We’d wanted to visit one of the Scandinavian countries as a priority this year and we chose Copenhagen as our first taste. Although we had only a long weekend, this was one of my best city breaks if not the best – I think a bit of it had to do with the weather which was glorious from start to finish and the rest had to do with this incredible city, a sustainable, clean, modern, green city with beautiful design everywhere you look, setting trend after trend in the design world and with so much to offer.
The city is easily accessible from the airport. Our hotel, Generator is part of a group of upmarket hostels, a new era of trendy hotels merged with convenience, price and flexibility. You do miss a few luxuries like tea and coffee facilities in the room and extra charges for most services/additional requests however, the room is a decent size, clean and user friendly with good, free WiFi, a 24 hour reception, funky design and decor and we couldn’t have asked for a better location. Accommodation in Copenhagen can be expensive so if you are willing to compromise slightly, the Generator group is a great choice. You can book anything from dorms with shared bathrooms to private double rooms with a private bathroom. See my Tripadvisor review here. The hotel was 8 stops on the metro from the airport and very central.
On Saturday morning we went straight to the Torvelhallerne food market – recommended by Phil’s friend Paul, an ex-Copenhagen resident and somewhere I was very excited to visit. I’m a big fan of markets and this one is world-class. We strolled through the Botanical Gardens on our way which is a lovely place to sit and enjoy Copenhagen when the sun is out – something Copenhagen isn’t short of is green spaces or parks. While browsing our breakfast options, we sipped on Coffee from Coffee Collective, Copenhagen’s coffee of choice. We eventually settled on pastries from Laura’s – another Danish favourite and the sweet cinnamon pastries went perfectly with our delicious coffee.
Reluctantly we left the market and set about exploring the city on foot. Everything is walking or cycling distance in Copenhagen. We walked to the inner city lakes which are beautiful and again on a beautiful day like we had, they were a perfect oasis with each lake separated by a bridge. Across the bridge we entered Assistens graveyard. Although this sounds gloomy, it is a serene park type area where Hans Christian Anderson was buried and people sit dotted around happily picnicking. Hans Christian Anderson was author to many favourite childhood fairytales including The Little Mermaid.
From here we continued along the streets of Norrebro. The main roads are busy and nothing out of the ordinary but many of the side roads are home to quaint coffee shops, designer boutiques, pubs and all sorts of lovely things so it is worth exploring a few such as Elmegade street in Norrebro area. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Gavlen to try the infamous smoresbord. A smoresboard usually has a piece of rye bread or dark brown bread with a topping such as cold meat, fish, cheese or spreads to create a tasty and visually aesthetic dish. I went for the roast beef and Phil sampled the traditional salmon variety paired with a Carlsberg.
From here we walked along the lakes again towards the direction of the Royal Palace. Here lies the mermaid. The Little Mermaid or Den lille havfrue is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen of a mermaid displayed by the water at the Langelinie promenade. Based on the fairytale by the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the small statue has become a Copenhagen icon. From here we made our way back to our hotel, quite impressed with the amount of ground we had covered in one day and freshened up for dinner.
Our restaurant of choice was in Vestrebro, one of the most popular areas with bars and restaurants. We had booked at Madklubben. To get here we walked down the pedestrian shopping street Stroget which houses high end retail stores – it is the oldest and largest pedestrian shopping street. We both settled on a burger which came highly recommended. The restaurant also had a vibrant bar to one side with mixologists creating delicious looking cocktails. The restaurant and food was lovely and I would recommend it but it was a big space and lacked a somewhat personal touch. We had tried to get into Noma, said to be the world’s best restaurant but they were fully booked. Other recommendations are; Bror and Amass restaurant.
After dinner we visited Mikkeller bar for their selection of craft beer. As locals and tourists alike spilled onto the streets we enjoyed a local IPA and cherry wine savouring our first day in Scandi. On the way home we also found another cocktail bar, Beast which is a stylish space down a few stairs that leads you into a trendy but cosy room. Drinks can be quite expensive so something to be mindful of when visiting Copenhagen.
Sunday morning we decided to hire bicycles available from our hotel and this was the best decision, we wished we’d done it sooner. Copenhagen is very bike friendly with wide cycle lanes on every street. We cycled straight to the inner city lakes and then headed in the opposite direction in search of Granola, a brunch spot which came recommended. We timed it perfectly because as we sat down, the queue began to form. Their breakfasts/brunch and lunch menu is delicious, Phil opted for the eggs in cocotte served with Tabasco on the side and I went for the brunch plate, a mix of yoghurt and granola, toast, cold meats and cheese and some fresh melon. This is a must for breakfast/brunch lovers in the area. Opposite lies the most beautiful décor store filled with all things Scandi chic and they deliver worldwide – Dora.
From here we cycled across the water to Islands Brygge and Christianshavn areas passing Go Boat base, a new outfit renting boats for self-drive so you can explore Copenhagen by sea. This area houses modern waterfront apartments, boats moored and canals giving a similar feel to Amsterdam. We cycled past the Royal Opera House which is a landmark in itself and the school of design, a beautiful exposed brick building with high ceilings and large windows, a gift shop and café offering views of the harbour. Christiania lies close by – also known as Freetown Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood with a unique status and regulated by special law. Quite the source of controversy, stepping into Christiania is like stepping into a large music festival with colourful artwork on every wall available and is quite otherworldly. I was expecting something similar to the Red light district in Amsterdam but this really is its own little village. No photographs are allowed to be taken inside the area although I managed to sneak the one below.
After building up a bit of an appetite we visited the Copenhagen street food market. This lies on the water’s edge and houses a variety of food trucks inside an old warehouse with a big outdoor area covered in deck chairs. From Vietnamese to Italian, burgers to seafood – this is another of Copenhagen’s foodie delights. We sampled quite a few different things and spent a few hours soaking up the sun and people watching. Our route home led us past Nyhavn or new harbour lined with brightly coloured townhouses, bars, cafes and restaurants and the memorial anchor at the end commemorating World War II.
Earlier we’d researched the accessibility from Copenhagen to Sweden and found that the Swedish town of Malmo was only a 25 minute train ride away across the famous Oresund bridge. Trains depart every 20 minutes and you can buy flexible tickets. So this is where we found ourselves having a drink on Sunday evening, Malmo, Sweden. Although it was rather quiet as it was a Sunday and most of the town was shut, it was quite a novelty crossing the water and having a drink in Sweden’s third largest city before heading back to Denmark. We arrived back at our hotel high-spirited after a weekend well spent in Copenhagen. I can’t speak highly enough of this city and is definitely a place I would love to return.
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New York Times 36 hours in Copenhagen
‘If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarrelling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people’ – Connie Nielsen