Okay, so in all honesty – I wasn’t sure what to expect when heading to Copenhagen. I assumed I would like it based on all the great things I hear about life in Scandinavia (hello free schooling, 33 hour average work week, and 56 weeks maternity leave!). Also – anyone who knows me knows that I am totally willing to jump on board with the hygge trend that seems to be slowly infiltrating Europe. Has any of our American peeps read about this yet? Basically it’s the concept that being relaxed & cozy trumps all. Those Danes really know what they’re doing… now onto Copenhagen.
As usual, we arrived super late on Friday night. Although we were both exhausted, we forced ourselves out since we always regret how little time we have in each city. We stayed at The Strand which is situated right along the major canal and is in a very convenient location for getting around. We were just a quick walk to the central area of the city, and headed to a restaurant called Llama. I had read that this place had amazing food and an intimate atmosphere – it’s located on the lower level of a building so it was super dark, but there were tons of candles everywhere which gave for a really cool mood. They had one main bar area with high top communal tables as well as two cave-like rooms off to the side where you could sit and hang as well. The floors had all these crazy colorful tiles which you could just get a glimpse of in the candlelight. Seriously I loved this place from the moment I walked in. It really took off a) when we had our drinks – OMG literally so good and b) they started to play Joe’s fave – hardcore rap. Our “just 1 drink” quickly turned into 2 but I mean when you are drinking such deliciousness, it’s hard to stop. Mine was Los Santos Oleos which was mezcal, cilantro, egg whites and lime – soooo refreshing. I actually even think I may have liked Joe’s better though – tequila, green chartreuse (?), jalapeno and pineapple, which was totally light and spicy. YUM. Although we were tempted to stay out longer, we knew we had a big day coming so headed home to our comfy bed.
The next day we were greeted with some serious wind. Thank goodness I brought a winter coat because the 50 degrees felt like 40 with those gusts. Unfortunately we didn’t get much sun either, but that’s just typical Scandi-weather for ya.
I’m now determined to take some mode of public trans in every city we visit, so I made sure we took a ride on the metro. Thing is – Copenhagen is so walkable (or bikeable!), you really don’t need to take the metro. This was my #1 favorite thing about the city. It truly felt manageable. Joe and I were there for such a short period of time but literally walked everywhere and didn’t feel like we were killing ourselves. By Sunday we were pros and didn’t even need to use our phones for directions!
In typical European fashion, we were a little too early when we arrived for breakfast so took some time to walk around and explore the area. We strolled along yet another canal and then walked over the Dronning Louises bridge in search of some coffee. We stumbled into the cutest place called Cafe Gavlen. Super rustic and homey with the vintage candlesticks adding to the perfect cozy-gloomy-holed up in a coffee shop- kind of Saturday morning it was. We could have stayed there (nice and warm) forever!
We went to breakfast at Kalaset. This is a pretty funky place with old newspaper clippings lining the walls and mismatched furniture throughout. The menu is pretty unique but the food was really fresh. I had a chai tea latte with chilli powder which was amazing. Never would have thought that the combo would work so well but it really did. After breakfast we decided to walk back, first stopping in Torvehallerne which is an awesome indoor food market. Before coming to Copenhagen I Googled what food they were known for, and smorrebrod is what came up. Basically any kind of open-faced sandwich on rye bread. This market had one stall which had every variation you could imagine, they looked like little works of art!
We continued walking through the city and stopped at some major landmarks such as Trinitatis Church (so stunning inside!), Christianborg Palace (location of Danish Parliament), and Nikolaj (Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre located in a converted church). We strolled down Stroget which is the pedestrian, car-free shopping area of Copenhagen. Apparently these are very normal in larger European cities, and it’s quite nice! There were SO many cool shops… I think I wanted everything in Molly Marais but had a little birdy keep reminding me I couldn’t fit any dishes in my suitcase with me back to London. We had to make a stop in Illum, Copenhagen’s premium department store 🙂 We had actually read that their rooftop was really nice, so decided to make a pit stop there. It’s actually a couple of restaurants and cafes that have indoor/outdoor seating options. There’s also an outdoor terrace with some cool views of the city. Certainly better than any suburban mall food court!
Next was our canal tour – we were mad we didn’t get to do this in Amsterdam so knew we had to do it here. Such a cool way to take in a city and get some unique views you never would have just walking! We went all around the city in about an hour and got to see tons of sites such as Amalienborg Palace, The Little Mermaid statue, and The Royal Danish Playhouse just to name a few. It was great to have a guide so they could explain everything around us and make sure we didn’t miss anything. I was so happy we were able to snag a seat outside so that I could get tons of pictures. Although it was pretty cold being on the water, this was the perfect way to really get a feel for this city.
It was about time for lunch at this point, so we walked over to Papiroen, or Paper Island, to hit up Copenhagen Street Food. This is an old warehouse converted into an indoor food market. What an incredible place! There had to be at least 40 different stalls – each offering something different, from hotdogs, to beer, to ice cream. There are also tons of little seating areas and Joe and I were lucky enough to grab a spot right by a big fire pit! Really such a cool concept. I can only imagine how incredible it must be in the summer to sit outside and enjoy your meal at one of the picnic tables on the canal. This is a must go if you are ever in CPH!
Our day wasn’t over yet…. we still had one more place to go. Tivoli Gardens! Now I know what you are all expecting… probably the same thing Joe and I were. Gardens. But nope. This place is a full-blown amusement park, right in the middle of the city! But this wasn’t Six Flags, it’s much smaller and SO much more charming. It has tons of beautiful landscaping within the park including a lovely lake and some really cool Chinese gardens. There are so many little restaurants and shops tucked into corners of the park as well. There were tons of kids & families there, it kind of felt like it was a normal weekend activity for the people of Copenhagen. The park was decorated for Halloween which really put Joe and I in the spirit. We decided to embrace our younger selves and even go on some rides! Joe would have been happy with the carousel but I forced him on “The Demon” 🙂 (Don’t worry, he survived) Tivoli is really such a special place with tons of European charm. I couldn’t get the smile off my face the whole time we were there.
We headed back to our hotel to freshen up and get ready for dinner. I had read so many good reviews about this restaurant, LouLou, I knew that’s where we had to go. The place is super small (we counted only 18 tables!) but what is so cool is there is literally only like 5 employees and they serve every table. The bartender personally brings over the drinks to each guest and the same waiter literally took everyone’s order! We even had the chef himself come out and trim our artichoke to make sure we didn’t miss any of the good stuff. I don’t know how this works so well, but somehow it does. I also have to mention that the decor at this place was killer – blue velvet couches and chairs with neon lights giving the room an intimate glow. I also loved all the details of the floral plates down to the embroidered napkins. A+ in my book! I knew this would be a good sign for the food 🙂 We shared a whole stuffed artichoke (wow), grilled scallops, and some incredible pastas. Next time we’re in town we’ve already planned to go to their sister restaurant, Geist.
Next we headed to Ruby, which is a cocktail bar I was recommended by multiple people. Such a cool spot located in an old, converted apartment. Spread over 4 floors with fun seating in different rooms of the house. Joe and I tucked ourselves into a booth and listened to some oldies as we drank some delicious cocktails. And I won’t lie…. after this we went back to Llama. That place is too good.
On Sunday morning we walked down the famous Nyhavn Canal. This is definitely the most touristy area but is the heart of Copenhagen. We grabbed a quick coffee and cinnamon bun for fuel and then started our adventure towards the other end of the city. Our first stop was to the Church of Our Saviour. This is one of the most well-known churches in Denmark due to its serpentine spire that visitors are invited to ascend. We decided to take the plunge and climb the 400 steps to the top. The views of the city are spectacular, but with how windy it was we were both reeeeeally nervous to be that high up so quickly snapped some pictures and headed back down.
We heard from a lot of people to check out Freetown Christiania. We didn’t know what all the hype was about, but after looking into the area a little more, turns out this is a long-standing hippie commune that operates completely separate from the rest of the city/country. They consider it a “free” city so do not pay taxes and have created their own laws (which includes no running because it makes people panic….). They do not consider themselves as part of the EU and even have their own flag – a red base with 3 yellow dots, standing for the 3 i’s in Christiania. Most people who live here are creatives – artists, blacksmiths, gardeners – and truly value a simplistic life ‘free’ of any societal rules. That being said, it does feel pretty run down – most people live in abandoned buildings and boats and do not do much (if any) upkeep to their homes. Joe and I were even questioning the electricity because most places did not look equipped. It is quite colourful though with lots of painted murals and graffiti decorating the area. Although we had heard from multiple people that you cannot take pictures there, no one seemed to bother us when we did. We’ve never been any where like this and it was certainly interesting to see how this group leads a completely different life from the buzzing city literally right outside the walls around them. Sounds crazy right? Truly a unique place that you must see to understand.
After walking 14 miles in two days, Joe and I were about ready to collapse. We headed for one last lunch at Cafe Victor where we were able to defrost and relax with an extra-large glass of Nebbiolo. We finally indulged in a roast beef smorrebrod and an amazing pumpkin soup with bacon, Parmesan and chilli flakes. Soooooo, so scrumptious.
We were so sad to leave Copenhagen, but really felt so lucky to have so much time there. I also think it was harder to leave than usual because we didn’t expect to fall in love with this city. We also tell ourselves “we’ll be back” at the end of every trip even though deep down we know that’s a crap shoot. I can’t say enough good things about this place and really hoping it is one of the cities we are able to visit again some day. Lots of love for CPH.