Our Copenhagen Getaway

Old Jun 4th, 2019, 06:57 PM
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Our Copenhagen Getaway

I want to share a trip report from the five days we spent in Copenhagen this May. Overall, Copenhagen was one of the easiest cities we’ve visited: virtually everyone speaks perfect English, the streets are relatively easy to navigate, the food is excellent, and there are plenty of sights for all tastes, virtually all of them covered by the Copenhagen Card.

I was initially a bit concerned whether we’d have enough to do for 5 days given that Copenhagen isn’t known for any blockbuster sights (and I knew nothing about the city before we visited). But we were spoiled for choice - we didn’t even get to everything we wanted to see!

Day 1

We took a 10PM flight direct from NYC to Copenhagen on Norwegian Airlines. Norwegian is a discount airline, so they’re a bit stingy with “extras” such as food, luggage, and blankets. We’d gotten a great deal on our tickets through Expedia (~$600 per person), and by some miracle the tickets did include free checked bags and meals (though sadly not the blankets).

The plane was relatively new and nicely outfitted. The entertainment system was free and pretty extensive, though I opted to spend most of the flight binge-watching old Veronica Mars episodes on my phone! Overall, we were happy with the flight experience.

Day 2

We arrived in Copenhagen around noon, somewhat delirious after just an hour or two of sleep. made our way through the impeccably designed, color-coded passport control, picked up our Copenhagen cards at an airport kiosk, and rushed downstairs to catch a train to the city center.

At this point, I will pause to plug the Copenhagen Card. We were on the fence about getting them, but they absolutely paid off. Not just financially, but in terms of the lower hassle factor - no ticket lines or confusing ticket machines for bus/train/metro, super-easy to switch up our itinerary with no extra cost, no feeling bad if we popped into a museum for just a little while.

Another excellent choice we made was staying at the CitizenM hotel, just off the centrally-located Radhuspladsen. For one, it made for an incredibly smooth airport-to-hotel transfer. Twenty minutes on the train, a ten-minute walk from Central Station, and we’d arrived.
CitizenM has a funky, modern vibe, which we loved. The check-in was located on the top floor (the only slightly confusing aspect of the experience). Our room was tiny but perfect, with high-tech controls for lights, shades, etc, and a beautiful view out on Radhuspladsen. Despite the central location, it was blissfully quiet. The bed was extremely comfortable: a real king bed rather than the two twins many European hotels provide. And we loved the luxurious shower, too!

After dropping off our suitcases and changing clothes, we headed out into the May sunshine. The weather was gorgeous - cloudless sky, temperatures in the 70s. We headed to the Tivoli food court for lunch at Sticks’n’Sushi’s outdoor terrace, where we noshed on deliciously fresh fish and little grilled skewers (my husband, ever the adventurous eater, tried a duck heart skewer). We also tried rhubarb juice, which sounded quite exotic but then appeared on virtually every Copenhagen menu we saw

After lunch, we explored the city, following the walking tour in our Rick Steves guidebook. We strolled the famous pedestrian shopping street (Stroget), explored the university quarter, checked out a few plazas dotted with fountains and cafes. Then, we headed south across the canals to the Jewish Museum, a hidden gem by Christiansborg Castle designed by Daniel Libeskind. Inside the museum was all sharp angles and uneven surfaces - a disorienting, almost haunting experience. The exhibits were interesting though not top-notch, but the architecture more than made up for it. We spent just under an hour exploring.

We rested for a few minutes in the gorgeous gardens outside the museum, and then walked over to Nyhavn, the famous street of candy-colored houses lining a canal. It was extremely crowded so we didn’t linger too long.

It was almost dinnertime, so we spent the next hour crossing the city to PONY, a cozy restaurant we had a reservation for that evening. We could have probably taken public transport...but for some reason we nearly always end up walking everywhere on vacation. We walked almost 8 miles a day on average.

PONY didn’t disappoint, with unique flavors in visually appealing packages. I had veal tartare and fried lemon sole, as well as a rhubarb dessert with ice cream. Unsurprisingly, my husband had lamb tongue, the most unusual item on the menu.

After dinner, we ran back to the hotel, shivering in the early evening chill. We noticed that even on the warmest days, the temperatures would drop significantly after dinner. After that first night, we were always prepared for the cold with an extra sweater or jacket.

At this point, it was about 9PM. We fell into bed and slept 12 hours straight.

Day 3

On our first full day in Copenhagen, we slept in until nearly 10AM and then headed out for breakfast. The Copenhagen marathon was in full swing and we enjoyed passing runners and cheering spectators all throughout the city center.

We ate breakfast at the Torvehallerne food hall, which had dozens of stands with sweet and savory foods. Pro tip: Danish “granola” is just raw oatmeal. I do not recommend it! Plain yogurt with raw oatmeal on top makes for a sad breakfast. Fortunately, generous hubby shared his chocolate-covered cinnamon roll.

After breakfast, we went a bit off our itinerary. The prior night, we’d seen signs for a “Fashioned from Nature” exhibition at the Geological Museum and decided to check it out. I’m soooo glad we did because it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.

I’d never thought about fashion from an environmental/sustainability perspective before, but it turns out the fashion industry is a huge player in harming the environment (as well as starting to make progress in promising conservation efforts). We learned about where the expression “mad as a hatter” comes from, just how ermine furs are made (it’s not pretty), why cotton is much worse for the environment than linen, how to make runway-ready outfits from recycled materials, and much much more - all while checking out dozens of unique and beautiful outfits.

After the Geological Museum, we headed to Rosenborg Castle. Alas, tickets were sold out for the next hour or so - I suppose as a smaller castle, it gets crowded quickly. So, we got tickets for later in the afternoon and went off to try our first smorrebrod at Restaurant Paleagade. Smorrebrod, in my opinion, are the best sandwiches in the world. Each is a mouthwatering explosion of a half-dozen flavors and textures - herbs, spreads, fish, meats, veggies, even flowers!

After lunch, we peeked into the former St. Nicholas church, now a contemporary art gallery. It was fascinating from an architectural perspective - a church stripped of its church-ness, leaving whitewashed walls and wide open spaces, a fitting background for the huge canvases and life-size sculptures on display.

It was finally time to visit Rosenborg Castle, so we made our way back through the Royal Gardens (a beautiful public park - we returned there later just to read and hang out among the flowers). Rosenborg is a very intimate castle - the rooms aren’t much larger than those in a big house here in the US. We really enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny, learning about the royal family along the way. We also visited the underground Treasury to admire the Danish crown jewels.

Our next stop was the Danish Design Museum. As Denmark is known for excellent design, we had high hopes for this museum, but we were somewhat disappointed. The exhibits are crammed floor to ceiling in each room, overwhelming visitors. For a museum of design, it’s not very well designed :/ We still enjoyed checking out iconic Danish chairs, contemporary china patterns, beautifully intuitive household items, and more, but didn’t spend too long here.

We still had some time before dinner, so we set out to see the iconic (though underwhelming) Little Mermaid statue. It was another beautiful day, so we didn’t mind the walk (and the subsequent mad dash across town to dinner at Host. The set menu was seafood-heavy and mouthwatering. Some highlights: salted halibut with horseradish and asparagus, smoked scallops with crispy potatoes and blue mussel sauce, lobster with tomato and waffle...the crazy thing is that I don’t even like scallops or mussels or horseradish, and yet I loved each of these dishes. Dessert was rhubarb sorbet with lemon verbena. Of course. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this dinner was the juice pairing - like a wine pairing, but non-alcoholic

We returned to the hotel room to relax and were pleasantly surprised by late-night fireworks on Radhuspladsen, which we could see right from our room!

Day 4

It was Monday - a day our guidebook had warned us about. Many of Copenhagen’s museums, sights, and even restaurants are closed Mondays. But we had no trouble filling up our day.
First up was breakfast at the Little Yellow Coffee Shop - if ever a restaurant has embodied Danish hygge, it was this gem nestled in a quiet street with blankets provided to cozy up at an outdoor table and enjoy the view.

Our big sight of the day was Christiansborg Palace - a much grander royal home than Rosenborg. We loved the book-lined library, the nature-themed decor in the various reception rooms, and the massive Great Hall with modern tapestries. We were also fascinated by a late-19th century painting of Christian IX, “the Father-in-law of Europe”, along with several dozen of his family members. This enterprising monarch married his kiddos to royals all over the continent, from Russian to England to Greece. His family portrait is like the royal Who’s Who of Europe.

Although a castle has stood on this location for almost 1000 years, there have numerous fires and remodels, so the current palace is pretty new, and everything sparkles and gleams. Underground, some of the ruins from the original structures on this site remain, and make for a fun visit. The ruins come with some nice exhibits explaining the long history of Christiansborg.

We spent a few hours at Christiansborg before heading off to a leisurely lunch at Aamans 1921 - more smorrebrod, arguably even better than the prior day’s. Then, we stopped by the Royal Copenhagen shop nearby, where we found some unique souvenirs for our daughter and nephew (one-of-a-kind, whimsical plates and mugs).

It was late afternoon - the perfect time to rest our tired legs on an hourlong cruise, which weaved through canals and harbors and backwaters with entertaining commentary. We saw the famous sights - the opera house, Black Diamond library, and the Little Mermaid again (really not so great from the boat - much better to walk up to her). We also passed residential areas where kids cannon-balled into the water by our boat, trying to get us as wet as possible!

After the cruise, we headed to Christianshavn to climb the Church of Our Savior, which provides some of the best views in the city. The climb was perilous - narrow staircases inside the tower followed by narrow staircases outside the tower, ending abruptly toward the top without a viewing platform or any official endpoint. People jostled each other as they climbed up and down, and it felt like one misstep could lead to our deaths, so I do not recommend this for the faint of heart or the haters of heights. The view was pretty but not life-changing, so if you don’t enjoy the thrill of the climb, you can skip this one.

We’d spotted a tasty-looking chocolate shop while on our cruise and decided to find it to try some of the chocolates. We wandered the cute streets of Christianshavn and finally came across the shop. Alas, the chocolates, though they looked divine, were not the greatest. I guess sometimes it is about the journey, not the destination.

We’d made all of our dinner reservations ahead of time, so I was able to find a highly-rated restaurant open on Monday. It was called Marv & Ben, and it was my favorite dinner in Copenhagen if you don’t count our three-Michelin-starred extravaganza on our last night. It started, like most Copenhagen dinners, with delicious homemade bread and butter, and it was all I could do not to fill up on the delightful carbohydrates before the real food started coming. Other highlights included the asparagus, trout & mussels appetizer and grilled lamb with garlic gooseberries for an entree.

We finished the night with an hour relaxing in the Royal Gardens before turning in.

Day 5

After three days of sunshine, Tuesday greeted us with cloudy skies and the promise of rain. I suited up in my raincoat and rainboots, and we headed out of the city. Our itinerary included a series of trains and buses to hit up two famous castles and a modern art museum.

First up was Frederiksborg, a quick train ride (plus bus ride away). We arrived at opening time in a downpour and accompanied by a mindboggling number of tour groups. To escape them, we immediately climbed to the second floor, where many of the most beautiful rooms are. We had the magnificent Great Hall all to ourselves, and explored the other rooms without too much of a crowd. The decor was lavish (I want to say Baroque or maybe Rennaissance, but I’m not an expert). The rooms brimmed with paintings and porcelain and clocks and ornate furniture. We saw a portrait of Tycho Brahe’s 127-year-old housekeeper, a portrait of Hans Christian Andersen looking a lot like my husband, and an intriguing exhibition of international art on the ground floor.

Frederiksborg has beautiful gardens, but it was too rainy to explore them and it was time to move on to Kronsborg, also known as Hamlet’s castle Elsinore! We took a train over and then grabbed sandwiches from 7-11 at the train station. I regretted this move as soon as we made it to the castle grounds, which offer several delightful cafes. We did get a lemonade and pastry at a cafe and checked out a few of the art galleries also located on the castle grounds before heading to the castle proper.

Kronsborg is completely different from Frederiksborg, so seeing the castles one after the other wasn’t at all overwhelming. The interior is much simpler and feels older. There are fascinating subterranean passages to explore. Shakespeare actors wandered the halls, sharing tidbits of history about King Frederik II and his wife Sophie, who was only 14 when they got married (to his 38), and ended up becoming the richest woman in Northern Europe after her husband’s death through shrewd business dealings. She even lent money to her son, the new king!

Our final stop of the day was the renowned Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, located on the water’s edge and surrounded by a tranquil sculpture garden. We had dinner on the terrace of the museum’s cafe (they offer a nice dinner buffet), and then wandered between the galleries and the outdoor spaces enjoying the exhibits. Our favorite was an installation-heavy exhibition of Pippilotti Rist’s work. In one of the installations, viewers lay on beds strewn about the gallery and watched a captivating video filmed underwater, which played on huge screens in the ceiling. We also loved the Kusama infinity room, an exhibit of photos representing each age from 1 to 100, and the Calder sculpture on the water.

We walked back to the train station around 8PM and caught the train back to Copenhagen, feeling grateful that our hotel was so close to the train station!

Day 6

Our last day in Copenhagen felt bittersweet. We started the morning with a trip to the National Museum of Denmark, a well-curated treasure trove of history and artifacts. Where else can you find anything from a Viking ear-cleaning implement to an ancient cauldron emblazoned with a well-endowed bull to 17th-century wedding decorations? We particularly enjoyed the exhibits highlighting the personal effects and stories of Colonial-era slaves and slave owners and objects representing 21st-century Danish culture.

We could have easily spent the entire day exploring the history museum, but we had one last sight to hit: the Arken Museum of Modern Art, a 25-minute train ride away. So, we grabbed some smorrebrod at the museum cafe - solid but not as good as the restaurants I’d planned on our other days - and headed to the train station.

It was a bit of a hike to get to Arken (we probably should have taken the 5-minute bus ride), but the walk was peaceful and scenic. It was fun to get glimpses of real, everyday Danish life, from children on playgrounds to cozy houses nestled close together. Once at the museum, we oohed and aahed over unique souvenirs at the museum shop before checking out the exhibitions. The collection boasts big names from Ai Weiwei to Damien Hirst, and we also enjoyed discovering some new (to us) contemporary artist.

And then it was time to catch the train back to the city for dinner at Geranium...easily the best restaurant I have ever eaten at. An attentive multinational crew of friendly waiters guided us through sixteen heavenly courses. Nestled together on a banquette by the expansive windows, feeling above it all (though we were only on the 8th floor), we watched the sun dip below the horizon and ate our way through delicacy after delicacy. Beet-infused scallops encrusted with flowers, lobster with goat milk and fermented carrot juice, trout with juniper aroma...each perfectly portioned burst of flavors seemed better than those that came before. Geranium was a huge splurge, but absolutely worth it - a once-in-a-lifetime meal and the perfect way to end our visit to Copenhagen.
isemida is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2019, 05:32 AM
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Thank you for your trip report. Copenhagen is a city that I would like to visit!
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2019, 07:17 AM
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Thank you for sharing. We visited a few years ago when our son was studying there. We really had no idea what to expect, and did not do much research since he was our guide, but we loved it even more than we expected.
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Old Jun 5th, 2019, 09:51 AM
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Thanks for writing this. Copenhagen doesn't get much play here but we spent several days there before and after a Baltic cruise and loved it... would love to go back.
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Old Jun 8th, 2019, 12:39 PM
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What lovely, comprehensive writing! We visited in April, not knowing what to expect really, and like posters above, ended up loving it.

Amazingly clean city and we actually never saw any homeless or obviously disadvantaged persons.

You certainly covered a lot of territory ~ we discovered Nyhavn our first night and kept on returning to its charms.
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Old Jun 8th, 2019, 01:32 PM
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thanks, we are there now - will take note of your excellent recommendations! and I am in awe of your energy. I suspect we will be lucky to get in half of what you did. sounds like you took wonderful advantage of a great city
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Old Jun 8th, 2019, 05:25 PM
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Thank you so much for your report! Every year I say I'll get to Copenhagen and every year some other destination takes it's place. Maybe 2020 will be the year.
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Old Jun 12th, 2019, 06:24 PM
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lauramsgarden Thanks, I enjoyed your Copenhagen trip report as well!

VonVan I agree - cleanest city we've visited! In the morning we would see street cleaners picking up every stray bit of rubbish. Couldn't imagine the same happening here in NYC!

mms I think visiting with a local (or temporary local!) guide is the best way to travel. I bet your son loved studying in Copenhagen- it seemed like such an easy, super-livable city!
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Old Jun 16th, 2019, 07:27 AM
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Thanks so much for this report, we will be in Copenhagen for 4 days late June, this is a big help!

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Old Sep 5th, 2019, 08:15 AM
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Thank you so much for your report! We’re planning a getaway next May, so it is really helpful (I appreciate the tip about the church tower....I shall skip that one...) �� And I’d already bookmarked a few of the restaurants you mentioned.
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Old Sep 6th, 2019, 06:57 AM
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I love how some cities can still surprise us. I have been there and loved it. So many things to see and I felt super at ease just using their public transport. Thank you for a very detailed report. I really enjoyed reading it!
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