Copenhagen might not be the typical city break destination you’d think of visiting, especially compared to places like Paris and Rome, but when I saw flights advertised for £5 last May, I couldn’t say no.
To experience Copenhagen at its best, hire a bike and cycle your way around this Scandinavian capital, full of fresh seafood, high-quality coffee and modern art. Unlike in British cities, you can feel completely safe when cycling — cycle freely on a separate road to cars as the sea wind blows through your hair. Be sure to stick to the meticulous rules of the road that the Danes refuse to break, even if it means waiting for what feels like five minutes when there are no cars. Cycling allows you to experience the city from the perspective of a local, taking in everything around you as you spot new things to explore, and what makes it even better is that it keeps you healthy!
Among the myriad of things to do in Copenhagen, begin in the maze that is Assistens Cemetery where you can visit the modest grave of Hans Christian Andersen — author of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Ugly Duckling’, among others — concealed amongst the blossoming trees. Encircling the cemetery every Saturday is the Nørrebrogade flea market, where there lies a strange collection of treasures and tat, from copper saucepans to ancient dolls.
The Rundetaarn or ’Round Tower’ offers another interesting and unusual experience. Take time to walk up its famed helical pathway which leads to some of the best views that stretch right across the whole of Copenhagen. Funnily enough, countless bicycle races are held inside — including unicycle races — where even young children can race each other to the bottom of the tower.
Another common tourist attraction in Copenhagen is the Carlsberg Brewery, but what lies around its corner is far more intriguing (unless you really love beer!) The ‘hanging gardens’ are an empty expanse where cars and ropes are suspended from bare skeletons of trees. I wouldn’t recommend climbing on any of these rickety structures, but it really is an extraordinary sight.
Nearby, enter Søndermarken Park and you’ll see two strange sculptures protruding out of the grass. These are ‘The Cisterns’, which are odd but fascinating to look at. Below these triangular structures is an old, drained reservoir which once held 16 million litres of water, but has now been converted to display art installations. Wandering around this subterranean paradise is as eerie as it is interesting, as projections of birds surprise you in the dark corners of the damp cave.
A visit to the tackier Tivoli Gardens is a necessary escape from the more aesthetically intense construct that is Copenhagen. Something a bit more light-hearted, this wacky amusement park is right at the heart of Copenhagen, and is known as the second oldest amusement park in the world.
On your way out make sure to go to the Glyptoteket. Inside this building you will find a botanical garden in its auditorium, backed by winding corridors of marble sculptures.
In the evening, cycle down to Nyhavn: the postcard street of Copenhagen where rows of colourful houses reflect onto the boat-scattered waters below.
To enjoy a break from the busier city areas, visit Christiania. Christiania is a city within a city, an autonomous anarchist community that has caused a lot of controversy for the Danish government surrounding its cannabis trade. Yet walking into Christiania feels more like an enclave away from the often stressful atmosphere of city life. Yoga and meditation classes are frequently held in local cafés and community centres. With a vast lake surrounded by trees, improvised houses are dotted around, alongside healthy, sustainable cafés. Inside this bohemian area you can easily forget you’re in the Danish design capital.
About an hour’s train ride away from Copenhagen is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, one of the world’s most respected art galleries. Built next to the sea, it holds interactive exhibitions, featuring an amazing light exhibit and a sculpture garden. The uninterrupted views over the ocean creates a peaceful atmosphere which – combined with the rooms upon rooms of eclectic and interactive art – only adds to the outstanding experience.
By far the most entrancing neighbourhood is Nørrebro in the northern area of Copenhagen. The cobbled street of Jægersborggade is a magnet for young Danes. Walking down it you will be hugely tempted to wander into all the bakeries and cafés you pass, as the aroma of freshly baked pastries and coffee wafts out of every doorway. I challenge you to not buy anything from any of the minimalist Scandinavian design shops that line the street, containing everything you never realised you wanted.
Copenhagen is renowned for its taste, and Denmark for its design prowess. The Danish flair for design has recently erupted into the culinary scene, and describing Copenhagen as a food capital would be something of an understatement. Culinary masterminds permeate the top restaurants to the smallest cafés and are guaranteed to impress. Test your taste buds to their limit experimenting extraordinary flavours such as liquorice and rhubarb sorbet or buttermilk, acai, and nougat gelato.
If that doesn’t tempt you, imagine cardamom buns steaming straight from the oven at Meyers Bageri, and Grød — a restaurant dedicated to porridge. The Coffee Collective’s micro-brewery make speciality coffee in any form you could possibly desire, and in the centre is Torvehallerne, a food emporium exhibiting cuisines from all over the world. Make an effort to visit the Meatpacking district of Vesterbro, which has a collection of constantly adapting gallery spaces and candle-scattered ‘hygge’-orientated restaurants to explore, its interiors juxtaposing the harsh industrial exteriors of the ship container-like buildings. Try the restaurant named Mother, which serves up alternative, delicious sourdough pizza.
Although heavily minimalist in style, Copenhagen isn’t the plain city it is sometimes made out to be. Full of home décor inspiration and enough food to fill you for a month, a weekend break in Copenhagen will leave you wanting to move to Denmark.
Featured image © Bex Walton