Copenhagen is the ideal city break for a long weekend, with a variety of things to do, see, eat and experience. It is the perfect combination of Scandivanian chic and continental European. The city is compact, walkable, and very tourist-friendly as English is widely spoken. It is one of the pricier European cities but it is still possible to have a great time there without breaking the bank. In this post, I’d like to share some of my highlights from my four-day weekend there and my suggestions about how you can make the most of your time in Copenhagen.
Do a walking tour
One of my favourite ways to familiarise myself with a new city and begin to learn about its culture and history is to do a walking tour. I visited Copenhagen with my friend Kat and we did two walking tours. The first was the Alternative Walking Tour (€16, pre-booking required). Our guide Martin, a native Copenhagener, gave us a real insight into life in Danish. The good, the bad…and the ugly! Martin gave us facts about different social issues in the city, including prostitution, homelessness, drug abuse and alcoholism. It may sound depressing but it was actually fascinating. Denmark is put on a pedestal in terms of its citizens’ happiness and work-life balance, so it was refreshing to hear a local’s perspective, without rose-tinted glasses.
We also did the free walking tour (with the same guide, Martin, pre-booking not required). We learned about Danish culture, the royal family and Copenhagen’s history in terms of political events and conflicts. The free walking tour is based on tips, at the end of the tour all the participants can tip what they felt the tour was worth.
The most interesting part of our Alternative Walking Tour was learning about the Free Town of Christiania. It is unlike anywhere I’ve been before. The self-proclaimed anarchist district opened in the 1970s, when an 84-acre part of the city became available. Overnight, eight hundred people moved in. Now one thousand people live there, half of which are children. It is a democracy- if you want to move into Christiania, every single resident must agree to it. They have their own currency, flag, radio station and website. Cars, weapons, hard drugs, stealing and violence are not allowed inside the district. There are three kindergartens inside, but children must go to school and university in the ‘outside world’. Many residents have regular jobs outside of Christiania, although there are shops, restaurants, cafes and bars inside. There’s even a resident doctor!
Tour guides are forbidden from entering but tourists are welcome. Our guide referred to the inhabitants as ‘hypocritical hippies’. They are anti-establishment and independent from the Danish government…. but they welcome tourists, sell Christiania merchandise, accept Danish krone and all major credit cards and run Facebook and Instagram accounts for their businesses. It is quite the contradiction and definitely an interesting place to visit!
The Little Mermaid statue
This statue is one of Copenhagen’s main tourist attractions. She is small and fairly underwhelming but if you are in the area, she’s worth visiting. Edvard Eriksen created her in tribute to Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Tourists love to pose with her but there are some violent Danes who seem to have it in for her! She has been beheaded twice, painted and blown off her perch by explosives. Poor Ariel!
The Design Museum
We really enjoyed the Design Museum (130DKK / €17 for adults – concessions available). There were several permanent and temporary exhibitions including Danish design through the ages, haute couture fashion designer Erik Mortensen and of course one on the global success of the Danish chair! Rooms filled with practical-yet-stylist chairs – I wanted them all!
I am obsessed with brightly-coloured buildings, so we had to visit Nyhavn. It is a very popular area, lined with cafes and bars which are perfect for people-watching. Make sure to check the menus before sitting down to avoid over-the-top tourist prices.
We also did lots of walking around the city and passed the following:
- Amalienborg (The queen’s winter residence, which has been occupied by the Danish Royal Family since 1794)
- Kastellet (A star-shaped fortress from the 17th century, which includes a museum and regularly hosts free events and concerts)
- Gefion Fountain (completed in 1908, showing Norse goddess Gefion charging through the sea with four oxen)
- Christiansborg, home to the Parliament, Prime Minister’s Office and Supreme Court.
Food & Drink
If you’re looking for a cool place to eat (which the locals gravitate towards) you must check out the meat-packing district. Copenhagen’s meat industry businesses were in full operation there until the 1990s. The area became uninhabited, so illegal raves and squats popped up. In recent years, the area has had a makeover; now high-quality restaurants and cool bars occupy the space. There is a great atmosphere and a variety of cuisines. We had two delicious meals at Tommy’s burger joint and saw restaurants serving pizzas, tacos, seafood, curries, steak and Italian cuisine.
If you’re a foodie, you must visit Torvehallerne market. It is a beautiful market, spread across three buildings. One of the buildings has products to buy and enjoy at home, such as meat, cheese, wine, beer, tea, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The other is more for ‘eating in’ – with freshly baked bread, cakes, pastries, sandwiches, ice cream and fancy chocolates. The third building contains a restaurant. There is also an outdoor fruit, vegetable and flower market. Kat and I fell in love with the cream snegl from Laura’s Bakery. Sngel means ‘snail’ and these delicious pastries are twisted round and round like a snail. They cost 25KR/€3.30 each. You could get them with chocolate, nuts and vanilla cream & cinnamon (I really recommend the latter!).
We ordered smorrebrød at Hallernes Smorrebrød. These open sandwiches are one of Denmark’s specialities. A slice of rye bread, topped with numerous ingredients (usually fish). Mine had chicken mayo, mushrooms, bacon and chervil. It was tasty but not worth the 62DKK (€8.30) price tag. If anyone knows where to find cheaper smorrebrød, please let me know in the comments!
On Saturday evening, we visited Silom Thai Restaurant. We were craving Asian food and it was a short walk from our Airbnb. We had a main course each, a shared portion of rice and a soft drink each. The total bill was 312DKK/€42. The next day was Kat’s birthday and we celebrated with a delicious all-you-can-eat sushi dinner at Takii. The set menu included many different types of sushi, along with typical Japanese dishes like tempura vegetables and seaweed salad. You could order as much food as you wanted for 209-299DKK/€28-30 (depending on the day of the week. Drinks not included).
We also visited Dia’legd. It is great for beer lovers as there is a wide range of beers all coming from a small Danish brewery called Refsvindinge. The bar also has some very limited choices of cider and wine (35DKK/€4.70 for a glass of wine)
Day trip to Malmö
We spent half a day in Malmö, Sweden’s third-biggest city which is a 30- minute train ride from Copenhagen. To get there, you cross the Oresund bridge, made famous by the TV show “The Bridge”. Adult train tickets cost 164DKK/€22. Don’t forget your passport or national identity card as they are checked by border control officers.
Malmö was a pretty little town, surprisingly quiet even though we were there on a Saturday. While there, we:
- Visited the main square (Stortorget) and saw the Charles X Gustav of Sweden monument and Malmö Town Hall (Rådhuset).
- Strolled around the harbour
- Gazed at the beautiful ceiling in St. Peter’s Church (Sankt Petri kyrka)
- Popped into art galleries and looked around arts and crafts shops.
- Admired Malmö Castle
- Photographed lots of bicycles and cute houses
I hope this post has given you some ideas about what to do, see and eat in Copenhagen. If you have any other recommendations for Copenhagen, please share them in the comments below!
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow