‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ – Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
And brief was my recent trip to Copenhagen but certainly worth the short hop, skip and a jump flight from Dublin. Ryanair’s (I found out that I should not mention them, by a cheerful, friendly coffee house customer at breakfast so, enough said!) flash-sale adverts taunt me as soon as they flash up in my inbox and at €80 return I couldn’t pass up the chance to see another Scandinavian country and check it off my list.
Nordic noir, chilly winter weather, amazing accents and the little mermaid, count me in! A city that regularly tops the list of best places to live in the world and 2013’s World Happiness report nominated ‘Happiest place in the world’ surely deserves at least 24 hours of your time, no?!
I honestly did look up how to say token, touristy phrases in Danish before I left and knew ‘ ja, tak’ and ‘Hej’ which was made immediately redundant by the flawless English of every Danish person we met. I started saying ‘tak’ to myself just so I could use some Danish!
Right, enough of my waffle. Accor Hotels have challenged writers to post about 24 hours in a fun, vibrant city. There’s a great prize for grabs so check out their website (http://www.accorhotels.com/content/24-hours-in-the-city/index.en.shtml ) for details and hashtag #accorhotels24hrs to enter via twitter.
Meanwhile, come with me for 24 hours in Copenhagen.
The relatively short flight from Dublin to Kobenhaven at 4.20pm on a bank holiday Monday was surprisingly full. I say ‘surprisingly’ simply because I hadn’t realized how many Irish people were also eagerly off to explore Denmark’s cycle city and how many Danes were interested in spending a weekend in Dublin.
We arrived about 7:45pm with our hand luggage in tow, eyes peeled for the red train ticket machines I had read to look out for in the baggage reclaim area.
A 15minute train ride from the airport to Copenhagen Central station was 36kroner (roughly divide everything by 7). Getting your ticket inside baggage reclaim saves you some time outside in the arrivals area, The machines can be switched to English and the station is only a few stops from the airport. A mini side step into Dunkin’ Donuts (don’t judge, we don’t have them in Ireland so it’s still a novelty!) at the station for a Bavarian crème to eat as we walked the easy 10 minutes to our hotel meant we were unpacked and ready to go for food and a quick scout of the area, albeit in the dark, by 9pm.
Our hotel, the Ascot, was a great location for Tivoli and the station and an great starting point from which to explore the city the next day. Lovely rooms and friendly staff, I would certainly recommend this spot as a base. We paid about €160 a night there, between two. The helpful guys at reception recommended a bistro called Café Reneé to us for a local bite. I knew before we went how pricey Denmark would be so the €150 for a 3 course meal on a neighboring restaurant’s menu had us a little choked up but you can honestly make your visit as cheap or as expensive as you’d like. We had a delicious meal for about €25 per person.
Up early on Tuesday morning to start exploring, partly because we wanted to make the most of our day and partly because the builders decided that 7:50 was time to wake up, despite the fact that we were CLEARLY on our holidays! And their alarm of choice would be scaffolding pipes hitting off each other outside our hotel room.
We checked out and left our luggage in the hotel’s store room so we could be up and attem’ by 9am. A 10 minute walk from our hotel to an eclectic breakfast spot, Next Door Café, was a must. It had been raved about prior to my trip and it is such a little find. I loved it. From the second you walk in take time to admire the beautiful purple walls. Glance to your left at the wall of mirrors and to your right at the curious shrine o’ bits and acknowledge that you are in a funky, laid back instagramable café! Who also serve delicious food at great prices. I got to try skyr (which I hadn’t managed to in Iceland) with museli and fresh fruit and a cappuccino and my far more spritely travel buddy, Jo, had porridge with brown sugar,butter and blueberries and coffee. For about €10 each. WIN!
The staff are so cheery and chatty and the relaxed vibe is a fantastic way to start off your day of fun in Copenhagen. Thanks Next Door Café peeps. Right, off to the Gammel Strand to get our tickets for the hop on hop off bus to help us get our bearings.
As an aside, I was given one job while in Copenhagen and that was to look for a certain brand of Norwegian cheese to bring home as a gift. One job. More about that later.
I’m a big fan of Hop on-Hop off bus tours in big cities. It’s a great way to get your bearings and see an overview of the city.
The Red bus city tour was the one we happened upon first and we paid €35 each for a bus and boat combo ticket, which we could use over the 24 hours we were there. The 60 minute boat trip was a one time ticket but the bus ticket can be valid for 24 or 48 hours depending on how long you want it for (for a few extra kroner of course).
As the clouds cleared a little we could see Copenhagen in all her sunny glory from the front of the bus, and while the Little Mermaid is disappointingly small, there are plenty of other palaces, castles, towers and theme parks to keep you entertained.
Our first stop was the colourful Nyhavn/ New Harbour, which is where Hans Christian Andersen’s residence can be seen (the red building close to the bridge).
He wrote many of his well-known fairy tales from this residence. The sides of the canal are lined with bars and restaurants from which you can while away the day, sampling some local delights and people watching. There were few open at the early hour we visited but it looked so pretty and colourful, that I can see why it remains one of the most photographed parts of the city.
On, next, to the Royal residence of Amelienborg Palace. The guards are changed at 12 noon and march from Rosenborg Castle at 11.30am daily. We were told this after we had seen the guards in formation strut past our tour bus and wondered what the devil was going on! The Danish royal family (the world’s oldest monarchy) were in residence at the palace when we were there, and I was amazed at just how close to the residences you are able to get. When you think of the tall gates maintaining a ‘safe distance’ between Buckingham Palace and the public, this felt like we were wandering about the front garden of the Danish royals! Our bus guide informed us that the Danish royal family are ‘of the people’, well loved and amongst the most unassuming of all the European royal families. Crown Princess Mary can seen going for jogs in the local park!
The beautiful Frederik’s Church is a short walk west of the palace. It is known as the Marble Church and runs tours to the top once a day (I think) and the views are surely breathtaking!
Back on the bus and the next stop was the Little Mermaid statue. I was rather underwhelmed by how small she was and her stone perch is very close to shore. I’m not sure what I expected, exactly. Perhaps a larger than life tribute to the storyteller and his legacy, out in the harbor, but nope the little lady is right by the stony shore. We were told that she has been the subject of vandalism, which I also didn’t realize! She had been decapitated and has had her arms cut off. People are cray cray! For what reason would you want the head of a fairytale statue?!
We arrived at our next stop, the Rosenberg Castle, a little too late to go in and wander about, as it closes at 2pm daily and it was 1:45pm by this stage. The stunning castle is opposite the Botanical Gardens and houses the crown jewels. (heehee crown jewels!). Since we missed getting inside we enjoyed the beautiful gardens in the cold afternoon sun. The gardens, we were told, are very popular among the locals as a chill out and stroll around spot in the city.
After a full morning of tour bus-ing, our grumbling tummies urged us to hunt for the open food market, Torvehallerne, This bustling market of food and drink shops and stalls is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. From local produce to Scandanavian delicacies, it was the perfect spot for lunch. We opted for Danish smorgasboard style open-faced sandwiches and pastries to satiate the busy tourist hunger. A wander around the market reveals fresh fish stalls, chocolatiers, pizza vendors, cheese stands, butcher’s counters, wine shops, organic vegetable corners and delis. Well worth the pit stop. Another blog called HandLuggageOnly (love them!!) have a fab, detailed post on places to eat inside the market. Have a look see.
Another foodie market we were assured was unmissable is Paper Island, meaning we are due another Copenhagen trip to check this place out! SO many tasty treats, so little time!
With tummies full of hot chocolate and cinnamon Danish pastries we headed to the canal to board our boat tour. I, unfortunately, cannot rave much about this as it rained while we were on the boat, and the glass roof panels were covered in condensation and being rained on meant we had trouble seeing out.
Our tour guide was informative and had plenty of fun facts about the city we were now viewing from the water. Watch out for the low canal bridges! On a sunny day I am sure this tour would be a lot more fun but as our luck had it, it was more of a handy way to stay out of the rain! We were told about the ‘free state’ of Christiania, an autonomous neighborhood of about 850 residents with a history of rife cannabis trade.
Remember I mentioned before that I had been given one job, to pick up some cheese. Yip, well I had found it in a supermarket by the hotel and left it in the fridge in our hotel room overnight. Annddd I forgot to take it out when we checked out!! Oops. Thank you Christiania for being my saving grace and having an artisan supermarket that also sold that brand of cheese. Thank fudge! Forty euro worth of cheese, I hope it was worth it!
With only a few hours left and having saved the ‘best’ ‘til last we waited until sundown to enter the Tivoli Gardens theme park. The second oldest theme park in the world (and said to be the model for Walt Disney’s theme parks) awaited us.
I knew very little about the theme park before I arrived. My sister had been and said that she went on a couple of rides when she went in but otherwise just wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere. The park is only open at certain times of the year and was beautifully decorated to mark the Hallowe’en festivities.
I have never seen so many pumpkins and Jack O’ Lanterns in my life! We opted for an all inclusive rides ticket. SO that’s 110DKK for the entrance ticket plus 220DKK for an all inclusive pass. 330DKK works out at roughly €50 per person. Pricey if you are thinking of bringing kids. What struck me was the lack of queues.
We rode one of the coasters three times, in a row and didn’t queue! Maybe it was because it was a bitterly cold evening in November, or maybe it was because tourists didn’t feel in the mood for the park that day. Whatever the reason we made the most of our limited time in the park and went on as many grown up rides as we could!
The gluwein and doughnut stands in the park provided grown up meets kiddie sustenance and the stunning décor and magically lit carousels transported you to a childhood memory you had long forgotten.
Fun fact, the swinging chairs ride operators do not like you to record snapchat videos while the ride is in motion and the ride was actually stopped so he could reprimand me. Opps, sorry sir!
Our flight home was calling us but I think another day would have afforded the chance to pack in the Carlsberg museum and a trip north of the city to the Kronborg Castle, the inspiration for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet plus more sampling of Denmark’s treasures.
The outdoor, healthy cycling culture of Copenhagen is well worth exploring and there were plenty more culinary hotspots to check out including the world famous NOMA Michellin star restaurant! Copenhagen is also the setting for one of my favourite Nordic noir series, ‘The Killing’, and tours are available to visit the main film locations around the city. Not to forget the Legoland theme park outside the city! We made do with a visit to the Lego store and for any little Lego fans, it is worth a visit. Although I did hear that Lego is pricier in Denmark than in Ireland, don’t quote me on that though!
Copenhagen is a pricey destination, as is to be expected from a Scandinavian city but there are ways to reduce the costs. Do your research beforehand and have a few eatery ideas up your sleeve. Knowing how much tours cost and entrance fees will help keep your costs in check. Look forward to a friendly city with helpful, polite, English speaking locals.
Tak, Danish friends for making my 24 hours worth the trip!