A throng for Europe

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In Malmo and Copenhagen, Peter McNerney soaked up Swedish and Danish delights... and a little Eurovision fever.

Depending on your view of the Eurovision Song Contest, a certain weekend in Copenhagen and Malmo this spring this year could have been the best or indeed the worst of times. That’s because the iconic song festival was being held in Sweden’s third largest city and with Denmark’s capital just a short train or car journey away across the magnificent five-mile long Oresund Bridge, Eurovision fever was gripping the whole area.

It had been my intention that all references to Eurovision would have ended there had it not been for the fact that Denmark won this year’s show. So come the weekend of May 17, 2014 it could be Copenhagen’s turn to play host to world’s biggest song competition. Other Danish cities have made a pitch to be the venue, but Wonderful Copenhagen, as the Danny Kaye song goes, could once again be welcoming devotees from across the continent.

Should this part of Nordic Europe be on your travel diary it’s one weekend which could spell discord or harmony for your plans. I’m unashamedly partial to a bit of Eurovision so the sight of legions of fans wrapped in their country’s national flag (and in one case a Union Jack onesie) was, for me, all part of the trip.

The two cities were both part of Denmark until the 17th-century when Sweden’s King Karl X Gustav wrenched Malmo from its Danish masters. In the centre of the city’s Big Square (Stortoget) is an imposing statue of the monarch. It’s in one of three impressive squares. A big square implies there might be a smaller version lurking somewhere close by and indeed there is. The Little Square (Lilla torg) is the place for outdoor restaurants and bars. Along with Gustav Adolf’s Square they allow visitors the space to enjoy and marvel at Malmo’s rich architectural history but also allow the city to stage events for the benefit of tourists and locals alike.

And coming up is this summer’s Malmöfestivalen from August 16 to 23. Organisers describe it as a warm, friendly and sustainable event right in the heart of the city offering art, music, culture and food. Details of what you can see and do there are available on Malmo’s tourism website, www.malmotown.com.

However, all year round you can enjoy Folkets Park (The People’s Park). It had been threatened with closure but thankfully survived and is the perfect place to take a stroll or enjoy one of the many events that take place throughout the year.

But, as this is a tale of two cities, Copenhagen beckons and with the construction of the engineering wonder that is the Oresund Bridge 13 years ago, as it’s only half an hour away by train. To take advantage of the excellent public transport connections I based myself at the Radisson Park Inn just two short tram stops from Copenhagen Airport. Its convenient location means that each city is easily accessible depending on how the mood takes you.

And now that being offline is akin to to being cut off from the rest of mankind, free hotel wi-fi allows you to surf the web and plan your movements at leisure without racking up hefty charges.

Copenhagen is of course much larger than its Swedish neighbour. Home to a million Danes, the country’s capital is a hotspot for tourists from across the world and has all that you’d expect from a major metropolitan city. The central district is home to the city’s medieval heritage. Splendid historic buildings and narrow alleyways will perhaps come as no surprise to a seasoned traveller but it does come as a bit of surprise to see just how little the Little Mermaid really is.

Thousands of visitors flock to the harbour each year to have their photo taken with the statue of a mermaid based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. Vandalism over the years had resulted in the prospect of the statue being moved even further out to sea , but so far in the Little Mermaid’s centenary year she’s remained steadfast and is one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions.

Somewhat bigger is the awesome Tivoli Gardens. The 21 acres of the 170-year-old amusement park and pleasure garden attract around four million visitors a year. Hundreds of thousands of flowers compete with ten of thousands of nighttime lights to impress tourists who include this amazing place on their schedule. It’s a “must see” when in Copenhagen and it’s seeing Tivoli that rightly earns Copenhagen the epithet “Wonderful”.

Should you be lucky enough to find yourself there in fine weather don’t forget this is a city with fantastic beaches so sturdy walking shoes and swimwear should both find themselves on the packing list. That is of course assuming you are organised enough to have a list. But in a city with shopping from markets to high class fashion there’s no need to panic.

To travel from Yorkshire I flew to Copenhagen with British Airways from Leeds Bradford Airport via Heathrow. All the airports offer lounges where a relaxed atmosphere provides some calm from the hurly-burly of airport life.

On arrival at Copenhagen Airport head for the train enquiries where you’ll be able to find out what ticket best suits you. It is possible to buy combined tickets for the train and metro systems. It’s always tempting fate to say it, but during my stay the trains and trams were efficient and on time.

And it’s worth remembering that these are two European countries that although they are in the EU they haven’t taken the plunge into the Eurozone. So in Sweden you’ll be dealing with Krona and in Denmark just to make it simple Krone! Notes from the other country might be accepted in some outlets but having the correct currency is the best bet.

So here is the vote from the Yorkshire Post jury and as they say in Eurovision “maximum points” to Malmo and Copenhagen.

Getting there

Peter McNerney flew Club Europe to Copenhagen from Leeds/Bradford Airport courtesy of British Airways.

Details of prices for flights and lounges at ba.com and leedsbradfordairport.co.uk

Accommodation at the Park Inn by Radisson Copenhagen Airport courtesy of parkinn.com/hotel-copenhagen