…the delightful country of our recent trip, DENMARK, specifically the wonderful city of COPENHAGEN!
Having a love of all things Scandi, scrumptious food and beautiful photo opportunities, the capital seemed like a great location for a short school holiday getaway. I’d heard nothing but good things about Copenhagen and was excited to experience some of the healthy, Hygge lifestyle.
And we were certainly not disappointed. Firstly, the Danish are just soooo polite and friendly. Copenhagen never had the feel of a capital city, being very relaxed, super clean and orderly – the road might be empty but don’t go thinking you can just saunter across unless the green man says yes!
Even nearer the central station, around the red light district, I would have happily walked around alone and although we did see large numbers of police vans heading out towards the waterfront on a couple of days*, I don’t believe they actually have crime. More likely the police were bored (as everyone is so considerate of each other) and simply needed to give the vans a run out. Even the sirens came on in small blasts, as if to apologise to the masses for the disruption they were causing!
Every interaction we had was friendly and happy – except, perhaps, for the bus driver, who wasn’t exactly grumpy, he just didn’t lay on a special taxi service to the connecting bus (that we weren’t aware we needed) when his route ended, instead telling us that we had to get off. How disgraceful… 😉
The whole atmosphere and mindset of getting outside, spending time with friends and family and striving for positive mental health certainly oozed through every area we visited. There’s no wonder they are the happiest nation on the planet.
So, here’s my run-down on all the highlights and why you definitely should try to spend a few days in Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!
Outside areas appear to be very important to the Danes and whether it’s wrapping up against the elements for a stroll, sunning yourself and having a picnic, or being used as an outdoor gym, the green spaces are full of people enjoying them at every opportunity.
Never too far away from a beautiful area, whether as part of castle grounds, (such as King’s Gardens next to Rosenborg Castle where the crown jewels are held), or simply dangling your feet over the side of a canal, these tranquil spots do wonders for your inner calm and you can easily forget that you’re surrounded by the tourist horde. Great for people watching too!
Oh my word! In recent years, Copenhagen (and Denmark as a whole) has gained a reputation of being a gastronomical Mecca for all foodies. Having 27 Michelin starred restaurants, with Noma achieving best-restaurant-in-the-world status many times, it’s easy to see why.
However, not wanting to break the bank in a city that is notoriously expensive (albeit not as bad as we expected), we ate many of our meals from several of the street food halls and not a single meal on the whole trip was anything below excellent!
From tacos at Hija de Sanchez (owned by a Michelin starred ex-Noma chef and winner of best street food stall in Europe) to breakfast in Bowl Market, which is exclusively porridge, it’s a wonder we didn’t come home much heavier! Add into the mix the array of craft beers available and quality coffee, the food scene was a definite highlight.
We ate at Torvehallerne, Bridge Street Kitchen and Tivoli Food Hall, not even venturing into some of the more well known feast areas, such as the Meat Packing District and Reffen. They’re for the next trip!
CHRISTIANIA and STREET ART
If you’re unfamiliar with what Christiania is, essentially it’s the site of ex-military barracks which were taken over by Hippies in the 70s, who exercised their squatting rights and set-up their own community. Four decades and many police raids later, they are independent from the rest of Copenhagen and Denmark and have a relatively peaceful existence, which is seemingly mildly tolerated by the authorities, providing they don’t cause much of a ruckus.
Tourists and locals flock to the area, which is adorned with plenty of stereotypical tie-dye, ethnic jewellery stalls and references to Bob Marley – looking out over the landscape from an elevated embankment, I felt it was a very post-apocalyptic view of human society and how we would survive.
What is incredibly bizarre about the whole site is the range of ages frequenting the place, including older couples and many middle-class looking families with children in tow. I expected Hipsters and eclectic students. And why is this odd? Because in Christiania, they openly deal drugs…
It just wouldn’t happen anywhere else: “What shall we do this Sunday darling? Oh, I know, let’s take Tarquin and Lisbet down to Christiania so they can experience how to buy drugs first-hand…”
Police raids do still happen (*the abundance of police vans we saw were heading in the direction of the commune) and we saw two officers stalking a resident through the bushes (they still stopped to give us a cheery ‘hello’ though!) but this is all part and parcel of the experience, yet never felt dangerous to us.
But it wasn’t the drug culture that appealed to us, more the remarkable street art on display around the grounds. Much of it is linked to the world famous Wonderland, the skate park that spawned the ALIS brand of skate gear. And this calibre of wall art has spread to other parts of the city, where we saw some excellent examples of the craft. Well worth taking note!
A tiny walled area, slap bang in the centre of Copenhagen, is the home to Tivoli Gardens – the second oldest operating amusement park in the world (the oldest is also in Denmark).
Opened in 1843, it has hosted notable people such as Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney (who was inspired by the park to build Disneyland) and is still loved by tourists and locals alike to this day.
But it’s tiiiiny! Don’t go expecting something of a Disney or Six Flags level. Instead, revel in the nostalgia of a simpler time, when rides where not all about G-force and making you throw-up the minute you get off, and more about raising a smile and laugh and feeling good about life. Think ‘It’s a Small World’ whimsy, without annoying music…
That said, there are some white-knuckle rides for the hardcore fans, and depending on your disposition, even some of the more sedate might be out of your comfort zone. I’ll go on pretty much any ‘coaster, but there’s no way you’re getting me up in a tiny swing, that high up!
However, we did venture onto one of the oldest, wooden ‘coasters in the world, featuring a manual break system and built in 1914! Unfortunately, we only had time to experience Tivoli on our last day and whilst it was a great way to spend a few hours before heading to the airport, it did mean we didn’t get chance to see the park at night, which I’ve heard is magical.
ACTIVITIES and LIFESTYLE
There are obvious hotspots for tourists when it comes to Copenhagen – the Little Mermaid statue (little is an understatement…) and Nyhavn with its row of colourful houses for example – but some of the best time we spent in the city was ambling around the back streets where it’s very easy to avoid the crowds.
Cycling is a way of life in Denmark and the excellent bike tracks, coupled with being a relatively flat city, make it easy to indulge in the preferred mode of transport – just beware, having sixty plus speeding cyclists behind you is, at times, quite daunting!
However, being ultimately lazy and always ones that have ‘an app for everything’, we instead opted to hire e-scooters to zip around on and it was SO MUCH FUN!
We were very lucky with the weather, being chilly but gorgeous Spring sunshine, so pootling about was lovely. However, there were plenty of indoor activities we didn’t try out, such as museums and planetariums, had it been wet.
As a final note, one place I would recommend though, which is helpfully free on Tuesdays, is the Glptotek – an art gallery created by Carl Jacobsen, son of the Carlsberg brewery founder, from his personal collection. I will be eventually writing a separate post on some of the treasures inside this place but suffice to say its collection of Egyptian artifacts is reason enough to visit!
So get yourself to Copenhagen and soak up the happiness of this fabulous place!
Image Credits: All mine (or taken by Sam), so please be sweet and ask before sharing. 🙂