Copenhagen was my last stop before taking a ferry out of Scandinavia. I had loved the epic nature of Norway and sophisticated streets of Sweden. Now I was excited for the potential of Denmark and its much-loved capital.
I’d already enjoyed an exceptional experience on my way by crossing the Oresund Bridge, the 7,845m-long elevated connection between Sweden and Denmark. An incredible construction jutting out into the sea, it is an impressive journey to cross and iconic landmark of both countries.
Nyhavn is the postcard picture of Copenhagen. A row of cute and colorful houses line the waterfront. It’s an idyllic image and the atmosphere is pretty perfect too. Bars provide cozy spaces in the cold and spill out onto the street at any sign of blue sky. The place bustles in the evening, drawing tourists and locals to the quaint waterside restaurants to people watch and enjoy Danish delicacies.
Copenhagen is full of museums and art galleries. This is the city where you can witness Ancient Greek sculptures at the Glyptoteket then turn the corner to see the National Museum of Denmark’s artifacts of the Viking Age. Other key cultural centers include the Thorvaldsens Museum and Museum of Copenhagen, perfect for both history fanatics and those with any interest in learning more about Danish culture.
Then, of course, there’s the Carlsberg Brewery, another main attraction of the city. The Visit Carlsberg experience takes visitors on a journey through the brewery’s roots, recipe and reason behind the world-famous beer. Obviously, you get a few tastes along the way. Learn more about the ingredients and different styles of brew by going to the heart of Denmark’s favorite brewery. In the summer, you can even explore the grounds by taking a horse and carriage ride.
Carlsberg brews are, naturally, sold in most bars throughout the city, from black porters to fruit rouges, Tuborg to hoppy IPAs or even just the classic Carlsberg original. If you want a cheap place to drink a good beer, try Bedwood Hostel, whose bar is lively, friendly and affordable.
While I was in Copenhagen, the Nikolaj Kunsthal was free on Wednesdays, which was great for a traveler’s budget. Visiting this modern art gallery was an exceptional experience for many reasons, including its unique use of space in an old church, bold, contemporary exhibitions and immersive visitor experience of becoming absorbed within the art.
The ground floor hosted a display called Light Light Light, combining visual stimulation, flashing lights and overlapping audio to create a bizarre yet addictive experience in which the viewer is the center of attention.
On the floor above, the Law Shifters exhibition welcomed visitors to write down, in their own words a law that they believe should be legitimized, then place the paper in a vacuumed pipe, which collects the laws in a communal construction. You can choose to make a statement on such topics as free speech, equality or privacy. And a team of layers and writers then translate your words into official language, allowing you an active yet artistic say in Danish politics.
Finally, the last room was dedicated to a series of video art. In a small room, a large screen at the front played ten 5-10 minute films from the Fokus Video Art Festival 2018. These alternative and thought-provoking screenings covered a diverse range of topics including war, fitness, and grief. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, the effect was always impacting.
Across the water from the main body of the city is the small and local neighborhood of Christiana. The area is defined by small canals and many bridges, often lined with bars, cafes and people enjoying the sunny decks of their boats. The Church of Our Saviour, with its distinctive twisted spire, is in the heart of the borough. You can climb the tower for a rounded perspective of Copenhagen.
The most controversial, interesting and, in my opinion, beautiful section of this neighborhood is Freetown Christiana. First created by squatters in the 70s, it is a self-proclaimed anarchist community built upon former military barracks. The settlement now, however, is far from ordered, consisting of handmade houses, chaotic pathways and a sprawling artistic essence that draws visitors to experience this unique space.
Its setting is very beautiful upon a lake, flowed into by individual canals. Freetown Christiana rose from various movements, including hippies and squatters, to create the dream of a self-sustainable and communal space, built from scratch and free from convention. It has a peaceful spirit, nestled into nature and with a central focus on activities like yoga and meditation. Yet the district has also faced a violent history from police raids, gang assaults and a large crackdown on the popular drug culture of the community.
Regardless of its controversy, the area is indisputably fascinating to explore. People gather on the old overgrown military ramparts to enjoy the view with a beer. Walkers enjoy the winding pathways through the trees, stumbling upon unexpected structures covered in colorful graffiti. Inhabitants sell handmade crafts and jewelry from a makeshift market and sell delicious international food at cheap prices.
On the sunny day that I was there, the humming vibes of Christiana Freetown are only harmonious.
During my time in Copenhagen, I stayed at Annex Copenhagen. A magnificent yet affordable hostel in the center of the city, it was everything you could ask of Danish hospitality. The location was perfect, right next to the station yet still not far from the center, surrounded by small local bars and hidden cafes. The bright, colorful rooms were a warm welcome from the drizzling winter day and offered a comfortable stay after a day of sightseeing.
Every member of staff was incredibly friendly and the breakfast and bar facilities were exceptional. And the morning buffet was especially great, consisting of hot food, fresh fruit, cereals, bread, meat, cheese, and unlimited tea, coffee and juice. A perfect start to the day.
All facilities at Annex Copenhagen were clean and cozy. The spacious kitchen downstairs helped me stick to a traveler’s budget in a Scandinavian country. I can’t think of a better place to relax every evening and re-energize every morning to enjoy the beauty of Copenhagen.
Statues along the Waterfront
Copenhagen makes the most of its shoreline location with lovely waterside paths. Follow the route from Nyhavn along the water to reach the famous Little Mermaid statue. Although it is primarily a tourist attraction, depicting the fairy-tale character written by Hans Christian Anderson, the statue also has a political presence in the city. It has regularly been defaced and vandalized by activists and those seeking attention for specific causes. For example, in 2017, it was covered in red paint to raise awareness about whaling in the Faroe Islands.
Many tourists find the statue surprisingly small. But I didn’t find it disappointing; I liked the discreet landmark of Copenhagen, simple, small and looking out to sea.
Many other statues are scattered across the capital’s coastline, with uniquely strange marine themes or acknowledging historical moments.
Walking inland from the Little Mermaid statue, you can easily find the Kastellet, a unique star-shaped fortress open to the enjoyment of the public. Its ramparts offer a unique perspective of the city and waterfront, filled with walkers and joggers until the gates close with the sunset. You’ll discover various surprises while walking through the grassed pentagon park, from canons to windmills to abandoned prisons.
The fortress buildings are interesting to explore, including old, grand gateways and rows of rows of bright red storehouses. Still used as a small military base, the Kastellet is a distinctive blend of historical landmark, functional fortress and public space. Therefore, there are also two museums on site open to tourists. It is fun and slightly disorienting to explore, thanks to its strange shape, but a beautiful place to enjoy a walk, near the sea, filled with a moat and inhabited by local wildlife.
For another beautiful location, stroll around the King’s Garden, a well-kept park filled with statues, neat flowerbeds and orderly lawns. It’s still a fun place to enjoy, with a children’s adventure playground and host to various festivals and events in the summer.
Another key feature of Copenhagen’s skyline is Christiansborg Palace, with its 106-meter-high tower. Although you might have to queue for the experience, it’s free to enter the tower. From the top, you have exceptional views over the city. Stretching rooftops on one side and dynamic waterside on the other.
You can also pay for the privilege of entering the palace itself. Still the home of the Royal Family, it’s an exclusive insight into the history and modern life of Danish royalty. The grand public rooms are stunning and steeped in impressive architecture and decoration. In the Great Hall are the Queen’s Tapestries, iconic pieces of woven artwork depicting 1000 years of national history.
In the grounds of the palace is the Royal Library. A fascinating piece of architecture, the building is divided into two structures. One is the historic and original construction and the other a modern addition called The Black Diamond. With a large glass front, you can catch stunning views of the waterside from the open upper auditoriums inside. It’s a central hub for students, tourists and artists, housing both the Dronningesalen Concert Hall and National Photomuseum.
If you need to study or work in Copenhagen, the Royal Library is a wonderful place to do so.
One of the most notable things about Copenhagen is the amusement park right in the center of the city. With minimal effort and affordable prices, you can casually stroll into the place for a day of fun. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world, and one of the most popular in Europe. Thanks to its convenient location, it attracts tourists and locals regularly. People are drawn in by its wooden roller coaster, 80-meter-high swing ride and Golden Tower drop experience.
The park also hosts attractions at its Pantomime Theatre, Open Air Stage, Concert Hall and Aquarium. No doubt, Tivoli Gardens is one of the main experiences of Copenhagen. It’s hard to miss, defining the skyline with its high rides and bright lights.
In the end, Copenhagen was the perfect place to end my Scandinavian travels.
A bright and friendly city, saturated in colorful surprises and exceptional spaces, the Danish capital fulfilled my expectations. It also inspired me to return one day to enjoy the relaxed sunny days of the summer.