A modern, safe city, that’s on the cutting edge of design and dining. How could you not love Copenhagen?
First Impressions of Copenhagen
As soon as you arrive in the airport, the Scandinavian efficiency is evident. The airport is modern and spotless, pretty much like the rest of the city. The efficient train system means you can be in the centre of Copenhagen in ten minutes. Unlike most major European cities, Copenhagen has a cosy feel. Although full of architectural masterpieces it doesn’t feel like a big city. With a growing population which now stands at 1.2 million, I felt it was the kind of city I could easily live in.
Last year Copenhagen was voted the ‘Best city for cyclists’ and the ‘World’s most liveable city’. With over 390 kilometres of bike lanes, I decided to take the ‘when in Rome’ approach, and booked a cycling tour of the city. This is a great way to see Copenhagen and it will bring you to places you may not get to on foot.
Our guide showed us some of the reasons why the Danes are so forward thinking. Along the river we were shown a seriously cool self serving hotel boat – you get your key code when you book online! We also saw kayak football, yes you read that right. Kayaking is big in Copenhagen too, you can even choose a kayak tour of the city if cycling isn’t your thing. If all of this is too energetic for you, you can always choose the hop on hop off canal boat tours. These go regularly from various ports around the city.
Where to stay in Copenhagen:
I stayed at the Tivoli Hotel. A modern 4-star hotel, about 15 minutes walk to the centre, complete with swimming pool and a rooftop bar. It is part of the Arp Hansen chain, a local chain offering 12 unique hotels in great locations around the city.
I enjoyed staying in a Scandinavian owned family hotel, the staff were extremely friendly staff and the whole experience was very personable. The Phoenix is one of the hotels within the group and is an excellent choice if you want a luxury hotel in the heart of the city.View Copenhagen Hotels
What to see in Copenhagen:
Climb to the top of the Church of the Saviour where you will see unparalleled views of the city. What makes this particularly interesting is that there is an external staircase at the top – this is not for the faint hearted!
See the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Place.
Visit the popular Tivoli Gardens. This park dates back to 1843 and now houses lots of amusement rides, out door concerts and lots of top class dining experiences. Tivoli closes at certain times during the year to prepare for Halloween and Christmas festivals, so check the timetable before planning your trip.
You may also be interested in Christiania, a separate commune in the heart of the city which is regulated by it’s own laws. I found this really bizarre in the heart of the modern city. The pedestrianised area has a Boho / hippie feel to it, and don’t be surprised if you see lots of people lazing around smoking cannabis. It is a tourist attraction now and not at all intimidating – it’s definitely worth a look if you are the curious type!
There are lots of great shops in Copenhagen too, the main shopping street is 2km long and is pedestrianised. You will find everything from H&M to Louis Vuitton, in typical clean crisp Scandinavian style.
Bear in mind that shops don’t open on Sundays. The Danes still feel we should rest on Sundays – if only the rest of the world thought that way!
Of course no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without a trip to see the Little Mermaid. Although honestly it’s not worth it, it was a box ticking exercise for me. Attracting over 1 million visitors every year, its definitely proves how you can market anything…
Where to drink in Copenhagen:
Have a pre-dinner drink in Nyhavn. One of Copenhagen’s most photographed neighbourhoods, it is lined by colourful 17th & 18th century town houses. It can get very busy at night time, so my advice is to go early evening before dinner, or else pop down for a coffee in the morning.
There are some great restaurants and bars here too, but it is typically the tourist trap so expect to pay high prices. If you want to live like a Dane then head for the Meatpacking District at night. Crammed between butchers shops and warehouses are some of Copenhagen’s trendiest bars and clubs. Expect craft beers and tight jeans, if you want something prettier and more touristy – stay in Nyhavn.
Where to eat in Copenhagen:
One of the highlights of Copenhagen for me was the food. I knew it had Noma (the best restaurant in the world) along with 14 other Michelin starred restaurants. What I didn’t expect was a food revolution. Every meal was a dining experience.
Work in progress is a novel concept where the chef wants his customers to dictate what his future menus will be. The tasting menu with paired wines was superb. We were asked for our opinions after each course, which were relayed back to the chef. A meal with 4 courses and 4 glasses of wine is 450kr / €60 – not bad for such a fantastic experience.
We also tried the highly acclaimed Manfreds. Famous for its steak tartare, it didn’t disappoint. Go for the seven course tasting meal if you can. It’s not cheap but trust me, it is a gastronomic feast. They also have stock a great Organic beer called Kolster – try it. Copenhagen is full of original ideas, craft beers are everywhere, organic food is the norm and you get the feeling that everything you are eating is honest good food.
We tried Copenhagen Street Food, another fantastic idea. An old warehouse is kitted out with food trucks selling everything from Italian antipasti to Korean street food. Everything is cooked to order with the finest fresh ingredients. It is the perfect combination of a cultural experience serving great comfort food, at low prices.
How to get there:
SAS, Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Norwegian all fly to Copenhagen from Ireland. I few with SAS and thought the service was excellent. Get your weekend off to a good start and opt for SAS plus. For circa €65 you get a changeable ticket, 2 free checked bags, free fast pass through security, access to the airport lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks, AND – complimentary food and drinks on the flight! This is a no brainer for me – totally worth it.
Overall I think Copenhagen is a great choice for a city break. Ok so it’s not cheap but I didn’t find it overly expensive either. It’s not the place for a mad weekend. It’s all about modern culture in stylish surroundings with delicious food.
Go see for yourself.
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