“Copenhagen! My favourite place in the world! I absolutely love it there!” This was the response from virtually everyone we told about our upcoming trip to Denmark’s capital. My reaction to this was suspicion; I’m wary of cities which are universally adored. If there’s nothing to dislike about a place, no noisy traffic, ugly buildings, confusing subway systems or rude people I suspect it to be bland, placing mass appeal and tourist friendliness above authenticity and character. So while I travelled to Copenhagen with an open mind, ready to give it every change to impress me, I suspected it might not quite be my type of city.
I was wrong. The fact of the matter is, there really is nothing to dislike about Copenhagen. Alongside tourist-appeasing features such as clean streets, friendly people and an easy-to-navigate, compact city centre, there are so many more things to love about Denmark’s capital. It has vibrant nightlife, a general relaxed and friendly ambience, plenty of culture to explore, and one of the best foodie scenes in the world. It also has its very own hippy commune and a really cool retro fairground right in the centre. It only took me a few hours in the city to realise I was going to adore it.
Another plus point of Copenhagen is that it only takes twenty-five minutes to travel to another country. Malmö in Sweden is just over the Øresund Bridge (the actual bridge from Scandi tv show, The Bridge). After spending a few days in Copenhagen we nipped over to Malmö for the day before flying back home.
Here’s what we did in Copenhagen and Malmö.
This Copenhagen photography print is available to buy from my shop.
We arrived in Copenhagen on a Friday around dinner time and immediately went out to a mini music festival Paul had discovered called Summer In The City. It is run by volunteers and held in a culture and arts space in the city centre called Huset-KBH. We arrived to a packed courtyard watching a Danish band called Baest; they sounded pretty good, kind of Mogwai-esque. Inside the venue was the fantastically named Bastard Cafe whose USP was the thousands (tens of thousands?) of board games piled upon its shelves. We had a drink and some chips amongst the crowded tables of people playing their games before heading back out into the city centre streets. I think it was at this point I fell in love with Copenhagen, it was a balmy night and there were groups of people sitting on the pavement kerbs and standing in the streets, drinking and chatting. It felt like a summer street party. After wandering around the pretty Nytorv Square, we headed up to Dronning Louise Bridge.
Dronning Louise Bridge
This Copenhagen photo print is available to buy from my shop.
I had previously read that during the summer months Copenhageners tend to do their socialising outdoors so I Googled “best places to hang out outside in Copenhagen” and saw Dronning Louise Bridge, which connects the city centre to northern suburb Nørrebro, suggested. We arrived at the bridge to find it packed with people of all ages sitting on the benches or on the pavement, drinking, chatting and dancing to the music from the various sound systems people had brought along, with cyclists whizzing past on either side. It was such a fantastic atmosphere. Paul and I found a spot on a bench and sat down with the beers we had bought from a shop to take it all in. And just when we thought the night couldn’t get any better we looked up to see the moon had turned scarlet; it was the blood moon eclipse which we had completely forgotten about. An awesome end to an unforgettable night.
This smørrebrød photo print is available to buy from my shop.
On Saturday we walked to Torvehallerne Market. Copenhagen is known for being one of the top gastronomic destinations in the world and Torvehallerne Market is an important stop on its foodie trail. It is made up of two glass-walled indoor markets running parallel with each other, which are filled with shops and food stops serving top quality produce. After being tempted by the pizzas and Korean food I decided to opt for a traditional Danish smørrebrød with cucumber and cream cheese. Every millimeter of the small dish was perfect, the rye bread, cold cheese and fresh cucumber was clearly of the highest quality and complemented each other perfectly. Afterwards I made my way over to a bakery stall as I had my sights set on a massive chocolate Danish pastry I had spotted earlier. The man behind the counter actually tried to talk me out of buying it, he said it was too hot and the chocolate would melt, but my mind was made up. I was only able to eat around half of it (chocolate everywhere) before I admitted defeat.
This Nyhavn photo print is available to buy from my shop.
Afterwards we headed over to Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s prettiest and most touristy area. We wandered around taking photos of the picture perfect pastel buildings and the lovely boat filled canal. We didn’t stop for a drink but apparently the area’s bars are the most expensive in the city (and Copenhagen is expensive in general) and what to do instead is to buy a drink from a shop and drink it by the canal.
This Copenhagen print is available to buy from my shop.
On leaving Nhyaven, we wandered down to the harbour. The weather was very hot, around thirty degrees, and the harbour on each side was packed with people sunbathing and occasionally jumping into the water for a swim. Occasionally a boat would go past with a group sitting on the deck in their swimsuits sharing a bottle of wine, clearly living their best life. Neither the boats or the swimmers seemed too concerned about crashing into each other. I found it astonishing a harbour that goes through a city centre was clean and enticing enough for people to actually swim in it. It was wonderful to see a city waterfront being enjoyed in this way.
We then made our way to one of Copenhagen’s most notorious sights, Christiania, a former military base which became a squat for hippies in the 1970s. Since then it has developed into the 900-odd people community it is now with its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. It even has its own flag. I had spoke to a few people who had previously visited Christiania and they told me it was quite touristy so I knew it would be safe to visit. We went inside and immediately ended up in the infamous Pusher Street or “Green Light District” which is basically a street of drug dealers; there were signs everywhere saying “No photographs!” so we were glad our camera was safely tucked away in our bag. When we got to the end of the street suddenly lots of dogs began barking and running around like crazy and the drug dealers swooped their drugs from the tables and sprinted into the back lanes. The dogs must have been trained to sense the approach of the police! But despite this dubious introduction, I found Christiania to be very safe and welcoming. There were lots of tourists, kids, several open air spaces, parks, bars, restaurants and shops. Aside from Pusher Street, it didn’t feel dodgy at all. We wandered around the community, checked out some art created by artists who live there and bought a few bottles of Christiana’s own brewed beer. While I don’t know much about the ins and outs of Christiana, and the sacrifices and benefits of life there, my initial thoughts as I sat on a wall sipping Christiana’s owned brewed beer watching the hippie residents stroll past was was “these people have got it right.” A life away from all the materialism and career ladders and mortgages and pensions and crap we put ourselves through in the outside world. Maybe life there is not as simple as that. But it certainly was a romantic thought.
This photo print of Tivoli Gardens is available to buy from my shop.
After leaving Christiania we made our way up to Tivoli Gardens. I am never usually interested in Amusement Parks but Tivoli Gardens is different; dating back to 1843 it is the second oldest amusement park in the world and still has a real retro feel to it. It reminded me of Coney Island in New York except unlike Coney Island it is directly in the middle of the city centre. We were told the best time to visit Tivoli Gardens is dusk and as we wandered around the lantern lined pathways, the smell of candyfloss and popcorn in the air, the lit up carousels whizzing past and the rattles and screams from the roller coaster overhead, it certainly was very atmospheric. Tivoli Gardens also has the most fantastically tacky/kitsch Moorish Palace and pond in the centre where you can ride on a little boat shaped like a dragon.
This photo print of Copenhagen’s Meatpacking district is available to buy in my shop.
After leaving Tivoli Gardens we went to the Meatpacking District in Vesterbro, an actual meatpacking district with some of the spaces transformed into bars and trendy places to eat (about as hipster as you can get, really). We ate at John’s Hotdog (I got a falafel) before going for a drink at Bakken, a hip dive bar. The area was a lot quieter than I thought it would be despite it being a Saturday night.
The Bicycle Snake
This photo of The Bicycle Snake Copenhagen is available to buy from my shop.
On the Sunday we headed back down to the harbour to get a good look at The Bicycle Snake, an elevated motorway for cyclists which weaves its way over the city. Copenhagen’s reputation for being a cycling friendly city is not exaggerated; there are designated cycle lanes on each side of every road, there are many more cyclists than cars and cycling doesn’t seem to be an obstacle for anyone in any situation. I saw many people cycling with babies, dragging their kids (and sometimes partner) in a little car attached to the bicycle, and I even saw a cyclist ride full speed down the road with someone in a wheelchair attached!
Street Food Market
We then went to the Street Food Market where I got a dahl and Paul got herring and chips. Everything we ate in Copenhagen was excellent and clearly made with the highest quality ingredients. Copenhagen has a reputation for being one of the best foodie cities in the world and it was clear that everyone creating the food, whether it was served in a market, cafe or fancy restaurant, took an enormous amount of pride in it.
Church of our Saviour
This Copenhagen photo print is available to buy from our shop.
After leaving the market we went to Church of Our Saviour to see the panoramic views of the city from the church tower. This was also where we caught our first glimpse of the Øresund Bridge which we would be travelling over the following day for our trip to Malmo.
The Little Mermaid
When we left the tower Paul went to a football game while I went to Copenhagen’s most famous, and groan-inducing for the locals, sight: The Little Mermaid. On approaching, I laughed out loud to see a line of tour buses and huge crowd of people all taking photos and selfies of the tiny statue. Like all the other eager tourists I scrambled on to the rocks and took a few pictures before departing.
This Nørrebro print is available to buy from my shop.
That night, we had food and drinks in Norrebro, possibly my favourite area of Copenhagen. Vesterbro and Norrebro are the two cool neighbourhoods of Copenhagen but Norrerbro felt more laid back and less gentrified. We grabbed tacos at a place called Blue Taco, which like all the other food in Copenhagen was excellent, then wandered through the Assistens Cemetery (sounds weird but it’s a popular place to hang out Copenhagen) before grabbing a beer and settling down at one of the outdoor tables on the busy streets.
This photo print is available from my shop.
On Monday we headed over to Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden and just 25 minutes on the train from Copenhagen. It was exciting to so quickly be in another country, hear another language spoken and use another currency. One of the things I had read about Malmo during my research was that it is famous for its falafel so we headed to supposedly the city’s best falafel house, The Orient House of Falafel No 1, and tucked into delicious Middle Eastern food.
We then wandered up to Folkets Park and the surrounding Möllan area which is home to lots of different cultures and nationalities, street markets, restaurants and bars.
This Øresund Bridge photo is available from my shop.
We then wandered down to Ribersborg which has a lovely little beach and great views of the Øresund Bridge stretching over the water and beyond the sky to Copenhagen.
In the remaining hours of our trip we went to went to Lilla Torg, a cobbled square lined with pretty buildings housing bars and restaurants. At this point we were simply exhausted – the amount of walked we had done the past few days was incredible (I got to 40,000 steps on the Saturday before my phone broke and we walked for several hours more, 40,000 on the Sunday and 30,000 that day!) and we found refuge in an Irish bar for an hour before getting the train from Malmo to Copenhagen airport for our journey home.
Rather than leaving me cold, my trip to Copenhagen left me desperate to go back. There are so many things we didn’t even get a chance to do, like actually cycle around the city (apparently cycling over The Bicycle Snake is an awesome experience that provides great skyline views), explore more of the city’s unique architecture, and its lovely parks. Apparently Copenhagen is wonderful at Christmas time, embodying that much emulated hygge, with markets, twinkling lights and gløgg (Scandinavian mulled wine). No matter what time of year I go back it’s a city I could definitely see myself returning to time and time again.