THREE THINGS YOU HAVE TO SEE IN COPENHAGEN
One of my favourite books as a child was a bite-sized collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s enchanting fairy tales. His wonderful storytelling has stayed with me so fervently that I was only recently gifted the most beautiful folio edition of my best-loved stories, yet I still can’t throw the original, and now well-worn, copy away. His tales are still captivating children today- whether it’s through his books or the charming Disney films based on them. So what better place to visit than the magical city where Andersen spent most of his life?
Supposedly the happiest country in the world, how can you not be happy in Denmark too? It might be expensive, and it might not be the first place on everyone’s bucket list, but there are hundreds of reasons to jet off to Copenhagen for a weekend. It’s full of beautiful people, beautiful food (the world’s best restaurant resides there) and has a wonderful education system, so almost 80% of Danes speak English. The city is small enough to cover in a short amount of time, one of the most bicycle friendly cities you’ll ever see and full of wonderful designs and ridiculous amounts of vibrant colour.
It’s clean, it’s friendly, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Have you booked your ticket yet? If you’re on your way, or even if you’re just dreaming of being in Copenhagen, these are three things you just simply have to add to your agenda.
It might not have the best weather in the world, but Copenhagen is a truly enchanting city to traverse on foot. I don’t think you’ll find any other urban hub in the world so easy and smooth to adventure around. However, if you’re completely new to a city, it’s pretty hard to know where all of those magical secret spots are. Your heroes are the utterly ingenious ‘Free Walking Tours’ that run several times a day all year round. And, yes, really, they are free.
Your guide might be a native Dane, a globe trotter or a tourist who extended their holiday…for a few years. Either way, they’ll all be bubbly, they’ll all be funny, and they’ll all have the most amazing knowledge of the city. Guaranteed. Our first tour was guided by a wonderful Danish woman who taught us a few useful words and warned us to stay away from Vikings; or, rather, people on bikes.
We saw The Little Mermaid, walked past the former Prime Minister, watched the changing of the Guards as they walked past our coffee stop and learned a lot about the rich history of Copenhagen. From the few remains of the medieval city to exciting tales of World War Two espionage and bravery, it was nothing short of fascinating. We saw castles, palaces and walked down the ridiculously long ‘Stroget’ – a street designed for shopping haven.
It wasn’t all history and tourist spots, you get an invaluable insight into the culture of an incredibly interesting community. You’ll experience the infamous Hygge and see the most amazing architecture. From spiralled roof tops that could be straight out of one of Andersen’s fairy tales, to the houseboats and colourful buildings on Nyhavn, and the wonky houses across the man-made island of Christianhavn, on the way to Freetown Christiania.
Christiania is in itself worth its own paragraph. A ‘hippie’ commune established in the 1970s. It’s most infamous for its anarchist laws, and open selling of cannabis in the streets. Though hard drugs are strictly banned, there is a long waiting list to live in the town where rent is free, violence and guns are banned and is seen by many as a successful social experiment. Arts and creativity are rich in the area; it’s full of complex graffitti and murals. Practices such as meditation and yoga have always been incredibly popular with residents too, and despite various clashes with Danish governments, it remains one of Copenhagen’s most popular tourist attractions, hosting an annual community Christmas dinner for the whole of Copenhagen, and for which even the Royal family donates food. If you ever get the chance to go, now is the time to be curious. Struggling to raise the money to buy the island, the community is facing emminent eviction.
Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, and by far one the most magical. Opened in 1843, it was pitched to the Danish King by Georg Carstensen, who told him that ‘when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think of politics’. Many of Hans Christian Lumbye’s – or rather, the ‘Strauss of the North’s’- tunes were inspired by the early days of this enchanting amusement park. Although it is constantly evolving, it’s never lost that original charm and has none of the tackiness of British fairgrounds.
Tivoli is more even more beautiful than you might be imagining, and it inspired the imagination of one very important man in particularly; Walt Disney. His disneyland resorts are said to be modelled on the Copenhagen original and his hopes and dreams about them often echo quotes traced back to Carstensen himself.
The first ride we went on together was a ferris wheel built during the Second World War. There is something for every age group there. From the 1920s bumper cars we queued up at least three times for, to the surprisingly exciting galley ships from the 1930s, the wooden roller coaster built in 1914 (making it one of the oldest in the world), to the fun house and magical Hans Christian Andersen ride I was quite happily made to repeat over five times by the demands of my little sister, who was equally enthralled. Our last ride was the 1920s carousel.
Perhaps the most magical, though, were the dragon boats that were built in 1936. On a beautiful lake overlooking the Gardens, we climbed in when it was pitch black, and pedalled the boats around the water, lit up by the hundreds of fairy lights on the trees and lanterns hanging from sparkling Chinese buildings. Each section is seemingly inspired by a different culture- from the Far East, to Russia, and looks astoundingly gorgeous. If you have the choice, make sure you’re there with enough time during night fall. Tivoli doesn’t close until 11pm, and looks one hundred times more stunning in the dark.
Don’t forget to save some money and treat your inner-kid to the most exciting food you’ve ever seen at a tourist attraction. From giant candy floss sticks to scrumptious hot dogs, or the large selection of commercial and themed restaurants, there’s all the food you could ever possibly want to eat.
Last, but not least, is a rather broad range of the ever changing, but always exciting events and stalls you’ll find everywhere in Copenhagen. The city is well cared for all year round, and it shows. You can find something round every corner that is so deliciously tempting you just can’t help but stop, from mouth watering food to creative projects hidden around the roads.
If you have a chance to eat anywhere, assuming you can’t shell out a few hundred pounds to dine at Noma, try the delectable food market- Torvehallerne. A permanent fixture full of different stalls, the market is an explosion of excitement and always buzzing with atmosphere. Ditch your usual Danish pastry from Greggs and try the Brunsvigers from Laura’s Bakery, or dare to try the classic Danish Smorrebrod. Elsewhere in the city, don’t miss out on the beautiful coffee and inviting Hot Dog stands. They’re not your usual sausage in a bun. If you can, catch the stand outside the Round Tower; it’s rumoured to serve the best vegetarian hot dogs, and veggie food is hard to come by in Denmark’s capital.
Be on your look out for captivating art around the city. We, and many others, had fun playing around the Happy Wall, pictured third from the left below. Like the Wall, most of the tube’s scaffolding was obscured by various creative projects. Other events throughout the year have included pop up hammocks for residents to rest their weary feet, jazz festivals, architecture and design days and Aladdin’s Cave markets.
Finally, as you walk around, keep your keenest eye searching for some of the most beautiful and mesmerising statues and monuments in the world. From the grand fixtures of long gone Kings, to friendly benches, hidden mermaids and the Agnete and her Seven Sons; a well kept secret hidden in the canal. If you look closely enough into the clear blue water, you might just catch a glimpse of seven mermen and their father, arms outstretched, begging for their mother to return home.