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Copenhagen has become more and more popular in Europe lately but when we read travel blogs, at least Europe based travel blogs, Copenhagen is still far behind Amsterdam’s popularity. I would tend to blame the airlines companies for not offering direct flights from our province airports.
Never mind the stopover in Zurich, I loooved Copenhagen. I’ve been fascinated by Scandinavia for years and to me Denmark is the gateway to Scandinavia. I’m going to give you five reasons to visit Copenhagen. I hope these five reasons will allow you to learn a bit more about this country and town and will make you want to catch the plane immediately. I remind you that I’m talking about reasons, key arguments. Obviously if we were talking about the awesome places and attractions, there would be way more than five.
1.The country of happiness
The Danes hold first place of the happiest people in the world since 1973 (World Happiness Report of the United Nations). Having majored in Economics at university, we have studied the Danish economic and social model a lot and let me tell you that the Danes got it all right. No wonder they are the happiest people in the world despite the cold temperatures, the short winter days and the high tax rates.
The Danes also attach importance to the art of living, whether it be at home with a cosy decoration or with family and friends. They even invented a word for this way of life, « hygge ».
Surely, now you’re curious about it and want to check it out, don’t you ! Want to see this way of life, live some happy moments too.
2.Copenhagen is very much like Amsterdam…but smaller
Everything here reminds you of Amsterdam: boat rides on the city canals, the narrow and colorful houses, the thousands of bicycles, the mills too. Whoever visited Amsterdam and didn’t enjoy it, raise your hand. Nobody, that’s what I thought. So you’re bound to love Copenhagen too. Buy your canal cruise ticket here.
3.The reputation of an expensive city : it’s reasonably affordable with a little planning
I see you coming. You’re going to tell me this town is (very) expensive and you’re right. However, you can make the most of it without losing your shirt by following these tips.
Let’s start with the hotel : I would advise you to book your hotel via an internet deal. For example, we booked our hotel at the same time as our plane tickets on a site like Opodo or Expedia. This way, you sometimes get amazing deals like 30€/night or a luxury hotel at the price of a 2-star hotel. But do take your time to search information about the hotel and don’t choose the first hotel on the website, they are usually far from the city centre and that’s an important criteria on a city break. There’s also the Air Bnb or Couchsurfing option for affordable accomodation.
The food : to me it was the most costly expenses, especially because we paid in Danish Krone. The bill rises quickly in restaurants. Our tip when travelling: we eat at the restaurant only in the evening. For lunch, we just have some snacks, sandwiches or paninis bought in food-trucks or in supermarkets. The typical street food in Denmark is the hot-dog and it’s the most affordable food you can find. The cool part is that you can add many ingredients above the sausage: cheddar, onions, pickle… I also really loved getting my daily belgian wafle in the afternoon.
Yes, all of this is not healthy food, but you won’t find a lower price. Eating like this for lunch allows us to treat ourselves to a lovely warm meal at the restaurant for dinner without going bankrupt. Our expenses are balanced.
Visits : Although some attractions are awfully expensive (ex: Tivoli 95 DKK excluding rides), there is still a lot that you can do for free or just a few Krone in Copenhagen. First of all, visiting the city on foot or by bike is an attraction itself and it’s totally free. You can walk around the beautiful Nyhavn port (Copenhagen’s postcard), see the Little Mermaid, walk in Kastellet park, go window-shopping in Strøget, rest in the numerous parks (botanical gardens are free) and visit the various quarters (quiet, touristic or weird: Cristiania)
You can also visit a group of buildings without having to pay for the indoor visit. I’m thinking about the buildings in Amalienborg Plads (royal palace) or Slotsholmen (Danish parliament). We entered the premises of Slotsholmen, went into the patios, visited the stables and even spent some time in a private park but we didn’t visit the rooms of the parliament.
Then, you should know that most churches and cathedrals have a free entrance and many museums are free (every day or at least one day of the week). Our favorite and free museums in Copenhagen are :
- the Nationalmuseet: the part on the Vikings
- the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek: free on Sundays, beautiful museum about Antiquity and paintings, the entrance hall and bar is just so relaxing, we spent a wonderful moment
- Københavns Museum: free on Fridays, about the history of Copenhagen, very interesting and entertaining. You should visit it on your way to the Carlsberg breweries
- Statens Museum for Kunst: the art museum. I’m usually not a fan of this kind of museum but considering it’s free, it’s worth visiting it and learning a bit more about Scandinavian art. You should visit it on your way to Rosenborg Slot (castle)
Other free museums in Copenhagen : Design Museum (on Wednesdays), Kongelige Afstøbningssamlin, Frihedsmuseet, Davids Slaming.
See, I’ve already kept you busy for four days in a week with this program and you didn’t even pay one single Krone yet for leisure. Although I would recommend you do some paid visits because Copenhagen is an awesome city and its attractions are worth discovering.
4.The Danes are cool people
The Danes are very open-minded, cultivated people and they’re cool. Just look back at Denmark’s history. The first Vikings were from Denmark, how cool is that ! And they like to play with this heritage to the tourists’ delight: numerous viking objects in shops, the Nationalmuseet has a whole floor dedicated to the Vikings and their way of life and finally you can visit the museum of viking boats in Roskilde (30min by train) and even go on a traditional boat ride.
What else makes Denmark so cool ? They invented the LEGO and there’s a huge LEGO store in Copenhagen where they’ve built full size characters and places. They even made a theme park dedicated to it: Legoland, but it’s in Billund (it’s possible to visit Legoland as a day trip).
The Danes are tolerant and have created a free quarter, which was even independent until 2012. You can enter Cristiania freely (no photos). Graffitis on the walls, squatted houses with a hippie style and an open market for marijuana. It’s legal in this quarter, everything is on exhibit. We went out of curiosity but stayed only 15 min. I found the atmosphere rather shady. It’s interesting to see it once and it’s just another proof that the Danes are exceptional people who adapt to any circumstances and where everyone respects each others.
It’s also to Denmark that we owe the famous brand Carlsberg beers (4th brewery of the world). The brewery is located in Copenhagen where you can visit a museum about the Carlsberg (Jacobsen) family, their empire, the production process of the beer, the biggest collection of unopened beer bottles and even the family stables. You will also taste two different beers, included in the visit (only 1 beer tasting from January 2017). You can buy your ticket in advance here.
All these elements make Denmark super cool and you have to go see it by yourself asap. You can find all of it in Copenhagen. For the rest, it is a small country so don’t hesitate to catch the train to go on day trips. For example, we went to the north of Zealand in Helsingør to visit Kronborg Castle. The very castle that inspired Shakespeare for his story of « Hamlet ».
5.Bonus in December : live the Christmas magic in Copenhagen
Finally, last reason to come to Copenhagen. It’s all about the timing: try to come during the Christmas period to discover Copenhagen from a different angle. We were there from December 25th to 31st and it was memorable. The streets are decorated with Christmas lights and the department stores of Strøget put everything into amazing and animated window displays.
The bars of Nyhavn take great care of their customers during the cold months by letting them enjoy the great view on the port with comfortable cushions on the chairs, a thick woolen plaid to cover your legs and arms and a heater by your side. Another demonstration of the « hygge » way of life.
Last but not least, you have to visit Copenhagen at Christmas to go to Tivoli theme park by night. The settings reprensenting buildings from all over the world are magnificent when they are illuminated at night. A sound and light show on the lake as well as a fireworks are taking place every evening at this period of the year. Plus, the park hosts an immense Christmas market with yummy hot food and typical products from Scandinavia. Visiting this park at night and during Christmas is magical and unique. Skip the lines at Tivoli and buy your ticket in advance here.
My only regret: I wish I could have seen the Nyhavn port under the snow, it would have made great pictures. Unfortunately, it didn’t snow this year.
Have you ever been to Copenhagen ? Do you prefer Amsterdam or Copenhague ?
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