I know I’ve said it over and over again on this blog, but one of the best things about living in London is the ability to, well, leave London from time to time. Between Gatwick, Heathrow, and London City airports, us Londoners have the rest of Europe at our fingertips and it doesn’t cost much to fly at all.
My latest European adventure took be to Copenhagen, the canaled capital of Denmark. Less than 2 hours from London, my other half and I took off in the morning and by lunchtime we were chowing down on burgers in Tivoli Gardens.
We stayed at Scandic Copenhagen, a chain hotel (mainly in Scandinavia) located close to Copenhagen Central Station. Accommodation was clean, comfortable, cheap, and came with free breakfast and free wifi – two huge added bonuses. We were a little outside the historic centre of Copenhagen, but that was nothing a little walking couldn’t solve. Armed with the Copenhagen Card (it’s totally worth it), over 3.5 days and 3 nights my boyfriend and I discovered a city full of beautiful canals, castles, and Carlsberg beer!
We kicked off our first full day in Copenhagen with a canal tour of the city (free with the Copenhagen Card). I like exploring new cities on a guided tour when I first arrive, as I think it’s a great way to get your bearings and help plan the rest of your stay.
The tour lasted an hour and took us past Nyhavn, a famous 17th-century waterfront, as well as a few castles, the famous Mermaid sculpture, and Christianshavn which is home to a well known hippie commune.
The canal tour dropped us off at Gammel Stand, next to Christiansborg Palace. Seeking refuge from the sweltering heat (it was 30 degrees!), we decided to check it out. Entrance was free with the Copenhagen Card (score!) and we were ask to wear operating room-style booties over our shoes before we entered.
Christiansborg is not fully furnished like other historic palaces, but its architectural features are so well preserved and so impressive that I hardly noticed. After having visited Windsor Palace which is actively in use and dozens of other palaces across Europe, I have to say that Christiansborg ranks right up there with the best of them. It’s also right in the centre of the city, so don’t miss it if you visit Copenhagen.
From fairytale castles to hippie communes, Copenhagen sure does offer a lot of contrast. Not far beyond the gilded walls of Christiansborg lay Christianshavn, an independent ‘alternative’ commune. Christianshavn has its own flag and presumably its own rules. It’s a bit tucked away behind a few rows of affluent canal streets, but you’ll know it when you see it.
At the risk of sounding uptight, this probably isn’t the place to bring the kiddies. My take on Christianshavn is that it was probably founded with good intentions, but has since morphed into kind of a caricature of itself as more and more tourists began to pour in and inject more krones into the community.
The commune was roughly divided into a ‘tourist’ shopping area where no cameras were allowed. There was also a cluster of bars and restaurants off to the side where let’s just say there was a lot of mary jane going around. It was interesting to see, but not really my scene.
I may be knocking on the door of 27, but I’m still a kid at heart. I love rides, roller coasters, and carnival games. That’s why I was really excited to discover that the world’s 2nd-oldest theme park, called Tivoli Gardens, is located right in the centre of Copenhagen!
Entrance to Tivoli was free thanks to the Copenhagen Card (this card is a life-saver), thought rides cost a little extra. You can either buy a ride pass at the ticket counter or pay for each right separately. Because a certain someone who I call my boyfriend does not particularly enjoy theme park rides, I only tried out a few rides and paid for them individually.
The thing you need to know about Tivoli Gardens is that it’s not Six Flags. It doesn’t have state-of-the-art pulse-pounding roller coasters. Instead, it has a great turn-of-the-century feel, gorgeous landscaping, great restaurants, and a few older style roller coasters and carnival rides.
The evening we visited the weather was absolutely marvellous and it seemed like all of Copenhagen came out to enjoy dinner alfresco.
Like in many other European cities, Copenhagen slows down a little on Sundays. Stores don’t open until noon (if at all), and some tourist attractions also operate on limited hours. Instead of hanging out in the city I opted to take a 40-minute ride to Hillerød to visit Frederiksborg Castle. The train to Hillerød and entrance to the castle were, you guessed it, free with the Copenhagen Card.
The castle is surrounded by a lake . . . or maybe it’s a moat . . . I’m not sure. There’s a great walking trail that goes around the lake/moat and offers the best views of Fredriksborg. The outside of the castle is, in my opinion, more impressive than the inside. I tried to take a few interior shots, but unfortunately they didn’t turn out so well.
Nyhavn is Copenhagen’s old seamen’s port turned ultra touristy district. It’s lined with brightly coloured buildings and is fun to look at, but packed with tourists. I stopped by for a quick visit just to see it in person.
I booked a Monday afternoon flight back to London, which gave us just enough time to enjoy a leisurely visit to the Carlsberg Brewery before heading to the airport. We arrived at the brewery 10-minutes before our 72-hour Copenhagen Cards expired and managed to get in for free.
Included in the tour were two free beer sample vouchers and we were allowed to have a look at Carlsberg’s old brew house at our leisure. I’m not really a beer person, but I do appreciate the value of historic buildings and also found the story of the company fascinating.
The real highlight of the Carlsberg Brewery tour for we were the stables, which housed a dozen or so Jutland horses. Jutlands look like clydesdales, but there are in fact only 1000 of them in the world. You can pet the horses (at your own risk) and even go for an old-fashioned ride around the grounds on a horse-driven carriage.
The carriage ride dropped us off right in front of Carlsberg’s little beer garden, which was the perfect place to dive into lunch before flying back home.