First things first. The amount of good looking people per square metre is staggering. It’s like being in a Hollister catalogue but with more clothes. Before you go, I recommend hanging out at one of those stores in your city so you can acclimatise. It will ease the transition.
That aside, let’s get into it. The very first thing you should do is buy a Copenhagen Card. It gets you free travel on buses, metro and trains. You’ll also get free entrance into 73 different museums and attractions plus discounts at certain bars and restaurants. In short – it will save you a ton of money. A 3 day pass will cost you €85 and this includes two kids under 10 if you want to ruin your holiday by taking them along. Winky emoji…as a parent I’m allowed to say that.
You can download the pass straight to your phone via the app.
From the airport, the metro is the quickest way into the city centre, taking just 20 minutes. Once there, Copenhagen is served by a fast and punctual 24hr bus service. This lets you traverse the city easily if the weather is bad, you’re very lazy, or you want to venture further afield. The city is definitely walkable, but the best way to get around is by bike. Copenhagen is criss-crossed by glass-free and super-safe bike paths. The drivers even consider you to be traffic as opposed to a target. Our hotel had their own fleet of bikes which guests could use. Apparently this is commonplace in Copenhagen so make sure you ask your hotel.
There are tons of great hotels in Copenhagen to suit any budget. We chose the Andersen Boutique Hotel in Vesterbro. It’s a modern, family-owned hotel with a nice breakfast and free wine hour for guests at 5pm. Vesterbro is quite a hip area just a short stroll from the meatpacking district which comes alive at night with quirky bars, interesting restaurants and banging clubs. Staying in this area means you’re only a short walk from the city centre in one direction and the Parisien-esque Frederikberg, with its boutique shops and cafes, in the other. Perfect.
Copenhagen is famous for its open bread sandwiches or smørrebrød, which is basically a slice of deep brown or rye bread topped off with meat, fish, cheese or anything else you can imagine. I dropped into Kompasset in Nyhavn for dinner to give it a try. As you can see in the video that’s not all I tried…the Christmas menu was on so I couldn’t pass up sampling a few morsels from that. Washed down with their Christmas craft beer and punctuated with sips of Aquavit (or Akvavit), I left fat and happy.
Buoyed by my experience from the previous evening, and acting on a tip from one of the other patrons of Kompasset I popped into Peder Ox for lunch the next day. The restaurant has a more laid back feel, with a charming ambience created by the old style hanging lights and roaring open fire. It was as tangible an example of hygge (the art of creating intimacy, cosiness, happiness) one could hope to find. The food was robust selection of traditional Danish dishes with a subtle French twist. Located in Gråbrødretorv, a picturesque square in the centre of Copenhagen, it’s well worth a visit if you’re after something hearty after a day of exploring.
Copenhagen has a vibrant craft beer scene, and with many bars producing their own range of beers, you’re sure to find one that hits the spot. We found this particular gem of a bar on Viktoriagade, a side street that runs between Istedgade and Vesterbrogade. Mikkeller Bar has 20 beautiful brews on tap, including many of their own invention, as well as others from around the globe. The bar is minimalist in design and has a modern but intimate feel. If you’re single and firing up the auld Tinder, this would be a good place to demonstrate to your future Tinder wife/hubby that you’re still with it. There’s no denying it’s hip, but the crowd is a good mix of folks from the neighbourhood and the achingly cool. Mine’s a Vesterbro IPA please.
Tivoli Gardens is one of Europe’s oldest theme parks. Rumour has it that the park was built because somebody told the King of Denmark that when people are entertained, they don’t think about politics. Why anyone would voluntarily think about politics is beyond me, but I digress. Inside, depending on your constitution, you’ll find hair-raising rollercoasters, beautiful gardens, restaurants, bars – and if you’re lucky enough to visit when we did (i.e. November 16 onward) one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe. If you do decide to bring the kids along, this place is unmissable, they’ll love it. Even an old Scrooge like me managed to enjoy the magic.
Copenhagen boat trip…I’m cheating, I know… but technically it’s just one activity. The best way to see all the sites of the city is to take the hop on, hop off boat tour. You’ll be able to check out all the tourist must-sees including Christiansborg Palace, National Bank of Denmark, the Opera, the Little Mermaid , Amaliehaven, Our Saviours Church and the Black Diamond. We had the super extra bonus feature of a bunch of Portuguese football fans screaming “Porto, Porto, Porrtttoooo” at us from every bridge we went under. It was Champions League night and Porto were playing København. A draw in case you’re wondering.
If you want unrivalled 360 views of the city, you need to climb Rundetaarn in Købmagergade. The walk up the tower is amazing with a paved winding path snaking its way up the belly of the building. There are plenty of interesting rooms to check out on the way up outlining the history of the building which was originally built as an astronomical observatory in the 17th century.
All of these are covered by your Copenhagen card.
Yup, the one that inspired the hit TV show. The Øresund Bridge is the longest combined rail and road bridge in Europe and connects Copenhagen with Malmo, Sweden. It’s a handy way to get two countries ticked off in one trip and costs about €40 by rail. And remember, don’t forget your passport.
Last bit of advice would be to plan your trip in advance. Copenhagen isn’t cheap but if you know where to eat and plan smart you can still have a blast on a budget.
- Brian Finucane