One of the best things about the British school system is the week-long vacations halfway through each of the three terms. Of course, it means that everyone has the same vacations and is traveling at the same time, but getting a bonus week off is pretty great!
I decided to go to Copenhagen for four days to visit a friend from college who moved there a few months ago, even though it was the wintertime. Scandinavia in the winter might seem like a crazy idea, but I went to Norway for a long weekend last February and adored it.
I managed to have juuuuust enough credit card miles for a free ticket to Copenhagen, and I lucked out and got beautiful sunny weather for the first two days!
I did a lot of walking in Copenhagen, especially on the first two days when the weather was so lovely. I did two free walking tours: one of the major Copenhagen sights, and one of Christiania, the hippie enclave within Copenhagen that operates as its own mini-city. Walking tours are always such a great way to get oriented in a new city, especially since my friend who I was visiting had to work during the day and I was on my own for sightseeing!
The first walking tour started in front of the City Hall building. Since the building is free to enter, the tour guide encouraged us to look inside before the tour started.
And can I just say, the Danes are really into the Danish flag. Like SUPER into it. It was everywhere!
I’m not even kidding – this was a display of Danish flag party supplies in a supermarket:
But back to City Hall…
City Hall was across from the Tivoli Gardens, the historic amusement park from 1843 that served as the inspiration for Disneyland. Unfortunately, it was closed for the winter.
This statue of two lure players (an ancient type of trumpet) stands outside City Hall. Legend has it that if a virgin passes them, they’ll blow their horns.
The tourguide joked that the Copenhagen canals are full of bicycles, and I thought she was kidding, but then we passed a canal and she said, “Hm, let’s see if I can find a bicycle – oh, there’s one!”
Then we walked through the Nyhavn, or New Harbor, area of Copenhagen. This is the quintessential harbor photo with colored houses that you see all over – and is really stunning, especially on a sunny day!
We walked down Magstræde, the oldest street in Copenhagen, dating back to the 1520s. It also happens to be where my friend Jeremy’s office is!
We ended up in front of the Amalienborg Palace, the home of the Danish royal family. The guards in front of the buildings looked very similar to the Buckingham Palace guards, but with different colored uniforms.
After the first walking tour, I walked back to the harbor and went to Paper Island, an industrial building on an island in the harbor that used to house a paper factory, but now is home to Copenhagen Street Food, an indoor food truck market.
I got a delicious smørrebrød, a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich on dark rye bread. They can have a variety of toppings, and this one was made of fried fish with lettuce, shrimp, caviar, asparagus, lemon, and some kind of mayonnaise or tartar sauce.
The afternoon walking tour took us to “Freetown Christiania,” a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of Copenhagen. The sale of marijuana is illegal in Denmark but the police turn a blind eye to it being sold out in the main street of Christiania, because they feel it’s better if it is contained to one area rather than being spread throughout the city. There are, however, drug raids from time to time, so it’s not a completely peaceful arrangement.
At sunset, I climbed the free tower at the top of the Parliament building, and got a great view over the snowy city.
The next day, I took a boat tour of the Copenhagen canals. It started out sunny, but then got very overcast throughout the one-hour boat ride, and I was freezing! Still, it was nice to get some fresh air and see the sights while sitting down, after all of my walking over the previous two days.
After the boat ride, I met Jeremy near his office to try what he had dubbed “the best cheesecake in Europe” – and he is a New Yorker too, so I trusted his opinion. It was pretty amazing cheesecake, but since I haven’t had every cheesecake in Europe, I can’t say with authority if it is truly the best. I would, however, recommend trying it for yourself.
That afternoon, I hopped a train to Sweden!
My Swedish friend Daniel coincidentally moved to the Swedish city that’s closest to Copenhagen in September, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to catch up with him while also ticking another country off my list. The train from Copenhagen to Malmö couldn’t have been easier! It was a 36-minute ride and apparently very scenic, although the weather by then was pretty cold and dreary, I couldn’t really see anything out the train windows.
Malmö was very foggy and windy since it’s by the sea, but Daniel took me on a long walk to see some of the sights anyway. Malmö’s “skyscraper” is the Turning Torso tower, an office building and apartment building. We couldn’t even see the top through the mist.
I found a sign telling me exactly how far from home I was:
We also walked through an eco-village of sustainable houses, which were part of a housing exhibition in 2001 and then became permanent housing.
Eventually we took refuge from the weather and got dinner and drinks before I headed back to Copenhagen.
I headed back to Copenhagen that evening, but not before getting my Semla! Daniel had been in his hometown of Alingsås, Sweden that morning, where he picked up a Semla from his childhood bakery and brought it back to Malmö for me. It’s a Swedish treat eaten in the period before Lent, made of a cardamom-spiced sweet roll with soft marzipan spread across the middle, then whipped cream, and powdered sugar, with cinnamon sprinkled on top (but apparently that is a regional thing and not everyone sprinkles cinnamon on their Semla).
The next day, I took another long walk through Copenhagen. I passed by Rosenborg Castle which looked like a Disney castle, towering above a frozen moat.
I happened to be walking by just in time for the changing of the guards ceremony, accompanied by a military marching band, which was fun to watch.
Then I made my way to the Designmuseum Danmark, where there was a whole exhibit just on the Danish chair. I saw so many chairs. So many.
I also had the prettiest and tastiest pumpkin soup in the café while I wrote some postcards.
Then I made my way through the old military village of Kastellet, which is a star-shaped fortress to the north of Copenhagen.
Nearby was the statue of The Little Mermaid, who has sat in the Copenhagen harbor since 1913. She’s a bit underwhelming and surrounded by factories, but my trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t have been complete without seeing her! Poor girl has been the victim of many pranks over the years. She has been beheaded (twice), had an arm chopped off, been blasted into the harbor by explosives, been painted, and dressed up for political protests and special events.
All in all, three and a half days was the perfect amount of time to see Copenhagen. I really felt like I had seen the whole city by the time I left! It was a great spot for a quick trip, even in the wintertime.
Check out this view I had over the city of London on my plane ride home – can you spot the pink London Eye ferris wheel along the Thames River?
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