Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
When: October 2018
Hotel: Andersen Boutique Hotel
Why Copenhagen: In 2017 we spent quite a bit of time in the United Kingdom, and it seemed that 2018 was the year for Scandinavia, a place we hadn’t visited once during our first tour in Germany. Copenhagen had been on John’s list for a long time, and after Stockholm was such a hit (read recap here), when flights to Copenhagen dropped to very reasonable price, it seemed like the perfect time to go.
The Trip: Like many of our long-weekend travels, we arrived into Copenhagen late on a Friday, which didn’t leave any time for exploring that night. Getting from the airport into Copenhagen proper is incredibly easy as there is a train station in the bottom of the airport that takes you directly to the main station in town. Copenhagen is a super walkable town with most things quite close, and the proximity from the train station to the hotel made it a very easy walk when we got off the train.
Prior to arriving to Copenhagen, I read as much as I could (of course), and the glaring bit of information was just how expensive the country was. However, I had read the same thing about Stockholm, and the prices weren’t shocking (as compared to Iceland…but that’s for another post), so I thought maybe they were going to be comparable. To be on the safe side, however, I booked us a hotel with breakfast and with close proximity to a grocery store for snacks so that all of our money didn’t go to food. Which turned out to be key! Denmark is really expensive (more than Sweden!), so that should factor into planning.
The plan for the first day was to head out to the Little Mermaid as it sits north of the town center, and make our way back in. It was a 50-minute walk from our hotel, but since we would be walking back, we saved our legs and hopped the train to get out there. Now, I had read that the statue was small, and not worth it, but I grew up with the Little Mermaid movie and as cheesy as it was described, I was not going to miss it. As it turns out, it is small and lots of people crowded around to get a picture (even early on a Saturday), but it is the start of a REALLY nice walk back into the town, so I say it is worth it.
Copenhagen is a very walker and biker friendly town, so it was no surprise that the path back into the city was super nice along the water. From the Little Mermaid, we headed to the Kastellet, a star-shaped 17th-century fortress, through the Langelinie Park, and back to the waterfront park. As it was mid-October, the fall colors were so pretty and it was just a really nice, relaxing walk. It also affords views of the famous Copenhagen Opera House, whose construction costs are at the top of any in the world, and it an easy entry to the Amalienborg complex of palaces where the Danish Royal Family live. Getting around in the town itself by foot is quite easy as the layout isn’t hard to navigate (which is good for me, because I am terrible at navigating!) Just beyond the complex is arguably the most famous and recognizable area of Copenhagen – Nyhavn, the very pretty and colorful port area. It was once a commercial port but now is bustling with restaurants, bars and cafes and is the starting point for many canal tour boats through the city. The good news is – filters may have been used in photos of this area, but they weren’t necessary. The buildings are super vibrant. Be warned, however, because of the tourist draw, the restaurants are even more expensive (if possible), so possible plan for a treat meal here, or pick up a hot dog from one of the vendors nearby (which is what we did).
From there, we took a stroll down Strøget, the pedestrian zone and shopping area. It, along with the one in Heidelberg, is one of the longest shopping streets in Europe, and in addition to the shopping has a lot of tourist attractions throughout. It definitely took us some time to make it back to our hotel as there was a lot to see and do (my favorite was the lego store!)
Our hotel was located in the Vesterbro neighborhood, former meat packing district turned hipster hangout, but it was crazy cute. It had “prizes” on each level for folks that took the stairs, and my favorite – the wine Hygge hour. Hygge (pronounced “hooga”) translates to creating a warm, cozy time, and is a mainstay in Danish culture. The lobby had comfortable couches and oversized stuffed bears and created a cozy place to relax. The Hygge lifestyle is definitely not so bad.
Our hotel recommended we go to this collection of restaurants in old warehouse buildings but they were packed! Copenhagen has so many food halls, and we found the Tivoli Food market and ate there. Tivoli Gardens is a major attraction in Copenhagen, but it was sadly closed for the season. I was super bummed we missed out on it as it look so cute!
The next morning we headed down to the Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower. It was built in the 17th century as an observatory, and has a great observation deck at the top. The best part – no stairs! Just lots of circling to the top. It has beautiful views over the town, and is definitely a must-see.
From there, we were going to walk to Freetown Christiana. This is by far, the weirdest place in Copenhagen. And to be honest, I didn’t totally feel comfortable there so we didn’t stay long. It was established in 1971 by a bunch of hippies who settled in to abandoned military barracks. They set their own rules – to include selling cannabis, which is against Danish law. Since its creation, there has been tension between the government and the close to 1,000 residents in Christiana, but it has remained relatively stable the last few years. It is a hodgepodge of homemade houses, eateries, art shops and an entire section dedicated to selling weed. You can take photos everywhere but that section as it is still technically illegal, but even taking pictures felt a bit uncomfortable. Other rules include no running because it could mean a police raid and incite panic, and no weapons or violence. The discovery for John and I was that we are not hippies and living in a commune is never going to be on the list of things to do.
My favorite part, honestly, was the walk to and from there. Copenhagen is a really pretty city with cool little pockets of colorful buildings and interesting looking restaurants. It’s a great place to wander because you’ll just happen upon a fun neighborhood and want to look around more. We had an early flight the next day, so we turned in early after one more Hygge wine hour!
The Trip: Copenhagen was a fun place to walk around and only needs a couple days to really get the feel of the city before it would be time to wander out and explore more of the city. I still enjoyed Stockholm more – just in terms of things to see and do, but Copenhagen definitely deserves a visit. There are ways to budget – but definitely know it is still going to be more costly than any Eastern Europe country and most Western and Central locations, and that should definitely be a factor when planning your time.