Copenhagen is strikingly beautiful. It is old and also new, eclectic, exciting, crowded, invigorating and yet, despite all that, down to earth and inviting. The first thing you see as you approach the city are the beautiful green roofs of the many churches and palaces. The roofs are made of copper and zinc that has, over centuries, acquired a beautiful patina and has given the city a unique look.
We thoroughly enjoyed our five days in Copenhagen soaking in not just the history but also the modern culture. If we rushed, we could have “seen” the city in two or three days, but would have had to forego the cafe culture, the beautiful antique shops, and the boutiques that carry the latest in Danish modern design. We felt that we would not have done Copenhagen justice if we focused on just the past, on its rich and illustrious history. And so we spent several more days, ambling slowly through the streets both in the city center and a bit further out. Because we wanted to. Because we could.
Perhaps amble isn’t quite the word I should be using. We went fast, super fast, in a hot ride. See below. So hot and so new, no helmets or seat harnesses provided or required. The ride—the cadillac of tricycles is called a Christiania bike and is designed for families or cargo. And while the majority of the time you see sporty Danes wheeling their kids to and fro, you occasionally saw adults in the cargo hold and … me.
Starting our stay in Copenhagen off on the right foot, we ventured to Amalienborg Palace which is the official residence of the Crown Prince and Princess. The palace has recently undergone a spectacular renovation that is the epitome of modern Danish design blended into a traditional setting. There is also a beautiful changing of the guard ceremony at noon, for those so inclined.
Having gotten a taste of Danish grandeur, we moved onto Frederiskberg Castle, its surrounding park grounds and the neighboring cisterns. We lucked out because there was a huge music festival that was happening in the park grounds. Since it was open to the public, we strolled through the park enjoying beautiful music and taking in the Danes in their natural environment. The cisterns, a modern glass art museum, were having a special exhibition that was awe-inspiring. The exhibition was a water and sound installation that, given the cavernous environs, made for an incredible audio-visual experience.
If you know me, you know that I will not (at least willingly) forgo a jewelry exhibit and crown jewels were not an exception. The Rosenborg castle houses the crown jewels and was an absolute must. We also saw how the Danish monarchs lived a few hundred years ago; The rooms were a little small and a little spartan. The chapel on the other hand, as you can see, was not spared any expense.
The castle’s gardens are open to the public and make for an excellent place to picnic or enjoy the warm embrace of the afternoon sun’s rays.
Out with the old and in with the new. Having done our due diligence for all things royal, we moved on to places like Freetown Christiania. Pictures are not permitted so you’ll have to trust me when I say that I was not impressed. I respect and support people’s right to live as they choose, but I am not sure I support the dilapidated, anarchist nature of Christiania. It was quite an experience, and one I am glad to have had because it made me realize I am more conservative than I would have admitted to beforehand.
Besides Christiania, we also visited the Glyptotek and the National Museum. The Gylptotek houses an amazing collection of sculpture. Works by Degas, Rodin and many others reminded us the immense talent that these masters must possess in order to capture an instant of the human condition for eons to come. And because any decent museum should, the Glyptotek has a great cafe located in the midst of its green house which serves wonderful coffee, pastries, and libations. Those in the know reserve a table for lunch, and visit the roof terrace, after finishing the exhibition, for 360 degree views of the city. Those who wish to be in the know, should know that the museum is free on Tuesdays and ~$20 otherwise. The National Museum is also worth a visit. I especially enjoyed the impressionist masters exhibit and the peculiar burial stones complete with translated inscriptions from the iron age. Fascinating and low risk since admission is free.
Let’s see… you’re probably hungry just from the exertion of reading this post and wondering if we did anything other than sightsee during our time in Copenhagen. As I mentioned copious times before, sightseeing isn’t just about visiting museums, it is also about eating the local cuisine and partaking in the local cafe culture.
For a trendy experience in a unique atmosphere try Manfred and Vins. Funky, delicious, out of the way, far away from the tourist traps, and serving spectacular wines. Stroll the Jægersborggade, the street on which Manfred and Vins is located and visit local artisans and their boutiques. Clou is a decidedly more upscale establishment that excels in serving Nordic cuisine with a French flare and impeccable service. Amass offers not only spectacular city views but amazing cuisine from an American chef who worked at Noma. We biked to and from Amass, by the way… it was a 40 minute bike ride each way and it was entirely worth it. Copenhagen has a very lively meatpacking district with great restaurants such Kul, Kodbyens Fiskabar, and Gorilla. For a taste of old-school glamour and cocktails done just right, visit Ruby which is situated along a canal in bespoke glamour. For a great cup of coffee and an even better croissant, go to Democratic Coffee situated near the university and across the street from an old synagogue. A visit to Denmark without a trip to an excellent smorrebrod establishment would be a major oversight and I cannot recommend Restaurant Schonnemann enough. When thirsty, do try Mikkeller or War Pigs for a fine hand-crafted brew. Last, and not least, I am here to remind you that vacations are about indulgence which, to me, means dessert. Flodeballer is a danish dessert which consists of a swiss meringue ensconced in a chocolate shell. There are variations which include a bit of sponge cake and a fruit or nut topping and they’re all very, very delicious. I cannot tell you which shoppe made the best, but do highly recommend you try a flodeballer everywhere you see one.
And just like that our trip to Copenhagen and this travelogue have come to an end. Until next time, hopefully soon, hopefully somewhere exciting, and hopefully with Eliza and Sophia who can begin to learn about the vast and wondrous world out there.