As I mentioned previously while outlining our itinerary for our Scandinavia trip, Copenhagen was a bit of a tag on to this trip. The original intent was to visit Stockholm and the fjords in western Norway. As it turned out, it was quite cheap and convenient to add Copenhagen onto the beginning of the itinerary (it actually saved us a little bit of money flight wise to include Copenhagen). The only downside was one less day in western Norway which was actually pretty tough for me to give up. Checking another country off the list and visiting another world class city won me over.
Welcome to Copenhagen
With just over 24 hours in Denmark, we only really had time to skim the surface of Copenhagen and hit the highlights. We made the most of our time by staying at the Hilton Copenhagen Airport Hotel which I’ll review in a later post. We arrived in Denmark around 2 pm and after going through customs were greeted at the airport by workers from either the tourist board or some random milk company who were handing out free samples of Danish milk to arriving passengers. I found it quite odd, and I’m not really a milk drinker so I passed. Dawn tried it and said it tasted like any other milk. So, if you’re headed to Denmark for the milk don’t get your expectations up.
We walked across a covered walkway to our hotel, and were able to check in immediately. We headed to our room, dropped our luggage off, grabbed some snacks at the lounge, and headed into the city. A friend of ours had just been to Denmark and recommended we pick up the 24 hr metro pass so we did and then took the 15 minute ride into the city. One of the things on our agenda was to climb to the top of the Church of Our Saviour’s external spiral staircase for views of the city.
Church of Our Saviour
As we headed towards the church we walked along one of the canals. As it was a beautiful day, plenty of people were outside enjoying the weather. As Copenhagen is what some might describe as a very liberal city, there were a couple of guys enjoying the weather by sitting by the edge of the canal completely naked enjoying a picnic. We were again reminded that we were very far from Doha. Coming from a place where the local women are completely covered except for their eyes and hands, and where most men wear long pants (even the non-Qataris) seeing a couple dudes with nothing on is a little bit of a shock. Quite entertaining, but a shock nonetheless.
Some locals opted to be at least half dressed
We were a little concerned that the church’s spiral staircase wouldn’t be open by the time we got there as we had gotten conflicting information as to it’s hours, and we knew it wouldn’t be be open the next day. We headed in that direction anyway, and were happy to see tourists heading in to start the trek to the top. The church’s spire is 90 meters tall, and there are 400 steps to the top with 150 of those being on the outside (thanks Wikipedia!). It gets pretty tight at the top, though, and as that’s where everyone wants to be it gets a bit crowded. It wasn’t exactly designed for two way traffic, so getting up and down the spire near the top was a bit of work. It was quite a hike, but as you can see from the pictures, the view was well worth it.
A great introduction to Copenhagen
Boats lining the canal
After enjoying the views we headed to another tourist hotspot – Nyhavn. It’s a picturesque part of the town right on a man made canal lined with a bunch of overpriced restaurants and bars. Again, due to the great weather, the place was crowded, but it made for a fun atmosphere. The locals knew better than to pay the high prices of the area as there were plenty of them sitting around on steps and ledges drinking beer they had brought from home. We were hungry, and as the restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel concierge was closed we had dinner outside at one of the overpriced restaurants there in Nyhavn. If I recall correctly, my sandwich cost around the equivalent of $30 US. It was good, but not $30 good.
The locals enjoying the weather by the water
$30 sandwiches are overrated
Gastro Pubs – kind on the stomach, cruel on the wallet
We wandered around the city a bit more and found the opera house. I think because I had seen pictures of the Oslo Opera House, I was a bit underwhelmed by the Copenhagen Opera House. As I hadn’t really researched it or seen pictures, I think I was expecting something more architecturally stunning. It was nice, but nothing to write home about. After wandering the streets for a bit longer we headed back to the hotel.
Copenhagen Opera House
The next morning after breakfast we headed out to catch a free walking tour of Copenhagen. One of the things I first discovered on my Eurotrip back in 2006 is how there seems to be a ‘free’ walking tour in every decent sized city in Europe as well as many other places. I’ve taken a free bike tour in Munich and free walking tours in Sydney, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and probably a few other cities that I can’t recall right now. A tour guide (typically a college student or someone just out of college) walks you by the highlights of the city about for 1.5 to 3 hours for no cost up front. You just tip them at the end what you feel like the tour was worth. The tour guide is usually very well informed and enthusiastic about their city and full of stories to tell. At the end of their tour they typically offer to give restaurant recommendations and suggest other things to do/see while visiting. I’ve found it’s a great introduction to a city, and I try to take advantage of those types of tours the first or second day I’m in a city so that I can better decide where I want to spend more time during my trip. The free walking tour in Copenhagen was, as expected, a great introduction to the city.
The Memorial Anchor, Nyhavn
Catching part of the changing of the guard was one of the highlights of the walking tour
Our tour group at the Amalienborg. People come out in force for free stuff.
Dude loves his job and it shows.
After our walking tour we contemplated skipping seeing the Little Mermaid statue as we read it wasn’t that impressive, but I fell into the tourist trap and decided since we were in Copenhagen we should see it. It was only about a 10 minute walk away, but we had a little trouble finding it. Once we got close enough it was easy to spot though as there was quite a crowd around it. As expected, it wasn’t too exciting, but I can check it off the list of things people expect you to see while in Copenhagen.
Been there, seen that, got the picture
Using the excuse of maximizing the little time we had left in the city, we took a bicycle tuk tuk ride from the statue to closer to the center of the city where we needed to be to eventually get back on the train. I’m not sure a trip to Denmark is complete without visiting the Lego store as Denmark is where Legos were invented. It seems like they could have done more with the flagship store there, but it was worth the visit anyway. As a kid who brought creations made from Legos to show and tell every week in kindergarten (yes, every week) I loved seeing the few models they did have.
Almost as good as the models I made in kindergarten
We were running out of time, so we passed on trying to squeeze in the National Museum. That will leave us something to check out the next time we make it back. It was honestly a tough call whether or not to include Copenhagen in the trip due to the limited amount of time we had, but I’m very glad we did. There was a lot we didn’t get to see in Copenhagen, and certainly even more we missed out on in the rest of Denmark, but we at least got a small taste of the city and country. Who knows, maybe we’ll be back some day to catch some of what we missed this time around.