I’ve been lucky enough to have visited many cities, and although I’ve loved many of them, there’s only a handful that have truly captured my heart. New York, Prague, San Francisco, Edinburgh… and now, Copenhagen.
Due to a convenient discovery of cheap flights and an equally convenient reading (skiving) week at Uni, I jetted off on my first trip to Scandinavia last month! Other than rave reviews from a few friends who have visited before (and a recommendation from my Dad who played a football final there about 100 years ago), I knew very little about the city of Copenhagen and had no idea what to expect.
I could go on for days about all the things we did and loved – but ain’t nobody got time for that, so for now I’ll just leave you with my top 5 Copenhagen picks:
This beautifully picturesque canal is what you see on the front of every Copenhagen brochure – and now that I’ve been, I completely understand why. With its multitude of restaurants, cosy pubs and balamory-esque coloured townhouses that date back to the 17th century, it’s the perfect place to end a long day of sightseeing. We especially loved McSorely’s Scottish pub, nearer to the end of the canal – a cosy little alehouse with decently-priced drinks (for Copenhagen standards!)
The history of Nyhavn is fascinating – it was once Copenhagen’s red light district, where sailors from all over the world would dock and indulge in alcohol and, um, ladies of pleasure. Number 20 was also home to writer Hans Christian Andersen for most of his life, and Nyhavn provided inspiration for some of his best-loved fairytales (something we learned about at The World of H.C. Andersen – a museum about his works, located not far from Central station).
Today, Nyhavn is very much tourist-central. It was beautiful in the wintery sunlight that formed the backdrop to our photos, but I imagine it would be even prettier in the summer sunshine. Great Instagrams to be taken here folks.
2) Visit Carlsberg
When you’re holidaying with a Chemical Engineer like I was (and have relatives in high places who can get you free tickets), a visit to the original Carlsberg brewery is a must. Visit Carlsberg is located in Valby, just two stops (less than 5 mins) from Copenhagen’s Central Station. The incredibly knowledgable staff will guide you around the machinery used to brew the beer, the site itself (including Jacobsen’s living quarters and the horses stables), and then on to a beer tasting session after the tour. If, like me, you’re not a huge fan of beer, don’t worry – there’s a few different types of drinks available to taste, including some non-alcoholic options. This experience really allows you to get to the roots of Carlsberg’s history, and I would recommend it to any Copenhagen visitors.
Fun fact: Jacobsen (the founder) came up with the name “Carlsberg” out of a combination of his son’s name, Carl, and the Danish word for mountain (‘berg’), as the brewery is situated on the hill of Valby.
3) Freetown Christiania
Possibly the most unusual area of Copenhagen, Christiania attracts non-conformists from across the globe. Previously an abandoned army camp, the free town was first established in 1971 by a group of hippies who declared themselves as independent from the Danish government and created their own kooky little society based on the idea that ‘anything goes’. Marijuana is openly sold down the aptly named Pusher Street, and for this reason visitors are not allowed to film or take photos anywhere in this area (trust me, it’s not even worth a try). During the summer months you can take guided tours of Christiania, but visitors are welcome to have a look around at any time.
4) The Little Mermaid Statue and Kastellet
In 1909 our friend from earlier, Carl Jacobsen, commissioned sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a statue of H.C. Andersen’s The Little Mermaid after being so moved by a performance of the story at the national ballet. Nowadays, this statue is easily one of the most photographed sights in Denmark – despite vandalism leading to the loss of a few of her limbs and consequent recommissioning in 2006 (no, this isn’t the reason she has legs – still a mystery to me).
If you have time, take a walk through the star-shaped fortress of Kastellet on your way back into the city centre. You’ll find some beautiful 18th-century barracks and a cute windmill!
5) Copenhagen Street Food
Believe me when I say that the Copenhagen Street Food Market is a game-changer. Recommended to me by a few friends, the market offers street food from all corners of the world at extremely competitive prices (my meal was less than DKK 50). You’ll find the market situated on Papirøen (Paper Island), just a 10 minute walk over the bridge from Nyhavn. With it’s touch of the raw and authentic, the Street Food Market is a must for all Copenhagen visitors.
There’s so much more to do and see in Copenhagen aside from this list – The Tivoli Gardens, The National Museum of Denmark, Kronberg Castle, Amalienborg Slot etc – so if you do want to hear more please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks for reading!