Denmark is unlike any country I have been to before. The best word I could use to describe it would be ‘equal’. Everyone that lives there seems to be on the same playing field (probably because they are in their socialist economy). Denmark was rated one of the happiest places on the planet – and so I was keeping my eye out for that. However, I didn’t really see it. Everyone seemed so… neutral. It was almost like the country was emotionless. Not happy, not sad, just… biking.
Ah the bikes. Bike lanes beside every road, major and side-street. Bike parking outside of every building. Bikes leaned up – unlocked – against every residential suites with no fear of theft. As a pedestrian you are an afterthought as bikes rule this country. It’s quite amazing to see, paired next to minimal traffic and seamless trains coming every few minutes (which of course also have cars designated for bikes). Getting around is a breeze in Copenhagen.
Jet Lag Averse
We landed in Copenhagen in the late afternoon after our connection in London from Canada. Our Airbnb was 1 stop from central station and our host was prompt to let us in. The Airbnb itself was very nice – quaint. We stayed in his children’s room (my guess is a separated parent and the kids were at moms). He was very friendly and helpful. The only downside was the 8 flights of stairs to get to the flat, but isn’t that Europe for you?
Our first priority was to eat. There was a popular restaurant street just behind our building and we found our way to Dej – a pizza place with amazing Napoli-style pizzas. While they were out of the vegan sausage I was eager to try, I was able to give ‘potato’ pizza a chance. It was just that… potato and pesto on pizza. Thank goodness for chilli oil! Each pizza was 115 DKK (which is about $23CAN). Not outrageous since most European pizzas at home are around the $18-20 mark anyway. Satisfied, we walked back to the apartment and quickly fell asleep (managed to hold out until 9pm!).
Personal Tour Guide
Andre had been to Copenhagen before so I more or less left the first day up to him to tote me around and show me the major landmarks. I generally start any new city by finding city center and checking off some of the ‘points of interest’ in the area.
We made a quick stop at a nearby mall in hopes of finding a SIM card, but to no avail. We did, however, find a McDonalds. I didn’t feel really great so I opted for a smoothie instead of my favourite ‘bacon egg bagel meal with extra hashbrown,’ and felt pretty good about that. We then hopped the train to Central Station.
There we had found a ‘Libara’ SIM card at the 7-11 which cost 49DKK ($5) with about $10 pre-paid on it – the package add on for 5GB EU-wide was 150DKK ($30) – God I love Europe phone plans… SO CHEAP.
Heading out of central station we glanced at Tivoli Gardens and scoped out the Tivoli food court (more like a market), which we planned to come back to later for lunch. And then we just wandered…
We wandered along the canal, down a shopping district street with a mix of souvenir stores and high-end fashion boutiques, and then over to the insta-worthy ‘Nyhavn”. I’d seen this row of colourful houses online many times before and was thrilled to be able to take the exact same photo as every other traveler before me. It was almost like I expected, except that I suppose I thought there was a larger body of water in front of it since photos usually just show the 1 side. We did our tourist due diligence and walked all the way up and took a selfie at the end – and then we continued on.
The Little Mermaid
We had purchased a multi-day bus/train pass that I was determined to use (since it cost $30), so we skipped over to the famous mermaid. OH WHAT A SIGHT. I WAS SHOCKED. I COULD NOT CONTAIN MY… disappointment.
Really? That’s it? That is the infamous Denmark Mermaid? But… but… why?! It’s so small and its backdrop is an industrial plant. Andre DID warn me, but of course, I had to see for myself. I got my tourist photo… and a photo of the 50 tourists* pushing around to get their boring photo… and then we left.
I guess I get to say it was worth it… but only because the walk from the train to the mermaid was through a lovely garden and military barracks.
By this time we’d already walked 18,000 steps and were ready for a nap. We headed back to our Airbnb and did just that.
Iluka Seafood Restaurant
We had an 8:30pm reservation at Iluka – a seafood restaurant that was ranked some of the best seafood in Denmark, and Andre had made a reservation (love him).
We opted for the ‘tasting’ menu with 5 courses. I wore my new Club Monaco 1-piece jumper and a fancy bun to set the stage.
- COURSE 1 was amazing. A thin layer of raw fish atop creamed oysters. I could not get enough and would have ordered 4 more of that.
- COURSE 2 was quite unique. A cube of milk (no, really) with a creamy soup and mussels around it.
- COURSE 3 was tasty but very basic. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around paying big bucks for grilled asparagus wrapped in nori with butter.
- COURSE 4 was a big-ol’ whole fish. Just fried. It had a face and skin and everything and was up to us to sift through the bones.
- COURSE 5 was another milk cube but this time it was sweet. A walnut and maple sauce poured over top.
Overall I thought the food was delicious and unique… but I was just not convinced that paying $200 each was worth it. I gave it a 4* on Google.
All Mapped Out
The next day was less of a wander and more of a beeline from place to place. We had hit a lot of destinates I had wanted to see the day prior, but there were a few left on the list that needed to happen – and so I mapped it out. Thoroughly.
Minimalism is the new Gold
We started with a church. We are in Europe! As tired as I get of seeing church after church, there are a few that are worth venturing over to. ‘Church of Our Saviour’ was one of those. As minimal and ‘small’ as it was compared to most European cathedrals, it could very well be my favourite. It doesn’t appear they spent TOO much on gilding the interior and… there were… wait for it… ELEPHANTS!!!!!
If you know me you know that I love elephants. I saw these 2 babies on Google and I am not ashamed to say they were the SOLE purpose for visiting this church. THAT said, I fell in love with a lot more while I was there. It was so simple and clean and still held so much beauty. The other perk was the tower. For 7DKK you could climb the MANY steps up to the spire, where the remaining stairs swirled around the outside – the views were phenomenal. It was well worth the money. And from there, we got a glance at our next destination.
Peace, love, and other drugs (lots of them)
Freetown Christiania is the freedom commune in the center of Copenhagen and has made quite a name for itself as being a place where hippies get high, make art, and live free of government reach.
What I pictured was some older folks playing guitar, painting on lawns, and swaying back and forth to the beat of their own drums (literally) – with their wares for sale all around. However, what I found when I got there was quite different.
I was pretty shocked at how ‘sketchy’ the whole place actually was. Sure, I got my hippy music-playing man at the entrance, and a few people with tables of jewelry set up – but it all seemed very mass produced. Further in there were people selling hash and weed out of plastic bags and tin foil, scratching their arms and faces, and looking quite worse for wear. In the communal eating area, there were underage kids drinking beers with HUGE blunts hanging out of their mouths, dressed in tattered clothes. This was not the hippie commune I had imagined; this was more like a glorified drug-hole for the homeless. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t stay as long as I thought I might have.
That all said, though, there was an upside to this freedom village. The art. Graffiti, sculptures, murals, crafts – there was something for everyone’s tastes. Every inch of the place was covered in beautiful designs that felt like an outdoor art gallery. I am certain that many of the folks living there are truly there to express themselves and live a carefree life – and that was shown in the art. I just hope the drugs don’t continue to overpower that raw talent hidden inside.
Rags to Riches
What better way to shake off the heebie-jeebies than to go to a palace. Christiansborg Palace is quite a spectacle! The palace is divided up into a few museum areas (Ruins, Throne Rooms, Kitchens, Stables). You can buy a ticket for 1 or you can buy a bundle for all 4 (which is cheaper than buying 3 separately). We did the bundle.
Ruins are not really my thing, but we decided to wander through them anyway since they were a part of our bundle (and my best friend, who is a history major, would kill me if I didn’t). It was quite an underground labyrinth with parts of the original wall preserved below the current palace. It also had stories and replica scaled models of the past palaces that burned down over the last few hundred years – which was interesting to see (thank God for firewalls now).
After that was my JAM. Palace rooms that stretched on forever with lavish wallpapers, priceless art, and furniture that I only wished I could sit on! There is just something about decorated rooms that gets my heart pumping. It was mostly free-roam with a few barriers to protect some of the more important furniture, but you could really get a feel for what it was like to dance through a palace. Inlay solid wood flooring, textured wallpapers, and molded plaster details around each doorway.
We made our way through to Andre’s favourite section, the kitchen. Needless to say, we both want a full set of copper pots and pans after that visit! That kitchen was a chef’s dream (or so he says – I wouldn’t know what a chef wants… they all looked like they could make tons of KD though). The kitchen boasted six ovens for roasts and another six for chicken, not to mention the completely separate dessert room. This kitchen was still used for the modern royal family for larger banquet dinners, which I could only imagine would be an extremely cool experience to be a fly on the wall for.
We then headed to the stables for our last stop. OH NO! IT WAS CLOSED! 20 minutes too late – we’d run out of time! Blast those ruins, we should have done them last. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the stables other than I heard they were the 1 building that survived the most recent fire and were an ode to the opulence of the previous palace… darn nabbit.
Tapas and Beer
Our tummies rumbled and we started to look for food. Copenhagen has a very neat little food market called ‘Torvehallerne’. It is sort of like a food court mixed with chocolate and alcohol kiosks mixed with vendors selling flowers and fruit. It really is the place you want to be when you are hungry. And all of Copenhagen had the same idea. The place was PACKED. We did a quick tour through and then decided to head back to Tivoli Food Court where we had eaten the day before, to get some Spanish tapas and get off our feet.
The tapas were 10 for 200DKK (not the cheapest tapas around) and hit the spot just right. We gobbled them up and headed out. The problem, though, is that tapas are small and our tummies are not. We were still hungry! We started to head down the main restaurant street that leads from the meat-packing district right up to our airbnb – conveniently. Along the way, we stopped at ‘Sushi Best.’ I can only describe this place as the WORST sushi of all time. And that’s all the time I will spend on that.
We headed home, I worked for some time, we packed up, and had an early morning off to our next adventure – Legoland.
I wanted to take a second to also emphasize and point out 2 major things (things I didn’t want to dwell on much in the main blog section).
- DENMARK IS FRIGGEN EXPENSIVE. Holy smokes. I can’t even begin to explain how crazy everything is. I’d say that ‘double’ is a fair assessment of the cost of everything in Copenhagen compared to Canada. Food being the biggest culprit.
- I wonder if everyone is so ‘content’ because nobody wants for anything in this socialist economy? With all of your needs taken care of and no major fluctuations from rich to poor – is it that without some struggles and lows, you have no contrast for highs? I just can’t see how everyone is not perma-smiling in a place that pays you to go to school, has free health care, has a ‘welfare’ style program that people can travel for months on, and with housing prices 1/3 of Canada!