TOP 5 FOR COPENHAGEN
- Rent bikes! It’s really the funnest and easiest way to get around.
- Visit Mikeller brewery (or one of their spin-offs) – fantastic beer.
- Go see the Little Mermaid – at list a check in the box.
- Walk or pedal past the beautiful canals in the city center.
- Take a free walking tour for your daily dose of history.
Hygge hygge hygge! My new favorite word, which I’ll explain later. Basically, it sums up how I feel about Copenhagen and how much I loved this city. Copenhagen has been on my list for ever, and finally I spent four days with three great friends here in July (a great time to catch good weather in Scandinavia). We arrived late Friday afternoon and used the wildly simple metro from the airport to the center of town to get to our Air B&B apartment. We stayed in an adorable chic apartment in the Vesterbro area, decorated very simply and modern. The rooms and kitchen were big and clean, the only negatives being that it was a four floor walk-up (don’t bring a heavy suitcase) and a tiny bathroom. However it suited our needs perfectly for the time we had. We headed out immediately to grab some grub in the Meatpacking district, which is a fantastic collection of warehouse-style buildings, once used for meatpacking, now taken over by restaurants, bars, and shops. We passed several insanely busy patios before squeezing in at Warpigs – an offshoot of the local Mikeller brewery, serving the local beer alongside good old-fashioned BBQ. You jump in line with a metal tray, and pick your meat and sides. At the cash register you can pre-order your beer and pick it up at the bar. We squeezed in at the end of one of the long tables and sampled coleslaw, mac n cheese, ribs, smoked pork, fried pickles, and of course. . . beer. The food was awesome and the beer – some of the best I’ve ever had. We enjoyed another round of Sour Cherry beers before heading back to our little abode to meet another friend who arrived later.
The next morning we had booked a slot on a free city walking tour, meeting at the city hall at 11 AM. We caffeinated ourselves at Risteriet before joining the tour.
As I’ve said before, city walking tours are such a great way to get your bearings right off the bat. We wandered around the old town, learning about the city history, buildings, museums, and sites.
We also learned the most important word of the trip – Hygge. Once we had walked to a particularly cute and quaint little street, our guide proceeded to tell us about the Danish practice of Hygge.
There is no direct translation to English, but the closest meaning was said to be “cozy”. Hygge can mean anything from enjoying a glass of wine with old friends, lighting some candles and diving into a good book at home, having a picnic in the park, or really anything that brings you enjoyment, or you and your companions communal enjoyment. The best description I heard was to “do more of what you love and enjoy”. What a great motto. Hygge can be different to each person, but in most cases it apparently involves candles, to bring a sense of “coziness” to any scenario. The four of us LOVED this concept and it became the motto for the weekend (and hopefully life). We also annoyed every Dane we met by asking if they “Hygge” and how exactly to pronounce it.
Afterwards, we continued with MORE walking, backtracking to “Copenhagen Street Food”, a warehouse-style food truck concept along the water. As in Rotterdam at The Fenix Food Factory, these collections of different local food & drink purveyors, all in one place, are such a fun way to see and sample the local culture. Here, we scattered and hit up our preferences for lunch – Brazilian BBQ for two of us, Colombian food for another, and Danish smorgabrod for the fourth. We all thoroughly enjoyed our choices.
Next stop: Christiania. Christiania is the self-proclaimed autonomous area of Copenhagen originally founded as a separate town named Christianhavn in 1617. This town evolved into a squatter/hippie paradise, where drugs are tolerated and free spirits unite. Officially, marijuana and hash can be purchased, with harder drugs having been banned since 1979. This odd isolated area in the middle of the city has a controversial status as the Danish government changes, however it still remains as a unique feature of Danish society and something you won’t see anywhere else.
We entered on a sunny Saturday afternoon and overall I found it an odd and eerie place. As expected there are a lot of loopy people wandering around the place, some strong earthy smells, and a general sense of time slowing down. The way the pathways wind also gives a feeling of being a bit lost. We did the circuit and left through another exit, all of us a bit confused overall. We decided the next logical thing to do was something else thoroughly Danish – rent bikes! We stopped by one of the City Rent-a-Bike docking stations, registered, and quickly were in possession of the heaviest bikes I’ve ever ridden. These are suped-up beasts, with a GPS screen and a motor, so that every time you pedal you get pushed forward by an unforeseen force, which is very disconcerting when it first happens. The bikes are great if you don’t want to make any physical effort, and if you don’t know your way around the GPS is handy. But, after arriving at our apartment we decided they were just too damn heavy and we didn’t need the fancy motor/directions – the next day we would manage just fine with normal rental bikes.
That evening, we had a reservation at Manfred’s – a restaurant recommended by a friend. For 250 DKK, the table is given 7 shared courses, mostly vegetarian with some meat/fish included. It’s a really fun and friendly way to enjoy dinner. We also opted for the wine pairing, which is 3 generous glasses chosen by the house to go with your food. Of our seven courses, my favorites were the shaved fennel with chicken confit, a perfectly poached egg with peas and crispy barley, and a delectably juicy roast lamb. The wine pairings were definitely different, but worked well with the food.
After dinner, despite being stuffed, we had to make our way to Lidkoeb – voted one of the best bars in Copenhagen and fully embracing the hipster vibe of the city. We struggled to find it, probably because it’s actually hidden down and alleyway through a stone archway. There was a bouncer waiting to inform us it was full to capacity, but we waited just 2 minutes until a group came out and we sauntered in. Lidkoeb is set in an old house – with three floors, the first two with a bar and the third level being a whisky and cigar room. We started on floor 1, ordered round 1, and were already hooked watching the attractive tall bartenders whirl around martini shakers and tipping various spirits into beautiful glasses, adding sprigs of herbs and dashes of citrus. Everything was very artfully crafted, and you definitely pay for the show that comes with your drink (100 DKK on average per cocktail). But, we were quickly seduced by the delicious concoctions, agreeable barmen, and forgot about the real world and silly things like money.
The next morning was another story. We dragged ourselves out of bed and, feeling the desire for a strong coffee and food, went for brunch where we soaked up some sunshine at an outside table. Revived, we went to a bike rental shop and got (thankfully) normal bikes with baskets for our travels that day. Despite a rainy start, we rode through the city centre, past Nyhavn street and the Queen’s Palace to The Little Mermaid, the quintessential Copenhagen sight. It’s just as disappointing as everyone tells you. A small lady statue on a rock. Cool. Pictures taken, we got back on the bikes and road along the gorgeous canals, the absolutely perfect Sunday afternoon activity.
We found another welcome surprise, Mikeller brewery, very close to our apartment and the bike rental return. Of course, we had to stop in for a couple samplers, and another good looking bartender. Seriously, everyone in Copenhagen is beautiful.
Here’s a little map of our weekend bike adventures:
That evening, we had some amazing pizzas at Neighborhood, an organic local joint. The shrimp, pesto, and arugula pizza and the fig, olive, and prosciutto were delicious.
On our final afternoon, we crossed over the railway tracks to a different area of town, and discovered more interesting architecture and, an outdoor pool.
That evening we had a reservation at Fiskebaren. Fiskebaren is a fish place, and the menu online sounded amazing. We arrived and the place was packed. My fish was fine, the wine was OK, and the price exorbitant. I also found the service a tad awkward and unfriendly. The best part for me was the bread and butter. If you’re going to go to the meatpacking district, all I can say is go to Warpigs. It’s damn good food, beer, and fun.
The next morning was our last in the city – we packed up our bags, took out the garbage, did some last minute shopping and got one last amazing coffee from the friendliest Barista ever – at Enghave. We re-traced our steps back to the airport via the ridiculously convenient Metro system, and sadly returned back to the real world. Everyone – start up some Hygge at your home!