In December I took a little trip to Copenhagen.
First words to describe the city: snow, color, towers, medieval, fur hats, dark coats, and streets packed with people despite weather that would make the hardiest Californian run for cover.
And not just locals were traipsing the streets – you heard English, German, French, Italian… All there for the Christmas Markets and working hard to keep warm with spiked hot chocolate and glühwein, which you could buy “to-go” everywhere. And unlike Amsterdam, where a drink “to-go” makes an establishment special and people stare at you funny, here lots of people were walking while letting steam defrost their noses.
I liked Copenhagen – it was a more formal and structured version of Amsterdam… with canals and lots of medieval buildings. The people were not out-going, but once you started chatting with them, they were friendly and helpful. The city was CLEAN. Incredibly clean. Even in the Christmas markets and amusement park you were encouraged to recycle by getting a hefty sum back!
Part of me felt at home as I wandered the streets, took in the lights, listened to the random mixed conversations on the street (and I quote, “garble garble, douce bag, garble garble, Tony Hawke, garble garble, Facebook, garble garble, no way!”), ate great food, and
appreciated the castles and museums. (Copenhagen is THE current foodie paradise of Europe, btw, with several of the best restaurants in Europe and the repeat winner for WORLD’s Best Restaurant.. Noma.)
The part that I didn’t like so much about Copenhangen was how incredibly expensive it was. When the CHEAPEST thing you buy to drink or eat in 3 days is the coffee and sandwich at Starbucks at the AIRPORT… you know you are in trouble. Especially at the top restaurants!
But already a city that I am looking forward to visiting in the summer :)
Here’s a few of my favorites and must-see recommendations:
Rosenborg Slot – Castle alert!!! One of my favorite things this trip! Set in a beautiful park in the middle of the city – whether green fields or snowy landscape, it’s an impressive approach. The interior conditions and decorations are in incredible condition. You get a sense of the wealth of the Danish kings and the unfathomably lavish lifestyle. The Smart Phone app for a tour is a total must-do!
Statens Museum for Kunst – I wasn’t planning on going because the guidebooks hadn’t said much about the collection, etc. But I was cold and hungry. Located close to the Rosenborg Slot, it’s a perfect post-castle stop. A fantastic modern art collection, a building that seamlessly incorporates old and new facades and structures (much more successfully than Amsterdam’s botched attempt with the Stedelijk Museum), and an integrated and sometimes surprising style of display. An additional plus – the cafe in the back of the museum with HUGE windows overlooking the park, and a For-Copenhagen-reasonable lunch menu!
Magasin du Nord – Copenhagen’s oldest department store – and they like to think that it competes with Bloomingdales. (Ummmm… ok….) A lovely building, originally the Hotel du Nord, it gets all lit up from the inside and outside during the holidays. Shopping there is not for the faint of heart – apparently there’s no section where you could buy ‘cheap stuff’… you know, like the Nordstrom-brand stuff in Nordstroms. It’s ALL high quality and an investment. But lovely to browse through :) My favorite thing about it: Hans Christian Andersen once rented rooms in the top floor of the building – which is now the cafeteria style cafe with an incredible view over the Royal Theater :)
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – I’m not usually a fan for a museum that is all statues. I like collections that mix it up. But this is an incredible building to visit even just for the space! Built by the Carlsberg family of beer wealth and fame, the building is an incredible homage to the history of design. A walk through it is a nice way to spend a morning. Then plan to have lunch in the gorgeous Winter Garden! (A soaring atrium filled with plants and statues.)
Tivoli – I went to the Tivoli amusement park JUST for the Christmas lights. I figured between the cost and the fact that it’s an amusement park, it may not be the best idea… but see for yourself on the blog all about their incredible light shows!
Latin Quarter – Cosy and quaint winding medieval streets, adorable little shops, and one organic restaurant after another… definitely worth a stroll! The famous Copenhagen Round Tower is located here too -one of the oldest observatories in the world!
Højbro Plads – Copenhagen’s main pedestrian shopping street (Strøget) is dotted with fancy shops, Taco stands selling crepes (SERIOUSLY), cafes and pubs, tourist traps, and adorable squares. My favorite.. the Højbro Plads. Partly because of the incredible tile work in the street – but it’s also where a lovely Christmas Market was set up, and the location of the Georg Jensen shop. You may not be able to afford shopping for silver there, but it’s a ‘wow!’ moment to walk through! (Downstairs in the basement is a whole section devoted to Christmas ornaments!)
Where to stay?
I recommend Hotel Danmark, near Rådhus Pladsen. Not only was it reasonable, the staff was INCREDIBLY friendly and helpful, the rooms were great, the breakfast spread was outstanding, and the location CANNOT be beat!
Where to grab a bite?
As I already shared, Copenhagen is foodie nirvana at the moment… and at the price of more than the airfare to get to it! So here are a few other options that I enjoyed!
Victoria Pub – Just off Strøget, this little pub is a cozy and dark, tiffany-lamp shaded little corner to sit back and enjoy a drink. LOTS of English and Irish pubs dot Copenhagen and especially the Nyhavn area – maybe because of all those English sailors that used to come in there? I liked the Victoria Pub because you felt like you were in a different time
and place, it was full of locals, and adorable. Be warned though, you can smoke in the pubs there… so it gets a bit hazy.
Cafe Diamanten – Located on the gorgeous Nybrogade canal, I nearly missed this spot! Thank goodness for the snow that started falling! Set into a basement-style space, this cozy and welcoming cafe has big chunky wooden tables, friendly service, and some of the best apple pie I’ve had in my entire life!
FIAT – I decided that I needed to splurge at least one evening on a meal that is not just a pub meal or a basic bit, after all, in Copenhagen! But… you need reservations and SERIOUS dedication! I spotted this Italian restaurant one evening as I hunted for glühwein near Nyhavn… and so decided to go back there. I loved the look of it and the
cheery demeanor of the girl at the door. What a great gamble! Despite being fully booked – she gave me a table with the stipulation that I had only 2 hours to eat (ummm… I think that’s enough for me, myself and I!) I had one of the best Italian meals outside of Italy! Rich chianti, moist and creamy mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes that were so red they were purple… and a risotto that makes you yell out “Mamma Mia!” By the time I sadly relished the last bite, my two hours were up and I had to go! (BIG SADFACE FOR MISSING DESSERT!)
A site with a huge amount of great tips and ideas: http://visitcopenhagen.com