If Copenhagen wasn’t so cold all the time and actually experienced a proper summer, it would be on my short list for future cities to live in.
I loved everything about Copenhagen. I loved the 500km of bicycle paths across the city that mean the majority of the city move around on bicycle.
You even see families piled into family bicycles. I loved the small little cafes and the best coffee culture I’ve experienced outside of Melbourne. I loved the weird, whacky and hipster parts of the city and I loved how everything just works!
Reunions with Friends
Two years ago in Melbourne, one of the very first couchsurfers I hosted was a Danish girl, Stine. She was moving to Melbourne for six months and I hosted her just after she arrived. This was great because instead of the fleeting friendship had over three days spent together, we were able to catch up during her six months in the city, long after I had stopped hosting her.
So the main purpose of my visit to Copenhagen was reuiniting with her. She was finally able to return the hosting favour and host me.
I had high hopes for Copenhagen. Almost everyone I talked to had raved about it. My cousin labelled it one of her favourite cities in the world, while my friend had equally rave reviews of the city.
“There isn’t all that much to do here, but it’s the city itself that makes it such a great place”.
I was finally able to see this for myself during my time in Copenhagen.
The Archipelago of Denmark
My first impressions of Denmark were from the air. I was happy to have a window seat as we started descending into Copenhagen, as I was able to get a glimpse of the beautiful blue water that surrounds Copenhagen. Denmark is essentially an archipelago, made of pieces of land scattered across the sea, some larger than others.
My first stop was a café that I had found online. Knowing that Copenhagen had a similar brunch and coffee culture to Melbourne I thought that it might be a good opportunity for me to get a great brunch fix. It’s one of the things I miss most about not being in Melbourne for more than a year.
The Copenhagen brunch scene delivered with the Danish version of smashed avo. Chunks of avocado on rye bread (what else would you get in Scandinavia?) with two poached eggs. It was exactly what I was craving and I couldn’t even be too sad about what I paid for it.
Copenhagen definitely isn’t a cheap city, so be prepared to spend some money during your stay! I got confused with the currency and got what I thought was way too much money out at the ATM when I arrived. Much to my horror, I didn’t have any cash left at the end of my three days in the city.
Similar to Brussels, I didn’t know a lot about what to see in Copenhagen so I decided to hop onto a free walking tour.
Funnily enough, our ‘local’ guide was actually an Australian expat who used to go to my university back in Melbourne. I kept teasing him the whole time about moving from sunny Australia to grey Denmark.
The tour started at Radhusplasden, right in front of the town hall. I didn’t expect Copenhagen to be full of tourists but it was actually one of the biggest crowds for a walking tour I had seen.
I guess Copenhagen is one of those destinations where people aren’t too sure what to see, so they just hop onto a free walking tour. Luckily they broke us up into three groups before we learnt about the town hall and the hundreds of time it has burnt down in its history.
After the amazing square in Brussels, I was slightly uninspired by this square.
Wandering the Streets of Copenhagen
The next section of our walking tour was my favourite part of the whole day; simply wandering along the streets of Copenhagen. I know I say this about a lot of destinations but Copenhagen is really a city you must just get lost in. Stop in for coffee and cake in a ‘cozy’ café, walk along the canals or pop into a pub for a beer.
‘Hooghly’ is a way of life in Denmark (and much of Scandinavia). It is one of those words that you can’t directly translate but the closest word in English is ‘cozy’. It is all about creating a ‘hooghly’ or ‘cozy’ environment and atmosphere, especially in the middle of winter. Hence all of Copenhagen’s pubs, cafes and restaurants pride themselves on being ‘hooghly’!
You’ll find little squares, small churches, random statues of famous people whose names I can’t recall and Copenhagen’s famous hot dog stands.
This is hands down the number one site in Copenhagen. Not surprising its also packed full of tourists and overpriced restaurants. Don’t buy or eat from any of the storefronts that make up the colourful buildings of Nyhavn!
I stumbled upon Nyhavn multiple times while staying in Copenhagen but I was happy that our guide gave us a little break here because it gave me a chance to wander the canals and indulge with my camera. Nyhavn with all its colourful buildings is a photographer’s dream, especially on the rare sunny days in Copenhagen.
On route to the palace we stumbled upon the marching guards in their ridiculous looking uniforms and hats, which was our first experience of the royal influence in Denmark.
But the Amalienborg Palace is the real home of the royals in Copenhagen. It is essentially a square that you walk right into. There is no Buckingham Palace gate here! Around the square are four palace buildings and our guide said it isn’t uncommon to spot a royal on their way out or in residence.
From the Amalienborg Palace you can also see two of Copenhagen’s other monuments. On one side you’ll spot and be able to head to Frederik’s Church, which is known by locals as simply the ‘Marble Church’. It is meant to be really beautiful inside but I didn’t get time to pop in and have a look.
The other spot not too far from Amalienborg is the new Opera house. It’s a perfect example of modern architecture which means I hated it! It is across the other side of the harbour so you won’t be able to get over there without a ferry or going a far bit out of the way to cross the river.
Copenhagen’s Famous Hot Dog
The hot dog is a Copenhagen stable and you’ll smell and see hot dog stands all over the city. I even spotted them at the airport as soon as I landed!
Of course if I was going to try one, I wanted the best so a quick google search told me dop in the main area was the place to go. I got the traditional type with pickles on top and it was delicious! It is also one of the cheapest lunches you’ll find in Copenhagen.
Water is such a huge part of Copenhagen and Denmark that it makes absolute sense to see it from a boat. I took a canal cruise that took us past some of the best sites along the water. It didn’t compare to the one I took in Amsterdam, but then nothing much compares to the canal system in Amsterdam.
It still was a great way to pass the afternoon!
Copenhagen Street Food
Luckily one of my days in Copenhagen coincided with a weekend so I was finally able to be shown around by my friend. I borrowed her spare bike and we biked across the city, Danish style, to the other side of the harbour known as Christhaven.
Our first stop was Copenhagen Street Food. As a foodie, I was in my element with the huge range of different cuisines and street food on offer. Whilst a similar market would probably be located outside in Australia, the weather in Copenhagen means that you’ll find Copenhagen Street Food in a renovated warehouse.
I was overwhelmed by all of the different things and had a huge problem picking something. But one of the benefits of not being by yourself is the ability to share lots of dishes with your friend!
The first dish was a famous Danish dish that I had yet to taste, much to the horror of Stine. Smorbrod is an open sandwich on one piece of rye bread. The rye bread is the only consistent element, as you’ll find so many different toppings.
We had a creamy chicken and bacon one that was seriously delicious! Smorbrod makes a cheap, easy and delicious lunch at any nice café or bakery in Copenhagen.
Given my serious cravings for some quality Mexican, I couldn’t resist ordering tacos next. They took ages to come as the one guy working the truck was making the soft taco shells by hand, but I wasn’t complaining at how fresh and delicious they were. We washed them down with delicious passionfruit and raspberry mojitos.
I had to try one more dish so our next stop was the Indian stall for some butter chicken and naan bread. I’ve eaten some exceptional Indian and I can’t really say this one compared. But it sure did look pretty.
This is one of my favourite places in Copenhagen and one of the most unique places I’ve visited during my travels.
‘You are now leaving the EU’ claims the sign as you enter Christiania. It claims to be a ‘freetown’ outside of the regulations, consequences and restrictions of mainstream society. So of course you’ll find copious amounts of weed on sale. Be aware that marijuana is still illegal in Copenhagen but it would seem from the continued existence of Christiana, that the police have turned a blind eye.
My friend said she has heard of some people getting fined by police who check bags or have dogs just outside of Christiana but they are rare, and you aren’t likely to have any issues if you chill out a bit inside the walls of this ‘freetown’ and smoke there.
Outside of the adoration of the green life, Christiana is home to some awesome art installations and graffiti. Unfortunately given the illegal nature of the weed selling, photos inside the walls aren’t allowed so you’ll have to go and see it for yourself! Although I was able to manage a few photos just outside of the no photo zone.
We had such a great time passing the afternoon sitting on the park benches and smoking with people. People around us were buying drinks from the bar or borrowing card or board games to play. My friend informs me that it is even better in the summer when live bands play on the stage.
If you aren’t quite brave enough to head here yourself, there is a free walking tour of the area as well.
The Little Mermaid
On the way home on our bicycles (which was a little bit of a challenge) we stopped at the world’s second most disappointing tourist attraction; the little mermaid. The only thing more overrated I’ve seen is Mannekin Pis in Brussels.
A Gateway to Sweden
Just over the spectacular Oresund bridge you’ll find Malmo, Sweden. Thus it is easy to do a day trip to Sweden from Copenhagen, something that I did during my second day in the city. But you’ll have to wait for the next post to hear all about that!
If you are want to get a taste of Scandinavia, Copenhagen is such a great place to start. It is expensive but not as expensive as Sweden and Norway, it is closer to the normal tourist trail than other Scandinavian countries (you can get an overnight bus from cities like Berlin) and it is one of my favourite cities in Europe!