Views of Copenhagen © Emma Sparks
I recently treated myself to a Scandinavian city break (my first solo trip in far too long) and I’m so glad I chose to explore Denmark’s capital. As well as being the epitome of Nordic cool, the city was safe, walkable and quiet - quite the respite from London’s frantic streets. Here’s my guide to making the most of a weekend in Copenhagen.
What to do
The Little Mermaid
Langelinie, 2100 København Ø, Denmark
Everything I read about this statue warned that she is over-hyped and disappointing, and a visit, anti-climactic. But being the obstinate tourist that I am, I ignored the reviews and went anyway. I’m glad I did. Despite being engulfed by a throng of sightseers - and groped by the occasional crass moron - Edvard Eriksen’s creation (based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale character) is dignified and beautiful; an emblem of calm. On a sunny day, a walk along the Langelinie promenade and around the nearby fortress of Kastellet is a pleasant pastime in itself. Get there as early as possible to avoid the coach tour crowds.
Colourful Christiania © Emma Sparks
Colourful and anarchic Christiania is like Copenhagen’s rebellious younger brother, emitting curious scents to boot (yes, that is marijuana you smell). Established in 1971, the autonomous neighbourhood is a hippy haven, whose residents strive to maintain a self-sufficient community away from mainstream government. With plenty of food and craft stalls, an open-air performance area, riverside footpaths and dazzling street art, aim to set aside a couple of hours at least for this gem. Don’t miss a stroll through the famous Green Light District - but remember that Copenhagen drug laws still apply. You can learn more about Christiana at Christiania.org.
Tivoli is a playground for adults and children alike © Emma Sparks
It’s not every day you go to a theme park, alone, to watch a zombie dance performance - but that I did, with caramel crêpe and Glühwein in hand. I visited in October, so naturally the place was like Halloween on steroids; carved pumpkins cascaded from every conceivable surface, artificial cobwebs hung in every corner and a witch’s cackle or a ghostly ‘oooh’ was never out of earshot. I imagine Christmas in Tivoli must be an unstoppable explosion of glitter and good cheer. Whether you’re here with family or not, you won’t regret taking a spin on Tivoli’s rides. Tickets cost DKK99. Under 8s enter for free.
Whenever I visit a new city, I like to get a bird’s eye view. I’m forever traipsing up mountains or iconic landmarks to gather my bearings, see my chosen location from a new perspective and ponder what lies beyond the horizon. I thoroughly recommend the Rundetårn (DKK25) and the Church of our Saviour (DKK35). Rundetårn’s sloped walkway also leads you to temporary exhibition space, while Church of our Saviour’s spiral goes on and on until it reaches the spire; little ones will love venturing where adults cannot reach. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear if you plan to whizz up and down, as well as around the city: I walked so much in Copenhagen I sprained my foot!
Øster Voldgade 4A, 1350 København, Denmark
I’m no history buff but I found the self-guided tour of Rosenborg Slot quite fascinating. Built in 1606 for King Christian IV, the summer house comes complete with a walk-in wardrobe made entirely of mirrors and a grand hall housing two coronation chairs and three silver lions. Admission: DKK90.
Prince’s Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark
Perfect for rainy days, this museum spans the entire history of Denmark, and the world as a whole. I enjoyed the temporary exhibition on fur clothing - a subject of much dispute, particularly in Scandinavia and Greenland - which will run until 22nd February 2015. Entry to the museum (and the exhibition) is free.
What to eat
As fabulous as it would be to dine at the city’s gastronomic pride and joy, noma, my budget doesn’t (and is unlikely to ever) stretch that far. Although the high end restaurants in Copenhagen are a huge part of its appeal for many visitors, it is possible to eat well without spending the equivalent of a month’s rent. Here’s how.
Copenhagen Street Food
Trangravsvej 14, 1436 København, Denmark
Do not miss Copenhagen Street Food. Situated in an old industrial park on Paper Island, this trendy food hall opened in spring 2014, and has played an important role in the regeneration of the area, which was once used for paper storage and was not open to the public. You can take the ferry from Nyhavn across the harbour to Copenhagen Opera house and walk from there. You’ll find treats such as Brazilian grill, Korean BBQ, burritos, burgers and fish and chips, as well as Danish dishes and fresh fruit smoothies. I opted for the Belgian sausage and fries (double fried… in duck fat) from Copper and Wheat and ate them at the waterfront picnic tables outside.
Elmegade 15, 2200 København N, Denmark
Similar to London’s Breakfast Club, the Laundromat Café’s menu is an ode to lip-smacking brunches; from the mostly fried, aptly named ‘dirty breakfast’ to greek yoghurt, fruit salads and fresh juices. It’s a pretty popular place, so you can expect a short wait on weekends if there’s more than two in your party. Oh, and if you actually have laundry to do, you can find the washing machines at the back of the restaurant.
Where to stay
A stone’s throw from Nyhavn, the touristy but irresistible canal-front stretch of multi-coloured taverns and hotels; and Kongens Nytorv metro station (half an hour from the airport), Generator Hostel is the perfect base from which to explore the city.
With a range of eight- and six-bed dorms, female only dorms, and private twin and double en-suite rooms, budget travellers are well-catered for. Stays cost upwards of DKK150 (€20) a night.
The hostel has more than enough outdoor space, with plenty of picnic benches, bike racks (and bikes to rent!), and even a petanque tent. The lounge area consists of slouchy sofas and Danish designed furniture, a pool table, darts board, computer corner and a retro photo booth.
Plan your trip
- I booked my flights to Copenhagen with EasyJet well in advance. Return flights from London Gatwick set me back £60. Other airlines that fly to Copenhagen from the UK include British Airways, Flybe and KLM.
- If you plan to pack a lot of sightseeing into your trip, consider purchasing a Copenhagen Card. The card (€48 for 24 hrs/€65 for 48 hrs/€78 for 72hrs) gets you access to all the top attractions, as well as discounts at certain restaurants and free journeys on all public transport in the greater Copenhagen area. The mobile app was indispensable for me on my trip – if I found myself with a free hour, I would check out the interactive map and find the best things to do in the vicinity – and get in for free, of course.
Top 10 reasons to love Copenhagen - Lonely Planet
An insider’s guide to Copenhagen - The Travel Hack
I stayed in Generator Hostels after winning a competition run by the wonderful Kash of BudgetTraveller.org. Visit Denmark kindly provided me with a Copenhagen Card for my visit. Flights, food and other activities were paid for by yours truly.