The past few weeks I visited a few cities in Europe. I ended up in Copenhagen because I scored a flight deal on FinnAir. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide on Copenhagen. It’s based on my research and personal experience.
I enjoyed my three days Copenhagen. It’s clean. It has moderate weather. The people are calm and friendly. The deep blue skies were only interrupted by fluffy white clouds floatings their way east across the deep Nordic blue strait to Mälmo.
I stayed in the Generator Hostel. This turned out to be a great place to meet people. It was a large hostel with ample bar area. The first night I met a guys from Toronto and Northern Italy (Brixen, specifically.) We merged our group with a larger group of travelers and had some lively discussion. I befriended a girl working in Manhattan as a consultant at a small firm there. We discussed organizational psychology and NY food over Danish IPAs before getting into a heartfelt story at the bar from a Polish pianist working as a chef in Copenhagen about the struggles of living as an artist in Poland. Travel exposes us to such multitudinous topics. There are too many to recount here.
During the days I’d wander the city for the best food and sights as planned. I listened to podcasts and music and think about things back home. It was pleasantly reflective. I walked 21 miles in 3 days according to Google timeline.
Copenhagen (“København” in Danish) is the capital of Denmark. It’s a calm city despite it’s 1.3 million people, the most populated in Scandinavia. Clean minimalist contemporary architecture blends seamlessly with stately Nordic royal buildings. The people, in public, are reserved and orderly. The city is clean. The food is excellent. Being on an island, water is a common theme in Copenhagen. The city is walkable.
Walking Sights of Copenhagen I enjoyed
The Meatpacking District (Kødbyen)
Cool restaurants, Danish young people drinking in the streets (there is a vibrant public outdoor drinking culture here like London.) An interesting open restaurant area with several packed places. I visited a brewhouse (called “Fermentoren”) with good IPA.
This is the tourist/shopping/historical area catering to weekend warriors and international travelers. It’s worth seeing for Danish architecture. Get an introduction to Danish sidewalk culture (how they act in public).
This is the classic Instagram spot. It’s in the heart of Copenhagen. Very touristy, but also pretty.
The Lakes (Søerne)
Just west of downtown find three long lakes. They allow for wide views of the city and the local Swans, albeit from ground level. Denmark doesn’t have hills.
Paper Island (Papirøen)
Cool island dedicated to 25+ gourmet food stands in an indoor market. View of the harbors. Danish people enjoying good food and drink.
I’m split on this. It was a cool idea in the 70’s of hippies who formed an anarcho-conclave in the city. Now it’s become an uncomfortable blend of tourists and grungy weed-seekers. Felt very forced but is probably worth seeing.
Beautiful Church. I only saw it from the outside. You can go up to the dome every day around 1pm. That’d be worth doing though I never could make it work.
Amager Strand (Beach)
Clean beach with views of the dark waters of the Øresund (strait) separating Denmark and Sweden. Views of windmills. I spent a few hours here with a fellow hostel traveler from Frankfurt. This beach in conveniently located between the city and the airport.
This is where the queen lives. It’s a great example of Danish architecture and close to the rest of the sights.
They have the best fish and chips I’ve tasted in Europe. This was meaty and flavorful fish with a crisp panko batter seasoned with cumin.
I was blown away by how good these hotdogs were. Polish sausages topped with Danish remoulade, ketchup, fried onion crisps, and pickle chips.
Very well executed pulled duck on brioche. Lots of savoury fat and fall-apart duck.
Pillowy soft serve vanilla ice cream cone from Vaffelbageren.
Rent a bike
Many people in Copenhagen commute by bike. It’s worth experiencing this culture from within. I was able to rent a bike for the day at my hostel for around $12. (72 DKK.)
Attempting to learn the Danish language without a tutor was a fool’s errand for me. Unlike Latin-based languages, Danish written language has hidden added sounds. This makes it impossible to phonetically attempt to pronounce words. I’d stick to “Tak” (thank you) unless you have a personal tutor, in which case I’d encourage you try more. It’s a unique language that’s intellectually challenging and will give you a deeper view into the Danish mindset.
According to the OECD, Denmark is one of the most expensive places in the world, behind Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. This reflects in pricing in the city. Expect prices to be 1.25-1.5x what you’d expect in other major cities.
I met up with traveler friend Amalie (see Ecuador). She gave me insights into the Danish lifestyle as we walked around town. It was cool to meet up with someone I met in South America on a different trip.
I met a lot of interesting folks at the hostel.
I took one night to go off on my own for drinks. Before I found the first place I was accosted by a group of friendly Danes who insisted I join them for a game at the local bar. There I ended up getting hit on by a drunk guy, pivoting between several groups of Danish people, discussing the differences between Denmark and Norway, and the absurdity of local laws.
Copenhagen is a place I encourage travelers to see. 3 days was the proper amount of time to accustom myself to the city but still leave several things to see. The people are content. It’s fascinating to see what the “world’s happiest place” looks like. It’s not filled with joyful frolicking gnomes. Instead most of the time people seem content with the way life is treating them.
A few tips I picked up:
- Don’t approach strangers. Respect Danish people’s personal space in public areas (the street, the subway, stores.) They are friendly, they just don’t get chummy in public.
- Wait for the walk signal at crosswalks. Danish people seem to believe that the rules are in place for a reason. Follow them while you’re here.
- Be super cautious of bikes. They are more prevalent than cars.
- Stay out of Nordvest at night. There have been some gang issues in this area recently (Summer 2017.) Overall the city is SUPER safe. But this area at night it’s smart to avoid. Most tourists and travelers won’t end up going out this far, but just be aware.