One step into the streets of Copenhagen, and you feel as if you’ve entered a magical world of whimsy and wonder. It is not hard to see why the guy who brought us some of our favorite fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Frozen grew up right in the heart of it all. Yes, Hans Christian Anderson had about as good of a situation as it gets with location inspiration in writing. From the fortress to the cobblestone roads to the colorful canal houses, it is not hard to see why this creative writer and story teller developed his craft here. In fact, I challenge you to visit Copenhagen and hold back a smile. You simply cannot. The smile will simply take over your weary traveler face. Yes, if you were wondering if you should visit this Scandinavian city, the answer is yes. Do not hesitate, just go! Weather you visit in winter or summer (or anywhere in between), I assure you, you will absolutely fall in love with this city.
Where to Stay
You can really find a good variety of nice hotels that fit into any budget. I recommend the Ascot Apartments. They are very clean and nice and boast a great location- near the train station as well as main attractions and sights like Tivoli. The street that accesses the hotel is also a bit quieter so you don’t have to worry about carrying luggage through busy pedestrian areas. Every apartment comes equipped with a small kitchen so you can cook as well (if you so desire).
Things to Do and See
Copenhagen has a brilliant selection of things to see and do whether you are a museum fan or a wandering meanderer. Here are a few of the must do’s:
Just picture your classic colorful Scandinavian buildings with reflections in the water below. Boom. There you have it. If you only do ONE thing in Copenhagen, this must be it. You can walk there from the train station in about 30 minutes, or you can hop a bus or bike. You will also see some really nifty boats, even one with its very own beacon! Be sure to check out No. 20, where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote The Princess and the Pea. (Again, it’s no wonder he wrote such amazing stories living in this beautiful place!)
This one can actually be enjoyed from afar. However, if you are aiming to go, there is a very unique quality to this church: it has spiral steps to the top that you can actually climb! So, if you want a bird’s eye view of it all, you can definitely experience it here. There is a fee to get in, and you may want to watch your time as the church does close to visitors in the late afternoon. You will be able to see the spiral top from Nyhavn, so you can choose to admire from afar if you are pressed on time.
This place is fit for royalty. That is just how you will feel gazing at the rose gardens and intricate stone patterns around the castle grounds. If you wish to exploit its riches, you can pay a cool $12 to go inside. You may even get a glimpse of the crown jewels! If you’re like me, you can appreciate all its glory from the outside as you sniff the roses (or lack thereof in the winter). My advice: pull up a seat on a bench and just daydream about what life could be like living in a castle. Then, take a picture (or two) and march on to the next site.
Take a stroll
They always say the best things in life are free, and walking around the magical cobblestone streets of Copenhagen are no exception. If you are not much for walking, you can rent a bike, just like locals do. In fact, you will see more bikes than you expect! One word of caution: if you choose to explore as a pedestrian, you will need to be aware of all the bikes whirring by! If you aren’t careful, you could get a toe run over! On your stroll, you can stop by any of the eclectic little coffee shops or restaurants.
Christian IV had this astronomical observatory built. If you get starry eyed about the wonder of space, don’t skip this one. Even if you could care less about the universe, it is a cool tower to stop by. Going in will cost you a small fee, but you can also enjoy it from the outside. Hans Christian Anderson used the tower as inspiration for a simile about the dog’s eyes in The Tinder Box. Oh, and this place has a really cool spiral to walk up inside.
So, it’s no secret that I am no museum groupie. However, I realize that many people are. And if you are, you should swing by this one. It has an impressive collection (or so I hear). Around $10 USD gets you the rights to stare at the relics. If not, the building is pretty from the outside. You can gasp, “So pretty!” as you walk by at the very least! For my beer drinkers, yes, that is the same “Carlsberg.” It was actually the son of the beer founder! Cheers.
Church of our Lady is just gorgeous inside. It has more of a modern feel, but the domed ceilings are impressive as are the statues inside. The old wooden pews are also very whimsical and majestic.
Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? We wouldn’t have that song if it were not for Hans Christian Anderson writing The Little Mermaid. You can see her here, perched on a rock, longing for her prince. And hey, if you want to belt out some songs from the beloved Disney version, go for it! No one will judge.
Journey up on high as you pass windmills and old cannons. You will see red buildings reminiscent of barns. It is a great place to walk, and convenient after you see The Little Mermaid.
This church is in the middle of a royal square (where royalty stays in winter). You can see some guards here as well. Overall, a great panoramic photo opportunity lies here. It is a great place to see.
What to Chew:
Ahh, food glorious food! It is what many of us thrive on when we travel. “I want to try the local fare!” you scream. However, let me tell you a secret. You do not have to spend $50+ per person to enjoy local flavors. Yes, my husband and I did not spend over $50 TOTAL, per day. No, I’m not kidding. Here’s how we pulled it off:
This coffee bar is cute as a button. It is small, but offers a few seats to sip on your joe. The best part (besides the awesome coffee and snacks) is the cute little smiling teapots that wink at you while you drink. The total cost for one large coffee and pan chocolate was around $7. We split the large coffee and the giant pastry and we were good to go!
This place is almost as trendy as it is delicious. Getting there you may feel like you’ve entered some restricted dock area, but once you are inside your senses will love you for it. You can walk around and sample some of the dozens of food “trucks” that entice you will unique and imaginative food combinations. My top recommendation? Duck it. We had pulled duck with fries. It was the equivalent of $13 USD and it was more than enough to split (it was gargantuan!). Or, if your appetite is heavy, you can always add another dish as well.
Okay, okay. So it’s not really “local” food, seeing that it has hamburgers. But, man, is it delicious! One burger will set you back about $17 USD and you can add fries and even some nice local beers. (Try the Carlsberg IPA. You can thank me later). This place is hip and the burger is delish. We split it and we were way full.
SAS Airport Lounge
Before you scoff at this suggestion, check this out. They have good food. We sampled some local favorites like smoked salmon and sausages. It was amazing. What would have cost us around $30 USD per person was…included. Thanks airplane ticket. It was only a few bucks more to book the “SAS plus saver” on our flight out from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. So, with that ticket, we enjoyed more room on the flight, premium food and drinks, and lounge access. Worth. It.
A half-liter of beer is only 29 DKK here before 10 p.m. here. The coolest thing? It doesn’t feel like a dive bar. And, if you feel heroic, you can try your luck on some of the games in the bar, like hammering a large nail into a piece of wood. Oh, and it’s German themed-right down to the lederhousen of the bartender.
Other options for cheap food:
It’s like a fancy, pretty, grocery store. You can even sip water off the tap while you shop. You can get snacks, drinks, and even prepared meals here.
Surprised? Well, don’t be. These places are all over the world, even Thailand. And hey, if you need a quick nosh without the pocket emptying, this place has your name on it.
Copenhagen offers some of the most beautiful and amazing Christmas markets and décor. Here, you can sample some tasty treats, ciders, mulled wine, and unique gifts. It is truly a must-do experience. If you only see one market, be sure to stop by the one near Nynhavn.
Whatever you choose to do in Copenhagen, you are sure to have a grand ole time. Just let the magic of the place take over your imagination and melt your stress away. Find some cool little shop or restaurant and just sit back and enjoy!