When I think of Scandinavia the first thing that comes to mind is it an expensive place to visit. We decided to see for ourselves by taking a trip to Copenhagen.
We stayed in Edinburgh the night before our flight because it was departing really early at 7AM. With a flight time of less than 2 hours we landed in Copenhagen first thing in the morning which left us with a full day to explore. The easiest way to get to from the airport to the city centre is by taking the metro. This is really straight forward because Copenhagen has a great public transport system.
Copenhagen is expensive for accommodation. We managed to get a good deal at the Ibsens Hotel, the room was pretty small but it was centrally located making it a perfect base. After dumping our cases we headed to Torvehallerne Market that was on the same street as our hotel. The market hosts 60 stalls selling local produce, coffee and food. We enjoyed our first Danish pastry and ended up returning to the market each morning for breakfast.
Next we headed to The Rundetaarn, a 17th century building that was previously used as an observatory tower. It boasts a unique architecture, with no steps inside you get to the top by climbing the winding spiral floor that inclines as you get further up. Once at the top we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the city. It is also great value for money, as the entrance fee was around £5 each which is cheap for Copenhagen. We really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend taking the time to do this if you visit.
After wandering around the centre for a while we had a traditional Danish lunch, a smørrebrød (an open sandwich). These can come with a variety of different toppings, I chose egg and prawns for mine. It was delicious and went surprisingly well together. When we finished lunch we headed to the starting point of our next activity with Copenhagen Free Walking Tours which started at Copenhagen City Hall. We were lucky enough to get a guide that was born in the city making him extremely knowledgeable, and very humorous at the same time.
The tour took us around the main sights near the centre, including Christianborg Palace, Nyhavn (a stunning canal front district) and Amelienborg Palace where we learnt about the much loved Danish royal family. During our tour we also learnt about Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga), a Danish concept that people try and live their lives by which makes them better and happier people. Our guide explained that this is why Danish people are usually relaxed and why Copenhagen gives visitors of the city a cosy feeling. No wonder Denmark is the happiest country in the world!
It also turned out that we were lucky enough to be in the city on the hottest day of the year so when the tour ended near Copenhagen’s Opera House, we made the most of the weather by walking to The Little Mermaid statue. It is one of Copenhagen’s most known features but it is an anti-climax, being a lot smaller than expected. It was good to see it but it wouldn’t have been worth it on a cold or rainy day. The Danes are not a fan of the statue and even tried to get rid of it by sending it to China! Before we had dinner in the late evening, we stopped for a beer at Nyhavn. At £17 for two Stella Artois’ that weren’t even a pint in size, we ensured every last drop was consumed!
We were up early the next day because we were taking a 30 minute train to Hillerød to visit Frederiksborg Castle. It was built in the 17th century as a royal residence for King Christian VI of Denmark-Norway. The castle is absolutely stunning and contains dozens of different rooms that you can walk through at your leisure and also a beautiful chapel. The castle gardens are also magnificent so we took the opportunity to enjoy some more of the great weather by strolling round them. It got really busy when we were leaving so coming here early paid off.
We returned to Copenhagen in the afternoon because we had another tour booked. This time we were going on an alternative walking tour of Copenhagen, booked through SANDEMANs New Europe. Again, we were lucky enough to get a local guide who took us through the lesser known areas of the city including Copenhagen’s Red and Green Light Districts, the Meat Packing District and areas rife with homeless and drug problems. This gave us a better understanding of the city, and what it is like to live here. Although there are some problems, the people of Copenhagen are helped a lot by their government. They are entitled to free health care and get paid a decent sum of money to stay in full time education or go university. The most fascinating area we visited was Christiania, a neighbourhood that has declared itself independent from the rest of the city. It was established in 1971 by hippies who converted old military barracks into their new home. Here you will find a very different Copenhagen, one that contains oddly shaped houses, locals selling wacky souvenirs and also Pusher Street which is used for marijuana dealing. This is illegal in Denmark so it is recommended that for safety reasons, you do not take photos on this street, but you can of the rest of the area. Ihighly recommend visiting Christiania as it gives you a completely different view of the city. There are lists of rules at the entrance, so as long as you follow them there won’t be any problems.
In the evening we went to Tivoli Gardens, which was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson. This is the oldest amusement park in the world and gave Walt Disney his idea for Disneyland. We decided to go just before sunset so we could see it during the day and when it was dark. It is lit up beautifully at night so I recommend going at this time to get the best of both. The park has dozens of rides, games and plenty of eateries. I’m not a fan of rides but went on Europe’s oldest roller coaster that was built in 1914, which I actually really enjoyed. At over 100 years old it wasn’t super scary! Tivoli is one of the cities top attractions and is centrally located. They also have massive cotton candy here and who can say no to that?
Our last full day in Copenhagen was a bit of a disaster. We got up early to travel over the Øresund Bridge to visit Malmö in Sweden. However, there had been a storm during the night which led to trains been cancelled. Instead of wasting the morning waiting around for the train we visited Rosenberg Castle. Denmark certainly love castles don’t they? This one is home to the Danish Crown Jewels. We had to wait in a long queue for entrance tickets but the wait was worth it, the crown jewels are very beautiful and opulent. As well as the main attraction, there are plenty of rooms in the castle you are able to visit. They are full of many interesting items including a bloodstained shirt of the king that he wore during battle against Sweden and also the throne room. We’re actually really glad that we got the chance to visit here.
After this, we finally made it to Malmö and managed to squeeze quite a lot in so I have done a separate page of our day here. When we returned to Copenhagen later in the evening we headed to Papirøeen (Paper Island), a market dedicated to street food. It contains dozens of stalls of food from around the world. We opted for a taste of South Korean chicken curry, a Brazilian BBQ meat mix and for desert a creme brûlée donut, washed down with flavoured mojitos. Everything we tried was delicious and we wish we could have tried it all. It’s pretty good value for money too considering how expensive Copenhagen is. Paper Island is slightly out of the main centre but it is definitely worth a visit for lunch or dinner. We ended the evening having drinks in a bar close to our hotel. This bar was full of locals and the drink was surprising cheap, in fact it was the cheapest we had. Typical we found this on the last night!
Copenhagen is a fantastic destination and a great way to get a taste of Scandinavia. It has made me eager to travel around other countries in the area. The city is very cool and eco friendly, it also contains stunning architecture, lots of great food and the Danes are really friendly. Who wouldn’t want to visit? It is an expensive place to go though so it could be quite difficult to manage if you were on a budget.