Copenhagen. Home to Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the Little Mermaid (and other cult fairy tales), Lego and some of the happiest people on earth – there’s plenty to love about Denmark’s Capital!
Having already visited Iceland and Finland, I continued my sightseeing around the Nordic countries with a New Year’s Eve visit to Copenhagen (just Sweden and Norway to go!)
I realised long ago that New Year’s Eve abroad was far more enjoyable to me than a drunken night out, and I’m fortunate to have experienced the celebrations in Reykjavik, Amsterdam and Bucharest – I just LOVE learning about the traditions and superstitions.
To give you as much detail as I can about my trip, I’ve split this up into several articles:
- How to spend five days in Copenhagen (an itinerary of sorts)
- What to see and do in Copenhagen (Must-see sights and activities)
- Where to eat in Copenhagen
How to get to Copenhagen from the Airport
The early bird catches the…. RyanAir flight to Copenhagen. A few (too many) Christmas lbs added for winter warmth and I arrived in Copenhagen at around 11:30am with my two friends Kim and Michelle.
We immediately made a beeline for the Copenhagen Go Card that – besides entry to a number of attractions – would provide us with free public transport. You can find the kiosk at the exit of the airport once you’ve exited after baggage claim.
Copenhagen has fantastic public transport so ditch the idea of a taxi and jump on the train instead. The central station is just three stops away from the airport and a well-connected metro system makes any part of the city accessible.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
Looking for somewhere… I won’t say cheap because that doesn’t exist in the Nordic countries but.. reasonable to stay, we booked the Copenhagen Go hotel via booking.com with the option to pay on arrival.
We each paid (there’s three of us) £128.50 for four nights and five days – estimating around £31 a night per person. This excluded breakfast but our room had kitchen facilities – as well as underfloor heating in the bathroom!
The hotel is exactly one train stop from the airport and just two from the central station making it easy and convenient to get around. The hotel is located at Tårnby.
Saturday, Day One
Suitcases dropped off, had a wee and added some extra layers and we’re off!
In desperate need of a hot, hearty meal we entered pretty much the first place we came across. Luckily it was a foodie hot spot and we settled into Tivoli food hall to tuck into a Gorm’s pizza.
We purposely didn’t plan too much for the day knowing it was an extremely early start, so we decided to check out some of the additional benefits to our Copenhagen Go Card. I wouldn’t usually go for somewhere like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, but we were interested in the The World of Hans Christian Andersen attached to the exhibition.
After hearing tales of heartbreak, suicide and other dark tales (the real fairy tales) it was off for a stroll down Strøget – the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. We got waylaid in a couple of Christmas shops and before we knew it the sun had set.
The Grand Teatret is one of the oldest cinemas in Copenhagen – not to be confused Denmark’s largest cinema Palads Teatret (I may have confused the two).
The palatial cinema we actually visited houses 17 screens and seats 2,100 – 689 of those are in just one of its screens. We opted for Last Christmas that was show in its original English with Danish subtitles.
Sunday, Day Two
Refreshed and ready for the day, we breakfasted at the coveted Conditori La Glace – Denmark’s oldest confectionary. I’ve talked more about my visit in this Where to eat in Copenhagen guide.
Known locally as Rundetaarn, the 17th century tower acts as the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Included in the Copenhagen Go Card it’s a medium climb to reach its 360, outdoor observation deck.
Keen eyes will notice that the Government building is actually on an island called Slotsholmen. Today it’s the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of State but enjoyed a former life as the royal palace. Unseated by a fire tragedy, the remaining building boasts a lavish royal reception rooms that are still used for important functions today.
Don’t miss a visit to the chapel, ruins and kitchens that also included in the Copenhagen Go Card.
There’s nothing more touristic than a sightseeing boat tour, but this one was included with the Copenhagen Go Card and it departed from in front of the Christianborg Palace (Ved Stranden) so we thought we’d give it a go.
Despite the tell-tale blonde hair, the guide spoke in almost perfect English and guided us around key areas of the capital in sixty minutes.
Torvehallerne Food Hall
A pastry and a hot drink is not sufficient fuel for a day of sightseeing, when will I learn my lesson? Suffice to say I was STARVING by now and could not get to the food hall quick enough.
Describing I itself as ‘Copenhagen’s pantry’, the Torvehallerne Food Hall is a popular market for danish delicacies, local vegetables, fresh fish and more. Don’t miss the famous chocolate Summerbird.
Find out what I ate in this Where to eat in Copenhagen guide.
Magasin Du Nord
Reaching this department store from the back meant we completely missed its grandeur – but we did enter straight into the beauty section, so we were mesmerised anyway. Dating back to 1869, the five floors of beauty, interiors, delicacies and fashion is still a popular haunt even today. Of course, we couldn’t resist a stop at Sephora.
Well I call cocktails! Preferably on a rooftop… oh there we go. Illum is a luxury 5 floor department store with rooftop bars and restaurants. Its premium designer goods are fairly reflective of the price, but the views are delightful, and the Ferrero Rocher cocktail wasn’t bad either.
Monday, Day Three
Privvy to a novel coffee shop, we started our day at Central OG Hotel – the world’s smallest hotel. Since the hotel has only one room, there wasn’t a whole lot of room in the downstairs café either, but we managed to squeeze ourselves in. I’ve talked more about my visit in this Where to eat in Copenhagen guide.
Feeling a little bold after a coffee or two and feeling encouraged by the clearly defined bicycle paths we opted for a Lime scooter. Using the app, you unlock the scooter and charge for the distance and time travelled.
We figured it was a straight run from there to the zoo so F** it! Let’s do it! It was short-lived, the scooter died 70% of the way – you should probably check the battery life.
Fun fact! Copenhagen is the most bike-friendly city in the world with more people than bikes, even beating Amsterdam to the top spot.
One of the oldest zoos in Europe but also one of the best in my opinion, I may have been heavily swayed by the magnificent polar bears, but home to over 3,000 animals it’s the perfect place to wile away an afternoon AND its included in the Copenhagen Go Card.
Want to know one of the best things about visiting Copenhagen during the festive period? FREE ICE SKATING! Yes you heard that right. Well the physical use of the rink is free of charge if you have your own skates, but its only 50 DKK (£5) to hire then for an hour – and they’ll even give you an extra 15 minutes to get the blooming things on.
We attended the rink at Frederiksberg Runddel walking distance from the zoo. They do ask for some form of ID to recognise your name as additional deposit for the skates. There’s also no sides to hold on to so good luck!
If you’re a little peckish there’s a sausage van just across the road.
Chilled to the bone after an hour on the rink and it was off to oneo f the oldest bars in Copenhagen in search of Glogg. Made the Danish way, the mulled wine has added brandy, almonds and currants that’ll singe the hair from your nose on one sniff.
Hviids Vinstue is famous for its glogg having stirred up quite the reputation in its 300 years. And don’t they know it at £10 a glass, but in all honesty, it probably was the best but any more than one and I’d have been on the floor.
Meat Packing District
As a wonderland for culinary masterpieces (literally home to two of the world’s best restaurants), it’s hard to write a Copenhagen article without mentioning food in every other sentence so you can read more about my visit to the meat packing district in this Where to eat in Copenhagen guide.
Tuesday, Day Four
H’okay so I feel hard done! In Denmark the 31st is a public holiday and a lot of the shops were either closed or on reduced hours as a result. (Why isn’t this the case in England?)
The Union Kitchen was perhaps one of my favourite places to eat in Copenhagen which I’ve talked more about here in this article totally dedicated to the things I ate.
The picture postcard of Copenhagen and the most photographed spot in Denmark! Nyahvn – translated to new harbour – enjoyed a new lease of life as once upon a time it was in fact the red light district.
It’s where you’ll find the oldest tattoo shop in the world with royal connections, the oldest house in the harbour and a popular spot for summer drinks outdoors.
In truth, this was the least favourite place we visited in Copenhagen. To those who can appreciate the renaissance architecture and four hundred years of history the crowning glory for me was the royal jewels.
Although the entry is included in the Copenhagen Go card, you’ll need to join the queue to be given an entry time. Luggage isn’t permitted so you’ll eb given a coin to store your belongings in a locker.
We couldn’t leave Denmark without trying a Smørrebrød and it didn’t disappoint. We opted for a restaurant on Nyahvn and tucked into a warm pate and become washed down with an aquavit.
It was a quick dash back to the hotel to layer up for the evening and just in time to catch the coveted Queen’s speech at 6pm.
Denmark’s queen is a real bad ass and the attitudes of their royals is something to behold. Jante’s Law is a unspoken rule in Denmark that no person is better than another, even the royal children attend public schools and can be seen out on their bicycles with their parents.
The Queen of Denmark has illustrated British and Danish editions of The Lord of the Rings. Cool right?
Dinner wasn’t really much to speak of, we fulfilled a travelling tradition at Hard Rock Café and it was mediocre.
This on the other hand was far from mediocre and one of my favourite places in Copenhagen. The oldest amusement in the world – second only to another in Denmark – Tivoli Gardens is thought to be the inspiration behind Disneyland. Walt Disney visited the park in the 1940s and wanted to bring a slice of the action home.
You could say Denmark are the original creators of amusement parks? Probably why they’re all so happy!
It’s open year-round enjoying seasonal themes. The entry fee is included in the Copenhagen Go card, but the ride fees are not. You’ll need to purchase the correct number of tickets for the prices you wish to visit (Between 1 and 3 -biggest rides take 3) or you can purchase an unlimited wristband.
At 11pm on New Year’s Eve Tivoli hosts its own official firework display so find a spot near the lake looking towards the Dragon ride.
Dodge the Fireworks!
Godt Nytår! Jump feet first into the new year as the Danes do. It’s the tradition in Denmark to jump off chairs as the clock strikes midnight to bring good luck and fortune in the year to come.
Just watch out for fireworks, the very lax and liberal firework policy means anyone can set fireworks from anywhere and they aren’t always sober. Local will be seen sporting safety goggles and while it’s a true sight when the clock strikes and a magnitude of gunpowder the sky – just be sure to keep a healthy distance to avoid any unsavoury mishaps.
Wednesday, Day Five
While 1st January is a bank holiday, the free walking tours remained operational. After a quick bite in an espresso house we met the guide outside the city hall and enjoyed three hours of information about Copenhagen.
I really love doing a walking tour actually, both in Copenhagen and Helsinki the guides were from Scotland and America but had lived in their respective cities for a significant period of time and gave a unique insight into the city that locals perhaps take for granted.
A stark contract from the neat and neighbourly Copenhagen you’ve been used to, Freetown Christian is 7.7 hectares of land governed by hippie squatters since the 70s. It has its own ‘Green Light District’ which is basically a marijuana market called ‘Pusher Street’, but it has a lot more to offer then semi-legalised drugs.
There’s basically only three rules for visitors – no photos, no running and don’t buy hash. Cocktails, food, music venues and skateparks it’s essentially a mini Stokes Croft (Bristolians will know).