After years of nearly booking flights to Copenhagen, I kept wondering why this City was still on my to-do list. I realised it was because of my aversion to travelling to cold places and I knew that I particularly wanted to visit Copenhagen in Winter so I could visit the Christmas Markets. I finally booked flights and stocked up on decent jumpers. It was worth it! Here’s why…
Home to Hans Christian Andersen, Trolls, Lego, the second oldest amusement park in the world (Tivoli), an abundance of Michelin stars including the world’s best restaurant (Noma), world-class design, Hygge, and the Danes (of course), officially the happiest people on Earth.
Rumour has it that there are nine million bicycles in Beijing. This must be equivalently true for Copenhagen. Everyone is on wheels. In the most idealistic fashion imaginable, all the bikes look the same with little baskets on the front; some mounted with floral garlands and others with freshly baked bread in paper bags poking out whilst women folk cycle along the cobbled streets, one hand on their bike and the other elegantly pointing a cigarette in the air. I’m serious! It’s like scenes from the 1950’s in full colour and high speed. Helmets are rare and bike locks are literally non-existent (apparently bike theft just doesn’t happen in Copenhagen).
The streets are easy to navigate and it seems more like a town than a city, quite intimate. It’s certainly not a bustling metropolis but it has progressed from its former days as a quiet fishing hamlet. The streets are clean and the city is very green with electric busses, eco-friendly hotels and organic food etc.
The food is outstanding everywhere. From the traditional Scandinavian style Smørrebrød to the many Michelin star restaurants, fantastic steak houses, Danish hot dogs, pastries and ever-growing gourmet burger culture; you will not be disappointed when it comes to cuisine. My favourite meal was at the Nimb Bar and Grill which is an absolute MUST if only to try the truffle popcorn.
I visited in late November, the perfect time of year to see the Christmas Markets and the city in its festive glory. I stayed for three nights giving me two whole days of sightseeing but in hindsight, a third day of exploration would have been welcome as I overlooked the lack of daylight hours at this time of year. The sun was setting at around 3.30pm and it’s no use visiting historical buildings in the dark.
The second notable heads up I must give you is that Copenhagen is an expensive city. We’re talking £6 for a coffee. In general, I found that food and drink especially cost around 50% more than you would expect in the UK. In three days I managed to spend more on being a tourist than I did on flights and accommodation. All worth it though – Copenhagen is wonderful, just as Hans Christian Andersen told us, twice!
A 17th Century tower built as an astronomical observatory by Christian IV. Today, the round tower serves as an observation deck for expansive city views of Copenhagen, a public astronomical observatory and a historical monument.
Instead of a spiral staircase or an elevator, the tower was built with a 209m long spiral ramp which winds itself 7.5 times around the hollow core of the tower. It’s known as the ‘equestrian staircase’ and was designed for Peter the Great to reach the top on horseback.
I really enjoyed climbing the tower and the views from the top are incredible. I especially loved how unique this Danish monument is compared with other popular European architecture. It’s exceptional. I can only liken it to a 400-year-old version of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The Little Mermaid
A 1.25m tall bronze statue based on the fairy tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913.
The picturesque harbourfront lined with brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s beautiful here and looks just like it does on the postcards and in travel brochures.
Copenhagen’s best-known attraction. Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park and pleasure garden which includes the most incredible Christmas Market. This place is truly magical. There are various flower gardens, a lake, restaurants, bars, cafes, rides, games, themes buildings, band stands and all sorts. At night, Tivoli gardens are beautiful and no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without this experience.
The winter home for the Danish Royal Family consisting of four identical classical palaces set in a courtyard square around a statue of King Frederick V and patrolled by Royal armed guards.
If you visit Copenhagen during November/December, you are in for a treat when it comes to Christmas markets. They’re just as you want them to be, fairy-tale like, with gingerbread houses, wooden huts with twinkling lights, hot coal hand warmers, sheepskin and fur, fake snow and a permanent aroma of hot Danish sausages, glühwein and sweet roasted almonds. We went to the Tivoli Gardens (the biggest and best), The Hans Christian Andersen Market (free) and the Christmas market at Nyhavn (free).
There are a couple of routes on the big red city sightseeing buses which are a nice easy way to see the main sights but you can do it all on foot.
Copenhagen is very easy to navigate if you have a map – pick up a free one at the airport when you arrive.
Bikes are hugely popular and there are many ports for 24/7 bike rental.
Taxi’s cost around 300dk from the airport to the city centre and it’s about a 15-minute journey