At the beginning of 2017, Bill and I made a list of the top cities in the world that we wanted to travel to. The list was indeed a bit Europe-heavy because of our current location. It helps when we have friends/family from the U.S. who want to travel with us, so when my sister, Alison, wanted to book a trip to Europe, we chose Copenhagen and Berlin. Coming from Boston, there was a cheap flight to Copenhagen for Ali, and for Bill & I from Amsterdam, it was a quick flight as well.
So we met in Copenhagen on Wednesday in mid-May.
We stayed in the coolest, chicest penthouse airbnb apartment in the center of the city near the King’s Gardens. I typically prefer not to stay in an airbnb apartment that someone clearly lives in, but for some reason we didn’t mind staying in Soren’s apartment (yes, we quickly became obsessed with our airbnb host, though we never met him. I think you can just get a sense of how cool someone is by his apartment, or maybe we just idolized him because we wished we had an apartment this cool. Either way, props to Soren). Staying here really helped us feel like locals: walking up at least 6 flights of stairs to our penthouse apartment and being within walking distance to cool restaurants, bars, parks and the water.
There may have also been a few photoshoots in the apartment. We couldn’t resist!
to do & see_
Copenhagen is a city with a lot to do and see. We only had two and a half days in the city so we had to jam-pack our touristic exploration. I’d love to go back and spend some more time exploring museums and interesting things the city offers. Take a free walking tour to explore the city with a local!
Copenhagen is full of green spaces, but the King’s Gardens are especially charming. We had the BEST weather the whole week so many students were out sunbathing in the gardens. Ali and I also did a morning run through the gardens and passed the Rosenborg Castle on our route.
A neighborhood located on several artificial islands modeled after Amsterdam with canals, boats and beautiful views. An easy walk from the city center and a fun place to people watch and explore. Copenhagen is like a city built for day drinking as there are people outside all day enjoying the sun.
If you’re in Christianshavn then you should absolutely take a stroll to Freetown Christiana, a self-proclaimed utopian, autonomous neighborhood with about 850 residents. It’s a unique and a bit controversial part of the city, established in 1971 when squatters, fed up with a housing shortage, took over an abandoned military base and formed their own society. Now home to squatters, artists, anarchists, and hippies, you must be invited to live in this village and those that live here do so in their own style. Cars are forbidden inside the commune and many residents live in converted army barracks or hand-built homes. Interesting street art can be found throughout the village. Fun fact: Lenny Kravitz even spent some time living here decades ago.
This area is probably most known for the Green Light District, where dealers openly sell marijuana and hash out of little street carts and stands to willing customers.
Tip: This part of town is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and the Green Light District is definitely something to see, even if you’re not going to partake in the pot smoking. People-watching here could be a sport. Just don’t take any pictures, as it is forbidden within this main area. You will see signs forbidding it!
shop on strøget_
Strøget is a pedestrian street and the hub of Copenhagen’s lively center. Its one of the longest and oldest pedestrian streets in the world, and its lined with every retail shop imaginable, including many stores selling Danish design. What makes it more enjoyable are the historic buildings, squares, fountains, and outdoor cafes that can be found along the way. Just be aware that Copenhagen is quite an expensive city! If you are traveling to another European city or country (like we were, to Berlin), you might wait to shop when the prices aren’t sky high.
extras to do & see_
As I said, we only had a few days in Copenhagen and there is plenty more I would have loved to do. Here are a few more things we did and also some we didn’t get to do.
We did wander through the harbor and enjoy the most beautiful sunset. There are bars/cafes situated along the water, great for people watching, boat spotting and sunset gazing. Though we didn’t have enough time to see Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid sculpture (I know…ME!? Not seeing the Little Mermaid sculpture? Those who know me might be quite upset by this as they know my life-long obsession. We were told by several people that she’s not all that exciting to see and in fact, a bit disappointing. I’d also love to go back and explore the grounds of the Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress built in the 1600s.
Crown Jewels are always cool to see. Here you can see how the royals lived and tour the castle’s Royal Collections, which include the crown jewels.
Rundetaarn (Round Tower)
Right in the heart of the center on Strøget (pedestrian shopping street), the tower was designed as an astronomy observatory and has spectacular city views. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can climb to the top of Round Tower for a cheap price.
A market consisting of two glass halls and many outdoor stands selling quality ingredients, wines, teas and chocolates with several cafes to sit and enjoy local cuisine as well.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum
I’m a sucker for sculptures, especially Rodin, and my grandfather recommended we see this art museum with a collection built around the personal collection of the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries. Yet I am sad to say we did not make it to any museums this trip.
A department store, but with a ton of chic eateries on the top floor. The roof terrace is open for lunch/drinks. We tried a fantastic coffee place, Original Coffee, with an outdoor terrace offering panoramic views of the city and nearby square. There is even an Eataly food market on the ground floor.
A large theme park right in the middle of the city. A mix of restaurants, outdoor cafes and thrilling theme park rides. Tripadvisor reviews were mixed on Tivoli and in the end we decided to go because many reviews said Tivoli was a “must-visit for visitors to Copenhagen” offering something for everyone. Yet Bill, Ali and I were all underwhelmed by this kitschy, over-priced tourist attraction. Unless you have kids you’re trying to entertain, I’d say skip it.
to eat & drink_
- Danish foods – we had our share of smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches on a very dense sourdough rye bread. Usual toppings include pickled herring, avocado, or eggs. We weren’t the biggest fans of the bread (too dry) but the sandwiches were fresh and gave us enough energy to get our tourism on. You can also try Flæskesteg, a roast pork with crackling (delicious!) or kogt torsk, poached cod served with mustard sauce and trimmings.
- Restaurant Puk – Danish restaurant in the city center that offers a great deal on a tasting menu (for 2 or more people). You can try traditional fish and meat dishes with all the fixings and if its nice out, try to grab a table outside!
- Copenhagen Street Food – located on “Paper Island” and easy walking distance if you’re exploring Christianshavn and Christiana. Its the city’s first street food market and has everything I’d ever want, awesome location surrounded by water, cool music, trendy people, and endless food stalls with international cuisine and drinks. A perfect place to enjoy a meal, we enjoyed dinner here and then had cocktails outside and watched the sunset. This was probably my favorite thing that we did!
drinks & nightlife_
Copenhagen has a lot to offer in terms of drinking and fun. Whether you’re looking for an all-night clubbing experience or just hoping to sip on a few tasty drinks with your buddies, both are possible with a variety of options. Most partying happens from Thursday to Friday so if you’re there on these days, take advantage!
- Bar 7 – located in the center, each room in this bar has its own decor, designed like an apartment building. For example, the downstairs “study” room complete with DJ and dark dance floor where people were getting wild. The cocktail menu is surprisingly robust with a mix of classic and unique cocktails. This is a good place to start the night.
- Log Lady Cafe – also in the center near Stroget, we actually tried to go here but they were closed for a private party. I really wanted to check out this small little venue as it has funky decor like stuffed owls and chandeliers. I read it’s a good place to see a DJs that play music other than techno like disco, funk and other bar-music.
- Culture Box – probably Copenhagen’s most well-known music venue which happened to be around the corner from our airbnb. Open until 8:00 AM (!) party-goers usually show up around 1-2 AM to dance the night away. We did end up here after a bit of a bar crawl on Friday. There are several rooms with awesome DJs! Drinks were reasonably priced though we did have to pay an entrance fee. You will likely get propositions to buy drugs and Bill also got hit on by several men. It was a unique experience. Culture Box took our soul, but…the DJs rocked.
- Meatpacking District – in Kødbyen area, plenty of venues, like Jolene and Mesteren & Lærlingen which makes bar-hopping a breeze. Once the bars get packed, people gather in the streets and continue the party. We were also told to check out Pate Pate here for food but we couldn’t get a reservation!
- Bastard Cafe – located in the center, this is a really fun board game cafe, with free games – some familiar, some completely foreign – and also games for a fee. This place was packed with people playing games and you can order whatever drink fits your fancy – beer, wine, cocktails, filter coffee, tea, juice etc. Cool atmosphere!
- Mikkeller – delicious craft beer alert! Visit the bar that serves up the beer from this famous Danish brewery. This is definitely the bar to visit if you are interested in quality beers. They serve a range of tasty, fun, & funky beers.
- Craft Beer & Wine Bars – Copenhagen is packed with awesome bars and wine bars. You really can’t go wrong, just wander and pop into a few fun places like Badstuen.
- Other nightlife recommended to me by locals:
- P.S. Bar – good pregame
- No Ho – bar
- Arch – club
- Chateau Motel – club/bar
Copenhagen was a rad city with a chill and relaxed energy. It’s a bike-friendly city with colorful houses, chic bars, funky neighborhoods, green spaces, and boat-filled harbors. It’s a place I could have definitely spent more than a few days in and I hope to return again one day. It’s no wonder Copenhagen is ranked one of the happiest cities in the world! Yet be prepared to pay for your happiness – it’s an expensive city and that can surely put a damper on things.
Next stop: Berlin! Stay tuned…