Copenhagen: Notes From The Happiest Place on Earth

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The famous colours of Nyhavn

In these trip notes, I encounter Danish drunkenness, try to absorb as much Danish culture as possible, eat a prawn sandwich on a ferry, spend a few hours in Sweden, have some amazing lunches and I stumble upon a public Lego build. Let’s get Danish!

These are roughly written, largely unedited notes taken whilst in the locations described. They were written to give you a taster of what Copenhagen is like.

Thursday

1656CET

At the baggage reclaim hall in Copenhagen airport. Only took 4 minutes from landing to spot a Lego shop. This airport is swanky.

The view from my room at Hotel Front
The view from my room at Hotel Front

1815

Made it to the hotel. I’m staying at Hotel Front along a pretty boulevard full of embassies and consulates. The room is nice. Pretty big for a single. Free WiFi, free mini bar. The only sour note was the £200 deposit they took upon arrival for “extras”.

Hotel Front, Copenhagen
Hotel Front, Copenhagen
A single room at Hotel Front
A single room at Hotel Front

1950

I’ve done something I’m not proud of. My first meal in Copenhagen was at Burger King. It’s not as if I didn’t try to find somewhere else. I walked for quite a while, but no where appealed. So, it was a case of satisfying my hunger more than anything else. I did redeem myself shortly afterwards by having my first Copenhagen hot dog, which was really tasty!

The best hot dog in the world
The best hot dog in the world

I’m feeling a bit guilty that I don’t even know how to pronounce the word ‘thank you’ in Danish. But everyone speaks English so beautifully here, it would be a shame to put their skill to waste. Two additional points I’d like to make that aren’t particularly connected to one another or indeed anything else; I’m about 2 minutes walk away from the Amalienborg Slot, the Royal Palace. And, on the way back to the hotel from Burger King, as well as discovering a photographic exhibition in one of the squares, I had a visual demonstration of Denmark’s love of beer. I watched as a gentlemen, who’d clearly had too much, have a confused but heated argument with his own reflection in a shop window.

An outdoor photography exhibition
An outdoor photography exhibition
Photos of Copenhagen residents
Photos of Copenhagen residents

2001

A knock at the door of my hotel room. I open it to find a member of staff brandishing an apple. I take the apple with thanks and decline a turn-down, because turn-downs are completely and utterly redundant. I resist the temptation to point this out.

Friday

1540

I’m exhausted! I’m currently resting in Mama Rosa, an Italian restaurant along Copenhagen’s famous pedestrianised shopping street, Strøget. I thought at one point I wouldn’t be sat here as, on my arrival, no one acknowledged my existence. So, I seated myself. The pizzas on the other table look amazing, as well as authentically Italian, so I’m hopeful for a good meal.

I’m tired because since 10am, I’ve been on a cycling tour of the city. The tour guide, Mike, was a charismatic and informative chap who showed me and the only other tourist on the tour, a gentleman from Israel, all the sights, including some I would have otherwise not have seen. The tour was so thorough that it overran by two hours. We started at the central railway station and then travelled west into Vesterbro (Western Gate) and the Carlsberg Brewery. Then, we doubled back, stopping off at Copenhagen Museum and then went north into Nørrebro (Northern Gate). Mike wanted us to see the hidden side of Copenhagen, so we weaved through residential streets and around the five lakes to the north of the city centre. Then, we cycled South East into an area called Nyboder where street after street of bright yellow terraced housing greeted us. Built in 1631, the homes were built to house enlisted men of the Danish Royal Navy and they’ve changed little since the first marines moved in.

The Little Mermaid statue is true to its name
The Little Mermaid statue is true to its name
One of Copenhagen's royal palaces
One of Copenhagen’s royal palaces
Brightly coloured houses in Copenhagen
Brightly coloured houses in Copenhagen

Continuing in the same direction, we then went to see the world-famous statue of the Little Mermaid which, true to her name was little, but very nice. Then, after a bone-shaking ride over the cobbles of the Citadel, we went south along the banks of the harbour, calling at the royal winter residence, Amalienborg Palace and the iconic colours of Nyhavn. Further south, we called at Christiansborg Palace, where the Queen greets foreign politicians and dignitaries and then across Knippelsbro to Christianshavn, which looked just like Amsterdam, as was intended by the planners.

Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen
Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen
Overgrown greenery in Freetown Christiania
Overgrown greenery in Freetown Christiania
A pleasant corner of Freetown Christiania
A pleasant corner of Freetown Christiania

Then, we came across the most interesting past of the tour, the self-proclaimed Freetown Christiania. What used to be army barracks is now a self-governing community. It’s legal status is sketchy and this, together with problems with drugs, means it is under very close scrutiny from the authorities. The only time where I felt a bit uneasy was while going down “Pusher Street”. You can imagine what sort of high-jinks goes on down there.

The safest cafe in the world
The safest cafe in the world
Copenhagen's controversial Opera House
Copenhagen’s controversial Opera House

Finally, we wound around an area called Holmen, before ending the tour under the daringly-designed might of the new Opera House. All in all, a fantastic and great value tour of the city. If you’re thinking of going to Copenhagen any time soon, you cannot miss going on Mike’s tour.

1617

Before I embarked on this trip, a few people remarked on how good looking everyone in this part if the world is. On the whole, I can’t say I’ve noticed any difference between here and back at home. I expect things to be slightly different across the sound in Sweden.

1700

After the cycling tour, I popped into the tourist office to buy a Night of Culture ticket (which is tonight) and an Around the Sound ticket (which I’ll make use of tomorrow).

2324

Back at the hotel after a night of music, museums, interesting buildings and other attractions. I went to places a never intended on going to and missed out on some that I did. Overall, the evening was well worth the money I paid. What I think I’ll take away from the evening most was the vast number and variety of people that were out on the streets enjoying themselves. Elderly couples, big groups of middle aged people, families with toddlers and older children, groups of young people were all getting involved.

Kultur Natten

Copenhagen’s Night of Culture is an annual event where Copenhagen’s museums, galleries, administrations and other cultural buildings leave their doors open until midnight. You buy an entry badge, which gets you in to as many events as you can manage to visit. To give you a feel of what the Night of Culture is all about, here’s a list of what I got up to in the 5.5 hours I was out in the city;

Kalaallit Illuutaat – The Greenlandic House

I went to try some Reindeer soup, but by the time I’d got there, they’d sold out. So I perused the small shop, admired some cartoon artwork in the exhibition and watched a bit of a fashion show, where designer Najannguaq Sværd showed of her latest collection.

Post & Tele Museum

This was great. I happened upon it by chance as I was drawn towards it by the sounds of the Copenhagen Postman Orchestra who were playing outside. Inside, kids were designing their own stamps and blowing bugles, which is what was once used to announce the arrival of the post in the early years of Post Danmark (the bugle is still used as the emblem of the service). The regular exhibitions were also very interesting.

The Rundetaarn
The Rundetaarn

The Round Tower

I climbed the unique slope up to the top where I enjoyed an exhibition celebrating Danish puppet theatre. I stupidly didn’t wait in the queue to go to the very top where the oldest functioning observatory in Europe is housed. I also popped into the adjoining church.

Copenhagen City Hall

If there was a competition for the grandest city hall in the world, this must surely challenge for the title. It was amazing inside. It seemed every single door was open and people could wander about as they pleased. In the main hall, political parties addressed issues of climate change. One politician approached me and we had a very awkward conversation where she explained her party’s stance.

Copenhagen City Hall
Copenhagen City Hall

Rådhuspladsen

The city’s main square was home to a big screen which showed a visualisation of where people were within the city according to real time mobile phone data. Sadly, the image quality was a bit naff and it was practically impossible to distinguish anything from it. Next to the screen was a concert stage.

University Radio Copenhagen

One of the lesser visited events during the Night of Culture was the University Radio station, whose studio was open. I popped in and chatted to a few people about the station.

Christiansborg Palace Chapel

The scene for numerous royal weddings, baptisms and jubilees. The architecture really was as astonishing as the programme claimed.

Christiansborg Palace

Another open building I chanced upon was Christiansborg Palace. I simply followed a large group of people and found myself in the Royal reception rooms, where the Queen greets foreign dignitaries and politicians. The rooms were just as lavish as Buckingham Palace, which I visited earlier in the year. To protect the floors, all the visitors had to wear orange slippers.

Thorvaldsen’s Museum

The most memorable part of the evening was Thorvaldsen’s Museum. Film photographer Peter Klitgaard had atmospherically lit the entire museum while, in the central courtyard, musician Kim Menzer played the didgeridoo and then jazz saxophone which, combined with the flames of lit torches, created a mesmerising eeriness.

Saturday

1001

Sat on the train to Helsingør in North Zealand. Today, I am off the find out just how beautiful people in Sweden really are.

On board a ferry crossing the sound to Sweden
On board a ferry crossing the sound to Sweden

1235

I’m now sat on a ferry, having just eaten a discounted prawn sandwich, making the 15 minute journey across the sound to Sweden. It’s really grey outside, but I can see both Denmark and Sweden through the murk.

1335

Helsingør in Denmark was okay, but Helsingborg in Sweden, which is where I am now, is much better. I’m sat on top of the castle keep, about to try and find an old windmill. Below, a noisy demonstration is taking place.

A march in Helsingborg, Sweden
A march in Helsingborg, Sweden
Stairs leading up to the Castle Keep in Helsingborg
Stairs leading up to the Castle Keep in Helsingborg

1444

Now on another train going south to Lund, often described as Sweden’s answer to Britain’s Oxford. I really liked Helsingborg. It had a plesant, chilled atmosphere and the architecture was rather pretty. The town hall in particular was absolutely stunning.

1600

Lund didn’t have a lot going for it, though the church was impressive. A couple were getting married when I popped my head in. Now on the train again, enroute to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city.

1803

Malmö was nice, but again, it didn’t blow me away. I’ve clearly not done Sweden any justice. I’ll have to come back again one day and see if the towns and cities further north are any better. Helsingborg was my favourite of the day.

The results of my investigation into Swedish beauty are in. Not everyone in Sweden was the sparkly-eyed stunner you’d expect them to be, but I’m probably safe in saying a majority of those I saw were good lookers. Some were amazingly so. I wonder what they’re putting in the water?

St Albans Church in Churchill Park
St Albans Church in Churchill Park

Sunday

1056

Morning all. It was a good nights sleep. Thank god! I needed it. Today, I’m going to be taking it easy. It’s reasonably bright this morning, but there’s still a moderate and chilly breeze. Earlier, it was gloriously sunny and quite warm, but some high cloud has rolled in. I’m currently sat in Churchill Park, named after former British prime minister Winston Churchill. There’s a bust of him just behind me. To finish off the British theme to the area, St Albans church, known locally as the British church, is to my right and looks like it been moved brick by brick from the English countryside. It’s a rather pleasant spot. Later, I’m going to have a Smørrebrød (an open sandwich often described as being the national dish of Sweden). I can’t believe I’ve been here over two days and I still haven’t had one. Shame on me!

A Danish Lunch plate
A Danish Lunch plate
The famous colours of Nyhavn
The famous colours of Nyhavn

1307

I’ve always had trouble finding restaurants when abroad. I think I find it hard because I’m on my own and feel a little self conscious. During this break, I’ve found it a particular challenge. It’s been hard just finding restaurants, let alone good looking ones. I’ve decided on a very smart looking one in Nyhavn. For DKK139, I’m getting a selection of pickled herring, a chicken and bacon salad, roast beef with remoulade, a fillet of plaice and the salad of the day (which could end up being egg and Marmite for all I know). Hopefully it’ll be filling and will be a taste of Danish cuisine which has escaped me so far.

A public Lego build in Copenhagen
A public Lego build in Copenhagen

2153

Just got back from Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s theme park of sorts. I didn’t go on any rides, but I still enjoyed wandering around whilst soaking in the sights and sounds. The entire park was decorated with hundreds of thousands of twinkly lights, making it feel quite magical.

On the way back to the hotel, I encountered a communal Lego build. Tables had been laid out in a square and white Lego bricks provided to an eager group of kids and adults.

Monday

0826

Back to Britain today. Pfft! Not before another wander about though. And I really must have a Smørrebrød. It’s be criminal otherwise. Absolutely dying for a cup of proper tea.

1200

I’ve finally had a Smørrebrød. And then I had another one to make up for lost time. I’m in the Magasin du Nord, a large department store just off Strøget (Copenhagen’s famous shopping street). On the top floor is a light and airy cafeteria which is where I got my first taste of Denmark’s favourite lunch. On the first slice of rye bread was two slabs of pate, salad, gherkin, a weird brown sliver of jelly stuff and crispy bacon, while on the other was a fillet of breaded fish (no idea what kind) with salad, cress and a lovely lemon flavoured remoulade. Only £9 with a drink. it really was lovely.

Vesterbrogade, a major thoroughfare of Copenhagen
Vesterbrogade, a major thoroughfare of Copenhagen

1522

I’m checked in at Copenhagen’s very smart airport. So many shops in a very nice atmosphere. Going to get some duty free shopping done and then I’ll do some lounging in the lounge. Amazingly comfortable chairs here.

1825

Right, well that’s about it. I’m in the air and we’ve just started a lengthy descent towards Stansted Airport. It’s been another good trip.

Did you enjoy reading these trips notes from Copenhagen? Would you like to ee more posts like this? Let me know in the comments below.


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