Arriving at Manchester Airport at 4am, feeling dishevelled and sleep deprived wasn’t much of an issue. I’d booked an early flight in the event of any possible delays. Since meeting my partner over two years ago, we’ve gained a reputation as unlucky flyers. Engine issues, awful turbulence, medical emergency and so on. It’s safe to say we now expect problems.
But something strange happened on this journey, it all went to plan. The flight took off on time, landed before its arrival time, the baggage was not only prompt, ours was the first on the carousel, and, finally, the metro into the city took a quick 15 minutes. It’s easy to conclude that we were in love with Copenhagen already and we still had five days to explore the city.
Squinting in the bright sunshine that greeted us as we ascended from the metro station in Kongens Nytorv, scores of bicycles rode past. Often coming out on top as a bicycle friendly city, it was refreshing to see them given equal status to other modes of transport. In the distance we could see a row of colourful buildings beside the water’s edge. Nyhavn, possibly Copenhagen’s most famous street, is a bustling area of restaurants and people vying to take the best photograph. Close to our hotel, it made sense to first pop along here. The bustle was expected, but, nonetheless, it wasn’t greatly appreciated (so why visit a city, I hear you cry?!) Instead, we wove our way through to the end, arriving at some fine decking, looking out across the water to the impressive Opera House.
The city architecture makes a very good first impression. When Scandinavians are so celebrated for their design skills, it’s no surprise to find that the architecture, where the old and the new sit side by side, is not only eye catching but intriguing. I have certainly never taken so many photos of buildings before.
During the course of our five days we witnessed plenty of royal related regalia. I love royal history and the Danes love their royalty, so it was perfect for me (maybe less so for my partner!). Christianborg, Amalienborg and Rosenborg (home of the crown jewels), all kept me entranced. All attractions were relatively quiet, which seems to have been the theme for most of our trip. None of the attractions were busy as in London, for example, or at least they weren’t in April, before the height of the summer season.
The same was true of the museums and galleries. Kunsthallen Nikolajwas almost empty when we visited, and not one of them was filled to the brim, even when scores of schoolchildren descended on the National Gallery of Denmark. The Danish Museum of Art and Design had fluently exhibited the Danish flair and skill for design. Alongside Danish designed bamboo bikes and Danish fashion past and present, was the Danish love of the chair. The latter was a particularly intriguing spectacle; all types of chairs sat, placed in an orderly manner, in the dark, until someone walked past and each row began to light up in turn.
Other delights included the National Museum of Denmark, the Danish Architecture Centre and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
Whilst Gylptotek’s many sculptures are impressive, and the colour scheme of each room had me thinking about possible colour schemes for my own home (did I mention that the Danes are all about design?), it was its Winter Garden, in the centre of the gallery, that we loved the most. Greenery was abundant in Copenhagen, although, with the ‘beast from the east’ and the time of year, not all of the greenery has yet flourished fully. Plenty of pleached trees, where the branches are woven together to strengthen them and make them grow into a formal shape, adorn royal gardens and parks. The greenhouse in the Botanical Gardens was a distinctive collection of plants, much like stepping into a warm paradise. A spiral staircase allowed us to climb to the top of the dome from where we could truly appreciate the view below.
Besides Nyhavn, Copenhagen is probably best known for Tivoli Gardens. Only open between April and October, I was glad that we hadn’t visited Copenhagen any earlier in the year and missed the brightly coloured tulips and fanning peacocks. As one of the earliest known amusement parks in the world, it is no surprise that Walt Disney visited; Tivoli is a place of magic and joy. Whether you are a lover of rides or not, it is worth visiting for the many photo opportunities. Relax in the deckchairs but beware of the curious peacocks. Or have a go on one of the fairground games, hook the duck or try out your bow and arrow skills. If rides are your thing, buy an unlimited ticket. It can cost £10+ for just one ride, whereas the unlimited ticket is roughly £28.
That was certainly the major downside to Copenhagen. It is super expensive, more than either of us had anticipated. We each bought a 3 Day Copenhagen Card, costing roughly £80 per person, which allowed entry into everything we wanted to see, and included transport from the airport, and further afield in the Copenhagen region had we had the time. When most museum tickets are around £12-13, and we visited in excess of 12 galleries and museums during those 3 days, it was a steal!
We take for granted that the UK offers many free admissions into attractions, and whilst the cost was a letdown, it certainly was not as busy as you would find London or Manchester, and that was a bonus. Ultimately, it is a beautifully designed, artistic city, filled with bicycles and green space, populated by polite individuals and, above all, a wonderful place to explore. But then, it is said that the Danes are the happiest people in the world, so don’t just take my word for it, go and see for yourself.
Food: La Vecchia Signora serves classic Italian food, the pizzas are huge and very delicious; just be careful if you have to make your way downstairs after a few glasses of wine, the stairs are old and steep. For something more Danish try a Danish hot dog. Pølsevogne (hot dog carts) can be found all across the centre; ours was served with ketchup, mustard, remoulade, fresh onions, fried onions, and sweet pickle. A cheap, but yummy, substitute for a more expensive meal.
Drinks: We struggled to find affordable options but there were a few pubs and bars that had happy hours, either half price drinks or buy one get one free. Streckers was a traditional pub not far from Tivoli gardens, perfect for people watching. If money is no object then you’ll find plenty to choose from. We loved Palæ Bar, a delightful, cosy jazz bar, right in the centre but hidden from the main streets where we felt like more locals.
Our Top Five:
Botanical Gardens: That greenhouse
Tivoli Gardens: Those peacocks
Design Museum: The Danish Chair
Architecture Gallery: Striking imagery
Rosenborg Castle: Royal jewels
What We Missed: The Carlsberg Brewery, too far to walk, even for a beer.
Where We Stayed: Wakeup Copenhagen. Our room was small and the bathroom was more like a pod than a room with little privacy (frosted glass) but the bed was super comfy and we really appreciated the single duvet covers we each got. It was all we needed for our stay.
About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.