The quaint and charming city of Copenhagen. My first taste of Europe!
The first differences between here and the US, began right as I stepped off of the 10 hour non-stop flight from Oakland. The gates were just nicer! Like walking into an airport that had been designed by Ikea, with each gate having a different layout and different chairs. There were self serve Starbucks stands, people casually walking around with a wine glass in hand, security/airport staff getting around via scooters and segways! The kids rode on their suitcases like little scooter bikes, racing in circles. Such funny sights. the passport check was quick, and I was quickly in baggage check. My best friend from childhood, Sara, jumped in on first part of the Euro trip too, landing minutes after me.
Slight side story on this one first though: Copenhagen originally didn’t make the “have to” list for this trip. My trip actually flip flopped because of one flight. I was planning on traveling around Spain first, and found a cheap flight to Madrid that had an overnight layover in Copenhagen. Being the indecisive person that I am, it took me a while to decide if one night was actually going to be worth it. I went through all of the pros and cons, researched, and eventually got in my head that I really did want to go there. Of course, since this thought process took a day or two, I ended up losing the flight altogether. Agh! Then I thought, well why don’t I just make the connection myself. Turns out there was a super cheap one way flight there, so I took it. Now sitting with a one-way flight to Copenhagen (anxiety and excitement speeding up my heart beat as this trip is now not just a dream, but a reality), I started to think if Madrid would be the best next move from here. Weighing more pros and cons to be efficient and budget conscious, let’s flip the whole trip and see Europe first, and then make my way to Spain! From there a route was created (with less ridiculous overthinking this time) and it just seemed to flow.
So, here we are actually on the city streets! Forgoing the sim card or paying for actual data, we decided to rely on wifi and good old fashioned maps (as well as offline gps). It’s raining, and after walking an extra block or two, we miraculously find our hostel: Sleep in Heaven. It was a cozy place with a bar (2 for 1 happy hour), but we had to go down the street to get to our room. Not bad, just a little odd. We had a 4 bed, 2 bunk room with a large window with a street view. Beds were a little squeaky, but the place was clean.
After checking in, we headed out to walk around and find a place to eat. We wandered and stumbled upon the lakes, much closer than expected, and very cute with all of the colorful houses, swans, and tree lined streets. They are very active there too, almost everyone was either on a bike (more bikes than cars in this city) or a jogger. I loved all of the plants, whether on a balcony, a store front or surrounding a restaurant with outdoor seating and patio lights as well as blankets draping the chairs. Couldn’t stop commenting how everything was so cute or charming or cozy or all three!
We stopped on the water next to a tented dock, where you could rent swan boats and literally be among the swans. It was some sort of salsa night in the tent, and it was so sweet watching all of the couples on the dance floor. They had tables, so we decided to eat there, but it turned out you had to go across the street to order, and then they bring the food out to your table. Not sure what it is about having the businesses in such separate spaces ha. May take a couple extra steps to get to where you need to be, but it was such a calm and quaint evening.
Day two, was our full day to explore. Unfortunately a rainy day, but it was on and off, so not too terrible.
Sites of the day:
We just toured the castle grounds (they’re free to see!) with lovely and spacious gardens.
They’re were also adorable toddlers puddle jumping in their little rain slickers. Nothing like a family playdate in the park!
Next headed to the Rundetaarn or the Round Tower.
I was so pleasantly amused with this attraction. You walk round and round up the ramp (7.5 turns that do not look unlike the yellow brick road…), and then up a tiny spiral stair case to the roof. Once up there you have a 360 degree view of the area. It may have been raining and cloudy, but still a great view.
We then headed to the ever so picturesque strip of Nyhavn.
They really are as adorable and colorful as you see in pictures. Seriously felt like I was in some sort of storybook (perhaps one by Hans Christian Anderson who lived there to write, but actually came to learn ballet 😉 )
They had a couple vendors out, like these two handing out delicious apples slices (so crisp and tasty!)
We had lunch on Paper Island (thank goodness as it started to pour right as we approached). This place was cool. Like a giant warehouse full of quirky, funky booths of almost every type of food. Each one had an eclectic vibe, and bumped their own music. Little pricey (expected in this city), but definitely worth it for the atmosphere.
Nearby, we found Free Christiania. A hippy-vibe co-op community, who are also not under the government rules. It is colorful, and random, and has a little bit of everything put together. Tents, barns, houses and domes, with a cafe, outdoor seating and skate parks in between. There’s also a stage area for concerts, and woodsy trails that overlook a lake. And of course, they are known to have easy access to the cannabis club (literally someone set-up every 10′ down the street). I was honestly, slightly underwhelmed…I thought there’d be more activity and art such as murals and sculptures. That all existed, just not visually at the volume I had in mind. Granted the weather wasn’t exactly sunshine, so that could have been a factor as well.
Next is the Christiansborg Palace.
These castle grounds were huge. We took a tour of the reception rooms, which were smallish, but lovely and regal, and even saw a couch that apparently Obama has sat on – wow! haha.
Throughout history, this palace has astonishingly burned down 5 times. It has been built back up similar each time, but typically more ornate, and I think larger as well. We toured the ruins of past foundations from the previous builds, the kitchen (which is not widely used anymore – food is cooked and brought from Amalienborg (the royal residency) if a banquet is held here), and then the stables, where 6 white horses are housed, and still used by the Queen.
Speaking of the Queen, we made it to her and the royal family’s residency the next morning, Amalienborg.
I thought it was so strange how little visible security was around. There were no gates around their houses, and two decorated guards outside. I know they wouldn’t allow you to get all too close, but it literally looked like you could stroll right up to their doorsteps and say hello.
The courtyard is like a round about with 4 houses in each corner for each family. The Queen’s is the one with five chimneys (our guide said it is because she smokes so much – honestly not sure how true or false that actually is…!).
The next day, we had time before our flight out to Copenhagen, so we went to see Tivoli, the 3rd oldest amusement park in the world. Unfortunately, it was closed that morning, but we tried to peak through the gates. We then went on a walking tour with a humorous Denmark local. Actually one of the better walking tours we went on, as he was informative, and we hit so many locations throughout the city (such as those listed above). You feel incredibly touristy being in a group like that, but it was so nice to hear all of the stories and get the history of the area right then and there.
Overall, I am so glad that we stopped in Copenhagen. It was almost too quiet, but I think it was a great lead in to our trip, with it being so charming, smaller (much smaller than I expected, which is great to walk around), and the fact that mostly everyone spoke English. A very comfortable place to be when you are so new to a situation.