Uncover the vibrant personality of this increasingly popular Scandinavian city that’s perfectly sized for a weekend getaway…
Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, is one of Europe’s oldest capitals. Packed full of fascinating sights and architecture, parks and fine dining, the city is becoming an increasingly popular city-break destination.
Getting to the city takes just 20 minutes via the train accessed from inside the airport and brings you right into the heart of the city. Getting around on foot is easy and all of the main sights are within walking distance but cycling is a great way to see more of the city, especially if you’re short on time. Masses of bicycles are found all around the city and vastly outnumber the amount of cars on the roads which makes for quieter streets and fresher air too!
Initially, Copenhagen can look a bit colourless, although this wasn’t helped by the overcast weather that wouldn’t shift throughout our trip, but there are many grand buildings and statues that assert their dominance in the heart of the city to marvel at. A short walk or metro ride to the 17th century waterfront area of Nyhavn, however, will brighten even the greyest of days with brightly coloured buildings lining the edge of the canal and the flags and masts of tall sail-boats docked alongside. Nyhavn was once home to famous Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, and it’s from this point that you can take a canal cruise around the city (80DKK each) which is also an easy and efficient way of seeing Copenhagen’s most famous attraction, The Little Mermaid statue as made famous by H. C Andersen himself.
A climb up the spiral ramp to the top of the Rundetaarn, the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, is a must for captivating rooftop city views – don’t miss the planetarium at the top and check out the changing exhibitions on the way up. Beer lovers can also take a tour of the original Carlsberg brewery and a walk around the multiple castles should certainly be added to the to-do list.
Tivoli Gardens is one of the city’s star attractions and it’s easy to see why. This vintage amusement park oozes nostalgia whilst still satisfying thrill-seekers with more modern rides and even those who aren’t interested in rides are well catered for thanks to the luscious gardens and exotic architecture. But it’s at night that the magic happens as Tivoli is lit up by thousands of lights to create an entirely unique fairytale atmosphere.
Although a lot of Copenhagen’s architecture is understated, its vibrancy comes from indoors. The plethora of quirky interiors inside the many bars, restaurants, bistros and cafés really brought the city to life for me. From the glass roof and ornate brickwork surrounding eye-catching copper beer-brewing vats while we enjoyed tender lunch steaks, to dining in a basement alongside retro displays of mismatching art and vintage radios in our favourite restaurant of all, Kalaset, Copenhagen exudes most of its personality from within.
This is especially great because it’s within these places that Copenhagen really excels itself. If food is important to you then this city will not disappoint. Our choices were based on feel and guesswork which, don’t get me wrong, is a fun way of choosing when on holiday but can also lead to disappointment. Maybe we got lucky, but Copenhagen got it right every time. Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for here; I was surprised with the variety of dishes on offer that catered to these dietary requirements, while meat eaters are still well looked after with delicious steaks and seafood dishes aplenty.
Delve into the back streets and find interesting bars and bartenders, all complete with their own stories. One thing that did take us by surprise was that smoking is still allowed inside many restaurants and bars which can be a bit of a shock, so keep this in mind when choosing where you visit.
A mere 35 minute train journey across the famous Oresund Bridge to Sweden will take you to the picturesque city of Malmö. This contemporary metropolis has edgy museums and hipster hangouts whilst being offset by quaint half-timbered Danish style buildings and beautiful parks. Stop by Mello Yello in Lilla Torg Square for an incredible reindeer steak and see the giant talking lamp – a 19ft tall self-explanatory tourist attraction!
Talk to most people about visiting any Scandinavian country and the first thing they’ll tell you is that it’s expensive, and yes, while things are often a little pricier than you’d pay back home it’s far from what should be the leading point. Copenhagen has a real sense of identity with a unique atmosphere and, coupled with its incredible food experiences, beautiful architecture and captivating sights, should definitely be added to your city-break hot list.
Words & Photos: Jake Tucker