It was around 8PM on Sunday August 31st, 2014 when I finally made it to the student residence in Turku, Finland where I would be living for the next four months. I was set to start class and get myself all settled in the following day and the coming week. I knew I wanted to travel a lot while I was studying abroad in Finland so without wasting any time I had my first European adventure booked by Wednesday September 4th. I was heading to Copenhagen!
Copenhagen really is a beautiful city! Full of lots of history and streets lined with typical European architecture, it was a perfect place to get a taste of Europe right off the bat. Being only a 1.5 hour flight from Finland, made this city an even more attractive weekend getaway.
Points of Interest
By far my favorite area of Copenhagen is Nyhavn and Kongens Nytorv street. These two areas are right next to each other and are a hive of activity from street vendors, high class restaurants, street performances and many other goings on. I found it to be a great place just to hang out, relax, have some great food and really just enjoy the city especially in the evening. Nyhavn in particular stood out because of the colorful buildings and the picturesque scenery that really is the staple backdrop of Copenhagen. it is a must see for anyone coming to this wonderful city.
A short walk away from Nyhavn is the Amalienborg which is the winter residence of the royal Danish family. Again, another beautiful area sitting right on the water across from the Copenhagen Opera House. Amalienborg is a collection of four palace buildings surrounding an octagonal shaped courtyard.
Next on the to-do list in Copenhagen is to head down to the promenade where a bronze statue of the little mermaid is on display. While it is nothing spectacular, it is a very popular place to visit in the city with hordes of tourists surrounding the statue all day long to get pictures with the fairy tale statue. It’s on your way through the city anyways so might as well.
Next up, and another of my personal favorites in Copenhagen is Kastellet, a start fortress and one of the most well preserved star fortresses in northern Europe. Within the confines of the fortress is a settlement known as Kastelskirken. I was particularly fortunate the day I was there as there was a large ceremony going on to celebrate the national flag flying day commemorating Denmark’s deployed personnel.
A great place to go, especially later in the day, is Tivoli Gardens. TG is an amusement park (the second oldest amusement park in the world) and pleasure garden where one can simply relax and enjoy the festivals, concerts and other performances happening in the park. I wasn’t particularly interested in spending time riding the rides as I can do that at home but it was a great place to spend the evening with live, Danish, performances concluding with a firework show later in the evening. I recommend taking a warm jacket with you because it can get quite cold in the evening in Denmark even in September as it is so far north.
A visit to Copenhagen would not be complete without a view from above. There are many towers and churches around the city from which one can get a birds-eye view but I definitely suggest heading to is the Church of our Saviour. This is a Baroque church known for it’s helical spire and a staircase that winds around the outside of the spire all the way to the top providing magnificent views over the city and the beautiful red rooftops of Copenhagen.
Another recommendation in Copenhagen is to head back to Nyhavn and get on one of the many boat tours being offered in the canal. For only about 10-20 euro, this is by far one of the best ways to see the city and learn a lot about it’s awesome history. The hour long tour will take you through many canals in and around the city as well as out on the waterfront past the Opera House. It was definitely one of the highlights of my visit to Copenhagen. I didn’t have time to visit the Opera House but if you do, i’d recommend checking it out. It is an architectural beauty and among one of the most modern opera houses in the world while also being one of the most expensive.
Finally, a rather “unique” place to visit in Copenhagen is the hippie community of Christiania, also known as Freetown. Christiania is an area of the city that is basically a hippie commune and a source of controversy within the city. Protected under special law, Christiania is a self-governing society where, walking around, the smell of weed in the air is rather strong and many of the items for sale at various vendors has to do with the sale of Cannabis. It’s interesting, to say the least, to see such a community in the heart of a city and it be allowed to operate as such.
Since this trip was booked so last minute, there were no hostels available in the city without paying a fortune. We managed to find a relatively cheap room at Cabinn Hotel which is a little far from the city center but it is easily accessible on the metro.
There were two foods I just had to try in Denmark! Hot dogs and Smørrebrød. I know, I know, hot dogs? Really? Yes! There are many Danes who claim that they are the ones who invented the hot dog with stands throughout the city dating back to as early as 1921. They know how to make a great hot dog with a ton of excellent toppings to boot.
Smørrebrød is a Danish open-faced sandwich and something that cannot be missed when talking about Danish cuisine. Almost every restaurant around the city serves all kinds of variations of these excellent sandwiches so so make sure to try one on your own visit to Denmark!
The Copenhagen public transit system can be a bit confusing at first. The city is divided in to zones and you must buy a ticket that corresponds to the number of zones you need to travel through to reach your destination. A single trip can cost anywhere from about 24 Danish Krone (about $4.60 CAD) for a 2-zone ticket which would cover most travel in and around the city center to 108 DKK (about $20 CAD) for an all-zone single ride ticket.
Depending on your length of stay i’d recommend the 24 hour or 72 hour CityPass which gives you unlimited rides in zones 1-4 on buses, trains and the metro and also includes service to the airport. I was in Copenhagen for three days so the 72 hour pass worked out perfectly for getting around as well as for my airport transfer since the metro has a line that runs right to the airport.
Copenhagen is a wonderful city full of rich culture, history, food and a ton to see and do! I’d definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to visit Europe or the Scandinavian countries.