Urban Vacation Weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark

By | December 8, 2015

NyhavnTwo Days In Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen in Denmark makes a great urban vacation location. The city of Copenhagen is vibrant, welcoming and packed full of history, as well as shopping and culture. English is widely spoken and there are cheap, frequent daily flights from most European capitals.

You can certainly spend a week in Copenhagen without running out of things to do, and you can make the most of day trips to places like the Louisiana modern art gallery, Hamlet’s castle at Elsinore, or even Sweden, which is less than an hour away by train across the Oresund Bridge.

Copenhagen has great public transport, so you won’t need to worry about driving in an unfamiliar place, and tourist and travel signs are easy to follow. We found that even our bus driver spoke functional English, although she said she didn’t – in English.

Getting To Copenhagen, Getting Around

Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport (CPH) is busy but efficient. It handles plenty of traffic from all over Europe as well as having International terminals for direct flights from North America, Asia and Africa. The airport has an integral railway station, zipping passengers into central Copenhagen’s Hovedbanegarden train station in less than 15 minutes. It’s no only cheaper than a taxi, it’s much quicker too.

Many international urban vacationers arrive by cruise ship as Copenhagen is a maritime city, and if you are very adventurous you can sail in, you’ll see plenty of sailboats coming in and out near the famous Little Mermaid statue (which is a little disappointing, it’s much smaller than you expect, even when you’ve been told to expect something really small).

Bus, train and metro transport are all easy to use and efficient, but as with any transport system in a new city it can be hard to work out who, what and where to pay. I found that the Copenhagen card, which is available online in advance, or at train stations, was a good choice for worry free travel. It covered all transport, along with free or reduced entry to all sorts of museums, tours and attractions, saving money and hassle on an urban vacation.

DK make great travel guides. This one covers the whole of Denmark and so may be more than you need for an urban vacation in Copenhagen, but I found that the wider view that this guide gives on the history of Denmark and its people made an interesting pre-travel read and helped to put the city into context.

Christus, Copenhagen
Christus, Copenhagen

Copenhagen: Don’t Miss

Copenhagen is home to the oldest amusement parks in the world, and Tivoli gardens in the center of the city is a delight. In the summer there are concerts and firework displays, and you’ll see young Danes out on dates as well as families having fun. Check the website for the event schedule during your visit.

The city is filled with wonderful churches, and mostly you can just walk in of the street. The Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, is best known for the Christus statue, popular with followers of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The church also has equally beautiful statues of the apostles, each identifiable by clues such as a sack of tax money, a quizzical hand on the chin, or a gourd and walking stick. It’s fun to play “name that apostle”.

Christiansborg Palace hosts Parliament and will be familiar to fans of Borgen as the hotseat of Danish political life. Amalianborg Palace is the royal residence and holds a more relaxed changing of the guard than London visitors expect.

A walk along the waterfront reveals great modern architecture, and the quaint, colored houses of Nyhaven provide a beautiful backdrop to sit and enjoy the city bustling past.

For anyone who can’t hear the word Copenhagen without Danny Kaye singing about how wonderful it is in their heads then a trip to the outdoor museum at Frilandsmuseet is a must, with Danish life preserved as at the time when Hans Christian Andersen (Andersen, that’s me!) was writing his tales.

Eating, Drinking, Sleeping and Shopping  – Just how expensive is Copenhagen?

Copenhagen is eye-wateringly expensive, all that great education, healthcare, environmentalism and care for vulnerable people doesn’t come cheap, but there are ways to make a stay affordable. Choose a hotel that includes breakfast in the rate. Eat a giant breakfast with a view to having it sustain you until dinner. I tend to stay near the central train station, which does border on the red light district, which allows me to stay in nice hotels with great breakfasts, and often tea and cakes in the afternoon all included at a reasonable price. It’s still a safe neighborhood, but not for the prudish.

Copenhagen is home to the best restaurant in the world, Noma. I say this based on lots of restaurant critics reviews, I haven’t been there, but if you are stupendously rich then give it a go. Otherwise there are cheaper neighborhood restaurants and plenty of snack outlets selling pizza and hot dog type meals, as well as buffet restaurants that allow you to fill up cheaply. Eating at the tourist traps of Nyhaven is fun, but factor in the additional cost of the lovely view and people watching opportunities.

If you’re in Nyhaven don’t order dessert, stroll out with the restaurants on your left til you get to the bridge, turn left and go to the little ice cream shop. One cone with lots of scoops to share is much cheaper and more fun that individual cones.

Alcohol in Scandinavia is crazy-expensive. The city is home to Carlsberg, so have a pint of that during your stay, or a Tuborg, but don’t plan on drinking a lot in bars. The cheaper, and socially acceptable alternative is to buy booze at a liquor store and drink it sitting on the riverbank, quayside or in the park. Vesterbro is the best neighborhood to party like a local.

The city center has all the shops you’d expect in a European capital city, including a great toy store with Lego everywhere, but Norrebro is much hipper, staying just on the cool side of hipster.

Copenhagen Town Hall
Copenhagen Town Hall

Weird and Wonderful Copenhagen

These guys with the horns are great. They stand outside City Hall and the main square in Copenhagen, you’ll recognise the area from the first series of The Killing if you watched it. The legend has it that if an adult virgin of good character walks past, then they’ll blow their horns in celebration. They were awful quiet when I was there.

Copenhagen is also home to a fascinating social experiment. The Freetown of Christiana in Denmark is, or tries to be, a functioning anarchist society, and whilst it doesn’t quite have state blessing, it largely has a state shrug of the shoulders. In 1971 squatters overtook an abandoned military base in the city and people went to live there. There’s around 800 residents at the moment. Up until about ten years ago cannabis was sold openly on the streets. That’s now illegal, but my nose detected plenty of violations. The area has had drug and crime problems, but residents try to join together to lock out hard drug pushers, pimps and gangs. Photography is not permitted, but you can stroll around, and I’d recommend you do. It’s certainly no Utopia, in fact I found it rather depressing, but it’s definitely different, and if you find a quiet spot by the river you can picnic in peace and quiet with great views.

Denmark is a tolerant country, and Copenhagen is a diverse city. They advertise with the logo Copenhagen. There’s people from all over the world living there. It’s very cycle friendly and more environmentally aware. Copenhagen is gay-friendly, and Pride Week held each summer ends with a huge parade, with bands and entertainment in the City Hall Square. Copenhagen is a very safe city for women travelling alone or with friends.

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