By Tara Fitzpatrick
This summer I visited Copenhagen for the third time. My introduction to the Scandinavian city came when I visited a friend studying in Lyngby, a modern town just outside the city centre. I then returned the following year with the same friend who was missing the modern chic vibes of the city she had once called home and in May I was back for a third time. I have fallen for the Danish capital, let me tell you why.
The freedom to sip an ice cold beer by the city’s lakes or freely ride a bike without fearing for cars driving up behind you are small details which make Copenhagen different from life in Glasgow. With effortlessly cool cafes and bars, understated industrial-chic fashion and multiple eras of rich history, Copenhagen is the perfect combination of all things Nordic.
With the ability to bag flights from Edinburgh for £55 return, there are endless reasons to make the Home of Hygge your next city holiday. Here is my three-day plan to get you started.
The perfect way to see Copenhagen is undoubtedly by bike. As the first day in any new city is about getting the map out and finding your bearings, renting a bike (likely to cost you 900 Koner for 24 hours) is the perfect way to cram as much sightseeing as possible into your first day. Bike shops can be found on most streets and many hostels and hotels offer their own bike rental service.
Once you have your wheels, a good central breakfast spot would be Paludan Book Café. Located in the beautiful old Jewish quarter of the city next to the old Cathedral and university library, Paludan’s menu offers multiple breakfast platters for veggies and non-veggies alike including famous Danish rye break, fruit, eggs, pancakes and smoothies: the perfect way to start a full day of city cycling.
After breakfast, head East through the shopping streets towards Nyhavn, the iconic 17th Century harbour which is likely to be top of the list of any first-time tourist to the city. Stretching from the beautiful public square of Kongens Nytorv right out the waterfront, Nyhavn’s colourful, buzzling atmosphere is no disappointment from the pictures on the cover of every travel guide.
While the restaurants which align the harbour are prime spots for people watching, I would not recommend having a meal by the waterfront unless who have a good deal of cash to spend. Instead, take your bike down to Vaffelbageren, one of the oldest waffle bakeries and ice cream shops in Copenhagen, with their famous recipes dating back to the 1920s, for a quick snack.
Cycling North East of Nyhavn you will pass the beautiful marble dome of Frederik’s Church which stands parallel to the grounds of Amalienborg, the winter residence of the Danish royal family. This road will also lead you down to the Kastellet (The Citadel), the famous star-shaped military fortress, founded in 1626 and one of the best-preserved in Northern Europe. Surrounded by moat and open from 6am -10pm, the grounds offer beautiful views of the city’s landmarks.
Just outside the Kastellet lies Churchill Park, home of the Gefion Fountain and St. Alban’s Anglican Church. Follow the path to the Landelinie quay, the extension of the harbour built in 1894 and, most famously of all, the spot where The Little Mermaid sits upon her rock surrounded by tourists from all over the world. Despite its mere 4.1 ft, the statue is arguably one of Copenhagen’s most iconic attractions. Commissioned in 1909 to celebrate the ballet of Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fairytale, The Little Mermaid sits looking onto the land from a rock among the cruise ships and tour boats.
Once you have captured your obligatory mermaid selfie, cycle back along the waterfront which gives you over-sea views of the the Danish Royal Opera House, one of the most modern (and most expensive) in the world, built in 2005.
Arriving back in Nyhavn, head North up Gothersgade, one of the city’s largest streets towards the Rosenborg Castel Gardens. Once the private gardens of King Christian IV in the 17th Century, this is now the busiest and oldest green space in the city. Lock your bike outside and stroll through the lime tree- lined avenues and take a sit in the grassy terrain over-looked by the beautiful Renaissance turrets of the Rosenborg Castel.
I recommend starting your day in Nørrebro, one of Copenhagen’s 10 official districts, in the north of the city. This is the perfect destination to find a downtown stylish café for breakfast. In Jægersborggade right in the heart of Nørrebro lies the breakfast and brunch gem that is Grød, the World’s first porridge bar which offers customers the chance to build their own porridge bowl with any toppings of their choice.
This is also the perfect destination for some post-breakfast shopping around the quirky independent clothes and jewellery stores. While shopping in Copenhagen is filled with all the well-known brands from Urban Outfitters to & Others Stories and the higher end department stores, Nørrebro is the best part of the city for second-hand and vintage rail racking as well as authentic Scandanavian designs you will struggle to find on the high street.
Take a stroll through Assistens Cemetery, a rare green space in the busy heart of Nørrebro, where the most famous Danes are laid to rest including father of the fairytale Hans Christian Anderson.
Strolling down the street of Nørrebrogade, you will find yourself at the lakes. Consisting of three separate stretches of water around the western margin of the city, this area marks where the downtown district of Nørrebro meets the rest of Copenhagen. The West side of the water is aligned with bars and restaurants where you can sip a glass of wine or take a ride in a swan shaped paddle boat.
From here you could head across the lakes up to Nørreport station. This is close to two beautiful green areas to choose from. To your left you could visit Copenhagen’s Botanic Gardens filled with stunning scenery and lily ponds overlooked by the large, white glasshouse. Alternatively take a stroll through Østedsparken which offers lake-side greenery with beautiful city surroundings.
Spend your evening in the southern district of Vesterbro. This areas offers one of the best insights into true Danish living, with streets surrounded by stylish apartments and hostels . This is a former working class area of the city which is said to have turned ‘ultra hip’ in recent years, however Vesterbro does not feel gentrified or exclusive.
Have dinner in the famous Meat Packing District, a trendy area for food, drink and nightlife. Having formally been home to Copenhagen’s meat industry, these renovated warehouses host a range of restaurants with food from all over the world. This creative cluster of businesses is one of the best examples of the industrial-chic vibes which characterises Danish style.
A perfect way to end your day in Vesterbro would be with night tickets to the Tivoli Gardens, one of Denmark’s most famous amusement parks. Open until 11pm on weeknights and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the best way to see and explore the park is by night when the beautiful amusements rides are lit up.
My third breakfast destination of choice is Kalaset . Located on the street of Vendersgade, West of the lakes, this tiny coffee hot-spot is perfect for a leisurely brunch which is popular with locals as well as travellers. The shabby-chic decor and old-fashioned radios hung from the walls make this one of the most popular cafés in Copenhagen – what better way to spend your final morning. Kalaset is also open until midnight servicing all kinds of quirky cocktails so you could also check it out at night.
After breakfast stroll up towards the wonderful markets of Torvehallerne. This could also be an alternative breakfast location, but whether you are looking for a meal or just a wonder through the stalls, Torvehallerne has a mesmerising variety of food, drinks and snacks to discover (and Instagram) with over 60 different stalls to browse.
You cannot leave Copenhagen without visiting Freetown Christiania. Located in the district of Christianhavn, this colourful, alternative hippie society was first established in the flower-power era of 1971 and is now home to over 800 autonomous residents.
The area was in the middle of constant dispute between residents and the Danish State until 2011 when the Foundation Freetown Christiania was founded. Today the area is open to the public and is a mix of artshops, music venues, galleries, organic cafés and beautiful nature. Photography is forbidden on the infamous Pusher Street due to the buying and selling of hash and signs indicate the dos and don’ts of the community.
After Christiania, grab a famous Danish Pastry at Lagkagehuset bakery chain and sit by the canals of Christianhavn watching the boats go past.
The Danish capital has endless hidden gems and quirky joys to discover. It is both a chilled-out liveable haven and a beautiful, metropolitan city. My third visit to Copenhagen will not be my last.