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Trip Report Springtime (Hopefully) in Copenhagen

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Please join me on my trip to Copenhagen with a couple of friends. We leave for the Danish capital tonight, arrive tomorrow, and are there for 6 nights.

I will share our visit as we go along. Come on board...

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    An Introduction by Sea

    My friends and I travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, via London Heathrow on British Airways from Washington, DC, last night. Due to the late arrival of our plane into DC and a slow takeoff during departure, we arrived at Heathrow approximately one hour late. Fortunately, we had a 2-hour connection at Heathrow and all we had to do was go from the C gates at Terminal 5 to the B gates. I was worried that we would land in the main terminal building of Terminal 5 and go through its typically-backlogged security screening, which would have severely set back any hopes of our making the connecting flight. Moving from C to B was painless and we did it in short order.

    We arrived in Copenhagen at around 3:30 and on time. I was shocked that British Airways went from a decent service to absolutely none on the 2-hour flight. The airline even charged for coffee and tea. At this rate, it's hard to know the difference between what is supposed to be a mainline airline and discount carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet.

    Anyway, upon arrival at Copenhagen Airport, we purchased Copenhagen Cards, which would give us unlimited rides on public transportation and free entry to multiple attractions over a set number of hours. From the airport we hopped on Metro line 2 to Kongens Nytorv, about a couple of blocks from Hotel Phoenix Copenhagen, the place we would call home over the next 6 nights.

    It did not take long for all of us to begin settled. I normally go on a self-guided walking tour of a new city as soon as I land (this is also true for my regular travel companions), both to orient myself and to get my juices flowing, but this time my friends wanted to do something more leisurely. We settled on an one-hour boat tour of the city. From nearby Nyhavn we sailed up past the new Opera House to the Little Mermaid and back down through Christianshavn and around Slotsholmen. The boat ride was a very enjoyable way to become oriented with the city, view some of the key landmarks, and admire its quiet canals lined with brightly-colored homes and stately government and commercial buildings. While the weather was a bit colder for the cruise than I would have preferred (it was overcast and in the high-40s degrees Fahrenheit), it did not bother me.

    We followed up the cruise with a nice dinner at Nyhavns Faergekro right on the canal most popular with tourists. It was here that my friends and I gave herring our first go. We order a sampler platter to share. While one of my friends did not care for it, the rest of us actually liked it. I ordered the classic Danish crispy pork belly with new potatoes for my main course; while I enjoyed it and would probably order it again, I don't know that I would seek it out. Others enjoyed pork patties and steamed cod, which were reported to be very good.

    From Nyhavn canal, it was a quick walk back to our hotel.

    Stay tuned for more of Copenhagen tomorrow...

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    Our first full day in Copenhagen began with a late morning breakfast of coffee and pastries at a bakery near our hotel. From there, we ventured on foot to Amalienborg Palace, home of the present Queen of Denmark and her family as well as the Crown Prince and his family. Four separate buildings surrounding a large square make up the complex that is Amalienborg. The Queen's residence as well as the Crown Prince's are closed to the public, while a small section of one of the other buildings houses a museum that tells the story of a few members of the royal family. The museum is small compared to other palace museums across Europe in that only a few rooms are open to the public; it took us about 30 minutes to wander through. The art inside the palace museum at Amalienborg is also very similar to what you see in similar palaces. However, I appreciated that the museum's exhibits only told the story about a select few royal figures as it made it easy to follow.

    From Amalienborg we walked to the waterfront. Immediately across the water is the new Copenhagen Opera House. We snapped a few photographs and ventured north to the statue of the Little Mermaid that put Copenhagen on the tourist map. Along the way we saw numerous cherry trees in peak bloom throughout the park; I was glad to see them as I did not have the opportunity to get up close with many of them in DC this year.

    From there we strolled into the Kasellet fortess for a glimpse of the site. Just outside the fortress is Café Petersborg, which was featured on the Travel Channel's Delicious Destinations by Andrew Zimmern. One of my friends recalled the episode and suggested that we eat at Petersborg for lunch. We obliged and were treated to a wonderful meal that was both tasty and inexpensive. We ordered a couple of smorrebord plates to share, along with a dish of Danish meatballs. The open-face sandwiches were more filling than we expected and the meatballs were absolutely divine.

    My friends made their way back to the hotel following lunch while I stopped for a visit at the nearby Design Museum. The museum offered a showcase of Danish design in furniture and clothing. My favorite was the exhibition on the Danish chair. While I was familiar with the egg chair being Danish in origin, I was surprised by the shear variety of chairs that could be attributed to this smallish European country. Some of the kitchen tools and appliances also caught my attention.

    It was close to 4 when I met my friends at the hotel for an afternoon stroll down the Stroget, a pedestrian-only street lined with local as well as internationally-recognized designer stores. While we were fortunate to enjoy a morning free of rain, this was not to be during our late afternoon and evening walk. It rained on and off pretty much throughout our entire stroll, which made it less fun. Nonetheless it gave us an excuse to pop into a couple of cafes including Hotel Chocolate, where I sipped on one of the best cups of hot chocolate I've ever had. We ate dinner at one of the pan-Asian style noodle shops on the street, which was right for a cold rainy evening.

    The rain stopped by the time we finished dinner and we walked back to our hotel. We thought about visiting Tivoli tonight as we heard Friday evening was the best time to go, but the rain made us put it off for another day.

    Tomorrow, weather dependent, we plan on hitting Slotsholmen and Rosenborg Castle. We'll see what Mother Nature brings...

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    Kathie and HappyTrvlr, good to have you aboard. And thank you for posting to let me know that you are following along. For a bit there, I thought that the information was uninteresting and unhelpful to anyone here.

    Palaces, Castles, and Gardens

    From our hotel we took an early morning stroll down the Stroget to La Glace for a breakfast of cakes and coffee before making our way to Slotsholmen, the island on which Christianborg Palace sits. Formerly a royal palace, the building is now home to the Danish Parliament. While the legislative chambers are not open to the public, several of the state rooms are. We took a self-guided tour of the palace where Danish kings and queens resided long ago. The rooms of the palace are very similar to what you would see in palaces across Europe. What is most unique to me is its collection of historic tapestries in the great hall. I was particularly struck by the style and colors of the artworks. My favorite tapestry is one telling the history of the Viking period. Underneath the palace are ruins from the original palace build nearly a millennium ago. We also visited the central tower for a bird’s eye view of the city.

    Nearby Christianborg Palace and on the same island are the Old Royal Library and the New Royal Library, also known as the Black Diamond for its color and shape. We walked around the perimeter of these buildings before making our way back towards the main city square for a quick bite to eat.

    From there we walked north and west to Rosenborg Castle, also the former home of Danish royalty. Unlike Christianborg Palace, Rosenberg’s interiors reminded me more of the Far East than Europe. Also at Rosenborg is the Danish royal treasury and crown jewels. The castle itself sits on an extensive garden and an even more vast botanic garden just across the road. We spent the rest of our afternoon just strolling among the greenery and enjoyed the sunny spring day.

    We hopped on the metro for a short ride back to our hotel to freshen up, nap, and catch up on emails. For dinner, we walked to Paper Island thanks to the recommendation of fellow Fodorites Esperanza77, Lenchik, and mms. Paper Island is home of several dozen food stalls all under one warehouse roof. I enjoyed delicious duck confit with salad and fries and Danish beer followed by a crème brulee donut topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Yum! And there was so much more that my friends and I wanted to try; perhaps next time although we heard from one of the vendors that the food stalls are to close soon to make way for development.

    Tomorrow we are planning a day trip out of the city, to Roskilde for the Viking Ship Museum followed by a visit to Frederiksborg Castle.

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    Our Best Day Yet

    We had planned to set up for Roskilde and Frederiksborg Castle today. Our original plan had us visit Roskilde Cathedral and the Viking Ship Museum in the morning and Frederiksborg Castle in the afternoon. While doable on other days of the week, doing so on a Sunday did not make sense as Roskilde Cathedral would not be open until 1pm in the afternoon. We set out to reverse our plan, starting at Frederiksborg Castle first and ending our day in Roskilde.

    After a quick breakfast of coffee and pastries at a nearby bakery we headed to Norreport Station where we boarded a suburban train to Hillerod, home of Frederiksborg Castle. We set out early as we wanted to be at the castle before the site gets busy. We arrived at Hillerod shortly after 9am (the ride was about 30-40 minutes) and strolled to the castle via the lake between the town center and the front of the castle.

    After taking a few photographs of the gorgeous exterior we were the first to enter the castle turned Danish political history museum. The museum is huge. Its collection of art, artifacts, furniture, and furnishings from the 17th century down to the present day spans three floors of the building. Also within the complex is a beautiful baroque church dripping with gold and marble; the interior reminded me of the chapel inside Melk Abbey in Austria.

    The quality of the museum was matched by the setting itself. The castle is surrounded by a moat; the water gave it a beauty unrivaled among the castles I’ve visited elsewhere in Europe. The gardens behind the castle were as extensive as similar castles on the continent. The grounds were complete with spring flowers in bloom, although the leaves on the trees have not yet grown for the season. While I continue to rank both Versailles and Schonbrunn very high on my list, Frederiksborg has taken the crown for me as my favorite castle in Europe.

    Following a 2-plus hour visit of the castle and about 1.5 hours on its grounds, it was time for lunch. We chose to dine at Spisestedet Leonora right on the castle grounds. The group all ordered different types of smorrebord to share, and everything tasted very good. We could not be happier with our choices.

    By now it was close to 3pm and too late for us to make it to Roskilde. We spent way more time than we allotted for Frederiksborg based upon the suggestions of guidebooks, but we were so glad we did. If it was summer, we could have easily spent the entire day at Frederiksborg. Given the time, we decided to make our way to Humlebaek, a small town on the Oresund and home to the famous Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Although none of us are really into modern art, we were interested in checking the site out given all we read about its interesting setting. Interesting it was indeed. Louisiana Museum sits on the grounds of a former manor. The exhibit halls have been built into the surrounding hillside overlooking the Oresund. With just 90 minutes to wander, we decided to spend most of our time enjoying the sunny weather in the sculpture garden as well as the lake garden. We did not have enough time to check out much of the interior exhibits and could have easily spent an additional 1.5 to 2 hours on the site, but we were glad we had the opportunity to check it out when we otherwise may not have.

    From Louisiana and Humlebaek, it was a quick 30 minute or so ride back to Copenhagen. We went to our hotel to freshen up before making our way to Tivoli Gardens for an evening of good old-fashioned carnival fun. Tivoli is part amusement park, part state fair, part gardens, and part open-air concert grounds. It reminded us a bit of Coney Island and some of the seaside amusement parks we visited as children, although there is more of a charm to Tivoli. The site is especially magical when the lights come on at night. What a perfect way to cap off what has been a most perfect day!

    As you could probably tell I am starting to fall in love with Copenhagen and Denmark in general. It’s definitely one of the most laid-back, charming cities I’ve visited in Europe.

    Tomorrow we’ll aim to take a day trip to Roskilde. Stay tuned…

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    “Morning”

    Today was our day for Roskilde, and we were all glad that we visited the city dating back to Viking and medieval times by itself. We spent a good six hours in the city to the west of Copenhagen and felt like we had a good amount of time to give it a proper look. While a decent-sized city, Roskilde had the atmosphere, look, and charm of a large village. As much as we enjoyed seeing the city’s two main attractions – Roskilde Cathedral and the Viking Ship Museum – we could easily have come to Roskilde to wander among the beautiful old cottages and walkable streets that dot the city center.

    Our first major stop in the city was Roskilde Cathedral, described in guidebooks as the Westminster Abbey of Denmark. Roskilde Cathedral is more than worthy of its status as one of the most important if not the most important church in Denmark. The cathedral is the final resting place of numerous kings, queens, bishops, and other important figures throughout history. The church also contains some relics dating back to the Viking era, when the town was an important center of activity.

    The Viking Ship Museum features five Viking era ships salvaged from the nearby waters of Roskilde Fjord and is equally as impressive. Beyond its significance, the place is very moving. I mean, how could you view the remains of the restored ships on display and think back to the power that the ships conveyed back in its time.

    Between the Cathedral and the Viking Ship Museum are numerous streets lined with old cottages that are lovingly inhabited still today. Wandering through the area, I could not help but think that I was in a quaint Danish village far from any major urban center.

    We enjoyed a nice, long lunch at Restaurant Snekken, right next to the museum. The restaurant serves delicious new Nordic cuisine. Its emphasis is on meats made by the culinary staff at the restaurant at a nearby property. It was yet another fantastic meal in what has been a trip of culinary delight after culinary delight. I must admit, I did not think about Copenhagen or Denmark as food destinations prior to this trip; boy was I wrong.

    At the edge of the city and right in front of the Viking Ship Museum is Roskilde Fjord. While it was too cold for any ships to operate on the water, I imagine that a cruise in the beautiful waters would be a popular activity in the summer. Even walking along its promenade near the museum, I could only think of myself in a dream in which Edvard Grieg’s “Morning” was playing in my head.

    Satisfied we returned to Copenhagen around 4:30 for late-afternoon coffee and cake along with some shopping.

    Tomorrow is our final day in Copenhagen before returning home.

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    I too am following along:)

    We loved our time in Copenhagen and would love to return! Our DS did a study abroad semester there, so when we went it was to visit him. He was our tour guide for everything.

    We also had the herring platter at Nyhavns Faergekro and we all really liked it. Glad you made it to Paper Island! I too have heard about it closing for development which is a shame. We also stumbled upon Hotel Chocolate and bought some of the salted caramel hot cocoa to bring home. Yum!!! I just got the recent catalog in the mail over the weekend:)

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    mms, thanks for sharing and for your excellent dining recommendations.


    A Day in Sweden

    With my friends spending the last day of our trip catching up on additional shopping, I decided to go on a solo day trip to Sweden - to the city of Malmo. A fairly large city in its own right, Malmo is also considered a commuter town for Copenhagen, across from the Oresund Strait and about 30-40 minutes by train.

    I spent about seven hours of my day today exploring the city center, wandering among the squares and pedestrian street. I also visit St. Peter's Church, only a couple of blocks away from the main train station, as well as Malmo Castle and the Turning Torso, a landmark apartment building designed by Santiago Calatrava. I spent about an hour and a half at the castle enjoying its exhibits about the history of the Scania region, where Malmo is located, as well as its small art collection. Surrounding the castle is a large park full of beautiful spring flowers abloom. From there it was about a 30 minute walk to the Turning Torso; there is a nearby waterfront promenade with nice views of the Oresund Sound with its impressive bridge.

    Back in Copenhagen, we are meeting up for one more dinner in the city before returning home tomorrow.

    A final wrap-up post to come...

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    Our Final Night in Copenhagen

    My friends and I celebrated the last night of our trip to Copenhagen at Madklubben Steak just a block north of the Stroget. Part of a 9 restaurant chain across the city, the Madklubben restaurants offer good quality food at reasonable prices; one of the stated goals is to make good food accessible to a larger audience. The steakhouse we patronized offers a 3-course menu consisting of a starter, a main dish with side, and a dessert, for 300 Danish kroners (about $42), drinks not included. I ordered a leek soup followed by steak with onion rings, and a rhubarb soup to finish off - all prepared perfectly! After dinner we took an evening stroll along the waterfront past some of the sights we visited during our 6 nights in Copenhagen, enjoying the soft lights on the landmark buildings as night falls.

    Wrapping Up

    Having had the fortune of taking multiple trips to Europe over the years, I have my list of favorite cities including Paris, Rome, and Istanbul. I enjoy Paris for the plethora of sidewalk cafes, art, and air of sophistication. Rome is full of life, good food, and loads of history and culture. The same could be said of Istanbul. It's also true that I enjoy much of other cities across Europe and could find something to like about just almost every city I've visited. For whatever reason Copenhagen never factored high on the list of European cities I was eager to visit. In my mind, I've always viewed it as a second-tier capital. Nothing about Copenhagen really stuck out to me. When my friends and I decided upon a quick trip among us late last year, we all had our choices; two of us picked Copenhagen and for me, it's a city that I haven't visited nor know much about. Heck, this was the first time I've stepped foot on Scandinavia; the purportedly-high prices have always kept me away.

    As you know by now, I fell in love with Copenhagen on this trip. I fell for the charm and coziness of the place, the warm and happy-go-lucky people, its vast areas of green spaces, amazing food, the city's knack for design, and the wealth of things to see, do, and experience. I wished it was about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer, but the cold weather gave us a good excuse to frequently pop into the many cafes and bakeries in the city to enjoy a cup of good coffee or hot chocolate and a warm pastry. Come to think of it, I don't think I've had a bad cup of coffee - or a bad meal - in Copenhagen.

    It was not just Copenhagen that found a special place in my heart, but Denmark in general. Frederiksborg Castle is a true gem; it's now my all-time favorite castle. I'm also glad we had the opportunity to spend a day in Roskilde; the city is very charming and picturesque. With more time, I would have loved to see more towns and villages around the country. Perhaps at another time...

    Thank You

    To Kathie, HappyTrvlr, mms, and others who may be reading, thank you for coming along with me. I hope that you found it either enjoyable or useful. Until next time...

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    Great, informative read. Thanks much.

    We too have always shied away from Scandinavia due to the high prices. So how were the prices compared to your other European favorite capitals (we too have visited all of those but never Scandinavia)?

    Exactly how cold was the weather, and were any things in bloom yet?

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    The prices in Denmark and Sweden are not as expensive as people think. Yes some things are more pricey (eg Arlanda Express), but I find my visits to NY just as expensive as to Scandinavia, if not more so.

    There are less expensive ways of doing things, eg lunch on the top floor of Magasin department store (great Danish meals eg pork with red cabbage, various open sandwiches and a free view of the Opera House), or numerous bakeries. Set menus around DKK400 are not uncommon for evening meals. Wine is the same price as any restaurant in NY or London. In Sweden, you can buy wine from the state run store, with prices starting from about SEK60 for a bottle (USD7).

    You can have lunch on the ferry between Denmark and Sweden (Helsingoer to Helsingborg), perhaps after a visit to Kronberg Castle. Locals do this, the lunch ticket and ferry are not expensive.

    Spring has been very cold this year, leaves on the trees only just starting to open. In Sweden, there has been recent snowfall in some places although it melted right away. But it is not as cold as a North American winter, or rarely so.

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    Nice report on my home-away-from-home city. I've been going there regularly since 1973 and used to spend my entire summers there for about a decade. I'll be going back over this summer although now I don't spend my entire summer there anymore. But, the city will always be a strong part of me as it's a gem of a city and very cozy.

    I agree with Odin on eating on the top level of Magasin department store. I remember my first meal there in the summer of 1973. I still drop in for a bite although the menu has changed. I used to especially love to get the little egg salad sandwiches on white bread with the bread crust removed. Delicious. Three little sandwich halves, a beverage and a Danish would hit the spot and not break the bank. I'd get out of school, as I went to Danish language school, and then jump on my bike and head to Magasin for a bite to eat before biking the 25-30 minutes back home to my kollegium (student housing).

    Happy Travels!

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    Julies, as Odin and Guenmai both described, prices in Copenhagen and Denmark in general are manageable. Overall the prices are what I would find in London or Paris, but what that means is that I could send US$50-60 for a dinner at a nice restaurant with a glass of wine but I could also easily spend US$8-10 for a lunch that is filling and satisfying. We experienced daytime temperatures in the high-40s / low-50s during my week there, and nighttime temperatures in the high-30s / low-40s, with it being occasionally windy.

    Odin and Guenmai, I wish I had known about the dining option on top of Magasin. I only stopped there briefly, mostly to wait out a passing rain shower. I did discover the eatery at Ilium and that was good and affordable.

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    Thanks for your excellent report! We have easy, inexpensive flights from my home home airports (SFO & OAK), but I've always thought, "Oh no, too expensive once there..."

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    Julies, missed your question about the flowers. We saw tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and flowers we couldn't identify every we visited. Cherry blossoms were also in peak bloom, although most trees were still bare.

    Leely2, you're welcome. My recommendation would be to go if you have the opportunity. Coming from the Bay Area, you will see similar prices if not slightly cheaper.

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