens Nytorv and Christianshavns Torv. The system now runs to the airport. The S-train network has 11 lines passing through Central Station (København H), and a vast bus system called HUR (Hovedstadsens Ud- viklingsråd; bus terminus), the main terminus of which is at Rådhuspladsen, a couple of blocks to the northeast of the Central Station. The bus and train network has an integrated ticket system based on seven geographical zones. Most of your travel will probably be within two zones. Single tickets are valid for one hour’s travel (one to two zones adult/child aged 12 to 15 19/9.50kr; three zones 28.50/19kr; children under 12 travel free if accompanied by an adult). Also available are discount 10-ticket cards (one to two zones adult/child 120/66kr; three zones 160/80kr), which you must stamp in the yellow machines when boarding buses or on the train/metro platforms. Tickets are valid for travel on the metro, buses and S-tog (S-train or local train) even though they look slightly different, depending on where you buy them. One ticket allows you to travel for one hour on all three types of transport. Trains and buses generally run from about 5am (6am on Sunday) to around 12.30am, though buses continue to run through the night (charging double the usual fare) on a few main routes. The free Copenhagen city maps that are distributed by the tourist office show bus routes (with numbers) and are very useful for finding your way around the city. For schedules or more details try HUR (; 7am- 9.30pm), DSB (; 7am-10pm), for trains and S-tog local trains, or Metro (; 9am-4pm Mon-Fri). Taxis Taxis can be called-out on the street and there are ranks at various points around the city centre. If the yellow taxa (taxi) sign is lit, the taxi is available for hire. The fare will start at 19kr and costs 10.20kr per kilometre from 7am to 4pm, and 11.20kr from 4pm to 7am, Monday to Friday. On Friday and Saturday, it’s 13kr from 11pm to 7am, and on Sunday and holidays the cost is 11kr. The cost is 10.20kr on Saturday from 7am to 11pm. Most taxis accept major credit cards.
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