A whistlestop tour of Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid Copenhagen
The Little Mermaid statue

Hej hej!

I have, of course, returned from Copenhagen! It was fantastic, despite the wind and the grit (more on those later) and I’m back in one (slighty whiplashed) piece, which is a plus. So, this entry is dedicated to a travel journalism piece about the trip.

We arrived around midday last Wednesday, to a surprisingly warm, sunny Copenhagen. We got to our hostel (Danhostel, a five star hostel, on Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard) and went down to Nyhavn, which comprises of a pretty row of colourful houses flanking a central canal. If you look at any guidebook on Copenhagen, it’s likely to be the first image you’ll come across. It’s like a quaint, bustling Balamory. On our return to the hostel, we stumbled across the National Library, with its gorgeous gardens and manor house feel. It being our first night, we had no idea where to find food, so we ended up dissecting the menus in the ludicrously expensive canalside restaurants in Nyhavn, and spent a small fortune on cod and steak. Not together. We’re not maniacs. Then, we found a little ice cream shop and bought some churros (not very Scandinavian, I know, but utterly irresistible.) Then it was onto Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrianised shopping street, for a quick drink in a pub. Definitely only the one drink; we were hardly made of Danish kroner.

Nyhavn Copenhagen
Nyhavn

The next day, we decided to catch the train to Malmö via the Øresund bridge. Øresund bridge connects Denmark to Sweden across the Øresund Strait, and is Europe’s longest road and rail bridge. Malmö is quaint, quiet and sedate, but there’s certainly a pulse running through its streets, with its bohemian types and craft shops adorning the town centre. We headed to the riverside for a little sit down, where it was amazingly warm, and curiously quiet for somewhere so pretty. Then, we returned to Copenhagen, where we went roaming around for a little bit, and went to the shop across the bridge from the hostel to stock up on supplies (namely a bag of limes, Coke and fantastically cheap Captain Morgan’s rum). We planned to go out for a drink in downtown Copenhagen, but we were all whacked, so just lurked around the hostel for the evening. Here is where my brand new ginger ale addiction was sparked – the bar sold bottles for 15DKK, which was a comparative bargain compared to pretty much everything else in Copenhagen.

The next day, we bought Copenhagen cards, and headed back to Strøget in pursuit of a good Danish pastry. Lagkagehuset did not disappoint, and we opted for the Spandauers, consisting of a delicately flaky pastry, centred around a choice of cherry jam or cream, sprinkled with toasted almonds. Pastries digested, we caught a train to get to Experimentarium, a hands-on, fully interactive science museum in the Copenhagen suburbs. Thankfully, all of the experiments and displays had Danish, Swedish and English instructions, so we were able to participate in everything. There, we met a robot called Moodles who supposedly figured out various aspects of our character from analysing our muscular movements, blood pressure, temperature etc. (he said I had been sad recently… he was not wrong), which was odd. There were also large-scale bubble hoops, a strange circus-themed room based on physics, and a ‘whispering post’, which sent whispers across the museum to a ‘receiving post’. We ended up spending so much time there that we were unable to go to the aquarium as planned, so we had to reschedule. We ended up spending that night in the hostel too, after an afternoon consisting of going backwards and forwards on trains to the wrong places. Copenhagen is a surprisingly tiring city.

Saturday was the best day, as we went to Copenhagen Zoo! Not before a canal tour though, where we saw Copenhagen’s harbours, the opera house, the old stock exchange and many other significant buildings. We were also dropped off to take a brief look at the famous Little Mermaid sculpture, which is coming up to its 100th anniversary. There were also some very low bridges the boat had to squeeze under. Once the tour was over, it was onto the zoo. It took a little while to get there, as we had to take the Metro (very efficient, clean and not too crowded) and then walk through a park, but it was worth it. I can honestly say it’s the best zoo I’ve ever been to; not least for the presence of my favourite animals – penguins! Along with penguins, the highlights were the primate house, with an unsettlingly sad-looking chimp, the hippos and the polar bears. I also saw prairie dogs and a red panda for the first time. I like firsts in life. In my head I have a sort of mental list where I tick off new experiences and encounters and the like. I like ticking new things off, so Saturday was a very productive day for me. There was also a petting zoo, with goats, horses, cows and baby chicks. I have a strange love of petting zoos. I really like animals, so being able to touch them and stroke them is something I’m always happy about.

Polar bears in Copenhagen Zoo
Polar bears in Copenhagen Zoo

On Sunday, we went to Denmark’s national aquarium, following our failure on Friday. While the range of fish was impressive, I think maybe we should have taken the fact the first tank contained two types of goldfish to be a sign of things to come. It’s actually a very small aquarium, in terms of space. Had they spread the tanks out a little, it might’ve felt better value for money (not that we paid, as it was included in our Copenhagen cards.) There was an octopus and a Japanese spider crab, and the electric eel tank showed the level of electricity being expelled, which was quite cool. We decided to head onto Copenhagen Design Centre after that, which unfortunately appeared to be in the throes of an exhibition change, so only one display was fully complete. Some of the exhibitions being set up looked very interesting; it’s just a shame we caught it at a bad time. The National Museum was next on the agenda, and there was a very interesting exhibition about Denmark’s role as part of Europe. Some parts of the museum felt pretty labyrinthine, so it’s not somewhere to go for a quick time-filler. We were supposed to be spending the evening watching Brøndby IF, but after falling victim to a crashed ticket website, we decided instead to take a trip back to Sweden… for dinner. This time, the train took us to Helsingør, where we took a ferry to Helsingborg. The weather was horrendous, and we ended up stopping off for a fairly average pizza, before going to a pub for some extortionate drinks. It is worth noting that nothing can be done cheaply in Scandinavia. Even relatively inexpensive eateries and bars would still be considered a little steep in England.

Monday saw us heading to Bakken, the world’s oldest functioning theme park. It was snowing as we approached through the supposedly deer-filled park (we didn’t see any, though perhaps we were just unlucky), and the flurries continued throughout the afternoon. It was certainly an eventful trip; one of the rollercoasters ground to a halt on a corner, after a suspiciously slow set of hills. It transpired that ‘the wheels were too cold’, which is why the train had failed to make it around the corner. After around ten minutes spent laying pretty much horizontally (typically, our section of the train had stopped on the most extreme curve possible), the boss came to let us out one by one, and I found myself being hauled out of the ride by a disgruntled man. Not the most dignified moment of my life, I must say. We then bought some snacks (and a nerve-steadying rum and coke – for purely calming purposes, of course) at the 25kr stand, and then went on the final ride of the day, Tornado. Be very careful if you ever find yourself about to go on this: it launches at an incredibly high speed, and I’m pretty sure I gained myself some whiplash. After this, we returned to Copenhagen, and went to look at some of the churches in the area, which were big, bright and typically Scandinavian. We managed to catch one in the middle of some kind of musical rehearsal, which was a nice surprise. By now, we were just hours away from flying home, so it was back to the hostel to pick up our baggage, off for a quick meal and then onto the airport.

Copenhagen is a vibrant, exciting city, with lots to do for all tastes. There’s no way we could’ve seen everything in the time we were there, but I feel we covered good ground in our time there. Things to bear in mind include the prices (often chokingly steep), the fact that cyclists take precedence over everyone, and the fact that you may well get blown off your feet by the insane winds. I can guarantee you won’t be bored, and if Copenhagen gets too much for you, it’s incredibly well-connected, and a short train journey can take you to myriad other towns in the vicinity. Don’t go if you’re on a diet; it’s surprisingly difficult to find healthy food, but definitely try the pastries and the hot dogs from the stands found pretty much everywhere. Also, consider bringing sunglasses, if only to avoid getting the copious amounts of grit adorning Copenhagen’s streets in your eyes. We didn’t really figure out why there was so much, but just take my word for it that there is a lot of it. Overall, Copenhagen is well worth a visit, whatever you want from a holiday destination.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Neale Norman says:

    Inspired to go to Copenhagen now and see the sights! You’re a fantastic writer Kayleigh, just fantastic.

    1. Thank you so much, I’m so flattered! I can highly, highly recommend Copenhagen, so much so I was considering returning myself in the next couple of months!

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