This royal capital has been on my “must visit” list for quite a while, and now I can safely say it’s on my “would definitely return” list.
Despite Copenhagen being the smallest kid of all the capitals on the Nordic block, it definitely makes up for its size with all it has to offer. The advantage of it being smaller than your average capital allows the Danes to cycle everywhere – absolutely everywhere, there are more bicycles on the roads than there are vehicles. If you want the full Danish experience, rent a bike.
On our first morning we did a canal tour, it only costs 80kr (£7.64) and puts the whole city into perspective for you. Plus if you get bored at any point during the hour you can have fun flicking through the language options on your audio set or maybe even pick up some Chinese. The tour covers almost all of the major sights, including the Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue) statue on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade (good luck trying to get a decent photo – completely covered in Japanese tourists). I felt slightly ashamed by my lack of knowledge as I listened to the audio telling me the statue was in honour of Hans Christian Andersen, Danish author and best known for his enchanting fairy-tales, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Snow Queen to name a few… then again I also didn’t know that Carlsberg was a Danish brewing company until this trip and our discovery of the Carlsberg museum (100% recommend).
If you choose to visit Copenhagen during any season apart from summer, pack gloves and a scarf. Sitting on a breezy boat for an hour is however the perfect excuse for a “lamumba”, the Danes have adapted this Congolese creation and swapped rum for brandy in this delicious creamy hot chocolate, it will sort you, your tingling fingers and numb nose right out. If you finish your tour at Gammel Strand, warm up in a cosy cafe in Højbro Plads, Højbro C Sandwich and Cafe is a good pick. They also serve the traditional “smørrebrød”, which usually consists of buttered rye bread with smoked salmon or prawns. I can’t give you much feedback on that unfortunately as for (stupid, stupid) dietary reasons, I can’t eat it.
- Amalienborg – the winter home of the Danish royal family. It’s actually four smaller palaces in a funky octagon which were originally intended for four noble families of Denmark, but the royal family bought them after their original palace was burned down in 1794.
- Christiansborg Palace – This palace is home to the three supreme powers and the only building in the world to house the executive power, the legislative power and the judicial power of a country under one roof. The Prime Minister’s office, the Royal Stables, the Supreme Court of Denmark, the Royal Reception Rooms, the Palace Chapel, you name it, the palace has it all.
- Rosenborg Castle – pay 60kr/90kr student/adult to check out the crown jewels and the castle.
- Strøget – one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets and a great opportunity to shop till you drop.
- Frederik’s Church – the architecture of this church is definitely worth appreciating, seeing as it took almost 150 years to build!
- Nationalmuseet – Denmark’s national museum. The only thing on this list that we didn’t actually visit, we favoured beer instead at the Carlsberg museum, had we had another day it would have been on our to do list.
- Tivoli Gardens – the second oldest amusement park in the world and my personal favourite, ever. Pay 99kr (£9.46) for admission and simply enjoy the little huts, stalls, dazzling decoration or even a Danish musical. Alternatively you can go all out and pay an additional 208kr (£19.87) for a multi-ride ticket and go on all the rides over and over and over (do it). There are also lots of restaurants with delicious delicacies so don’t worry about taking food with you. Be sure to stay until 22.45 when the Tivoli Illuminations are displayed over Tivoli Lake just before closing time!
- Nyhavn – literally means “new harbour” and where you will find all of the colourful 17th and 18th century townhouses along the canal. This touristic area is packed with little cafes and bars and also the other departure point of the canal tours.
- St. Albans Engelske Kirke – the most enchanting church I have come across yet, straight out of a fairy-tale. It is also right next to…
- Gefion Fountain – a large fountain next to the church at the beginning of the barracks enclosure.
- Carlsberg museum – informative, interesting, fun, complimentary beer, horses in the stables, and all for only 85kr. (£8.14)
- Christiania – since its creation by a group of hippies in 1971, this self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents has been a source of controversy in Copenhagen. Although they will except the Danish krone, they have their own currency, flag and until 2004 its cannabis trade was tolerated. Their Green Light District has three rules, 1. Have fun 2. Don’t run – it causes panic 3. No photos – buying and selling hash is still illegal.
We used Airbnb for accommodation and payed £50 each for three nights which also included the two bikes we were given during our stay – don’t settle for the first thing you find online, dig a little deeper.
- Get the train for 36kr(£3.45) from the airport into the centre.
- RENT A BIKE (It’s cheaper, more fun and it justifies eating copious amounts of food).
People say that Copenhagen is expensive, and I agree that it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to eat out three times a day, nor do you have to be lazy and pay for buses everywhere. There are quite a few pricey restaurants, but there also some reasonably priced ones. For example, rather than eating along Strøget where they up the price for good touristic measure, walk down a street or two just off the high street and discover somewhere like Læderstræde where there are lots of little bars, cafes and restaurants. Personal favourites are Hoppes Cafe & Bar and Zalt.
We were lucky with the weather during our stay but the Danish say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”, so be sure to pack appropriately. If you fancy making reservations in advance (half a year, potentially), then eat at Noma, which has been awarded the best restaurant in the world for the last 4 out of 5 years. Oh, and if you do go, don’t worry about trying to be polite and saying please when you order, the word doesn’t exist in Danish.